It is woman’s month and yipppeee I get to celebrate that I am a woman! A couple of days into the month I question whether I really should be celebrating being a woman or be bitter about it, or do I even need to be celebrating the notion of Woman’s Day? Honestly, as I write this I still have no exact answer that I can utter in conviction. So going forth there is something that I think I need to say because as I grow older statements such as ‘you still single’, ’stop with this Nonsense and just get married’ are just not to be said or taken lightly. Case in point, with the latter statement the younger me would have been furious, for reasons as long as our anger towards the black mans hatred of colonialism. One needs to understand that our relationships as woman are reflective of the relationships we have with the men in our lives. My anger toward such a statement was marred by all the negative encounters that have been engraved by the male species; this is my bittersweet moment of being a woman. Before I delve into that, as a woman it is so easy to commemorate the role other woman have played in my becoming a woman. I can give praise without ending in this regard but what about the men who influenced my journey?
For the first time I actually received this statement: “Stop this non-sense and just get married,” as a compliment. The lad who said it to me was just saying that, in context to what I had uttered in our then conversation, “I really do not think there is much difference between men and woman when you take away our reproductive organs”. Yes this is subject to much debate. It is welcomed but before you do please acknowledge this view: As a woman I was constructed from the rib of a man, if I disregard my reproductive organ and look at the spiritual and emotional being of who we are as men and women, Are we any different? That is for you to decide. For me, No.
Now I have no business in talking spiritual issues, well for now, although I do acknowledge that regardless of our gender we kneel in sorrow, doubt and jubilee to pray. Through this very action of praying, we build a relationship with God and ourselves. It is from Him where we get the gift of family and the African family can never be complete without our male counterparts. It is service to God to give thanks, and although we primarily tend to praise the African woman, a “Queen” in her own right for the massive role she plays in our lives as mother, sister, friend, neighbour etc., isn’t it disservice to the Almighty to deny the “King” the praise he so deserves?
Aren’t we, after all products of his rib cage?
Raised by a single parent, my mother I am proud to have grown into the being I am today. I do however need to acknowledge the other wo(men). The other wo(men) are the men who reminded me and taught me that not all men are cut from the same cloth. That the is still hope for the African family structure in spite of all the bad connotations of the African man, be it rape, murders, robberies, abandonment, abuse, corruption & importantly, patriarchy. These men somehow managed to rebuild an understanding and appreciation for the man that made me woman, as strange as that sounds it will clear itself out as you read on. This is a letter to the other women who are in my shoes and to the men we value, whom build, guide, respect and praise African women in spite of the constant negative media we consume about ourselves. Not for their selfish agendas but for knowing that there is no King without a Queen.
You were my first best fiend of the opposite sex. I would not exchange the blow-ups and the honesty we had. Thank you for being open enough to let me see you and that not all men love meat (a real shock for a Zulu girl). Oh you would be proud that I love broccoli now, I did not understand it then but now I do, someone made me notice that I eat more veggies than anyone they know. As for the riddle you said your goodbye with ‘You need to learn how to be jealous’…it took me +/- 12 years to solve. I believe that it took me longer because as a women, I grew up being told of the many sacrifices made by our fore mothers for their nations and the experiences we see and live with in a society where the environment was built by men for men. Only through being jealous about what I want, my needs and desires can my true value shine forth and my contributions as an African women be meaningful.
I can never apologise enough to you. For the things I did not do nor say or openly acknowledge. I wrote a lot, and you the only one I let read because I knew that my communication skills mounted to that of a toddler especially when I wanted to bare it all. I thought you forgot is truly about you…I knew I had to unlearn what I thought about men so as to accept a soul like yours, You were the best gift I was not ready to receive. You shred the image of the men I grew up with, that he is strong, masculine, goes by the mantra of “indoda ayikhali”, therefore having a thick skin that can take all. Your eloquence and grace showed that to be heard one does not need to shout and that leading by example reaps admiration and respect than a forceful hand. More profound, you taught me that emotions and validation are not qualities that only woman feel and need, but men also require the same.
