This bloody stream soaks its head in human rights violation maneuvering in between African countries
Entering the open gates of Nigeria
Flowing through Kenya
Splashing into Tanzania and Malawi
Collapsing on the shoulders of mothers desperately kneeling in mercy
Praying for infant melanin
A protective mechanism shoving a dagger down throat
Damped speech screams blistered fingers
Swollen fear fends for her baby’s very existence
Bearing innocence between crossed thighs underneath dinner tables families play Judas lifting skirts
Peeking through windows are neighbours on a wild hunt, sniffing blood, wearing prejudice masks smuggling bones over boarders
This community sets itself alight!
Little wonder chased around the village yet to walk
Awaking to a marginalised society welcoming a commodity
In this lucrative black market
Freelance witch doctors slaughter bodies for orders
Selling superstition an illusion exchange that they are immortal
Keres manifests from this bloodshed crucify ignorant who spits in the house crowned harmony
Cracking walls that can no longer withstand hearing this on social media
Mistaking it for hiccups, burping reincarnation of Hitler is death art painting raw genocide with a Nazi paint brush
Sorrow coated torment encircling an unsteady head
A steamy kettle boiling God with the third degrees
Spirit is centered fireworks
Shooting wishes disarming rape
Breathing faith dawn till dusk while eye socket brim tears hoping she grows in one piece
Landing on palms the holy ground where unison congregational singing mothers call unto Thanatos
Rain upon evil cease misery
Birth name fugitive
School a luxury bag not even afforded by vote
Advertised on billboards victims of isolation longing acceptance
Pain is daily bread here!
This exile, discrimination contaminates surrounding of souls born in orange overalls
Washing hands in sins refused by baptized water
Make up inadequate cover up
Pumping void exploding acid burn the soil which was meant to protect these soldiers
From firing bullets into heaven
Shame bleeds stigma in these hell holes
Ashes to ashes no face mourns
Under beds graves built of steal and stone
What is owed to dreadful condolences since peace lurks the street
Freedom a mere lawyer in a mockery suit
Sympathy lasts for ridding moments
Arriving as toilet paper
Flushed pupils regurgitate blind men
Colour blind, are we not seeing that our creator is a versatile God?
Placing all races on stage to be stripped naked, peeled skin, gender disregarded
Now, spot the difference
Poem by: Grace Zwane
Photograph by: Thapelo Motsumi
In a world riddled with Subcultures stemming from every possible, existing culture, the way in which we greet each other in the townships tells very unique stories. The way we greet each other could tell stories about our backgrounds and even tell others about who our friends are. How we extend a ‘Sho Mfowethu, uGrand?’ plays a major role in the company we keep.
Of course it hasn’t always been this way. Sixty years ago, in Sophiatown this expression may not have even made sense because language, like everything else, is in constant flux. The change isn’t always linear but we’ve seen how different groups of people have unique ways of communicating. The phrase “Shap Fede” isn’t always fitting. To our parents, this often stands the chance of seeming disrespectful but if your mom is down with that then it’s whatever. Amongst our peers, however, speaking that way can be the beginning of lifelong friendships.
Whether they exist in the ghetto or suburban spaces, the many subcultures that we find ourselves immersed in will always have an emphasis, to some degree, on simple salutation. They are seen as a rite of passage into the groups and cliques we associate with. In Benoni or Alex, these groups of young people are leading the way in which we interact. It’s casual; many may not even take it seriously but we are young and the world wants to hear how we interpret it.
Language as we know it has gone through many changes over the years, we know this. It would make no sense being precious about it. We see it in the things we say and in the non-verbal cues. Who cares what we say in the morning when we see each other, we just want you to say it. Nod your head. Wave. Smile and Wave. Say ‘Shap Fede’, just say it.
Written by: Motshewa Khaiyane
Photographs by: Bantu Mahlangu
Art is protesting in the backyard through poetry, music and art pieces, weaving between the people that gather on sponges, cushions and bank stools to warm their hearts around a live performance bond fire. This is where we listen attentively to the tales that awake our souls. We become strangers who become one body as the energy heightens.
We are bringing it back home in intimate sessions, jazzing it up with mesmerising sounds sitting us in the position of feeling and belonging.
In opening the gates of Soweto, there has grown an art community that comes together every first Sunday of the month. The place to be is Zondi Thanga Street. Be immersed in a display of art-work welcomes you to a heartwarming jam session. You will marvel at how cardboard, African fabric, knitting and drawing comes to make extravagant art pieces. Growing up as a black child recycling was a way of saving, little did we know that it would become a means of telling authentic stories that are rich in truth, heritage and culture.
