A Lesson in Poetry Women and Jazz Men

I wrote this in 2011 as the post-mortem to my first real relationship. It was an incredible love until it wasn’t. I believe that your work must stand as a testament to your truth and that your truth is allowed to change as you process and grow. Some of you are familiar with a previous version. A few years ago at the Motif studios, I read that to Tumi Molekane (God MC and giver of excellent writing advice – thank you, T.) and he told me that he doesn’t believe me. In time, I realised what he meant and that I didn’t really believe myself either. The poem once had a cheerful ending because there was a point in my writing when I was obsessed with survival as a happiness of some kind; a sunny disposition. I obviously also knew that the person that the poem is about would come across it and so, it was my last stand, my final say; my “Best Thing I Never Had” moment. Except it wasn’t. I had to do myself justice by saying out loud the parts that I had never wanted to be confronted with before and honour how they have shaped me, even if it meant that he would know that I was not entirely unbothered. I think when you understand the anatomy of your mistakes, you’re less likely to be forced to keep making them in an attempt to eventually learn the lesson. Since then, I have made plenty more mistakes that feel like him. I’m always working on it. The honesty is for my sake even if it doesn’t save me. The truth isn’t always pretty but it is mine.

*

The night I laid eyes on you

is the night I laid eyes on Jazz

Hymn, a redeeming sound

Stood proud like Sophiatown at high noon

Your presence spoke in tongues to my skin

As if Coltrane had chanted A Love Supreme/Allah Supreme

For a vision such as you

A man of music, moving Continue reading “A Lesson in Poetry Women and Jazz Men”

The Best of 2016.

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.”

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.”

1. #JetLoveYourself 

I’m a gif! Made by Nomali Cele.

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.

 

Photographed by Merwelene van der Merwe, 2016

Continue reading “The Best of 2016.”

Take Control of Just One Thing: From 2016 into 2017.

It’s small but it’s my favourite victory. I know that 2016 was immensely trying for many people and it was for me as well. I just choose to look back at it with deep gratitude because of the strength and resilience that showed up, on command, from deep inside me. I showed up for myself, brilliantly.

I often sit and work on umbhalo: the Ndebele blanket my grandmother’s friend gave her to gift to me, because she had given one to her friend to gift to her granddaughter too. 

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.”

Interview: Interesting People

Poet and activist Nova Masango sat down with Sihle Mthembu to talk about why she changed her name, being born to exiled parents, street harassment and her complicated relationship with organised religion.
This is probably one of my favourite (recorded) conversations. While I was in Durban for Poetry Africa 2015, I was featured on a podcast called “Interesting People”. Sihle has also interviewed other interesting and awesome people such the iconic Lebo Mashile and Nakhane Toure.

Cis-hetero men love to blame many of their personal failings as human beings on Feminists.

We seem to have y’all shook.

1.

[To those whom the shoe fits:] Always know that the fact that you’re an obtuse, unexceptional and very average man has nothing to do with women who are strong, smart & vocal. It’s all you. You don’t deserve the desire, respect or bodies of women simply because you were born with a penis. It is 2014, after all.

2.
On a broader note, perhaps “Black masculinity” needs to be re-imagined. It isn’t sustainable for black women’s autonomy to be regarded as an existential crisis. It isn’t sustainable for how you define yourselves “as men” to be contingent upon how you oppress women and gay people. Furthermore, when those groups refuse to be silenced and decide to define themselves outside of your gaze (please remember that self-determination is a basic human right) you want to swear and rant and “urgh, those Feminists” and froth at the mouth, aimlessly. Quite aimlessly. Continue reading “Cis-hetero men love to blame many of their personal failings as human beings on Feminists.”