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African Renaissance

The Seagull

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The life I have lived is more the climate of Hollywood than the establishment of New York. More Zelda Fitzgerald than Rebecca Miller. People are always furiously watching me, observing me, and I hate that. I absolutely do. I feel like they have no right to do that to me anyway, but they do. It is merely an aspect of the illness, symptomatic of the mood. Everybody is just waiting for my father to die. They named a building after him here in this port town. All these men have ever done for me, all these short-lived love affairs, these complicated relationships, always complicated because I was the factor, they all killed the poet inside of me. In return, years and years and years later, they become muse in my head, interpreter in the room where I write, or, read, or, or sleep, or watch Netflix. I wish I was as beautiful as my sister. I wish that instead of my psyche being the ballet Swan Lake, I was traveling the world somewhat like her. Teaching English as a foreign language. I wish, I truly wish that I was happy, but I am not. Everything in life is temporary. The arts and literature to me are not. I dream of falling in love when the loneliness and the torment and the high and the anger that comes upon me. But when I write, I write vicariously through the greats. The great female poets. Women I consider my contemporaries. The writing is vivacious and lavish like a room in Gertrude Stein’s Paris apartment. There are days when I feel completely still and calm. There are days when I feel as if I am buried and gone. I hate my body. It disgusts me. There are days that I eat. There are days that I do not eat. I survive on toast and black coffee. I wish it weren’t so, but that is the way it goes.

Eat, and be a slave to eating, or, don’t eat and don’t love myself. I have a poor self-concept. My identity is to fly under the radar, and not be in the spotlight. I don’t really have close friends. Don’t have intimates, or, confidantes. Anything, I would give anything to numb this pain inside, Petya. Bang, bang. The bullets are in the gun. Gone, gone then this clinical depression instead of feeling like taking a pill, or, a pharmaceutical. The autonomy of life spreading out before me as a leaf. I numb myself with tranquilisers and sleeping pills. Sleep does not come. When it does, it is usually four or five hours of completely natural sleep. A response to the environment I that live in now. Before, I was fine. Before being hospitalised again. Now I am dead inside. Completely numb. Before I was happy and outspoken. Now I am filled with dread when speaking to people. What to speak of, what to do, what to make conversation about, I don’t know anymore. I don’t want anything out of life. I don’t want anything out of life anymore. It has spat me out. I am chicken shit. Take me to the afterlife. Take me to the moon, the other solitary planets, the sun, the stars. Let me feel. Let me feel adventurous. I was like that before being locked up in a high care facility. Didn’t need to be there. So, now at home I make noodles all the time and sauce, and tell myself to be happy, rather than unhappy. The bullets in the gun go bang, bang, bang and the door on life is shut to me forever. I am the key to trepidation. I am the underworld. I am an embryo. I am a greenhouse. And everything, everything has a womb. They want me dead.

They want me dead. They don’t want me alive anymore. Get me gone. Get me out of here. I want to be dead. I want to be buried. I want to be gone. Kill, kill, kill. Kill me, kill me, kill me. That is all that they do. And then I think of the bullets in the gun. To take me out of this life for good. Macbeth sees a ghost. Lady Macbeth has psychosis. Sees the blood on her hands. When will they see my blood on their hands, when I take my own life? Is that what it all comes down to, that I am the daughter of this gun. I am the birthday girl that no one sings happy birthday to, that no one buys presents for. That no one visits. But I am not lonely because of this. I kiss someone and inside it makes me feel more dead than alive, and no one, no one can understand this. I am a poor woman clothed in mist. I have nothing to give you except drowsy hardship, and the wintertime of despair. I try to write a little from the folds of my belly, the sun of my laughter, the trick of the light, but everything that comes out of me, spills out of me, pours out of me is death. Today I hate myself and tomorrow I shall surely love myself again, and be full of breath, and Goliath shall strike me, and I will life again. The periodic table will fit into my pocket and I will be 14 years of age again. Inside I feel 14 years of age. I’m unhappy. I’m unhappy. I’m unhappy. Strange for a burnt-out adult woman to feel like a child. The stress of life has marked me this time for good. I want to leave, leave, leave. Get out of this town. But wherever I go I will be the drowning visitor. I have eaten the sun, the cold ripe figs in the refrigerator at the speed of light. There is a wedding in my head.

