I just want to say a big, big thank you to everyone who took their time out to vote in the 100 Most Influential South Africans poll for 2019. You put me at number 39 and I appreciate it! What an honour to be counted among such inspirational people. My passion is words and making worlds for people – recently children – to see themselves in, grow in and be inspired enough to be their best selves in. I appreciate everything everyone does to make this dream-work happen.
I would like to wish you a wonderful start to the new year! In thinking about you, me and this little corner of the internet that we share, I have decided to set some goals for this blog but I’ll tell you more about that later.
I’m currently on holiday in the Eastern Cape. It started in Simon’s Town, then Knysna, Port Alfred, Mthatha and I’m in Port St John’s for a few more hours, then Umhlanga. The weather has warmed up considerably from yesterday so I am finally able to think about something other than how cold it is! I’m quite delighted that it’s a new year. The sun and this gentle breeze have me in a great mood to think, dream, imagine and plan myself into this new season of my life.The year 2019 was really good to me and it stretched my wings further as an author, Anthropologist and poet. My debut children’s book Mpumi’s Magic Beads won the South African Literary Award for Children’s Literature and the IBBY South Africa Award for Best Writer. I presented my research work at conferences in Mumbai, India and Johannesburg, South Africa and had it accepted for publication. I travelled to Asia for the first time and I visited the United States again. I graduated from the Zanele Mbeki Fellowship. I facilitated literary event sessions, collaborated with reputable brands using my poetry and began some collaborative work that will debut in the new year. I got a job at my favourite radio station and, best of all, I graduated! Conferred on 10 December 2019 by the University of Witwatersrand, I am finally a Master of Arts in Social Anthropology.
Me being me, I already began my PhD in August last year and while these past few months have been good for thinking through what exactly it is a want my doctoral thesis to be about, this year and this exact day symbolises a great new beginning for me. However, I underestimated how exhausted I actually am. Although the way I see it, I have no children and no husband so there is no reason why I don’t get to be this multi- meta- person who pursues all of her whims and talents to their logical conclusion. It is difficult to balance my family, social and working lives and to especially give my best to my work but I do it with joy anyway because who am I to deprive myself of this one wild and precious life? (Word to Mary Oliver.) Taking a break is inconceivable to me because I would like to get my doctorate as soon as possible and I really enjoy being in the university system. It’s helpful because I am able to maintain work relationships I have within the corridors and frequently receive information about talks, conferences and funding opportunities.
In all honesty, the prospect of how this year will unfold is weighing on me; only because I know that work begets more work and I am supposed to be strict about limiting what’s on my plate. I want to give this degree all I’ve got…but I also want to be available for whatever other blessings come my way. Something has got to give and perhaps that thing will be social media? My workload is already heavy, however, I would like to commit to blogging here on the third of every month (and in between if possible) while being less active on Twitter and Instagram. That way, I can post updates here primarily and use the nifty buttons to share with social media afterwards. So, please feel free to follow, like and comment as we make our way through this fresh and exciting year.
May it be full of blessings and wonder for you and yours. May you give yourself the world!
I really enjoy Kaya FM. It’s my radio station of choice for when I work and of course, the bulk of that involves sitting alone, reading and writing from morning until midnight, everyday. The station has a new show, unlike anything I have heard before. On Sunday afternoons, from 2pm – 6pm, What’s Wrong With Groovin’ is on and it’s an audio-documentary (that includes prose, poetry, dramatic script) infused with music curated by DJ Khenzero and Tha_Muzik, of the station’s Sound Supreme show on Saturday afternoons. It’s quite a refreshing concept considering that a majority of the South African radio stations that I enjoy have decided that Sunday afternoons are for wailing R&B. So, this is a welcome breath of fresh air because I like to work while listening to relaxing music that allows my mind to imagine and execute; not stress-me-out-about-my-romantic-life music. It’s distracting, at best.
I love reading all kinds of things so I think it’s incredibly cool that I’ll be doing so on my favourite radio station. So please do join me today for my debut at 14:00 on Kaya FM, 95.9 FM. Today, we will be contemplating the land question far beyond the current discourse that is being generated in our country. It is interesting, thought-provoking and entertaining content that honestly blew me away when I listened to the first and second episodes. So I’m really excited to be involved with the third episode and hopefully all of them from today onwards. Please do let me know what you think, loves! I will be sure to add the podcast to this post and the podcast page on my blog when it is available.
