Between #MeToo and #AmINext – what a time to be a woman.

Today has been triggering.

next-hashtag-yomzansi

#menaretrash + #notallmen + #metoo + #aminext all came together as distinct and strong hashtags in divergent and competing camps in different combinations and with lines between them blurred. When all those hashtags first trended around whatever circumstances they were triggering enough so in combination they are just….!

Uyinene Mrwetyana (19) was brutally murdered on August 24, 2019 by a 42 year old guy who worked at the post office she went to look for a package from.

Just the above sentence could be the whole post, but I’m going to go into my feelings. Since yesterday I’ve been going through my twitter timeline and refreshing not just the outrage at this particular case and other recent missing stories, but personal accounts of  women’s first and second hand experience with rape and murder. Honestly, it’s been addictively unhealthy for me. It’s kept my mind and heart racing interchangeably because ALL of the stories and the fears embedded in them for all the women coming forward are all too familiar. I felt and feel like such a coward for watching [so closely] the handle that started naming, picturing and shaming and warning others based on anonymous submissions from women who still live in fear of the vast array of men they experienced danger/rape/assault from. A part of me watched to see if there was someone I know in there for maybe vindication. That maybe something I experienced and haven’t been brave enough to face and expose could be done by someone much braver than I. I’ll tell you it hasn’t happened and as it has continued into today that need for some release has gotten stronger. Along with my fear. I took out a bottle of wine to review for my long abandoned wine blog, but that 2017 Du’Swaroo Tannat has become the crutch upon which I’m leaning on to write this. So many of the stories involved the perpetrators using alcohol to impair the women and many accounts talk about the woman not being sure what had happened and then either being afraid to report because they were unsure OR, if they DID report, being asked about their lucidity and recollection of events. So what am I doing sipping a glass of wine as I write all the way AROUND this topic that feels so personal and real? Numbing the pain. The pain of suppressed feelings, wonderings, doubts, certainties around what has happened to many women/myself. My heart is still racing and I’m typing through a tearwall in my eye, a runny nose because the pain is so real, but I already know I’m not going to tell my story. What will it change for us personally? For the women who have come forward especially in a country whose gender based violence is as pandemic and documented globally as South Africa’s is? Everyone knows wussup. Women have BEEN coming forward since the beginning of the country.

As this story has, for lack of a better phrase, blown up and been hashtagged, there are SEVERAL concurrent stories of missing women, confirmed deaths, bodies, active abduction attempts, not to mention rapes, shootings, stabbings of [sometimes pregnant] women by men in their lives.

Many women have been through situations where they thought surely they were going to die in the hands of a man they knew and loved, speak less of complete strangers. When we were young we were all taught about stranger danger – which is legitimate and easy to determine and isolate, but somehow, conveniently for those who were teaching us, they forgot to mention the even more ominous opposite. It doesn’t even have a phrase to capture it. It is that ubiquitous. Something unable to be named. So how does it get acknowledged. And then solved?

I am currently feeling very hot, my heart is racing.

The other day I asked a friend of mine who I heard mention her story of rape in preparation for a press event how come she had never told me about it. She thought she had. She then told me. This whole phenomenon and universality of rape experience and culture is soooo omnipresent. We have the same story in some ways and not in others. As she told me I was miss #metoo. Her story ended and we moved on to the next topic. It matters, but what does it matter? We see all around us that they all mostly get away with it and they are the men in our lives. Mine died. Many die with the violation taking away any chance of closure or consequences for their actions. What a violation that itself being taken away is. It happened when I was so young and over an extended period of time. I remember as young as I was [and comfort myself now maybe] that it was not penetration, but also that it was VERY wrong. I never told anyone EVER. He died I think in my early teens when I was told that uncle z’bani z’bani (so and so) died. And thought so nothing can happen now anyway. I’ll just dead it. But these things never die. Only a small part of us dies and that part comes back to haunt us when things like what is happening on the internet with Uyinene rear their traumatizing head. When we are triggered. If we rationalize, in attempt to cope, in our head that it wasn’t so bad [because there wasn’t penetration], that he loved us and wanted us to himself, was the father of our child, was our father, was Papa in the house of the lord, that part that died doesn’t feel as dead. We feel [maybe] whole. Holding onto ourselves because in the storm and swirl of it all we ourselves are all we have.