Drumming away like a suckled thing, lingering there like a yellow harvest, or, a season’s gurgle. But there is no groom. She waits for him, this vision, like I wait for him. To save me. To save me. But there is no mercurial saving. And there is no Saviour. My skin is hot. This sadness will not vanish. I sprawl on my bed in the hopes of perfecting this line in this novel I am writing, this letter I am writing to you on your island, but I feel just about as focused as a monkey. The relaxed business of the afternoon is spilling over my head. It feels as if I am drowning again. I am a heard child crying in the dark of nightfall. I am taking on the world one word at a time, dispelling intricate stigma and discrimination. I am a seawards boat following an island on the horizon on a film set. I dreamed of that once. I don’t anymore. There are days when it feels so completely, and utterly natural to me to think of that world. A steak and potatoes will be good eating now. The rain has stopped like the bleating of a lamb yielding to death after being caught by the wired hooks of a fence. There will be stretchmarks that will not fade. There will be cellulite that looks like orange peel. There will be fad diets and no exercise. Everybody knows me in this town. The mad girl with a disability. Her highs and her lows. There are days when I feel more woman than girl. More girl than woman. I am lost. I am stolen. I am forgotten. My struggle with depression steals me away until I am truly lost and forgotten. Evening comes and falls all around me. I eat a congealed egg and a slice of burnt toast. Think of when I was a child and I was molested. I am pollen.

I am pollen found on Kathmandu, the symbol of a grave rabbit. There is this feeling that I have to alter something. Perhaps my adult life. There will always be the capacity for pain. How to deal with trauma. How not to always play the role of victim. I have to heal myself for all the lost boys, for daddy, for mum but there are days that I don’t care anymore if I live, or if I lay dying in the foetal position on my bed, or on my bedroom floor. All I ever wanted to do, to be, was to love, and to be loved in return. Didn’t work out that way. There are fireworks inside my brain. I am the woman who buried her affairs so deep like a voice. I was a big girl. Now I am a thin girl again. The dangling wildflowers are in a panic. Father is kind, but he can be unkind. Like locking me up in a hospital so that I am out of the picture. Nobody brings me clean clothes to wear, or, sanitary napkins. Nobody picks up the telephone and makes that call. And everything is a mildewed statement about a wolf, or, that there is a nobility in the fear that an artist can be lonely too. I am insanely grateful for ever having lived at all. If you only knew half of my anxieties, my difficulties. I am truly, truly insanely grateful for ever having lived at all, Bulgarian poetess Petya Dubarova with the sad eyes. The sad world that I live in has kept me safe for as long as it possibly could. It can’t anymore. It can’t possibly anymore. I was kept safe. Keep me safe from the liberties of the drowning sea, is all the ghost of me asks. I wish I was dead. I wish I lay at the bottom of the ocean with a gun in my mouth. The light has gone out of my eyes. The faith, and will, and strength has left my physical body.

I am no poet. I was a failure at everything. I am spoiling your life, mother. You have been patient with me all this time. I seem to have fallen out of select society with abandon to cover the invention of the of silence. I am disciple, while my sister is follower. I am feminist, while my sister is educationalist. You kissed me on the lips. You kissed me on the cheek. You kissed me on the beach. The sea kissed me on the lips. The sea kissing me on the cheek. The sea kissed me on the beach. The glaciers need elbow room to grow, to grow, to grow. I use the things which actually happen, but not in a bad way. I thought it was my fault the day that my sister told me that she never wanted to get married. Thought that it was because I had a mental illness. But my alter ego discovered that there is freedom in artistic expression. Everybody gets hurt sometimes. I want it all. Just to have it all again. The singing rivers of it all, the zen mood of the owl and the broken link, to be existentialist in the frog hospital. To be the starling in the gap again, not to be this broken darling, but to be transformed by good. Then there’s this avalanche of sin. In me. In me. Like a photo workshop, even the trying decline of the citizenship (belonging to the working and lower middle classes) of stigma and the super-rise of discrimination amongst the mentally ill has myths and attitudes. It has become kind of like an occupational hazard to know and understand this ‘captive-apartheid’ (separate but equal mentality, this psyche) of what it is like to be mentally ill, to be hospitalised, institutionalised on a long-term basis.

