How to Believe in Love Again

When I started this blog I made a promise to myself that I will not give up on it. That I will keep blogging everyday.   But today is one of those days  where I am finding it very hard to keep that promise to myself.   But I promised myself. So this one Won’t be long…

Because  today is  one of those days, I feel like that little girl my mother used to tell me about; who wore her mother’s  favourite cleaning dress, and high-heeled shoes at just two years of age, who used to sit and cry at the corner by herself because her mother had left her behind ( to go to work ).

The little girl would not be consoled by anyone, except her mother, or her left thumb which was always on hand to comfort her.

Today is one of those days  for no particular reason at all I am struggling to find that place inside me that says all is possible.

But like  all other day like this one,  it will pass, and the sun will shine again.

 

Happy Weekend.

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Julius Malema: Fictional Facts

Learning from the young

Before we forget.

Expelled ANC Youth League Leader Julius Malema, is practically emulating almost every strategy and tactic which his mentor and South African President Jacob Zuma himself employed when he outsted his then arch rival former President Thabo Mbeki back in 2008.

If we could take detailed notes, we would be forgiven when we give Malema correct marks point by point by point. One 100 percent full marks. Though we don’t know as yet if Malema will  make it to the ruling party ANC’s elective conference in Polokwane (sic) Mangaung in the North West Province in November.

The charges which the Hawks (South Africa’s specialist police) have been investigating since the beginning of the year could continue well into 2014.

History Repeats itself so What’s new?

The public is taken a-back my Malemas’ arrogant, disrespectful insults against President Zuma – who is ineffect his elder, a father figure (for) to him; who is to be respected. And in African tradition and culture what Malema is doing is simply “unheard” of! Out of Order with that natural flow of things.

No matter how wrong your mother, father, uncle and great grand father might be, however angry you are with them, however justified you might be in your righteous indignation, it is not correct to shame them, insult them and call them illiterate in public. Nothing they can do warrants the slightest disrespect from a youngster – “upstart” a friend once remarked.

Let’s look back at the “spear” debacle and the the moral anger it ignited even amongst the fiercest detractors of Zuma’s presidency today. Brett Marais’s painting infused such righteous anger in the public discourse it became a racial issue ( Black Africans and White Africans don’t read for the same morality book sometimes) in the public discourse. Yes many might agree that Zuma’s behavoir is wrong, but however wrong he might be, we can’t expose his manhood for all to see in public galleries even if they are of an artistic nature.

Young people are tickled by Malema’s utterances, but older folk are angered by them.  To the point of being Livid. To them it is like a child whose filthy nappies you changed turning against you and saying telling you that you are nothing. You know nothing.

It’s a very dangerous line to cross.

The recent elimination of Tshidi – a promising and should I add much loved contestant in South Africa’ talent search – Idols’ is a case in point. As part of the top four competitors she was followed back to her home town of Thokoza where she was met by scores of people including her family and friends, waiting to congratulate her on having succeeded and come so far in the most talked about singing competition in South Africa. But before she came out of her car, she nervously said: ” Please don’t jump on me, don’t jump on me please, I don’t want to fall over etc, please don’t jump on me” for at least five minutes.

Such a light statement that was.

Needles to say no one came near her, and the country demonstrated their displeasure at her “pompous” comments when they eliminated her from the race to become South Africa’s next Pop Idol. No votes for Tshidi.

Malema – if found guilty could loose everything.
One hopes for his sake, he has an uncle or friend some where who can help him pick up the pieces.

On A Knife’s Edge: economic freedom now!

I have been listening with keen interest at comments by Labour Unions, Employers/Management, the Media et al and their views around the issue of industrial action stemming from the Marikana and the subsequent labour strikes that are flaring up across the country.

After the Constitutional court ruled last week that the South African Government can go ahead with is controversial e-tolls, taxes drivers must pay to use long roads in Johannesburg, despite public wide oppositions to this earlier in March. That will be 30cents a kilometer, then add another 93cents a liter for petrol and you have a price hike, which means that a month I pay R800 rands just for transport, for 8 kilometers, in a mini-bus taxi. Others people are not so lucky.

Truck Drivers have gone on strike, although it’s all completely unrelated. Workers  have been largely labelled as irresponsible in their decision to refuse to go to work until their needs have been met.

Their decision to stand up for their rights has been labelled as “wild-cat” “illegal” “unprotected” basically illegitimate.  Some unions have even made assertions that Marikana has set a “dangerous precedent” for labour  for  wage negotiations in the country, not because of the  44 or is it 47 people who lost their lives lost their lives in the quest for justice but because workers dared to stand up for their rights, and fight for what is due to them.

They set a “dangerous precedent” because they can’t dare represent themselves – their own needs and interests directly to the people who employ them.  And they in truth have had to embark on “wild-cat” protests and marches because the unions who are their “legitimate” representatives, who take a portion of their pay to do so every month, have simply failed to represent and fight for workers needs. What alternatives do workers have?