Oh dear, we came from opposite worlds, yet we understood each other well. Thank you for teaching me that respect is not a social status. It comes from a great character. So noble was your character in my eyes that it gave me the courage to be bold and not succumb to one that did not fair to yours. This gave me a sense of what society has constantly denied the African women, equality, which goes with the power to be firm & strong, especially when dealing with the chauvinistic African male. Your character enabled me to watch an old man with a crocodile smile and a slippery tongue, take off his pants as he requested me to do the same. Where I got the nerve to say NO, retain my stance and still walk away with my dignity, I do not know. What I do remember clearly is that I did not want him to touch me, I would rather have rather been you…On the other hand no matter how much space between me and you disappeared you honoured my words and wish: “till I get married’. I know it was hard for you, thank you for sending me packing, always. I have no doubt, that under your guidance, your daughter will learn her value as an African Queen she lives her life with valour and vigour.
You are your namesake ‘iNkosi inkhona’ and in your presence I have seen men and woman re-examine their status as African Kings and Queens, maybe this is the reason you got your nickname ‘Sugar’. One never truly understands that teaching is a calling, your passion to all things concerned with being African, our ancestry, who we are and the African culture, made our discourse interesting and very eye opening. In the time you took to teach me, I learnt to listen and understand that the best books do not necessarily have the best cover designs. That family is not always blood but those who show up and deliver. Thank you for being the big brother that I always wanted. For having an opinion, questioning my company, asking why, teaching me a broad topics of self, understanding my silent thoughts. Knowing my dreams and enabling me to pursue them. uKhwezi might be your star but your presence was the light in mine.
I met you by chance but an unforgettable encounter. The magnetic force that was spurred for a moment, or two, ok I lost count. You taught me that it does not take a lifetime for someone to know when things feel right or wrong. Your feminine energy in that masculine cast was the right kind of balance that I respond too. I wish I was ready to receive all that had to offer, I just had not reached my graduation… And I am thankful for the ‘invite’ maybe missing your graduation was a sign. One I missed and the one you should have sat me down to see. I do hope that you are happy with the bundle of joy you always wanted…yes your happiness matters to me.
If I never got to believe that God is great with you, then I will never know. I do not think you knew or understood what I meant when I said thank you, to you. Although for a large portion of the time I spent with you I had stopped praying, God knew what He was doing when you used that pick up line on me. As ashamed as I am to say it, you hooked me and you were right. BG you are my Superman. I may never know why you stuck around for someone whom you never knew, yet I am grateful for the six months you held my hand through the worst days I can remember. My body had failed me. The only thing I trusted in the world had failed me.
I remember the night that I left everything upside down and went to bed. For the first time I was too exhausted to even fake my own strength. When my younger sister whispered ‘she can’t even hold a jug of water’, the jokes disappeared, home became a ground of broken eggshells. It was understandable, everyone was in shock…How?
I need you to know that I am forever indebted to you. You stuck around from before day zero. I do not know if it was bravery or just madness, calling every two days. The conversations were awkward at first where I could not talk for longer than 10 seconds without sounding like an old car engine. They eventually grew to an hour over a period of 6 months. I know it frustrated you that I would not let you come through to see me, or that I would crack jokes every time. Truth is, if I saw you it would have broken me. The jokes were all I had. The need to smile since everything was bleak and sombre was far beyond the words I can write. I looked forward to those conversations although it was hard at first. I am grateful you did not give up on me. You rang till I got to the phone, no longer how long it took me to get there. Damn, I am drowning in my tears as I scribe this, they failed to fall then but they do whenever I dwell on it.
It is true. God carries you when you need him most. I cannot recall doing my nightly prayers that period, He was there. He was there through you.
Where art thou? I have so many things to tell you. We shared so much and we still have so many things to share. I know you needed the space, I think it is time to shine your light again. Heck, I even forgot what a good practical joke feels like or have someone laugh hysterically at all the dumb shit I do. Maybe your space could be filled by someone else, I do not want that…If I had a twin brother I swear it is you. How can I replace a twin?
I know people did not understand why we stuck together, it is because we got each other. You weathered my storms and there have been couple, now I need you to see my sunny days. Before I trail off, you owe me a promise to be there when my lobola negotiations go down…ok maybe to be my best man, we both knew maid of honour was never an option.
To: Abuti Dee
The Lord needs to keep you for me, so I can thank you the way I wish too. You may not have children of your own but you were my father figure. Yes, you may not be regarded as someone who can viewed as an ideal father figure, but what does one call sending my sister to crèche when she had no transport? What does one call the act of knocking on my door to tell me my transport is here? Or informing the driver to wait for me, I will be out soon? Or making sure that no one entered the yard to disturb me when I was home alone?
