Read about me in the latest edition of Blaque Life Quarterly. The magazine is available from Exclusive Books.
Thank you, Lebo Motswatswa
Read about me in the latest edition of Blaque Life Quarterly. The magazine is available from Exclusive Books.
Thank you, Lebo Motswatswa
I have written. I have read. I have edited and deleted everything and started again. I have cried. I have agonised. I have procrastinated. I have carried this work with me to London, to New York (twice), layovers in Cairo and Dubai – while doing other important work, always staying in to write at least one paragraph – and finally, when it was complete, I presented it in Mumbai. I have crossed into new years with this work. I have become an author in a completely new genre while doing this work. I have taken my time and given so much of myself for it to be here today and I’m just so grateful for the community that loved me and held me through this work.
Here’s to the end of the chapter titled: “Lebohang studies and completes a Masters degree – can you believe it?” I wasn’t prepared for how long and demanding this journey would be and the creativity I would summon to distract myself from doing it *enter children’s book and a whole new life as a literary figure* and the many steps it takes until it’s officially done done but we are finally here now. (I consider this the official end because the graduation ceremony is optional.) This research has been such a ride. I really got to know myself anew and witness my entire political beliefs do a 180° transformation. I got to sharpen my instincts as a researcher and to trust the guidance of my intuition. It’s also been very hard being on the opposite side of people’s moral stances and being addressed like a delinquent here and there. So it has been immensely affirming to recieve feedback from people who really get it. My convictions may make the work controversial but as long as I remain true to my personal ethic of thinking and writing about black womanhoods in ways that are respectful and dignified, I’ll be okay. When I approached the women with whom I worked in this dissertation, I promised that I would not reproduce the trope that the media loves; the lie that black women are either so hypersexual or so poor that they have to sleep with men for money. I’m not interested in that. I am interested in exploring adult women’s consensual romantic practices with their partners and the logics that inform their desire to only date men of particular financial and social standings, with the context of a neoliberal society. While I do consider the vulnerabilties and violence that these women could encounter, I am more interested in the pleasures and joys of their lives. I do not want to constantly represent black women’s lives as marred by struggle when there is a plurality of experiences and when we are out here living and loving happily, too.
A few weeks ago, on Tuesday 27 August 2019, I was invited to present a small portion of it on Power FM’s #AcademicDigest with Aldrin Sampear. I really enjoyed the converation. Aldrin really took the time to familiarise himself with my work and interview me in a fair and balanced manner. Here is the article and podcast. Please keep in mind that we had about 40 minutes and we did not disuss my +/-70 page dissertation in detail. The host and producers obviously highlighted what they found to be most topical.
The subsequent Twitter engagement was revealing and not at all surprising. People, and seemingly men, mostly, were against my work. People refused to make space for the possibility that people can be in wholesome romantic relationships and that women can have particular boundaries and standards. It is also remarkable that there people are so unwilling to open themselves to thinking broadly and understanding the myriad of women’s choices and sexuality without reducing them to prostitution. (I have no issues against sex work or sex workers and I refuse to engage in the moral shaming of any woman, ever). It’s also revealing that the constant scrutiny and negative analysis of women’s sexuality and romantic practices is confined to a certain race of women while other women get to live their lives unbothered and unquestioned (as they should). I appreciate all of the people who offered thoughtful responses, suggestions and critique. It was refreshing to have your insight and to also think differently about my work.
Here’s to more thinking and theorising. I have already begun my PhD on the same topic and I am so excited and a little apprehensive about this journey but the will of god will never take me where the grace of God will not protect me, okay?
Shout out to the National Institute of Humanities & Social Sciences (NIHSS), Dr N. Mkhwanazi, Prof. N. Falkof, Dr C. van Staden, Dr M. Wilhelm-Solomon, Dr D. Ligaga, Prof. L. Lingam and Mpumi’s Magic Beads for showing up with much needed light, affirmation and critical intervention when I needed it most to make this whole thing more wholesome and thoughtful. Who knew the day would come when this would be past tense?