Despite striking being a genuine way of saying hello?? we cannot live or survive on the money you insist on paying us. Despite this being a symptom of a deeper problem plaguing worker rights/ or working conditions in the country, employers and unions have continued to belittle them, and their desperate plight for a fighting chance at life, at every turn.

With things (economy) being tight as they are, I understand when people hold on as tightly as they can to the jobs they already have. Always being assured that at the very least they will have some money, at least for a day to afford a roof over their heads, to pay for food and transportation, basics which are becoming increasingly unaffordable with each passing day.

Life in South Africa has become so expensive even I am, as we speak, am one or two connections away from becoming a hobo. Literally. And not because no one cares but because everyone is trying desperately to keep their own heads above water, to afford their own lives, they are also just as thinly stretched, breaking-even if they’re lucky, and could feasibly join me in the trenches should some things grow even more expensive. Or better still they might, just like striking mine workers and truck drivers, find themselves on the streets defending their right to a descent living, again armed and equally underpaid police officers. It’s really tough.

So everyone is trying to put their oxygen masks on, to breathe in and to stay alive (with fading possibilities) The worst part of it is, these people are employed! they all have jobs that they wake up to everyday and yet they have nothing to show for the 8 hours or more they spend everyday at work.

Fortunately if I end up without a job or money to pay for my basic needs I only have myself to worry about. And I am grateful for this.What about those mothers and fathers, sisters, grandmothers who have to ignore their own growling angry stomachs to find something, anything that could for a moment, silence those piercing screams from the stomachs of their children.

Just a few weeks ago, a mother of five children, woke up one day and silenced all her five children – permanently. She confessed in court that she did it, sighting economic and violent abuse. In her mind, the way things were,  they would be better off dead.Yes nothing  no situation should warrant such extreme action. But Marikana happened. Those men could have just simply gone back to work. If it their needs were so greedy and ‘unreasonable’, if it is ultimately so easy to just “bite the bullet”. Not every one smells great under-pressure, and clearly we’re all so much under pressure that close 30 thousand people we’ve all been under so much pressure anymore pressure will be our last breath.

Hunger is not pretty, Neither is it friendly.  To even assert that these men and women are acting out of greed and being careless and irresponsible – is inhumane. No woman or man  would do anything to risk not getting money to buy food, but if all that money can busy is a ride to work and back – what do you say to mouths? Conspiracies aside. People are suffering.

We are living on a knife’s edge all of us. And I guess if people, everyone, can stop for a moment and re-look at their own budgets, and make re-calculations of how much you earn and how far that money goes today, regardless of your status;  perhaps you can also find  a little sympathy for the striking workers, because even you will find that money cannot afford you as much as it did before and  that perhaps R12, 500 rands a is not such an  exorbitant amount after all.

Heritage: What’s in a re-Name Change ?

How do I know who I am?
Jedi?Lindiwe?Popi?Venssa?Ruby?

‘You know a person loves you by how they say your name’ Anonymous 5yr old.

I never really understood just how important a name is until I changed mine.  On facebook, recently and in other places a long time ago and counting…

With the recent name change, the public is generally concerned. They don’t know who they are talking to anymore it seems; who this new person (name) is, if the person behind the name is still the same person they knew before or if the person has changed with the name.  I understand how confusing this must be.

But spare a moment for me.  I was born with the names Lindiwe Popane Zulu.  Lindiwe because they were waiting for me,  Popane my great-grandmother came  in a  dream holding a baby, and said to my mother  I am bringing you a gift.  Zulu because that was my mother last name when she was born. She also took her mother’s last name.   Later on my last name was changed from Zulu to Ramalapa, because we were all going to live together with my mother and father and two younger siblings whose last names were Ramalapa. I was in my early teens by that time.

In the mean time, I was still getting used to be being called Lindy at school.  Growing up, at home I was called Popi, short for Popane, and I liked that name because it meant doll. I looked like a doll just like my grand-mother, mamani and her mother, my  great-grand mother Popane.   There was a time I thought my name meant doll until I was told my  name is Popane actually and Popi came in part from the name Papane,  and also because when I was born it was said I was so beautiful, I looked like a doll. Popi = doll.

At school they always used your first name as it appeared on the birth certificate not asking  which name you preferred the first or second or last. I think I asked why I couldn’t be Popi at school.  But Lindiwe was my name too.   I always got a fright when I was called it at school by the teacher because; it was often not said with love.

My grand-mother mamani, used to have a special name for me, one is Venessa, whose origins can be traced to Greek Mythology, which would mean “buttefly” or Latin, which means “to be”.  My mother also had a special name for me which I didn’t understand when she started calling me by it, but now that I know what it means, am more aceepting of its qualities. Ruby, is said to be the most powerful gem stone in the universe, of royalty and has healing properties, its a stone of Love and Sexual Passion.

I remember asking my mother why certain people called her with a certain name and she preferred another. My mother had three names. Like me. One which her family used, another known to the world, and one which existed only in the green pages of her ID book.