You can never get use to art. It is constantly changing and forever revives spirits. A universal energy speaking in all tongues and breaking boundaries. A chance to join the band and share a piece.
Written by: Grace Zwane
Pictures from: Jam Session
The Calabash, one of the archetypal African artefacts is widely used by the African diaspora. When it is cracked or broken it symbolizes chaos, misfortune and underlying troubles. Discovered in tatters on the floor, wails ensue in the home and across the community. This reference depicts the legacy left behind by Apartheid South Africa.
Sons and daughters of the African soil were lying in each other’s bloodbaths, dying like cattle and were ghostly reflections of themselves. In frustration necklaced one another to rid themselves of sell-outs – i-mpimpi.
Through the crimes of apartheid we were spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically battered. The year 1993 marked the pinnacle of those tragedies, therefore the leaders of that era did what befitted those conditions.
Amidst all that, we had a father that desperately wanted his home to be what it should be. Mr Mandela wanted his home to heal, and he refused his own freedom for the freedom of his people.
The need for spiritual cleansing and neurological healing as a society is clear as day to me. Pioneer of Black Consciousness Stephen Bantu Biko did say after all “the most potent weapon of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” Therefore we cannot pretend to be a great work of history. We are disjointed stepchildren seeking a parent, trying also to identify what we have done right and what we did wrong.
In my opinion this tension between white and black sadly is inevitable. There is this gap in communication and understanding amongst ourselves as a nation. The Truth and Reconciliation Committee only did half the work, it is now up to us to complete what they started. We are the misplaced pieces of the Broken Calabash. We will only find each other through dialogue.
It is of great urgency that we return back to the source of the cause of our problems, and identify what exactly was taken from us in order to heal. Regenerate, reawaken and rebirth a new Africa post-apartheid. We can do this through the collaborative efforts of organic and conventional intellects. Mayibuye i-Africa!
Written by: Mogau Ntsoane
Illustration by: Brian Seane
“Lihle was an incredible person to be with. I didn’t want to believe that this day would come but just know I will cherish him all the days of my life. I know the God has a plan for all of us but this one is hard to accept. RIP my friend” Keneilwe Smith
“The world has lost a son, brother and a friend but heaven has gained a photographer angel. RIP Xolani Thubelihle Jwara” Simangele Shabalala
One of the biggest issues with privilege is that those within the privilege are blind to it, living in a bubble of disregard for those who fall outside of it. As both female and black, I am made unquestionably aware of the role the colour of my skin and my gender play in how I am received on a daily basis and nothing irks me more than the denial of the struggles I face in a society that favours everything I am not.
In a country as diverse as ours, the opportunity to experience a variety of cultures is something truly beautiful, eye-opening and unique. It’s sad then that I find it has made it impossible for me not to raise an eyebrow at how blinding the position of privilege can be. The privilege here is choosing to complain when Beyoncé goes a little too black and to lose control when a group of those who lack privilege decide to interrupt your rugby match. It is choosing not to engage with anything that makes those in privilege uncomfortable.
It is easy to look the other way when something does not affect you, I can attest to this. But, how do we get them to snap out of their blissful oblivion without entering a space that causes further tension between us as South Africans?
The answer is far from simple but it is clear that we have to start on a human level. Fear is arduous to overcome and unless we can set our fears aside long enough to engage with these real issues, we are going nowhere quickly (except, perhaps, to a space of further animosity) as a country.
We need to have more open communication which means creating a space where people are free to speak their minds. It is vital that these discussions lead those who live in a bubble of privilege to a space of empathy so those outside of the privilege may be more understanding about the learning process. Furthermore, it is important for us to recognise instances where we get it right as a country, instead of drowning ourselves in the negative.
We are all a part of a system, some empathy the other way will do more good for our country than bad. So come out of your bubble for a little while, will you?
Written by: Iris Hlakuva
Photograph: Simangaliso Tshabalala
My grandmother’s generation struggled for independence. The march to the Pretoria Union Building petitioning for Women’s Rights and freedom in South Africa was inevitable. It was a movement that forced us to unmask and examine what it means to be an empowered woman in the 21st century. The face that is now revealed through our spiritual, political and economic freedom.
L’Oreal’s ‘because you’re worth it’ jumps on the wagon in selling the idea of how “empowerment” is in the beauty products we buy. We are worth it, I agree, but this should not take first priority when developing skills and investing time in becoming independent. Buying products like L’Oreal should be seen as a reward that comes with ability to earn your own money and being able to afford whatever you want.
There are still enclosed issues that women particularly from rural areas silence. The misconception of love is that “if he hits you he loves you.” It’s astonishing how women in the taxi quietly mind their own business and allow one woman who perpetuate this nonsense. The appropriate place to address such an issue is during that heated moment. The question “do you know how many women have died in abusive relationships?” is suppressed by her ignorance.