When I think about it, the best part about being an Anthropologist is being able to occupy really interesting spaces and speak as an expert on the topic – because that’s what the long days and nights of academic productivity are about. So, in my capacity as a scholar and children’s book author, I was invited to be a panelist at the #CoilConversations event hosted by the Jabu Stone brand and engage in conversation with the MC, Noluthando Nqayi, the legend himself, Jabu Stone and an audience of beautiful, natural hair influencers from around Johannesburg. Continue reading “#CoilConversations with Jabu Stone”
1. #JetLoveYourself (Another one!)
Following last year’s successful lingerie campaign around body positivity and self-love, Jet Store had another amazing one this Valentine’s Day! Interestingly, I felt more confident this time around because I felt like I had both my body and my skin under a little more control. Either way, I love that I showed up and shone regardless of how unfit my body felt and how pimply my face was. It was a small reminder that loving myself is a necessity that must be put into practice even on days when standing in that truth feels daunting.
I also love the images that people shared with me on Twitter. It’s a big deal to me that I am contributing to the imagery (normalisation thereof) of tattooed, African women. Below are two of my favourite: Look at my non-model, modelling self being great in the storefront. I am so proud!
2. I met Dr Grada Kilomba!
This year, after I sent Dr Kilomba one of my posts about how much I love her work, she let me know that she would be in Cape Town at the Goodman Gallery for an exhibition. It would be another multi-disciplinary performance lecture (I’m still very very fascinated by these) on decolonial theory and I obviously wasn’t going to miss it for the world. You know I wrote all about it.
3. #MakeOneDayToday campaign!
This is the campaign that took the dream of Mpumi’s Magic Beads and gave it wings! From pledging to host a storytelling event for children in the city using beautiful posters of the scenes on an easel, to mama having produced an entire book and having an ISBN (International Standard Book Number)! I’m so proud of me!
4. Writing for Gugu Intimates
5. My first trip to London!
I put “travel” on my vision board this year without any real longing in my heart to go anywhere in particular. I just wanted to set an intention of acceptance should the opportunity come because I was annoyed with myself for detesting airports as much as I do. So when the talented writer and poet, Belinda Zhawi contacted me to join her on stage in London in May, I said yes! I also got to see my friend, Hana Riaz on her home turf and it felt great. My flight was via Cairo International – I don’t enjoy layovers – and my airport phobia was not helped by landing in Heathrow to news of the Manchester Terror Attack and departing on the day of the great British Airways administration disaster of May 2017. The airport was a messy, full, mess. I’m just grateful that I was safe going in and safe going out. We will be doing it again in a few days, in Johannesburg this time!
6. Modelling for Destiny Magazine.
7. Elle Magazine
In August 2017, I was featured in Elle Magazine and we shot in my bedroom in my special umbhalo that my gran’s friend got for me. I spoke about literature, school and Mpumi’s Magic Beads, of course. Get into this Moyo by BiBi choker, please!
8. Urban Anxieties workshop and Media Studies guest lecture
I gave my first academic talk at the Urban Anxieties workshop, based on the research from my thesis. It was organised by Dr Nicky Falkof from Wits Universty’s Media Studies department. After I presented, she invited me to guest lecture her third year Media Studies group. They were both great experiences. I really enjoy the opportunity to share my work and to do my little bit to contribute to advancing intersectional feminist politics through teaching and speaking to young people.
9. The People vs Patriarchy
I got to feature in The People vs Patriarchy, another MTV documentary and the follow-up to The People vs The Rainbow Nation. I enjoyed watching the film and how Lebogang Rasethaba used visual text to emphasise the contributors narratives. It’s an important documentary for all South Africans, regardless of where they are on their Feminist journeys, towards understanding and gaining the language to make sense of society.
10. I am a children’s book author!
Mpumi’s Magic Beads by Lebohang Masango is a real thing. It’s a book that can be touched and read and is currently living its own life outside of me, in children’s homes and hearts. I am indescribably proud and happy about this milestone. To think that I wrote and oversaw every single detail of the dream right until it’s very end. I drafted, produced and manufactured an entire book. I love that this is only the beginning. I have so many stories and so many plans. 2018 is going to be amazing!