One day she decided that all her names, the one she was called at home, known by and the one which only existed in her ID book, did not define her.  And she said we can also choose our own names too, we can be whoever we want to be.  I thought for a long time about what my new name would be.   And finally decided on Jedidiah,  a name given to King Davids’ second s son with Bathsheba  – King Solomon when he was a baby, meaning God’s beloved or blessing. But King Solomon was never known by that name at all. It’s a name that only existed between his family and the one who gave him that name.

For me it was unique sounding name one that I had never seen or heard of up until that time I was searching for a name in the bible.  Jedidiah I figured would be too long for people to try and say so Jedi would be easier I thought. I had to write it down a few times with different hand writing to try and see if I liked the look and sound of it.   Then I tested it, and it stuck – I became Jedi Ramalapa.  But this name only existed on the lips of the public and not officially on paper, so Lindiwe Popane would still pop-up every now and again, which required  some explaining to do, so where does Jedi come from?

I still have a cheque of 45 pounds, which I could use today, but cannot cash because it was signed to   Jedi Ramalapa who only exists on the airwaves.  At the time I had been reporting  on another international mining incident in South Africa. Miners were had been trapped underground for days.

Not only that, when I  chose the name Jedi, I hadn’t yet travelled to the Middle East, where I learnt that  Jedidiah was a name given only  (or mostly) to boys,  and its meaning changed depending on where  you were.   Arab Muslims had a different interpretation of the name so did Jewish Arabs.  The name itself however has its origins from the bible and that’s a whole other story. T the shorter version of my name Jedi, was a cult name for followers of star-wars, it’s even considered a religion by some.   So as a result some people have taken to calling me Jedi Knight or Jedi with some additions like ‘may the force be with you’ etc. Even though Neither I or my parents   are star war fans!  This also meant that I often had to explain my name. What’s your name Jedi, Jelly, Jane, Jay, Jd, oh?  What does it mean, where does it come from? Then I have to tell Solomon’s story.

I once went to home affairs to have it included in my ID book so that I become Jedi Ramalapa in life and on paper.  The forms required my mother and my father’s names. I hesitated and called her and told her that  I was at home affairs, and was thinking of changing my name to Jedi Ramalapa and I had a few forms to fill which required information I wasn’t sure of.  She said you know we agreed on this. And I said okay, and made the application to change my name to Jedi Ramalapa.  I called home affairs and they told me they lost my application, unfortunately, if I have the original receipt I should go back and re-apply this time for free.

I had lost my ID and could not wait for another application to get lost so I decided to forget about the name change and move on with my life as Jedi Ramalapa (Lindiwe Popane Ramalapa).  Until I went to Senegal, where I answered to Lindiwe when on official business because it sort of made sense and required less explanation, I knew how to pronounce it properly, and I knew exactly what it meant. Also everyone kept calling me Zulu, Bayede! Etc because they were all obsessed with Shaka Zulu – he is a great man in Africa.  Ah I was actually Lindiwe Zulu, but I just couldn’t use that name to my advantage. Also Zulu is not on any official document.

But honestly I am confused. Jedi Ramalapa is an important  part of who I am, it’s a name that I identify with, and which everyone knows,  there’s no other Jedi Ramalapa I know about but me in this world.   Lindiwe Zulu was last heard of in my teens.   Lindiwe Popane Zulu is almost infinite in scope and breath, but it brings up other stories which require even more explanation and research, and other people just don’t want to hear those names.   I like it, the name Jedi Ramalapa. It has nice ring to it. But when I look into its history its someone else’s story, it’s not my story,  and each time I say my name because I am a story teller, I am telling a story. So whose story am I going to tell? And if I am telling my story where does my story start or end.  Which name sounds good to me? Is it just about how a name sounds – many people change their names all the time – in changing your name are also changing your destiny?  If I decided to call a car a bus would it make a difference to how the thing the car is used or perceived, should it even matter to the car or bus what its name is?  People are not inanimate objects true.    But we give names to things in order for us to know what they are for.  A cup, a pot, a plate.  We change names for things whose use has changed too, sometimes. Can a chair still be a chair if we use it to put things on it? Or will we have to change its name to a table because we’re using it for a different purpose? Has my purpose changed from Lindiwe Popane Zulu to Jedi Ramalapa?   That is my question. But in order for me to be comfortable in my own skin, with all its triumphs and have to be comfortable with all my names,  but can I possibly be all this at the same time -: Jedidiah Jedi Lindiwe Popane  Zulu Ramalapa – that’s a mouthful even for me.  I don’t want a new name. The ones I have and have accumulated over the years are enough.

I just want to simply simplify my story.   Call myself with a name that calls me to my purpose that gives my life meaning.  One I will be proud of.  But I can’t have it both ways. One of them has to go and I don’t know which one to let go of.  Apparently no one else will accept me, if I don’t accept myself.

There are several schools of thought; one says life is not about finding yourself but creating who you want to be…

And then I walked into Les Jardin, and as I am about to log on to update today’s blog I stumble on a book by Karl Sabbagh called remembering our childhood, how memory betrays us…

I remember my favourite conversation starter years ago amongst friends often used to be ‘What is your earliest memory? So you can’t help to ask oneself, how far back can we really remember and how accurate are the events we recall?