Then there is the conflict in the home that needs to be considered that leads to isolation, withdrawal from the community and broader society of the ‘victim’. In anger and agony, there will be violence and assault against the mentally ill that is never spoken about. There will never be an apology. The arrogant and thoughtless perpetrators from all quarters would think that with time memories of the past injustices and brutality will fade. That the mentally ill sufferer would forget the pain of the mental cruelty of the emotional abuser. Well, I will never forget the emotional pain, the mental cruelty, the embarrassment and humiliation at the hands of family members. I think of when God called Isaiah to be a prophet, the sign of Immanuel, the evil that men can do, and I know that aspects of my life have been useless, but I have seen everything. That there is enough injustice in the world at the end of the day, but that is the philosopher’s experience, the teacher’s experience, the parent’s jurisdiction. We all know that although mental illness is permanent, you can learn coping skills, how to cope, how to survive in this world. You can find a return to normality. You can find your reality again. Sometimes my thoughts go back to something someone insensitively said, or, the supportive role, the intervention, the difference that a person made in my life. I discover then I am grateful. That although mental illness is the broken link in my life, it has given so much to me. I wouldn’t be a writer. I wouldn’t be a poet. I wouldn’t be a daughter, or, a sister, or an aunt. Pushing up the hill, I found God. In finding God, I found purpose. Meaning in activities.

The ghost in the shadows’ kind of true happiness. I became a kind of voyager. I found the exit out from the renal unit into a voyage into eternity.

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

The YCCC and How It Changed the Future of South Africa

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This was the pre-apartheid education that we received when we were still at school. I was 13, 14 years of age at the time of the promulgation of the Group Areas Act in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, which then led to the forced removals and people literally being ‘dumped’ in the Northern Areas of Port Elizabeth. Dr Neville Alexander came to Port Elizabeth on two occasions. The YCCC-organisation (Yu Chi Chan Club) was primarily based on guerrilla warfare as is expounded by the leader of the Chinese Communist Party Mao Se Tung. It elucidates in his long walk to freedom, as well as his account in the new democracy as is expounded by his books and writings. These ideologies played a key role in formulating policy in the fight of guerrilla warfare against the Nationalist Party government. It is imperative to mention that the textbook for the organisation was Guerrilla Warfare by Che Guevara which was slavishly followed by discussions in the organisation. Other books included Partisan Warfare by Lenin, as well as Das Kapital by Karl Marx.

This took a lot of preparation and in-depth discussion groups took place based on these classic writers. It was imperative that these books were simplified and applied to the unique situation in South Africa. Dr Alexander and Ali Fataar, the then banned member of the executive of the NUM (New Unity Movement) came to Port Elizabeth to do exploratory work in creating fertile political groundwork for establishing the NEUM (Non-European Unity Movement) groupings. They visited areas like Korsten, Schauderville at night where they held underground discussion groups on the non-collaboration and the ‘Ten-Point Programme’ which at that early stage were very important and relevant documents. These were lengthy discussion groups which took place throughout the night. However, it crystallised into a solid branch of the NEUM (Non-European Unity Movement), Korsten branch. Further exploratory work was conducted in the area before these two stalwarts could return to Cape Town.