I’m all I’ve had since it happened to me because I’ve kept it to myself. Some might argue that talking about it and telling others about it would have meant it wasn’t my burden to bear all along, but ultimately when it was happening, by design, it was only to me. Young and isolated and only to me. Just me and him. I knew him. He knew that. But he’s dead now and that is the only almost good in it all. I don’t even know the circumstances, but what it means is he can’t do it to me or anyone anymore. But if, as is usually the case, he did it to someone else and worse they kept silent OR spoke out, what would have changed about what he did? For many women, there is never any closure anyway EVEN IF and sometimes especially if they go to the authorities. Many women’s stories are their secret or their abuser died or walked away scot-free. Surely something can be done in many places where protections and legislation have been upgraded to more accurately address some of the ubiquitous aspects of what we are talking about, but South Africa is such a special case. For as long as I can remember anecdotally as a child to through research, statistics, documentaries, films, news etc. as an adult – what even gives? From primary school boys raping and maiming fellow primary school girls, grandmothers being gang raped, babies being sodomized, pregnant women being shot*, everyday trafficking and rape…every single week there is a trending missing woman overlapping with a body found. All of the women in me are tired.

“Wow hey this child gave me trouble. Took her forever to die” he told the police. Compared to what?

*I was in a relationship with someone who told me a story about someone he knew in SA getting his girlfriend pregnant and didn’t know what to do. I asked him what he had suggested and he said he told said friend that he should kill the girlfriend… my blood curdled, but the conversation continued in that familiar self preserving way that in the background we are wondering if we heard what we heard and also trying to rationalize it because OF COURSE we are in danger, but also not necessarily. Or at least not immediately. I asked him why he would suggest that (because I am a [single] mother) and he said he was just joking. That he was or wasn’t didn’t even matter. Everything about that statement was violent. I felt assaulted by it. I told him so and he thought I take everything too seriously. I take serious things seriously. But rape culture and its pervasiveness means violence against women [by men] is actually a joke.

I finished my wine. I guess I did tell it…partially.

#aminext

__________________

*@afropolitaine*

afrofoto day 7 | on necklaces and STUFF like that…and whatnot…or whatever

I moved exactly a month ago now and it’s taken much longer to get settled. I definitely reduced the number of boxes that were unpacked and have a functionally arranged closet….along with a pile of cloths still on the floor to be sorted through. In realizing I still possibly another year of breastfeeding my honey bunny I’ve tried to organize clothes by keeping those that are practical and easily accessible for that and then there is the sentimental reasons keeps, then the this is one of a kind how can i get rid of it. Those last 2 categories are mostly what is on the floor because I am strongly aspiring minimalist. Moving really really really reinforced that. You/we like to think we have not that many things until it’s time to move. Even then you look around yourself and see the big furniture items and maybe think I don’t have that much stuff, but once the furniture and big pieces are out, the STUFF is really where it’s at. I was so upset with myself for how much stuff I had. I’ve got boxes at the door of things I already identified as having been unused or unnecessary at the other place. Thank goodness for the silver lining of babies outgrowing things at a pretty consistent pace. On the one hand yes you have to keep getting them things, but on the flip side you get to get rid of things at the same pace.

Anywhoooo I finally got to a box that has my jewelry and I’ve also sorted through that. Quite a few ended up in the bucket of jewelry I will NOT be keeping. Some are just because I never really loved them, but many are just not practical for a grabby baby who’s teething at this point. Today’s #afrofoto is one I kept. I have loved this necklace from the time I got it at one of the African themed jewelry stores at OR Tambo airport in Johannesburg. In fact, many stunning pieces I have are from shopping I  did transiting through that airport. Pretty pennies were paid for them. I’ve definitely outgrown the jeweled phase of my style for now…or until my boo boo is well beyond being fascinated by colorful things around my neck. So yeah.  What does the necklace have to do with moving and the stress of it? Nothing or something necessarily,  but it was part of the STUFF we find ourselves with in these situations.