With all these questions swimming around in my mind;  I understand now in a more powerful way the importance of keeping accurate records of  my (our) history, so that  I (we) have something  another than our own recollection of events, which can be deceiving, to help us understand and put things into perspective.

How do I know who I am?

I’m already in love with the name Ruby.

Sex in The City

The Penis Painter

I am busy writing this story about a Man Who paints with his Penis. It’s a story based on Pricasso, the guy who actually used his penis as a  paint brush and painted whatever he liked including portraits of women, saw one that resembled George W Bush Jnr. I saw him do it myself in the flesh at a SEXPO in Midrand, North of Johannesburg.  So imagine my surprise when a friend tells me that it’s actually set to take place this week.  Felt like saying hello, I’ve been thinking about you hehe.   It has moved though, from the North in Midrand to the South at the Nasrec Expo Centre. Okay here’s a sneak preview to the Man Who Paints with His Penis….

Did I just say that?

Three years ago for some spectacularly odd reason I decided I was going to visit the SEXPO, in Midrand. There had been a lot of controversy surrounding it in the media.  The Christian conservative community did not want the SEXPO, including its Huge Bill Boards advertising sex and pleasures anywhere near their sight. It was a tight battle. They won and the SEXPO was held over a three day period.  I went and to find out what it was all about.

So I arrive there and it is basically no different from all the boring exhibitions and conferences I’ve been to. Nothing I was interested in trying, I wasn’t curious enough.   As I was walking around at the different stalls, some people were in seminars, talks on how to please your partner etc, others were spinning on poles, jumping on trampolines suggestively. I think I went with a male friend. Just can’t remember who, I do remember the pleasure I got from their discomfort. I apologise for that.   Then there were your usual toys, dildos for men and women, under-garments, lotions, incense you name it. Couples walked down the many isles with what I recall to be genuinely happy faces, maybe a little blush here and there, I mean depending on which stall you stopped at, everyone would know what you were interested in. But I also found everyone was busy with their things to care about which stall you stopped at.  Okay! I thought.

As I was walking I stopped at what was the most talked about stall at the exhibition. The Penis Painter stall. Pricasso he called himself with such Pride, I couldn’t help smiling with him.  Wow there it is!  A   couple sat smiling as this guy painted them with his penis.  Men were surprisingly for me his largest crowd coming to view this spectacle; many of them wore incredulous smiles. I imagine they were thinking; boy he is really painting with his penis.  Never in their wildest dreams did they imagine that a guy would actually, actualize a thought I’m sure they’ve all thought at some point in their lives.  I’ve heard a few guys and men say something along these lines (or was it women? I get confused)   ah that one, is painting/writing/talking etc,   with his penis.  It’s just penis talk you know, there’s no direction there.  I do think they never expected a guy to actually paint a painting, someone’s portrait with his own penis, dip it in paint and do what painters do and sell it to them once it was completed.  The show was well attended.

I was on duty working, so I took out my recording machine and after I asked him for an interview thought eish he probably thought of this idea while wanking somewhere.  And guess what? He did.  He was literally playing around with his penis and wondered what to do with it (other than peeing and having sex) and found another use for it. Penis-Paint-Brush.

I do it for the fun of it, he told me. Isn’t it sore, I asked echoing the some thoughts of the men who stood watching and listening as I conducted the interview.  Yeah sometimes it is, he said with a satisfied laughing smile. I rest a bit and just go on and do it.  The money was coming in, so I was convinced it was a small sacrifice for him to pay for doing something he truly enjoys.  How wonderful the world can be

At least his penis-paint-brushing did not destroy anyones  life,  but the use of his own penis for other purposes this time Imagine.

My friend tells that this SEXPO is going to be a sizzler, there’s a new attraction  where women (sic) would go for waxes in  closed up rooms with viewing holes for anyone interested in watching a woman get a vagina wax.

This time I won’t go.

I have an appointment I can’t miss. With myself.

The Politics of Tea…

Tea time

Today I served tea to one of the richest men in South Africa: lawyer, trade union leader, activist, politician and businessman  – Cyril Ramaphosa.   It was a humbling and unplanned experience.  I came in early to work as usual, and found my boss busy around the kitchen area, I asked her who’s coming?  Cyril She said. I heard the announcement on the radio while I was getting ready for work in the morning, but I never expected him to come personally into the studio for the interview. So I offered to help her. When he arrived and while in conversation with my boss I decided to be useful and offered to help her prepare the tea and tea things you know milk, sugar and such like.  We all understandably, didn’t know what he preferred to drink. Tea or coffee with milk, and sugar or sweetener, there are many options.  So I was asked to ask him. His companion  was on the phone so I introduced myself to him  and he had been listening to the radio so he told me so. I thanked him for listening. How do you take your tea sir? Rooibos with no milk or sugar he replied.  He asked me if  the Magoa/bosses would allow him to drink his tea in the studio, in Sepedi.  Yes he was allowed I told him later.    When the time arrived I followed him with his tea to the studio. I served his companion a cup of rooibos too she drank it with sugar and finished it.

