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African Renaissance

The Romantic Dream Of Reading Jhumpa Lahiri During Struggle And Depression In Lockdown

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photo: Wikimedia Commons

Jhumpa Lahiri is an impossible beauty. I started reading her again during lockdown remembering The Namesake and The Lowland.

I take pictures of female writers like photographs. Their backgrounds and cultures, their families and children. At which universities they studied at. What literary prizes they have won. If they are female, I am drawn to what they have achieved, accomplished.

What I haven’t. The great male writers, nothing can compare to their huge intellect, the moth-subtle appearance of their language, the shape, the identity, the psychological challenge of reading and understanding them. I never compare male writers to female writers.

What would be the point of that. Genius versus genius. Anti-feminist versus feminist. Feminist versus feminist. There is a brief lull in the proceedings today in my life. It takes an eternity to write the short story.

It is an original and genuine art in itself. Elsewhere there’s a storm but it is periodic. Some women grow old gracefully.

Some women live dying a succession of deaths on the basis of intellectualism and the fourth wave of the feminist treatise. Some women are alone.

Some women, those who inherited these pearls of wisdom from mothers and grandmothers, are surrounded by spouse, children and grandchildren. Lahiri has taught me well. The calling of a short story writer is as an early winter. I am a woman in love.

It is a quickening of a montage of enlightenment, and sometimes as anti-feminists or feminists, as pioneers or short story writers we pay for the rest of our lives for something we didn’t do. That didn’t mean that much to us in the first place.

I want to make a difference, a perpetual impact envisioning heaven in all of its glory. I have known the pain of rejection, the loneliness of association with other interlopers.

So to write is to be inspired and to inspire a revolution from within, positioning a turning point in others.

That all of life, the fulfilment bound in life is divine in nature, that life itself is precious, being, feeling, fully aware.

I think of the white teeth of speech, prayer and songs. Roots taking shape like the kiss of life. Beginnings come with scrutiny, knee-deep in oral tradition and custom, the old dooryard.

In my books, as in Jhumpa Lahiri’s short stories where there is a lack of knowledge, people are destroyed. There is higher learning with absolute arrogance, supreme arrogance. Characters are sheltered by their ignorance from the shark tank of the world.

So, I begin with the story, call it The Psychology Of Rebecca.

Everything is jade or a blue screen. The stars and the alignment of the planets are regal. I stride forward, celebrate the past, her past, my past and create my future. So, I write about limited flaws.

My own, other women’s materialism. No more hiding in the wild for me.

Survival can be redemptive. Seeking closure to the bloody battles of the heart with goodwill and progress and beguiling faith. Tomorrow becomes like raining snow. It blooms in shade. Trials of fire.

I write about leaving the past behind, the man’s hand in the small of the woman’s back, inequalities, the hunger and misery of non-spirituality and intimidation, immense neediness and human suffering. I mean to tell you about legend. The legend of a woman.

The woman of resistance, the revolutionary, the creator and created of infinite wisdom. I think of wisdom, the collective and tortured loneliness of a woman. I write about submission and obedience.

A child and a man will and can never understand that loneliness. In the stories there is the letting go of an unhappy childhood and I wonder if this is what it is like for every female writer.

Her resurrected day, her walk into nightfall, words, negativities, self-doubt and insecurities.

What turns her towards hardship and despair, courage when she is under fire, a woman who waltzes with silence, with a kind of phantom grace, but loneliness and the art and symbol of therapy is on my mind all the time.

So, to the short story I have this to say. You voyage into eternity, into the fellowship of the wild with exceptional purpose, with all of your might and power of the abundance of your wildflowers. We will survive as we have always survived. Out to sea there are glaciers, on the mountains there is snow, and my energies are at current level.