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Thank you to each person who contributed to 2017 being an incredible year for me. I am grateful to you.
The Cape Town Art Fair is on. Last evening, my friend Thenji and I went to the Goodman Gallery’s “South-South: Let Me Begin Again”. I know that I said that I probably wouldn’t be able to go because of my work but, I give my heart what it wants – always. In the video room, seated to the right of a white wall and surrounded by a few microphones, sat Professor Grada Kilomba. The audience sat on the floor as her silent video played and she read along – this is called “Illusions”. I sat at the very front and listened intently as she narrated a story of Narcissus and Echo. I’m not going to retell it here or give notes like last time but the switch up was delicious: Greek mythology until a point, then a rereading in which Prof. Kilomba positions whiteness as Narcissus and Echo as “white consensus”. It was obviously incredible. The microphones, a motif in the video as well, make me think of her work regarding the slave bit (please, look it up!), the silent black subject and how she says “listening is an act of the authorisation of the speaker.” The image of multiple microphones, read against her eloquent take-down of whiteness in this performance lecture, emphasises the black subject as an authority. Our lived experiences are adequate and enough of an authority on whiteness. Our lived experience is knowledge. The subaltern speaks. (Word to Professor Gaytari Spivak.) Continue reading “I Met Professor Grada Kilomba. Wow.”
Which is to say, she’s the most phenomenal sight that I have ever seen with my two eyes. I still think of that night in spiritual terms. Someone beyond sky and time; someone who loves me gifted me this experience. Friday night and I’m all alone (as usual) and I was running late. I was cold as all misery. I’d received invitations to several parties and declined, despite the fact that the week was long and I deserved ease. I hadn’t been able to make it to the Decolonising Feminism Conference that had been held during the week but this was one of the last sessions titled, “Decolonising Knowledge: A Performance Lecture”. Just for those two last words, I had to be there. I tell you, interdisciplinarity consumes my thoughts. I obsess about how I want my academic and artistic vantages to intersect. When I spend a lot of time shifting between this Economic Anthropology text and that proposal on love and intimacy and that seminar that requires zooming through Haiti and Hegel and universal history books – the spirit stops to ask for poetry. Finding the balance between a worldview that demands unrelenting analysis and one that begs for stillness, softness and an economy of language induces much anxiety and the heartbreaking sacrifice of one. It’s urgent that I grow the space in my mind where the union of poetry and Anthropology is natural, in a way that is organic for me. It’s the stuff that my daydreaming is made of.
Postgrad life keeps me intensely busy. There are so many cool projects that I couldn’t participate in and so many stages that I couldn’t stand on because of this priority. On those occasions that I was able to take some time off, it was and still is an honour to have had different groups of people entrust me with their labours of love and invite me to contribute to their vision with my gifts. Thank you to every one of you. So, not only is this a glimpse of some of my favourite moments of the year, I hope that this also serves as an introduction to exactly what I mean by “my dreaming and doing life.”
The year started off with Jet Store’s #JetLoveYourself body positive Valentine’s campaign! I joined some awesome South African women – who are also not models – in wearing beautiful underwear and confidently celebrating our bodies in their different sizes and shapes.
Flustered by life and overwhelmed by the aching worry that I would not pass my Honours year°°, I stood in the Anthropology office and cried. The door stays open, literally and figuratively. It’s a safe space. Before the tears, I had shook my head intently: “I’m not gonna make it. I’m not gonna make it. I mean, I guess I could go to UNISA? God knows I can’t re-do Honours here. The shame would eat me. I couldn’t face you all…” Andrea, our beloved administrator with her beautiful grey-streaked hair and kind eyes, shook her head back at me and said: “You know, Lebo, life will always happen at the same time as school but you have to remember why you’re on this journey. I promise you! Take control of just one thing…” Continue reading “Take Control of Just One Thing: From 2016 into 2017.”