Afterwards I did something I never do with newsmakers, I asked to take a picture with him, and used that opportunity to find out  why he drank rooibos the way he asked me to prepare it : sans dule et sucre. He said he does it for health reasons, it’s cleansing he said and has healing properties. I asked how long has he been drinking it, he said oh since 1974, how old are you he asked? 31 I said. Where were you in 1974? he continued asking me, and I said my parents hadn’t even thought of me. In the end I didn’t get the picture despite the several poses. He said it must be him. We both laughed shook hands and he left.  And then?

In 1974 South Africa held General Elections  on April 24, then President John Voster  called the election a year earlier. The National Party won the election by 57 percent and the Progressive Party elected Helen Suzman to Houghton and came second to the national party with a very far  of  by 32 percent. and Rooibos?

1974 ~ Dr. Charlene Marais from the University of the Free State in South Africa conducted extensive research on the healing benefits of Rooibos in the wake of scientific proof of Theron’s anti-spasmodic theory in 1974.

The American Botanical Council has also done extensive research on the herb and you can read more about it right here.

I have been making tea since I was a child.  I remember there was a time when I was maybe four or three, one of my granmother asked my older sister to make her tea, and she was so pleased with it she smirked satisfactorily and exlaimed” Laze Lamndi Itiye lakho nhlanhla” (your tea is delicious, lucky) . I was too young to make tea for anyone at that time but I wished then that I had been the one who made her tea and that she had said those words to me. Sibling rivalry is pointless.  I don’t wish that today. Anyway after that and in growing up we were both forced to make tea, and bring it quickly on our knees to my father whenever he entered the house from work. I hated having to kneel, but kneel we did. When ever we addressed him, which we avoided at all costs.   Things were not good when the tea would be left to  side harldly sipped until it turned cold.  Most times it had nothing to do with the tea-maker ( the tea drinkers are busy being pre-occupied with something other than the tea in front of them)  other times is was just not their cup of tea. There’s no way of knowing.  But tea  making and drinking is serious.

You know someone’s wants to talk serious things  when they ask for tea, and if its clean – no additives – then maybe they are very serious about what they have to say, but they are willing to talk and listen. Tea creates a conducive environment for a conversation, whatever kind.  But you will have to look beyond the obvious events i.e Marikana and ask yourself why would a man of  Ramaphosa’s calibre, a widely respected as a skilful and formidable negotiator and strategist,  best known for building up the biggest and most powerful trade union in South Africa — the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) —agree to leave his many business dealings and agree to do an hour long interview with the Public Broadcaster,  where the public is free to call and ask him any question they want.

Anyway I’m sure there’s nothing to it. But the politics of tea and coffee have permeated my office based career and recently I’ve learnt a very different art of making tea in Senegal which requires amongst other things, a steady hand, incredible amount of patience and stamina  and pure alchemy.  Tea making is like a conversation in and of itself without any actual words being exchanged. It’s a kinder language, a way of communicating were both parties continue to live. Isn’t that nice? How do you feel. The way the tea tastes tells the drinker how the teamaker feels (personally, politically). The tea maker knows  how the tea drinker feels  (politically, personally) with what’s left in the cup.

And sometimes all this tea drinking is just that: tea drinking.

His cup was half full.

The Thing About Food Is….

It’s riddled with such Political Complexity. Reload.

The thing about food is everyone is thinking or talking about it. I was eating Amagwinya and Achar at work this morning and that opened up a whole conversation about who can and cannot afford to eat five of them early in the morning with Achar to boot.  And later I was at the canteen and one beautifully shaped woman (far from fat ) was buying Mganum’s Death By Chocolate ice-cream, while we were kept waiting for a years for some quick  service, she kept saying loudly to herself ” it’s going to my hips and my  breasts but I don’t care. Death by chocolate!” I wasn’t judging her and I understood her pain. Earlier I also just wanted to  enjoy amgwinya wam’ in peace. However there are a  number of factors one has to consider when purchasing a little something to eat:  Image. Weight. Fashion. Health and Money. (did I tell you that the price of food has increased lately? You guys have no idea! amskopas – the multicoloured pop-corn eaten by mostly black South Africans – costs  R1,50 guys think about it that’s why I ended up buying amgwinya!) .  These are the things we had to consider  for our choice of lunch in her case and breakfast in mine. Women have it hard hey! When I was buying amagwinya in the wee hours of the morning;  there was a guy buying 9 of them , they cost one rand, and  he was not talking about anything going to his hips, why should he, he’s thin anyway. So Imagine if I bought nine!! Eish iHerbex, Ihlasela’mafutha for everyone! So this food business is HUGE and will always be “relevant”. I for one am still working on my relationship with food. I am now breaking up (again) with Chicken, Beef and dairy etc…trying to get some balance. I now feel very hurt at how we treat the animals we eat. And genuinely feel sorry for battery chickens et al. How can we have peace when we inflict so much pain on other beings?  I am really trying very hard not to eat them, really and it’s hard to be non-meat eater in South Africa ( I mean our shared heritage consists of braai-ing – this word should exist in the English Dictionary —  meat, every chance we get!) I found myself having to apologize once out of sheer hunger and ate some chops.  There is a lot of pain in how we treat animals and I  would not like to ingest that into my body. I  have given up on two bad habits I so enjoyed ( cigarrettes and wine) and drink much less coffee and more water (warm).  But hey all of this is a work in progress  – I am still  figuring it all out, you will  hearead about it when I do “get’ it one day. I really don’t want to laugh out loud, it’s so  naive and maybe a little crazy – laughing at a your own thoughts. Anyway let’s see what I thought about food or the lack thereof back in 2010. I weigh 56KG now. Just saying.