There is flock, blue sky consuming gigantic ceiling, there will be rain, but we will venture outside again in the same way as the high wind, dawn in the fullness of the hour. You are providence. You are extraordinary. You are early risers. You are foot traffic. You are folded away lions and tigers in the archives, and although we are all tourists now, we are exceptional. Our purpose is exceptional, and for those that live in memory, you are time, and the ones you left behind, we are time too. We all exist in the same way philosophy exists. In terms of functionality, potentiality, invincibility. In terms of sufficient knowledge, in our state of awareness and mind. In the maintenance of our ordinary yet extraordinary routine let this keep us mindful of our environment, our world, our psychological framework to be in the stillness a symbol of hope, our anthem of hope for everyone around us at the turning point in time. To health and to our liberty.

To humanity. Centuries touch me as I sigh into the wind and speak to the glory of God.

The world is changing, narratives are changing, there is the letting go and spelling the end of things. As a writer I walk in obedience even when insecure and vulnerable, alone, lonely, helpless and powerful, powerless and defenceless. I tell myself to be spontaneous.

To be bullish.

The weeks go by, my struggle and depression increases during lockdown.

I would rather hurt, than feel nothing. Nothing at all. Then the months hurry. The stories do as they please mostly. Still I am here.

Still nothing happens. Otherwise I am well. Surviving under the circumstances. Coping with the mechanisms of self and ego. In the short story I am me, then someone else, then just not me at all.

I have to follow the long sound of it for a moment, up and down, with my ear alone, before any words come through it.

Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominated shortlisted and longlisted poet Abigail George is a recipient of four writing grants from the National Arts Council, the Centre for Book and ECPACC. She briefly studied film, writes for The Poet, is an editor at MMAP and Contributing Writer at African Writer. She is a blogger, essayist, writer of several short stories, novellas and has ventured out to write for film with two projects in development . She was recently interviewed for Sentinel, and the BBC.

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African Renaissance

Truth and the third wave of the pandemic: To be vaccinated or not to be vaccinated

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Photo: Atharva Tulsi/Unsplash

I have endured the worst possible case scenario. Being locked up in a mental institution for six months while in my late teens, early twenties. Even though I was of sound body, mind and soul. I am 42 years old now and I haven’t come all the way back from that experience. Everyone wrote me off when I returned home to Port Elizabeth as Gqeberha was known in those days but worse was to follow. Inhumane treatment from those closest to me, rejection from society. I was taught that I had a mental disability and would never be able to work again, hold down a steady job or earn a monthly income. I was told in no uncertain terms that I had to now live on the fringes of society since I would be unable to make a positive contribution to society. For twenty years this continued. I had to all intents and purposes not only given up on myself, my personal success, development of my potential and fulfillment and engagement in a relationship that would lead ultimately to my future happiness. The goal of marriage and having a child, bringing children into the world and raising a family was not only put into the distant past, I thought that it would always be non-existent for me.

I would spend my time listening to sad music, love songs on the radio and wonder why it was not me caught up in the scenario of having a relationship with the opposite sex. I sank even further into the pit of the hell in f despair and hardship. I virtually had lost control over my life, received a disability grant which I did not spend on anything which I personally needed. Family considered me to be the proverbial black sheep of the family. When I got angry at the way I was treated I was certified. My rights were taken away from me. I was verbally, mentally and emotionally abused. I did everything in my power to be loved and accepted by both my maternal and paternal family which is why I believe so strongly today in dismantling the stigma that surrounds issues concerning mental illness and depression mania, euphoria and elation (however mild or all-consuming it might be). At this late stage of my life I have become an advocate for mental wellness. To stop the fight and curb the alienation and isolation of sufferers of mental illness. I want people from all walks of life to realise that people with mental illnesses can enrich our lives and can make a positive contribution to society.

I myself have always sought solace in writing. I have found it to be an instrument for change and therapeutic as well.

I have firsthand knowledge and experience of being called anything from schizophrenic to being diagnosed with bipolar mood disorder and because of the heavy psychotropic medication I have taken over the years I have had a host of illnesses presenting themselves. Chronic fatigue syndrome, insomnia, an underactive thyroid, chronic kidney disease, gout and heart disease. These diseases manifested themselves early on in my life before the onset of middle age when they would be more prevalent in someone who would be prone to these sorts of illnesses because of not living a healthy lifestyle.

