I wrote a book with Dr Judy Dlamini

Co-authors!

New book alert! Grow To Be Great: Awesome African Achievers by Dr Judy Dlamini and I, is finally here! First of all, do you know how cool it is to collaborate on writing a book with your university’s chancellor? It’s amazing! I actually “met” her in 2019, when she was one of the invited guests for the Zanele Mbeki Fellowship one morning and we all sat in a circle and engaged with a selection of phenomenal women leaders about their life’s work. Little did I know that we would actually meet properly when she was searching for a young children’s book author to collaborate with as she sought to convert her books, Equal but Different and The Other Story into a singular book for younger readers. Even better, we met and discussed this collaboration for the first time only a few weeks before she capped me at my Master’s graduation ceremony in December 2019. If you look at the photo, you’ll see me beaming because I held her hand and she smiled and said, “Wow, you’re wearing a suit. You look beautiful.” I was especially proud of my look that day because I really wore a tailored suit with some Nike Cortez the day I became an Anthropologist.

An Anthropologist; a Master, as capped by Chancellor of the University of Witwatersrand, Dr Judy Dlamini.

Working with Mam’ Judy has been such an enriching experience. Not only was I able to gain some insight into her life journey, because she also features as a character in the book, I was also able to experience excellence and discipline up close in a way that is rarely available to me since I usually work alone across all of my various academic and bookish projects. It also blows my mind that she’s a whole medical doctor, academic doctor, businesswoman who also owns her own publishing house, mother, grandmother and a whole chancellor of the best university in Africa! (I know you know that I don’t care about the official stats. Haha!)

Can you spot your faves?

Grow To Be Great: Awesome African Achievers is published by Dr Dlamini and her husband, Sizwe Nxasana’s publishing house, Sifiso Publishers. It is a gift for African children; to inspire them to know that they are the continuation of really incredible legacies and people who have worked tirelessly to fulfil their own aspirations as well as to contribute greatly to the communities around them, benefitting the continent as a whole. By capturing their stories, we hope that African children will see themselves reflected in these great leaders and know that they too are capable of so much more. Here is more about the book:

Co-authored by Dr. Judy Dlamini and Lebohang Masango, Grow to Be Great is an adaptation of Dr. Judy Dlamini’s two books, Equal but Different & The Other Story. It’s targeting young adults. It seeks to inform, empower and validate their dreams. There is a message from each of the 24 leaders covered in the book, from the President of the country, President Cyril Ramaphosa, to the Chairman of the Solidarity fund and Co-Founder of Women Investment Portfolio, Gloria Serobe, the only woman former Deputy President of the country current Executive Director of UN-Women, Dr Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka to the late Dr Richard Maponya; amongst others.

Available in English.

Stockists:

Ethnikids (online purchase)

Exclusive Books (online & physical purchase)

Sifiso Publishers (online purchase)

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Thank you, lovely publisher who recommended me! (You know who you are!)

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.

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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.”