Food, food ,food and more food. (sic)

There used to be a time when I only had one thing on my mind, and I guess I don’t have to spell it out for you all. But now something else has taken over, and its food. I guess subconsciously it’s another way of thinking about the same thing in a different way. So I have been thinking about food and my relationship with and to food. Friends have and continue to say a lot about this and I have been largely on the defensive with responses like no really I don’t have an eating disorder. Really I don’t. Not even body dysmorphia, or maybe just a little.

But getting to the point. I have been experimenting with food for as long as I can remember, and like many of my romantic affiliations over the years, have had many break ups with food too. Because at some point I thought what the hell, I don’t need you food, I can live without you, I am an independent woman after all. Oh but I love crispy chicken, and chewing on the bones until they look like dried out tree barks. Eggs, scrambled quickly at midnight, with lots of Chilli. Basic. Really not the stuff Michelin chefs dream of but that makes me happy.

I have an insatiable appetite for chicken that has reached dramatic proportions not appropriate to even write down let alone think about. I have made friends over bucket loads of drumsticks, thighs and breasts, tumbling in the back seat of my car like manna from heaven. And oh I forgot about my most favourite part of the chicken, and there’s no better way to put it – the ass. Juicy and crispy at the same time, tight and kinda melts in your mouth.

Friends – bark at me when I say I used to be vegetarian, mostly vegan. Sometimes I don’t believe it either, but there was a time in my life when all I ate where leaves and carrots and different forms, juiced, cooked, raw. And I was chubby. My friends bark at that too. And also sometimes I don’t believe it.

Yes food is about how I look. Food is what I think I will look like if do or don’t eat . But it’s also about how I feel. It’s also about how I think. It defines my image. My skin, My smell, My Walk, My sleep. How I dress. Even where I shop.

I can’t remember much of what they used to feed us growing up, but now that I have been thinking about food, a few memories have come to mind. I will start with my earliest memory of food (at least what I think is my earliest memory). As with many families, for breakfast my mother used to serve us soft porridge. Mealie Meal, cooked with water and salt until it becomes smooth, thick, soupy texture. We used to have that with sugar and milk and bobs you’re uncle. But on this particular day, my mother decided to experiment, and added more ingredients to our Motepa = as we called it then. She added margarine, peanut butter and milk and sugar. It was like eating a weird sandwich like porridge, and I hated it, couldn’t eat it. And I was very upset because I was hungry. The smell of melting hot peanut butter suffocated me. To this day I can’t eat things with peanut sauce anything.

On weekends we would be sent, to gog’s sban sban house, who will have been up since five or whatever hour in the morning, deep-frying “amagwinya” – flour milk and butter dough. One had to get there early. Cause there would be long queues of children holding all manner of containers waiting for the first fresh batch of amagwinya – Yoh! And the wrath that would befall you if went back home with an empty bowl/or dish or plastic(ki) was unimaginable. After koko mang- mang, had sold us our ration (by ten am she will have run out of ingredients, and patience), we would then proceed to the Spaza shop to purchase the rest of breakfast. Archa, Mangola, and Snoek fish. Oh just the thought of it is enough to make my mouth water. Back home the grannies mothers, aunts, first, second uncles to your great-grandfather on your father’s mother‘s cousin’s side would be ready with mugs (plastic mugs in my case) of tea or coffee ready for breakfast. Happy days – grins as wide as my granny’s waist would be seen all round, tunes and hums wafting up with no melody would suddenly well up from deep inside, heads rolled, twitched from side to side, eyes were closed softly and hard, while the ingredients were grinded to explosive flavours – if I could dance I would – but that for obvious reasons would ruin a perfectly perfect moment. Bliss.

I think there’s are more, like mogodu, chicken innards, fried till almost bacon crisp, the kind of spinach dish no one makes anymore: steamed, then fried with onions, garlic, tomato, salt and pepper to taste. Forgive me but I must say – I HATE CREAM SPINACH – ESPECIALLY WITH PEANUT BUTTER!!!. For some reason the sordid cream spinach recipe transcends, class, race, sex, and culture, language. And all of it tasteless. A waste of spinach. Spinach Murder. Drowned. A sad, sloppy, slimy death.