Woman empowerment is being able to freely talk to the sister next to you. Hug her with the information she needs to better herself. But do it free of judgement, and rather with compassion as your reason. This can only happen once we plan wherever we are a prison break.
Written by: Grace Zwane
Photographs: Lutendo Malatji
Graphics: Tshidiso Mohafa
In recent weeks, South African Jazz musician and Kalawa Jazzme co founder, Don Laka has lambasted local radio stations for their penchant to play predominantly international music which, as proven by Laka, is to the detriment of South African musician’s livelihood.
A legend in the music industry, Don Laka has seen his thoughts on the state of our music and art industry being welcomed with hundreds of shares and comments across social media, a sure sign that many South Africans share his sentiments. While the recent championing of artist rights by Laka is admirable, his recent updates on social media bring into the conversation a much more complex issue, the issue of cultural imperialism; “culture of a large and powerful country, organization, etc. having a great influence on another less powerful country.”
American culture in all its forms from hip hop to hamburgers has been largely celebrated and mimicked throughout the globe. This is particularly interesting seeing as many American art forms such as Jazz and Hip-hop have distinctive roots in Africa and have merely been popularised and commoditised by America. We’ve seen in the past few months how ancient African garments and accessories have made their way onto European runways and have suddenly been termed fashionable and cutting edge, simply because they are being presented by Europeans.
The lesson that we need to learn and the energy that many of us need to reserve for once the lambasting and ranting is over, is that we need to make being black and African aspirational, we need legislative, media, educational and commercial reforms that encourage the consumption of our products and talents.
The West has repeatedly commoditised African experiences and sold them back to us looking shinier and with a heavier price tag. With consciousness of young black people rising (all over the world) there is no better time to build than now.
Written by: Vuyiswa Xekatwane
Illustration by: Thato Simelane
“Life is never easy in the informal settlement,” said Mamsie Martha Zulu. The 82-year old gogo lives in a shack with no family in the informal settlement of Emalahleni, situated between Nancefield hostel and Nancefield train station in Klipspruit Soweto.
Until recently, Mamsie has been working as a domestic worker and has never owned a house. She depends on her pension money for survival, yet the money quickly dries up on expenses such as groceries, paraffin, transport and medication for her arthritis and high blood pressure.
With the help of a committee member Nopi Masege, Martha gets by sometimes. Nopi ensures that Martha takes her medication and survives on a daily basis as an old woman.
“I’m helping Mamsie because it is not safe for an old woman to stay alone in a shack,” Nopi stated when talking about her passion for the elderly.
“There is no electricity, most people here are unemployed and the crime rate is extremely high in informal settlements,” Nopi then mentioned in closing, a worried look in her eyes.
During her spare time, Mamsie enjoys reading when a good samaritan in the neighbourhood buys her a newspaper.
In 2011, she applied for an RDP house and has now given up hope on actually getting the house. It is a bitter pill to swallow when people who applied after her are allocated with houses before her. Mamsie’s only wish now is to move in to an old age home or get a decent house where she will see out her years in comfort.
Written by: Zwelizwe Ndlhovu
Photographs by: Zwelizwe Ndlhovu
So I woke up early Sunday morning and my eyes were startled by the Headlines: “Gods of Egypt Epic failure!” Yoh! For a moment I went cuckoo until I read “high budget movie” as a subtitle, sudden relief.
I thanked the Gods – excuse the pun – but in Africa, Gods and failure cannot be used in the same sentence. See, the Gods of Egypt worked tirelessly to build Empires and historic pyramids that have stood the test of time, through proper research!
Unfortunately in this box office flop, the very same pyramids and mummified Gods are used as propaganda to belittle our history. So Dear Mr producer, my intention is not hostility, but you need to wake up and smell the Egyptian coffee. This is Africa; you cannot live your American Dream by turning ours into a nightmare. Mummies are sacred. I am tired of my younglings dreading the thought of mummies and their own Gods because you portray them as animalistic creatures buried with pots of gold (something you couldn’t reach with your terribly scripted movie).
Remember the Return of the Mummy? Well, you should consider this epic failure as the retaliation of the mummies! This is karma, Tutankhamun style.
Americans have this unspoken policy of telling African stories that are hyperbolically dramatized and poorly researched. As if that is not bad enough, they think a $140 million budget guarantees a box office hit and Academy Awards wins. Like really?
No, no, no! This film is sooo disrespectful, to the owners of the stories and the artistic world holistically! In my opinion, this was bound to be a Box Office miss.
Written by: Mogau Ntsoane
Illustration by: Tshidiso Mohafa