Thank you, #WWWGroovin team for letting me do this cool thing with y’all!
Have you spotted the new Glade commercial on your TV screens? It features artist Nandipha Mntambo, seamstress Matshiliso Kola and myself in a stunning ode to the women of South Africa; our bravery, wisdom and inner-beauty that is carried through generations, always empowering the next. I feel so honoured to have been asked to be part of this gorgeous campaign and to offer myself and my story in this amazing tribute to all of us! I think of my mother, my sister-friends and all of the incredible scholars ushering me through my academic journey – we really do make our country a better place.
Thank you, Glade, for making me a part of this lovely story.
Wow. Mpumi’s Magic Beads has been shortlisted for a South African Literary Award in the Children’s Literature category. Just the nomination alone is such a wonderful piece of recognition and I am honoured. My day has been made. A big congratulations to all of the nominees for this year. Let us all pray, hold thumbs and cross fingers for the 7th of November, which is four days after my birthday.
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”
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. Continue reading “My Master of Social Anthropology Dissertation”
I have such a strange relationship to travelling. I usually spend the entire time being very cautious about every single thing and counting down the days until I am back at home, in my bed, breathing my suburban, South African air where everything and everyone feels familiar. It’s only after I am back home and safely in my bed, that I begin to appreciate everything in hindsight. It’s as though once I have had a safe trip and confirmation that nothing untoward will happen, then I feel like I can go back, live all those days again and really have a good time. Of course, that would mean that life is a dress rehearsal and we all know that it certainly is not. Sometimes I do wish I was a more carefree traveller but I think I’ll just stay the way I am, even if it means staying in my hotel room a little more than exploring. My personality keeps me safe and I like that very much. Plus, America is scary. We know that.
I was so excited to be back in New York again. The first time was when I attended Goalkeepers, held by the Bill and Melinda Gates’ Foundation in September 2018. My second time in New York was just as wonderful. I was there along with all of the lovely women of the Zanele Mbeki Fellowship (ZMF), including our beloved founder Mrs Mbeki, and we were having our third module there. In this module, we were learning about global feminist community by being immersed in the fast-paced world of the United Nations’ 63rd Commission on the Status of Women (UN CSW). I believe it’s the largest gathering of women-related NGOs in the world. Our mission was to attend as many sessions as possible, learn and discuss amongst each other in order to understand grassroots level to world level feminist organisation. Continue reading “New York, New York”
On Curious Cat, it comes up often for people to ask me either about loving myself or about my productivity. I understand that I am asked a lot about my productivity because I share a lot on social media about my work and its progress. It’s interesting that the perception is that I am so methodical and diligent. You know, every now and then, I actually wanna tweet: “Oh my god, where can I buy some focus because it’s lit!” but I don’t because my social network includes people with whom I have some kind of deadline at any given time. So, there are some things that I don’t share with as much ease as the next person, that’s all.
Another thing is that I do share about my disappointments, although minimally. I allude to being up all night and crying over drafts and things not going my way but I’m never going to sit there and be self-deprecating on social media. I don’t like to give light and energy and oxygen to those parts because I would rather use as much as I can on the good. When my work isn’t going as well as I would like: I leave it alone. I rest, I go to my favourite restaurants, I pick up a book to read or my colouring book, I build a puzzle or I watch television. I stop and process that I need to get battle-ready for this next thing and maybe I’m not in the mood today or the next two days but eventually, I will get back to it and give it my all. So, that is the ebb and flow of my self-love. I am always giving myself room to feel and do what feels necessary in that moment. If today isn’t the day to get it right then perhaps tomorrow will be.
I also think it’s interesting that self-love and productivity are the things I get asked about often because for me, they are the same thing. It’s important for me to always put my humanity to its best use and my work in Anthropology and with children is exactly that. My work is a testament to loving myself. Doing my work, all the work, is how I love myself. Me being productive, me being creative – it’s all the source giving back to the source. I suppose I am fortunate that my work happens to be exactly what I came to do on this planet. Some people have also asked me: “when or how did you learn to love yourself?” and my answer is usually the same about how all I have in this world is myself and so it follows that I should treat myself with an abundance of goodness. But the question kept tugging at me. I kept thinking: “Is my answer incomplete? Is there something that even I’m missing?” Eventually, I got up and went to my bookshelf, thinking. Continue reading “On living, loving and learning”