So years later, after almost cooking and baking herself to death, my mother decided to experiment with healthy eating. (I think she needed a break to be honest) So she started reading this healthy eating book, and experimenting, and eventually changed our lives as we knew them. We started by juicing carrots; carrot juice was a mandatory, daily dietary intake like – itiye neskiwa – (bread and tea), is for many households. My we ate those Carrots, the kitchen was orange, the sink was orange, cups, cutlery, pots and pans, even my dreams were carrot juice orange. I think we all had a kind orange tinge about us, which now that I think about it, must explain why when I first bought curtains for my living room they were all orange – peachy orange like carrots. I hope you understand now Christiane.

They were other juices that we‘d make, but carrot was the main attraction. Then gradually, we eliminated things from our diets, mealie meal, meat, rice, pasta, bread, tap water, eggs, tea, sweets, cakes pretty much everything. That’s how I became vegetarian, for three years. But you see; my mother never used this word vegetarian. It was all very much how the family of GOD should live. So I never went around say I don’t eat meat I’m vegetarian, It was more like, I don’t eat meat, its unhealthy. Vegetarianism was never part of our lexicon. Anyway, one day my father came back from work, with an all too familiar red, black and white container, and as we sat down to eat our meal, he quietly and calmly laid out his golden brown, crispy pieces of chicken, sunk his teeth into the soft flesh like it was natural. We sat in awe watching him eat – an unbelievably glorious moment which obliterated our carefully prepared and laid out meal of coleslaw (more carrots) broccoli, spinach and potatoes. And that was the beginning of the end.

So now I’m experimenting with raw food. And have been thinking about what I’m going to eat, almost every minute. And it’s frustrating. My palate in clean from all the fruits and veggies I’ve been consuming. I now weigh 57 kg from 59 just over a week ago. I feel lighter, am regular, and wake up early in spite of myself. I am now thinking about why I’m doing what I’m doing. Health reasons – (not really, I’ve kept my bad habits, wine, coffee and cigarettes) Ideology? – No I honestly don’t feel sorry for chickens that get slaughtered, battery or otherwise. I try not to think about what cows, goats and pigs go through. Economy? It’s really not that cheap to be raw vegan, 75 grams of gorgy berries (what they now call “superfoods” ) cost s about 80 bucks a pop- raw nuts, and seeds and stuff, are hard to get and the more raw it is , the more expensive it is.

So then why? I’m not quite clear on that yet, but this experimentation, has had me thinking a lot of about the politics of food, and how we’re controlled. I was watching an anti-communist Hollywood movie the other day. There, food also played a central role in the downfall of the main character in some way. Then I was watching the news, and I saw a Haitian Mother feeding her child what looked like spaghetti bolognaise and I felt hungry, almost wished I was that child eating that spaghetti , in a tent made out of sheets. Weird. Because I can have that if I want to, more even, I have a choice about what I eat and don’t eat. But then again I started thinking of how little choice I actually do have. How “THEY” actually decide on the menu: what we eat, when we eat it and how much of it we can have at any given moment. The “THEY” decide in different ways – money – mostly. So then, how will my raw vegan diet change anything – since I have no “obvious” compelling personal or political reasons to do this other than the vain kind – I don’t know? But at least now I can say with more clarity and conviction that it’s not, money or sex or oil as we are so often made to believe that makes the world go round. It’s FOOD. And as Thomas Sankara once said and I’m para-phrasing here, whoever controls you’re bread basket, controls your mind. Who is controlling yours?

CAN YOU SEE ME NOW?

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So many people who consider themselves progressive  have their own weird notions about the native, but they all have one thing in common. They want to decide who the native is and they want to do good things for him. You know what I mean. They want to lead him. To tell him what to do. They want to think for him and he must be accepting of their thoughts. And they like him to depend on them. Your Zuma makes an excellent “good native” for progressive folk. That’s why you like him”  – Frederick Cooper, Conflict and Connection -re thinking Colonial African history  ( Abrahams 1963,68)

I wrote the following piece “Un-begging to be white” in  2011. I continue to think deeply about  many of the issues raised in my piece since and more so now that I find myself re-listening to archive testimonies from the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (1996-1999). Testimonies from which South African writer, poet and journalist Antjie Krog (whom I deeply admire) wrote her most famous non-fiction book Country of My Skull.  The bubbling racial (sic) tensions in South Africa today and around the world make this piece more relevant.  I would like you to keep these words by  Nobel Laureate, Political activist, professor novelist and former Auschwitz prisoner and survivor – Elie Wiesel,  in mind as you read. Prof Wiesel believed strongly that indifference is the  epitome of evil. And offered memory as an antidote to it. Below is his answer to the question on how to fight indifference, he said:

Through memory.  Memory may not be the only answer but there is no answer without memory. As a writer I have always been tempted by silence. I have tried to introduce silence into every word of mine. I have tried to surround my words with silence. And yet I know that  though the memory of silence is important, the silence of memory would be scandal. ( Wiesel 1988,19).

