The hair debate must end

I was actually planning on writing something about this but Atha puts it much better than I could.


Athambile Masola Athambile Masola

By Athambile Masola

While watching Gillian Schutte’s documentary “It’s my hair…I bought it” Part One, I decided that the hair debate needs to come to an end. It’s banal and redundant. Talking about black women’s hair needs to stop being a question of national importance. Our hair is not all of who we are. Why have I never seen a documentary about white women and their hair? Because it’s not important and white women are not placed in a situation where they are disembodied and their hair becomes a symbol of who they are as individuals.

In Schutte’s documentary she uses a women’s conversation and a diary entry by  Khanyi Magubane. A group of black women are just having a picnic and seem to be talking about their hair in someone’s garden on a lazy Sunday afternoon. There’s also the disturbing presence of a white women (at least…

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Response to a letter in Daily Monitor

Guest writing for another blog.

Response to a letter in Daily Monitor.

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So I went to a dance class the other day…

…and it was hectic! The Facebook invite stated that it was for beginners, most of the attendees clearly did not get the memo. I saw teenagers leaping clear off the ground and wondered if we were auditioning for Swan Lake. I’m just griping because it was exhilarating but humbling. Humbling in a slightly humiliating way.


The professionals masquerading as beginners

I had decided to actually take my resolution of becoming fit and run with it, literally on some days, so when the university art centre offered free dance classes, I jumped at the chance. 17:15 found me promptly at the scheduled venue. I was feeling pretty confident. I have been jogging at least three times a week for the past three weeks. The initial aches of the first jog were gone and I was beginning to feel confident. Convinced (or deluded) that I at least had built up some kind of stamina. Never mind that the distance I jogged was probably at most a five minute jog for average runners. I was spouting advice about exercise like I’d been doing it for years.

So, the dance class. It did not start too badly. Although that could be explained by the fact that it was a warm up. It didn’t seem like it at first, what with all the moves we were doing, I was distracted. However 15 minutes into the routine with sweat threatening to drip into my eyes, I knew what we’d done in the beginning was the warm up.

Ten minutes and drenched

Ten minutes and drenched

It was actually fun. I think I might have enjoyed it even more if I wasn’t constantly at least 10 seconds behind everyone else. And because there was a big mirror, it was just a little too obvious especially when I was still on the floor while the rest were on their feet. But even that was okay. My ego however has not yet recovered from an exercise in which the class had to do some sort of jumping jack one at a time. I had the misfortune to be first of all, the last one to do it and also to be right after the most experienced in the group. Her jump was a thing of beauty, done with such perfect poise. Honestly, it was crime for me to have to follow her. My follow up jump resembled a startled chicken in flight and was just as high. I couldn’t even blame the rest of the class from giggling. I am officially the person in class who makes the rest of the beginners feel better about their dancing. Sigh.


My chicken leap

I am going back today much more humble than before, with muscles aching in strange places. I am persisting determinedly. Wish me luck.

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Long Queues and old Friends

It’s not easy to keep friends once you emigrate to another country. This is especially true if you only see them once a year during the holiday and are not technologically savvy. Being an introvert as well does not help matters. People move on and the friends you left behind are often not the ones that you find when you come back. In a year a lifetime of things can happen that you cannot always share. Things that change you almost in imperceptible ways. This often means that after 6 years, your friends are literally whittled down to 2 or 3. Four if you’re lucky. And because of the nature of the holiday, meetings with friends are reduced to coffee dates and the like. Nothing wrong with that. As a professed non-chef, I have learned to appreciate those times out. Perhaps it is for this reason that I appreciated spending time with a friend without any organised scheduled activity or particular time limit. Not that it started that way.

The intention was to watch a popular Christmas show at one of the more well known churches in Kampala. Anyone who has ever attended the show knows that to get a good seat, one must join the queue at least 3 hours prior. While in the queue that wound almost all the way round the church, with hours till the show, I was reminded of some of reasons we became friends. All it takes is a couple of hours for anyone to catch the other up on what’s going on in the other’s life, the usual length of time spent at a coffee date. So after the couple of hours passes and you have four more stretched out before you, it can prove to be daunting to fill the silence with conversation especially for an introvert.The likely awkwardness however, did not materialise. Instead the conversation devolved into childish games and absurd silly stories. There is nothing quite like having a useless conversation with someone on the same wave length. Silliness, I think, is greatly underestimated as a source of fun and relaxation.