I take each day as it comes now and live in the moment. I have my good days. I have my bad days. I have a mean temper and constantly have to watch what I eat, watch what I say and how I react to people who treat me as him I am a second class citizen because of everything I have been through in my life. Truth be told I always knew I was different. The depression started in childhood for me. I was always an overachiever. I would come home in the afternoons after school but no one ever helped me with my homework, told me either that they were proud of me or believed in me or loved me for that matter.

Everyday I am a work in progress. It is tough dealing with moodswing but that is the currency I deal in and the territory that borders my sense of self-control.

I have been called many names. None of them pretty or lovely. I have had zero support from my immediate family and my estranged family has complete written me off and washed their hands off of me thinking there is nothing they can do for me. This has been very hurtful and even has made made me feel quite suicidal over the years and in my hour if need, my hours of silence, pain and collective trauma I turned to God, prayer and meditation in my hour of need. At the time of the outbreak of the pandemic I got corona and was admitted to the psych ward at Provincial Hospital here in Gqeberha. I had no medical aid and was once again at the mercy of the system but I survived hell and that harrowing experience again to live to tell the tale of how to overcome the impossible, to live and to learn, to remain humble and kind even in the face of adversity and cruelty.

Loneliness, abject poverty, homelessness can either kill you or make you realise that you are powerful beyond measure and I have realised that I am powerful beyond measure.

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African Renaissance

Thoughts From the Frontline

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Photo: Keenan Constance/Unsplash

“Hip/Hop, Trap. I would describe my music as different, unique, compared to what I hear in the music industry in South Africa. It is a different sound of genre based on hip hop. In my downtime I listen to artists like Mexikodro, Playboi Carti, Diego Money, Pyrex Whippa, Lil Gotit and Sahbabii. In my life my family has been and still is a major influence, I just want to see them happy and stress free. I want to be successful so that they can spend the rest of lives living comfortably. I chose music because I believe that it is something I’m good at. I wouldn’t call myself a musical genius, or say that I’m talented musically because I’m not but, I have taken the time to learn everything that I know today, I started as a rapper, but now I am a producer as well, a very good one if I should say, I mix and master vocals, well I try to. It is still something I am learning on a daily basis and I believe that one day if not soon, I will understand that aspect of music. The guys who I record with are so gifted at what they do, we really inspire each other to take it to the next level. I would be lying if I said that I inspire myself, well maybe I do, I don’t know, however what I do know is that we can go to the next level together because nowadays you rarely see a duo or a group of rappers in the South African music industry, there are 4 of us in our group including others who aren’t full time as yet, I think that makes the odds better for us to take it to the next level as opposed to being a solo” SUPREME ZEE, CEO OF Holidae Don’t Stop!

“What inspires me to take it to the next level is basically my daughter, Family and my everyday experiences growing up and living in Westbury losing friends and family to gang violence had a huge effect on me since a young age I’ve been through hell and back if I may describe in short and I’ve realized, to make it out you really need to dig deep. This is also one of the main reasons why I started writing music. I love Music, it is my passion that is mainly why I chose to make music, ever since a young age I’ve just been through the worst writing music and articulating every word I write is therapeutic. Manifesting and having faith in God has carried me through. Major influences in my life remains God, my baby girl, my family and obviously my Team Holidae Dont Stop! We always encourage one another to do our best we definitely do bring out the best in each other and I’d say the beats that supreme Zee creates brings out the best in me personally and it’s also one of the major influences in my music career it’s only elevated since the moment we started. In my down time I listen to All types of music mostly Gospel & HDS. I would describe my music as being one in a million very versatile, real and unusually different from the usual and it has an unorthodox flow and style to it so you can literally expect only the best” TheGR8ACE, CEO and co-founder of Holidae Dont Stop!