I do not know how you knew that I was protective of my space or alone time, for that thank you. Including the small conversations we have in passing from time to time. My wish is for you to dress up in your weekend finest and for me to take you out as a sign of my gratitude. It is the least I could do.
To: Bab’ Sibiya
Thank you for taking me as part of your transport load. I do not know how the communication with Abut’ Dee went about, but you both seemed to understand the 19 year old me. I did not need to put anything in verbatim but somehow there was a communication line that always existed. In the few short months of using your transportation service I only spoke when spoken too and the only thing I would voluntarily utter is ‘Sanibonani’ and ‘Bye.’
My memory fails me as I cannot recall what was going on at that time. All I remember was the need for space and silence and somehow you came to see that too. Thank you for not accepting that but respecting it. In a Siyaya filed with girls, I do not know why you attention to the quiet one. I only realised after a while that you had been watching and that I could talk via the review mirror. Thank you for listening or realising that I actually responded to the music and that you figured out that food was a way to get girls out of their comfort zone or the deep dark world they hid in. Your children are lucky to have you as a father.
In other news, I am proud to say I did get my degree and I do confess to being an addict and I do not see myself stopping anytime soon. Now I am gunning for my third belt.
To: My First Love.
No one ever tells the story of the first love some never get to experience the fond memories of their own because often it is a bittersweet relationship. Mine I knew when I was young, we still talk today, the earliest memories was about four or five years of age. Where you used to pick me up and say so many things, if only I could remember, that made me smile. Whilst on the other hand I knew my Mom’s facial expressions were never a sign of anything good to follow. To be fair it is in our culture it is always said ‘Ingane iyaziwa uMa wayo’(a child is truly known by the mother) and often those expressions was just another form of being reprimanded.
From the rosy, non-existing memories some stand out more clearly, like the difference in your presence or lack thereof. My age then was about 8, things had changed, I never doubted your love for me and I still do not question it. I could write the ink out of this pen, about us but I am all cried out. All I need you know is that:
With all the things I would ask for, I did not need them as much as to get your attention. I did not know any other way than to ask for, when all I needed was your time for you to see me and see us.
I admit you were never a bad father, you just became selfish and forgot about us. To a certain extent I do believe it is true for some people when they reach the end of the relationship and children are involved. They only do what they want to be remembered for as a parent and have no understanding that children would like to remember you for different reasons. Truth is I really did not need all the things you got me, than really wanting to have a solid relationship with you. At one point this was verbalised to you and evidently it did not sink in. Strange how I do not blame you for that too, maybe it is seeing how your trying to fix the relationships of your childhood or that my love for you still has hope.
If you ever got to read this, as a father you should know that you are more than what you can financially provide. There are so many more facets to you that could have been fruitful to us as your daughters, how would you have known this if the notion of fatherhood and being a man is ascribed by social and cultural values. I will not delve into that now but I am glad that culture does change and new ones can be built. What I do know is that you are human and we have so much in common including genetic attributes I can only trace back to you. As a child you were my hero not because you were not flawed but for the mere reason that you were and how you strived to become a better person. This very element would become one of the many lessons I required from you as a child. It is a shame I got to understand you from Mom. She was always open about you and I thank her for that. There is something I would like to thank you for, we were going on my first road trip I was in grade 2. You were so excited and there was a fuss and buzz about you, it was your graduation. In hindsight, I think this day marked that one can do better than the circumstances that they are faced with in life.
Bringing to why I had to write this letter to the other (wo)Man. An ode to all the men who have been in my life. The men who made a positive contribution to me as a woman. This could have easily been to the influential women but it needed to be about men whom are seldom acknowledged for their good deeds. I am a rib from your rib cage and as a young woman I have just displayed that the relationships we have with you can really cage us and free us. It is true that ‘It takes a village to raise a child’. My assumption was always that it was from the direction of every woman I met. In writing this ode I realise that my father is not the only male model I had. Every man taught me something. They rooted in me what it means to be a woman. Not just any woman, but an African woman. From shredding the chauvinist man to learning that character maketh man and to understanding that the African man is rich and diverse as the land he is born into. There is still much that he has to overcome besides the chains of colonial thought, he himself needs to rise above to what is subjected to him and realise that although a village can raise a child the king rules the village. Under his guidance does the woman lead and the children learn and how our community can flourish.
NomKhuma is student of life, mesmerised by the mundane things that make a day and the experiences that shape people. A design and communication graduate with a desire to teach and be taught in all things that are African, as she often states ‘ngiyazi qhenya ngesintu sami.’