d’bi.young anitafrika

This past Sunday, I had the pleasure of facilitating d’bi.young anitafrika’s poetry book launch of Dubbin Poetry: the collected poems of d’bi.young anitafrika (Spolrusie, 2019) at the South African Book Fair. As I welcomed everyone to the space, introduced the audience to her and joined them in applause, she took her heels off. She began to sing and walk among the audience. She moved effortlessly between song and poetry and even monologue. She looked deeply into each person’s eyes and held their gaze. She drew laughter and tears and a deep silence that held us all enchanted. She was a wonder to witness.

The past weeks have been particularly horrible in South Africa and, if you are a woman in this country, then it has been this way for a whole lifetime. Here, the murder and rape of women and girls is a casual and everyday occurrence. We live in the country where the South African Police Service (SAPS) will allow violent mobs of men to loot and commit arson almost everyday as shown in the recent wave of afrophobic unrest yet, teargas and assault women who are protesting for their human right to live. This is just the norm here. So, when d.bi was reciting a poem about love, and mentioned Uyinene’s fatal visit to the South African Post Office to collect a parcel, I broke down and the tears would not stop coming. I had successfully managed to hold myself together that weekend but the gross inhumanity of South African life really shook me up once more. But what is remarkable is that I have been angry and and cynical about our situation but d’bi’s words allowed in a glimmer of hope. I cried but I felt hope that love is indeed the revolution and it doesn’t ask us for anything too grand. It just asks that we love and hold each other through this; that we offer simple gifts of kind words and deeds. It’s hard but small acts of goodness can hold and begin to heal us through this. Continue reading “d’bi.young anitafrika”

This Way I Salute You, Professor Kgositsile

“Bra Willie is and will remain a teacher, a mentor, a friend, a hero, a challenger, an inspiration, a brother, a light that does not flicker, and a fellow soldier. We’ve admired his persistent battle against white supremacy and human exploitation large and small. We’ve been transformed by him and his work and by the struggle he carried out, on the page, in the streets and in the corridors of power. We are all Bra Willie’s people.” – Prof. Stefan Rubelin

Him, the walking library of Setswana lore, Jazz music, African nationalist politics and the emancipatory poetics of struggle spanning spirits and continents. Him, whom we can thank personally for influencing the very birth of this Hip Hop* that the world so loves. Him, the great intellectual with a ready smile and a life full of words that weaved struggles into tapestries of hope. We are so profoundly privileged to have known him and to be here in the world of words that he has made. We, the poets. We, the writers. We, the thinkers.

I bought my copy of This Way I Salute You at the Polokwane Literary Festival in 2012, where I shared a stage with Prof. Kgositsile. The book is full of poetic odes to his creative peers across the fields of music and poetry. Every time I read it, I am touched that he felt it necessary to go beyond documenting the times, as artists must do, and chose to pay homage to both the living and the departed. At his memorial service at the Market Theatre, I had the honour of also bidding him farewell through poetry. I read the poem “For Ilva Mackay and Mongane”, with ntate Mongane Wally Serote in the audience. In the words of Kanye West, Prof. Kgositsile gave his people flowers while they could still smell ’em.

In a similar vein, I would like to think that we too gave him his flowers. Prof. is one of the greats who walked among us and became a bridge among the generations of poets in South Africa. We felt his presence and support for new movements, both in how he was there physically but also in how he did not suffer bad poetry; his critique delivered in ways that I personally found both necessary and endearing. He kept us sharp. He kept us agile.

We have indeed lost a monument of a man. As Prof. Kgositsile now rests, I would like to think that he knows that he was appreciated, admired and greatly respected by us, the new generation of writers, thinkers and poets. After his funeral – a beautiful affair of heartfelt tributes, poetry and Jazz – I sat steeped in sadness as I reflected on his amazing, full life that touched innumerable lives with the work of his words. How remarkable? I too would love to live a life in which I can do what I love and honour my blood by bettering the human condition with the work of my words. Prof. Kgositsile did that.

He has given us so much. It was at his memorial service that I sat in conversation with his nephew, Towdee Mac and his friend, Phillippa Yaa de Villiers. It dawned on me that Towdee was part of the songwriters on Reason’s “Endurance” on which I feature and which has been a special moment in my career. I also had a moment to speak to his son, Thebe (alias, Earl Sweatshirt) to thank him for Doris, my favourite album of 2013, as he shared some insights about his forthcoming album and the powerful way in which it came together in relation to his father. Which is to say, Prof. Kgositsile has left us with his incredibly, gifted people and has left us as more thoughtful, considerate writers than we were before we discovered his life’s work.

Indeed, we are all Bra Willie’s people. And, it is in this way that I salute him.

Somehow, it is on this day of the monumental Hugh Masekela’s passing, that I have found my ability to write through and complete this ode. So, here we have Prof. Kgositsile: giving flowers, perhaps calling his comrade home and reminding us all about time and what it is known to do.

*Please seek out and read the work of Prof. Kgositsile’s biographer, Dr Uhuru Phalafala on his connection to the birth of Hip Hop and the immense importance of his work.

* * *

Robalang ka kgotso, bagolo. It has been an honour to walk in your light. Thank you.

I Met Professor Grada Kilomba. Wow.

Thank you for taking this, Selae!

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.”