My inspiration comes from knowing that I have a God given talent and my friends (HDS) and family that motivates me day to day to do better. I chose music because as a hobby it is something I love doing which started out in high school where I had friends that used to rap over beats and I’d just stand within the circle and listen to their rhymes and it became to amuse me when I found out that there are people in my community creating their own music, whereas in 2019, I linked with the crew Holidae Dont Stop! and it has been a wonderful journey ever since! Learning and growing at the same time. My mother has played a role as one of my biggest inspirations including friends (HDS) have been a major Influence in my life, for they always pushed me to be a better me. Not giving up on me and providing not bad advice but love and positivity. I’ve been in difficult situation in the past and I am just trying to make a better standard of living for my family, my friends as well as my community (Westbury). In my down time I listen to various genres like Rock, Rnb, Hip/Hop, Rap, Emo Rap. I would describe our music as Western Plug for it derives from Hip-hop with an offbeat including 808s and guitar and piano samples that Supreme Zee (Producer) recreates and when hearing the beat, I can automatically put my heart on it.” Bando -recording Artist at Holidae Dont Stop!

 To conclude this, we are all from Johannesburg South Africa as one of our members spread across as far as Cape Town, temporarily. Our member who are not full time are – Leiph Camp (Splaash66) Stock broker, Razaak Benjamin (Glock) Salesman and Marion Reyners (Marion The Great) Facilitator. “Our music is Bold, Iconic and timeless” TheGr8ce. Our crew is based in Jozi (Johannesburg) although we do not have a manager as yet. Our follow up record will sound similar to the “Western Plug tape” that we have recently released, followed by 3 singles. Plug is a genre that derives itself from Hip-Hop and our next single will drop in 2 weeks. The link to our music is on all platforms and the Love and support would be much appreciated. We literally wont stop! –

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African Renaissance

Slavery and the real life bending sinister

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What is slavery? It is nothing more than poverty of the mind. It is not a school of thought or a philosophy. It is scarcity. It is lack. It is cumbersome. It is heavy. It is a burden.

What does it have to do with politics? Ask what it has to do with genocide.

What does it have to do with the power of having a slave mentality? Just as easily as we rise, we fall. A leaf. Ask yourself this. Does the leaf or gravity have the slave mentality or is it just a path to its consciousness, and if it is a meandering path to its consciousness what does that make of gravity? Gravity is easily the culprit or saboteur. A cup carries water but how does the water break through the physical wellness of the body to sate thirst, how does water flow through the universal meridians and find sanctuary in all the wild places that the ocean cannot contain, in code, in which case what observations come out of these natural and bohemian studies.

A slave is a slave is a slave. My grandfather was a slave. My great-grandfather was a slave. On both the paternal and maternal side they are non-existent for me. I live for my father. My father is not a slave. You see his mind is not enslaved. His psyche, his mental, emotional, physical wellness, intellectual prowess and integrity is intact inasmuch as he is not a slave to the peculiarities and eccentricities of the people he finds himself amongst.

In the stages of my own life I can see that I have been enslaved (my mindset and attitude was) by my body image, my identity of cosmic Africa, the cosmos, my self as an African, what I was entitled to, my basic self esteem. I was a slave to my sister, her dalliances, her whiteness, her renouncing Africa for America then Europe and I understood what loneliness, family, friendship and family finally meant and this frightened me a great deal because I realised I had never really loved myself before. I was a slave to every moment up until I heard James Baldwin speak up. I had truly been a slave to waiting for someone to release me and offer me relief somehow from this kind of suffering and cognitive thinking. I wanted happiness but the price for my freedom was this. Somebody else had to love me before I could.

Ask what slavery has cost us as humanity. Look back at history. When I look back at history, all my life I never felt safe. Whether it was the bogeyman, or a horror film, or apartheid, or reading about apartheid, acknowledging it was the difficult part. How would you even begin that dialogue? What could you partner with those hectic images that left you with an urgency and a sense of betrayal from God? So, I grew up with an unpleasant disdain for middle class families in South Africa. It was easy for me to picture them as racist which they were and still are to a certain degree and yet how could I not be? The thought of slavery and decolonization never left me even as a child as I sought to fight for the betterment of society and to right all the evil wrongs.

Slavery is everything. It is primitive. It is visible if you look hard enough. We haven’t even begun to talk about or discuss in rational terms without venting or becoming agitated or irrational about race relations in South Africa or slavery as a concept or narrative in Africa.

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