As a young student (16 years of age) we had the opportunity of meeting with people of the calibre of Dr Alexander at a very early stage in our political careers. This took place while we attended the CPSU (Cape Peninsula Students Union) group at our residence in Lloyd Street, Cape Town. This group grew rapidly as more and more progressive students became interested in the finer progressive political ideologies of the CPSU. We met regularly every fortnight and the discussions took place until the early hours of the morning. The topics included Bantu Education, Coloured Education, Bush University, Students Representative Council issues and the like. We also organised regular meetings on camping trips on Table Mountain where extensive politicisation took place on advanced political ideologies such as capitalism, imperialism and world ideologies of the day. We became acutely aware that our home got the attention of the security police. However, this did not deter us from becoming acutely aware of the intrusion of capitalism and imperialism and the like. It was at a very young age that I became involved in student politics which has its origin in political activity.

The forced removals, the Group Areas Act, the political upheaval caused havoc amongst particularly the young who were influenced by teachers who belonged to the Anti-CAD (Anti-Coloured Affairs Department) and the TLSA (Teachers League of South Africa). The city was ablaze with political activity which in a short space of time demonstrated deep into the youth. This needless to say was influenced by political youth in the Western Cape. What was affecting the students in the Western Cape was, alas, also affecting the students in the Cape, particularly Gqeberha. At times, the situation became extremely volatile and out of control. Organisations like the NUM (National Unity Movement), Anti-CAD (Anti-Coloured Affairs Department), TLSA (Teachers League of South Africa) reigned supreme. It was also apparent that the ratepayer’s organisations which were formed to fight against the rapid erosion of management committees.

Many public meetings were held with F.A. Landman and Dennis Brutus (vice-chairman), who were at pains to point out the disadvantages of the Group Areas Act. Many groups were formed which included the ANC, the PAC, the Unity Movement and allied groups were mobilised. It became apparent that the Group Areas Act was not going to go through a very easy passage. The organisations were not unified in their actions and this gave the opposition deep inroads into progressive thinkers. As a student group at the University College of the Western Cape we were invited to SOYA (Society of Young Africa) meetings in the Mowbray Minor Hall on a Sunday afternoon. For the first time we witnessed serious altercations among the members of the NEUM (Non-European Unity Movement), and this included Dr Neville Alexander and Dr Kenny Abrahams.

The topic of discussion was on Angola and the chairlady of the meeting Miss Wilcox clearly did not understand her mandate. Dr Neville Alexander and Dr Kenny Abrahams tackled her on the political aspects of FRELIMO Liberation Front of Mozambique). It appeared that two factions had now developed in the meeting. It was really a fisticuffs kind of thing. It appeared as if Dr Alexander and Dr Abrahams were at loggerheads with the present discussion leaders of the main group. The matter came to a head when the chairperson asked Dr Alexander and Dr Abrahams to leave the meeting. However, before that could take place Dr Abrahams announced to the meeting that all those who believed in democracy would leave the meeting. I was one of the Western Cape students who felt urged to leave the meeting with Alexander and Abrahams, which we did and met again at No. 2 Swiss Road in Lansdowne for a follow-up meeting. Officially, at this meeting there was information about the YCCC (Yu Chi Chan Club). Dr Alexander and Dr Abrahams felt no animosity which the meeting gave them as they left.

Dr Alexander was described as a dark horse by my father. As with all leaders, the maverick visionaries and profound thinkers, brilliant intellectuals, and having the primitive wonders of both wisdom and intelligence, for these men ahead of their time their faith was shared only by their comrades in the struggle. These stalwarts have taught me that it is the tendency of every man, woman and child of every race, of every faith to embrace every other man, woman and child of every race, and of every other faith. Indeed, it is rare. Indeed, it is exceptional when it happens. Language is a bridge. The language is not of love, but of respect. It is the flesh and blood of mother tongue language that divides us. It is respect that conquers self-pity, arrogance and narcissism. There is no one identity. Yet there is one moral code. Multiculturalism has changed the order of history, moral ambiguity, cast a spell on the doctrines and phenomena of religion. In humanity, in this human world, these leaders have taught us purpose on earth, the awareness of self, lack of ego and the finding of our identity in existential relativism, pedagogical and counterfeit phenomenology. Multiply achievement and you get the candy shop of the poetic horrors of over-abundance, the romantic weariness of decay and the complex strength of popularity.

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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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