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Tuesday, 23 September 2014

I'm taking a Master's class...into Me. Part 1- Where i grew up

If you follow me on twitter, you will know that I have just been watching a couple of episodes of 'Oprah's Master class' on TLC. And something that Jay Z just said got me thinking about what lessons there are in growing up where I grew up and how it may have shaped my views about myself and others?

Most of my young life that I am cognisant of, was spent in a then leafy surburb in the armpit of Midrand,  Olifantsfontein. In those days there were still more white people living there than there were black families and this was a big deal. I remember the looks we would always get from visiting relatives from Polokwane because we actually had a swimming pool at home. We were called 'Makgoa' because of it and we loved it, because to be called 'white' in our time, was quite the compliment. I cherish the days I spent in those streets, riding around on bicycles with my siblings and group of friends. I had a very girly- pink mountain bike with changing gears and it was the best thing that ever happened to me as a young girl.

On that bike I discovered new streets in the neighbourhood and renamed them 'Sally street' or 'My street', depending on how much I loved the street.There was a particular street, called Smith street. It was one of the quieter streets in the neighbourhood. I can count on one hand how many times I actually saw people outside of their houses in that street. The houses just always looked more beautiful,  more pristine (very Wisteria Lane-like, Desperate Housewives) and I remember there was even a house with an actual picket fence. All white and with neatly clipped green hedges. That became the prototype for my dream house. I imagined a happy family behind the hedges, playing scrabble and drinking hot choclate. It became my little escape. Whenever things got too much at home or I when I just needed to remind myself that I would one day leave Olifantsfontein for something better, I went to Smith street and there I could dream.

If I could have analysed what my obsession with this street was then and could put it into words, I guess I would have realized that what I was after was peace, understated beauty and tranquility. That is why when all the other kids wanted the hustle and bustle of our street, Meintjies street, what interested me was quite the opposite. I liked what they called the 'white streets'. The quiet streets where the occupants had the option to leave the neighbourhood and see the country and the world, instead of just been stuck with the neighbourhood being the most beautiful place that they had ever seen. It is here where my love and need for travel was born. I wanted more for myself. What have the places where you have been taught you about yourself? Have you ever stopped to ask?

Friday, 12 September 2014

I got married... the black way.

I always imagined that my wedding day would be the happiest day of my life. I have been married for six years now, and I can safely attest to the fact that, it was not. There are many reasons for this, and a lot of them had to do with my expectations.

On the day, I got the good weather, the big diamond ring and the handsome groom, so on that account, the wedding day was great. It's the before and after that gave me sleepless nights. I expected near-perfect deliberations between relatives, what we got instead, was a silent tug-of-war between the two families, and mostly from the extended family members, whose agenda most times seemed to be-to sow discord and to make sure that the wedding never happened. I argued many times with my folks about why they were letting themselves get bulldozed by some Malome's and Rakgadi's who they hardly liked themselves and what usually came out of these conversations was the unsatisfactory response of, this was just the black way of doing things. 

My white friends laugh at some of the stories I have told them because they could simply not understand why people who were not paying for the wedding had so much clout. They on the hand, dealt only with nominated wedding planners, immediate families and some of their close friends. That sounds like heaven to me. 

The black way of doing things also involved that very controversial session with the older, experienced gogos and aunties called 'go laya'. The bride sits in a room and listens to the advice of women who have been married for many years. It is a practice that I think may have started off with the greatest of intentions but that has been used over the years to entrench patriarchy and scare women into submission. Nothing traumatized me more than this, and were it not for the fact that we had already gotten legally married the day before, I surely would have bolted. The essence of what I got out of these sessions was that marriage was never designed to make you happy (if you got that it would soon change...but just be happy that you saw it albeit fleetingly). That in fact marriage would just make you strong, test you and keep you on your knees in prayer. What I remember most about that day was that my Mom cried throughout the whole session.)

There is also a lot of secrecy that surrounds some of our cultural customs and traditions which is very frustrating for the modern young woman of the information age- who wants to make sense of things and understand exactly why blacks do the things they do, in the way that they do them. 

Please share your views... 


Thursday, 4 September 2014

My Afro is not a political statement!

Dear Men

Here is some unsolicited advice- use it, don't use it; women and their hair is sometimes a prickly subject...but black women and their hair is ALWAYS a prickly subject. Compliment it, or just keep quiet! The end.
(Aaah...whoosah! feels so good to have gotten that out there.)

On the real though, I recently transitioned from chemically treated hair to my natural hair. That simply means that I stopped relaxing my hair using these products which contain Sodium hydroxide. I finally did my own research and made certain decisions based on that. So now all that remains is my coiled, kinky-and-very-often kroes-hair and people's reactions to my hair, have been very interesting. 

From my fellow black sisters, it's either, " Oh, you took your braids out, haven't you had time to do your hair?" To which I then answer, " No actually, this is my hair done." and then they give me that look that only black women understand. It is that look that says- "Shame, ha na chelete." The other half commend me on taking the daunting step of day-to-day care of the Afro, and then usually launch into a step-by-step tutorial of how I should look after it, how to get it soft and what products I should be using. (While on this subject, a close friend has started a hair care line for natural hair, so if you are in my position, holler and I will send you her contacts. ;-)..)

Back to this hairy subject, I find the reactions that I get from white people most interesting. My colleagues have either been completely quiet about the change or they have been overly curious to the point of wanting to 'run their fingers through my hair'. I can only chuckle, because 'run' your fingers through is not quite the terminology I would use. My 'fro is tightly coiled, so it is more a case of 'putting' your fingers into the fro and then 'pulling' them out again- there is no fluidity of motion. They seemed a bit let down by this fact.

Here's the group that really gets to me --> the black men They stop me to tell me how proud of me they are, and how they wish that other black sisters would take a leaf out of my page in embracing my African roots. Despite some heavy eye-rolling from me, they will continue to tell me how sad it is that women hate their blackness just because they like to weave their hair...etc etc. Oh please! My Afro is not a political statement. I have not suddenly become more African because I am wearing my hair differently. I like change and I like having choices. So, sorry to disappoint you, but I will most definitely still plait, braid and weave my hair as I please. The reasons? Simply because I like it and two, because I want to. Let's leave the politics out of it...tuu!

To my Jah sisters out there! Salute!!