_______________

*@afropolitaine*

afrofoto day 5 | red red wine (pinotage)

Sooooo….confession time. I have another blog. At some point it completely pulled me away from this one here and I was completely absorbed into developing and growing it. It was about wine. Correction, it IS about wine and I enjoyed doing it so much and gained a teensy teensy bit of “fame” from it. It was during the time I lived in NE DC and would look for wine related events like tastings, launches, readings, pairings, etc. There was this ka-YUTE little wine shop that opened [I hope is still there] called DCanter (toooootal play on words) I enjoyed going to in Capitol Hill a comfortable walk or short bike ride to. Cute decor, not HUUUGE selection, but comfortable and they always had great events featuring sommeliers, vintners, viticulturists etc. The guy who owns it or is the manager was just genuinely engaging without being salesmany and it was just altogether lovely. Anywhoo back to my “fame” surely I can’t miss a chance to share with you guys. I walked in there looking specifically for a pinotage totally expecting to find just 1 bottle/type. Nope they had a few and he also put me onto something. We get to the front at check out and he asks me why I haven’t been writing recently. Guys! Like those are the small moments bloggers/I live for. Of course I died of shyness and was more interested in how he knew it was me….silly question i know, but you know…self doubt. Little ol’ me. Anywhooo back to wine. 

I wasn’t able to drink wine while I was pregnant and for a long time after I had my little booboo, but you know I decided to not be so strict on myself because no one would cut me some slack. So once in a while…

My favorite reds and possibly variety overall are pinotage (hyperlinked to one of the best resources for wine info and knowledge at whatever level (Wine Folly) and tempranillo. That first one is a variety unique to South Africa that wasn’t, until recently [nearly famous], that well known in the “traditional” wine world (French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish – European). It was/is still sort of seen as an outsider, but from the moment I tasted it years ago I loved the depth of the flavor. Besides the typical bouquet of notes and flavors, it has an additional smokey essence (wouldn’t quite call it taste) to it. Like how things back home sometimes do. It’s a slow and unrushed sip. One where you take a sip and listen to what it does to your mouth and how it warms your chest like a cuddle. Ok that’s it this is not my wine blog, this is —-> https://thatoeno.wordpress.com (ThatOeno on twitter as well).
Today’s afrofoto features a wine my little cousin (she’s grown guys, but will always be my little … *wipes tears at what a wonderful young woman she has grown to be*) bought me. She’s actually one of those people who since having the baby has presented me great wine drinking opportunities. She’s in the navy and brought me back some heavy thick madame full bodied red from France when she came back from her voyages. Last week she asked me what are some good reds because she wants to stock up for her place and of course without hesitation I said “pinotage and tempranillo”. Here she comes on Friday like she’s just visiting and hands me a bottle of each for mother’s day


The pinotage is a 2015 shiraz blend at 15.5% alcohol (the higher the percentage alcohol of a wine the slower it’s suggesting you sip it …to me) and it tastes like all the wonderful poetry I started to tell you all above. Besides “Wine of South Africa” one of the signature markings of wines is the screw top. Another reason why European wines/industry kind of hates on them. The South African industry has always been about sustainability and has been able to adapt with the times. Corks, although traditionalists mad at the democratization of wine consumption might beg to differ with a pinky in the air, especially natural ones, are terrible for the environment and sometimes the wine itself. More on environmental effects at this website – Academic Wino – another incredible place on the internet with my types of information superheroes. They also, as I’ve experienced too many times, sometimes crumble into the wine and are difficult to remove. It also makes it so you have to finish a bottle because it doesn’t keep that well once the cork isn’t airtight.

So afrofoto day 4 – pinotage. Ladies and gentlemen, you’re welcome. Check out the other blog if you will. It’s not dead, it’s dormant. AND to the one person who asked me to keep going with the story about the road trip from South Africa to Zim, can we just meet over a cup of tea/glass of wine, there’s so much to tell….sike! I definitely will one of these longer days 🙂

_______________

*@afropolitaine*

My Zulu Love Letter

Today was World AIDS Day – December 1st. The first day of the last month of the year. The last hoorah! Also the peak of the holiday season and the coldest of winter’s days.

Thanksgiving came and went and exorbitant amounts of food consumed therein have since been digested and excre..

I wore my Zulu Love Letter that my mom gave me many years ago and I’ve done a great job of not losing it as little as it is and for the many times I’ve moved.

All Zulu love letters have a certain language or coding and identifying properties that communicate marital status, family background, clan etc to those in the know and between women in a community who produce them for men whether strangers or familiar suitors.