It is also interesting that in a holiday with tonnes of things to do it is little moments like these that stand out. Silly games in a queue, conversations with the brothers late at night, texting the sister continuously, dragging a friend out to club late at night, having to climb over the fence to get into the house because you came back late and everyone’s asleep. Simple moments, the best of them.

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The Institute of Taxi Poetry – A Review

The story begins with the death of one of Cape Town’s most renowned taxi poets Solly Greenfields.  Over the course of a week, the protagonist Adam Ravens struggles to come to terms with the death of his mentor.

It almost appears to be a classic whodunit set in contemporary South Africa, but as the story unfolds, proves to provide something of more depth. It is in fact a story about relationships and human character. The most prominent relationships being that of hero-worship Adam between and the recently murdered Solly, that completely blinds him to his flaws; the love-hate relationship he feels for Gerome Geromian, arguably one of the most successful taxi poets and his tumultuous relationship with his teenage son Zebulon.

Coovadia gives Adam a voice with a sharp edge to it, a sort of defiance that is easy to like. He believes that taxi poets are charged to tell the truth so he does it with little concern of what others might feel. It is a trait that makes him admirable because it seems brave, a little careless perhaps but still brave. And yet his blind worship of his mentor, the troubled relationship with his son Zebulon which is typical between most parents and their children make him real. His tendency to cry before his boss gives him a piteous quality that while a show of weakness gives the reader a common ground with the character. A sort of shared imperfection.

It is not so much the mystery as it is the story telling. Coovadia created a fictitious world in which taxi poets are the learned, sliding door men and taxi drivers are the daily heroes. He wove them into such the fine tapestry of South Africa’s history that I confess to having tried to google some of the places and points of history mentioned because they appeared so real. What makes this book interesting is not one or two things that can be easily pointed out but the use of relatable experiences, believable history and the flawed characters that the author uses to remove the veil from Adam’s eye (and hence ours) to see things as they really are.


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Dime Novel Addictions

I have not willingly read African literature or any kind or real literature for that matter in a while, preferring the quick and easy dime a dozen mysteries and romances. My excuse has been that I am busy. I still need to read (two days without a book causes me to crawl on the floor, hand outstretched moaning “book”) but I cannot be bothered to read anything I do not already know the ending of. The guy gets the girl or the rich widow did it, nice and easy reads.

My sister has tried to pull me away from them citing embarrassment and except for a few stories, I have remained resistant. C has been a little more successful because she actually puts the book in my hand and if a book is in your hand, what can you do but read it? Lately, however, I am beginning to see that I may have been doing myself a great disservice.

I won Zukiswa Wanner’s Men of the South at the Writivism competition. I do not think I would have read it otherwise and since I went all the way to Pretoria to get it autographed, I decided I needed to at least read it. Perhaps because of my former undue prejudice, at first reading, I did not get into the story and stopped. Two days later, I thought I would just push through and finish it. By the time I was done, however, I wanted to read more from the author. It was funny, it was real, it was good writing. I identified with the characters even envied them, I got lost in the story.

Anyway, it was because of this book that I decided to give NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names a try. I have never been happier. The rich description reminded me of why I loved writing in the first place. It was real and gritty. It was sad but it was also funny. It also reminded me of my childhood. I had forgotten that country game. We played it although I am not sure that was what we called it. The voice and the choice of words was that of the person next door, no unnecessary pretensions. I have already given the book to C otherwise I would have quoted some of my favourite phrases from the book here although they would be very many.

There is something about reading a voice that sounds like yours or any of the number of people that you talk to everyday or hearing a story that is essentially your story. I do not pretend to have experienced everything Darling did but we have been in the same place and I am sure a lot of immigrants feel the same.

What came out of all of this is that we have some really really good writing here. Stories and characters that we can see in people everyday, for which there is no need to really stretch the imagination. And the writing itself, the description, the prose, the similes; we have some good work. I had missed that.

Now to read some real literature, although in no way am I promising to get rid of dime novel addictions, old habits and all that. I am making space for proper work and if I choose more African literature than the rest, you can blame Writivism, Zukiswa and NoViolet.

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