The AIDS awareness symbol being on this one, may have been specifically speaking to raising awareness, but the colors still carry some meaning. The table below from HERE says something about the colors which tend to have both positive and negative connotations, except white, depending on the communicator. You can decide for yourselves what my letter says/means:

Positive Colour Negative
Marriage, Regeneration Black Sorrow, Despair, Death
Fidelity, Request Blue Ill Feeling,Hostility
Wealth, A Garden,Industry,Fertility Yellow Thirst, Badness, withering away
Contentment, Domestic bliss Green Illness, Discord
High birth or Rank, An Oath, Promise Pink Poverty, Laziness
Physical Love, Strong Emotion Red Anger, Heartache,Impatience
Spiritual love, purity, virginity White ——————

Happy World AIDS Day! Beyond today, know your status and get tested.

p.s. Enjoy this Kwaito December anthem, by the best that ever did it – TKZee. Timeless hit for the festive season and a summertime Christmas!

_______________

*@afropolitaine*

Beyonce Africanized ::: #graphAfrica

 

The biggest artist of our times is Beyonce. Hands down. Hi five to the entire Bey-hive – all gazillion of you! It’s almost safe to say that she’s dominated the entire second decade of the 21st century. Why am I writing about her when I’m supposed to be focusing on Africa? you ask. Well, there are connections to be made and possible appropriation to be concluded because her originality can and needs to be challenged.

 

It’s actually quite interesting how, in her crafting and curating herself, she has sprinkled or rather doused who she presents herself to the world with the magic of *whispers loudly and raspily* “Africa”. Admittedly, I see African influences in every freaking thing and as someone who is an animated and trained dancer with an ear for music from all over the world WITH a BLOG..!! I’ll just run through a few of them as seen through a particular/single song and performance and bring it all together at the end:

 

Beyonce performs Grown Woman at Bercy in Paris as part of the Mrs. Carter tour:

  • acacia trees in the savanna themed background
  • high stand up ponytail a la Coming to America
  • handwoven hand fan used either to fan oneself or reignite the dying embers on a fire
  • Bey dances the popular Congolese dance known as malembe (literally means gently or slowly in Lingala) that can pretty much be considered sweepingly “African” dance
  • her dancers come out rocking some fly rompers by renowned Ghanaian designer Christie Brown (fanning themselves with the hand fans)
  • Bey and her lineup of dancers proceed to do a tame version of the popular [rather graphic and suggestive] Ivorian dance called the “mapouka reculer” (couldn’t find a video appropriate enough to link – Google it)
  • Les Twins come on and sample a South African gumboot dance sans the gumboots
  • the screens in the background are flashing zebras on the gentle prowl – we all know they’re indigenous to the continent
  • melodic bellows from the Guinean crooner Ismael Kouyate and Beyonce avec Les Twins proceed to do a safe mapouka or what some in the US only know recently as the twerk

 

The song continues on it’s jammingness, but the part where she really gets down on her Grown Woman-ness is when the drums are the heaviest and the song sounds the most African. Beyonce’s so original *insert dramatic eye roll*, but all these things are not for nothing. They are part of a continuum in her life and involvements between she and her husband. Who knows when it will end. Will she keep ripping dance moves, will Boko Haram release the Chibok girls to only her, ….

To not risk coming off as a Beyonce hater I will say what her greatness comes from is the fact that she does not let her left hand know what her left hand is doing. To me, many people know Beyonce only from her albums, world tours, cute Lil’ Miss Lady Blue Ivy and somewhat mysteriousness – the right hand. They do not know much of what she does in, for and about Africa. I am fascinated by what I discovered her left hand is up to.

I’m ok with what OkayAfrica referred to as the “Africanization of Beyonce” as long as we don’t see Beyoncification of Africa. Like the song says, Africa is a Grown Woman and she can do whatever she wants.

 

______________

*@afropolitaine*

#graphAfrica

Mandela – Ultimately Sophisticated ::: #graphAfrica

photo

Although the way he dressed wasn’t much the focus on who the man was it somehow has managed to be a reoccuring thought to me since the end of Mandela’s time on earth December 5th. The thought was persistent as I scrolled through all the pictures that I saw on twitter, instagram and even when I watched Long Walk to Freedom at the screening a few weeks before at the Kennedy Center. I am not being superficial here and before you think/roll your eyes that am I really going to talk about a man’s clothes just hear me out.

20121225-MANDELA-slide-N818-sfSpan-v2 mandela_tambo-articleLarge

 (check out the double breasted pique lapel and the white handkerchief though with the part and smile to boot)

 

The clothes he wore at any time period that has pictures available were clean cut and simple. Stylish and practical. Like many of the roles he had throughout his life, you couldn’t and wouldn’t accuse him of being the fashionista of his days, but he dressed well. He wasn’t the fieriest orator, but he spoke well, he wasn’t the hottest politician of them all, but he looked good. Whatever it was he did, like his dressing, he was consistent and made a habit of GOOD and WELL. His hair was always neat and the signature part he rocked in his neatly combed and patted fro was cute. Subtle, but noticeable.  Throughout his career as seen in pictures, the movie and real life, he was never shabby.

 

In jail, after having been in for a few months, he petitioned the prison guards to give all the prisoners full trousers instead of the shorts that the black prisoners were forced to wear. Some of his comrades laughed because they couldn’t imagine why of all the things lacking in that setting why that would be important. He, having the mind and foresight he had, explained the principle of the difference between wearing trousers vs shorts as a Black man in Apartheid South Africa. Once the requestwas granted and the prisoners were wearing pants a shift happened. The guards were more respectful to the prisoners and he prisoners themselves carried themselves with a little more outward dignity. A subtle, but significant change prompted by the simple, but powerful man.

 

 

images (2) images (3)

I find his use of his own sense of style fascinating because it was so subtle, yet so distinct and influenced how he carried himself and how he was received. He made such a strong statement by being so understated in his dress and overall mannerisms.

 

May he forever live in our hearts and rest in peace…and inspire other men to know themselves and dress accordingly.

 

______________

*@afropolitaine*

#graphAfrica

Caught the Bouquet

2013-03-31-1309_1

On the weekend of Easter some friends and I drove to Johannesburg just to have a change of scenery and roadtrip/hangout. We left early in the morning at about 2:30 in the morning and eventually arrived in Jo’burg later that day about 2:30 in the afternoon. Yes a whoooole 12 hour long drive. I’ll definitely tell you more about the drive in a separate post.

While I was in Jo’burg I was torn as to when I would come back to Bulawayo because my friends I’d gone with were planning on coming back on [maybe] Wednesday. To be fair she was coming to see her boo so I fully anticipated the possibility of staying longer, but knew I couldn’t be away from home that long. A friend of mine was getting married in Bulawayo that Sunday, but I still wasn’t sure if I wanted to attend. That Saturday morning my grandmother called me telling me she wasn’t feeling well and asking when I would be back. That was all i needed to know  I was leaving THAT very day. I logged online and bought my Intercape bus ticket for the bus leaving at 6pm. I  was going to make it to the wedding after all. I got into Bulawayo on Sunday morning and showered and took a nap once I got home. Woke up and went to the wedding with my grandparents.

It was a lovely garden style wedding. The girl was getting married to a Belgian guy and his brothers and boys had come all the way for the ceremony. There was very good entertainment and the food was decent. The dance floor opened up and then the announcement for the bouquet throwing came. I smoothly and sharply went to take my seat with a childhood friend’s parents as we caught up and chatted a bit. Music stops and single ladies are asked to get on the dancefloor for the catching. I sat there and rolled my eyes because I always haaaaate this [silly] part.

My grandmother shouts from the other side of the room that “Pumpkiiiiiin!! Sukuuuuuuma [get up]!!” Oh snap, how do I say no or not  stand up? So I did. All the dressed up ladies are all screaming at the bride to throw it at them, some are pacing so as to maximize the surface area and probability of catching the bouquet. Since I was not the most excited to be up there I stood still in the back. The bride approaches, turns around and chucks the bouquet. Before the flowers even left her hands all the other ladies were screeching and jumping/dancing. As if in slow motion, all I did was put one arm up and the flowers came straight to my hand. I didn’t even lift my calf or ankle or anything [the heel on my shoe was so high I might have fallen had I tried to anyway).

I was glad I came back because my grandmother was happy and actually felt better with my return, but LOOK at GOD?! – I caught the bouquet for the first time I stood up 🙂

Apparently I have a year according to the people who came to congratulate me. A year to do what I’m not really sure. It might be to have a wedding or it might be to meet someone….*shrug*. My mom, who wasn’t able to attend because she lives in South Africa and had travelled to Indonesia during the wedding, called the mother of the bride to confirm that I had in fact caught it lol…..

2013-03-31-1299_1

I came home and put the flowers in a vase. They died about 4 days later.

______________

*@afropolitaine*