UN-BEGGING TO BE WHITE. (sic) Recently I  had a matter of fact conversation with a dear friend. It was matter of fact because it was what I assumed to be a matter of fact tale of (my) life. The on-line conversation revolved around my progress in securing accommodation. I was looking for a one bedroom flat. My dear friend was assisting me by finding links to places she found thousands of miles away from Johannesburg the city I inhabit.  And here’s the matter of fact part, I found myself typing this: In this situation I wish I were a white, rich woman, because I think it would make the process of finding a place easier. She responded by saying, being a  “white South African is not easy. It’s hard, because you’re always looked at, judged at face-value, assumed to be a bad person (racist)”. I brushed over her comment by saying yeah but there are pros and cons (to being black or white) and in this case I think it would be a pro for me as I would be able to eliminate all other possibilities.  She said she didn’t think it was a racial thing. I agreed with her in part. But instead of telling her this I continued by saying that two of my friends ( white expats) were also looking for accommodation  and while viewing a cottage in Brixton they were told that they were only considered because they were white . The landlord  didn’t want black people living in their backyard.  At that point she said she didn’t want to have a black/ white conversation and promptly logged off.

The conversation left me with an uneasy feeling in my stomach. It left me pained,and I had to really take a long, hard look at myself. I wished  I  could take what I said back because just like my flat hunting experience, I wasn’t sure if the conversation had ended because she really had to go or because I had hurt her feelings and she wasn’t willing to  engage with me anymore. I had said to her that I wish it were simple; either the place I was looking for had already been taken or that I couldn’t afford it.

But I found myself thinking that perhaps there is more. After the conversation I had to question whether as a black South African, race is my default answer to all my problems? If I don’t get what I want – do I always assume that there must be a racial rationale? Why had I thought to even say that, why was that the uppermost thing on my mind?

Even as I write this I am finding it hard to pin down my thoughts, my reasons, my position. Why was  her response to what I thought was part of my normal so disturbing for me?  Did it disturb me because I had never  thought of what being a white South African must be like, feel, like taste like? Is it because I did not have a white South African view to life,  my vision is skewed by my skin colour,  my skin  colours how I look at life, defines how and when I move. I tried to think about her statement: How hard it must be to be a white South African; a descendant/beneficiary of a white racists regime, carrying the guilt of privilege, the burden of wealth on your skin; – despite what your actual personal circumstances may be. The assumption that you are racists, just because you are white.

It does sound hard and harsh. Just as hard and harsh as being black. So where do we find common ground. How can my statement not hurt my friend whom I love dearly who is also a white  South African woman? How can I be sure that race has nothing to do with my difficulty in securing a place to stay, in one of the richest, leafiest suburbs of Johannesburg?

The conversation reminded me of an experience I had in Cape Town a few years ago. I had been in the city  on a work assignment when it was finished I decided to stay on for a few days to experience  more of the city.  I decided that booking into a backpackers would be the most affordable option for me since it was after all a last minute plan. Cape Town’s long street was central, and offered a host of social venues where I could meet new people as I knew no one in the city.  That night accompanied by a friend and colleague I walked down Long street  and  knocked on  every backpacker  – there were many of them.  Most of them were full, others  didn’t answer the door. Eventually we arrived at one where the door did open. They had  room(s) available and I could  afford it.  There was just one problem. I was South African.  They had a policy that explicitly  favored, preferred  foreigners over locals.  I asked why in exasperation and fatigue and the man replied saying something I didn’t quite hear because the I was thinking of where the hell I was going to sleep that night.  Yes, my race was the last thing on my mind.

But on re-telling the story to friends and colleagues they found it a veiled racist’s rejection. They found that whatever reason he had given was hard to justify in a country where racial segregation shaped every part of our lives. Then in 2004, I could not  sleep at a backpackers  which  had  a room I could afford because I was South African. But Cape Town is another country – or is it? Do other countries reserve accommodation only for foreigners too? Where locals are not allowed? Maybe. But I have come to define that incident as being a racist one  even thought I didn’t think of it those terms initially. And wonder to this day,  if the story would be different had I been a  white female. Of course I have no way of knowing this for sure.

Did that experience raise my antennas? To  label anything I could not understand as being racist?  Am I a walking talking racist person?  How can I have a colour-blind outlook to life? What does being colour blind mean, where do I draw the line… when is it acceptable to take issue? When is it not? Is my assumption that life must be easier for South African (rich) white women or white people in general true? Is  it fair?

When thinking about this, Antjie Krog’s book, Begging to be  Black – comes to mind. Perhaps I may be subconsciously begging to be white also, as she is begging to be black. To be under a white woman’s skin, to  think as  a white person does, to feel & smell as a  white person.  Maybe I have white person envy.  My black friends often remind me, tell me, state it as a matter of fact  whenever they can, that I LOVE white people. They say it as if it were a crime, something bad, that I should be ashamed of. I cannot count how many times I’ve had to count how many black friends I have to justify the number of white people I hang out with. It is an interesting subject. I think it  really would be  more interesting for me to  say that I am begging to be white.  I would be the embodiment of the the oppressed, who Frantzs Fanon described thus : “Having judged, condemned and ignored their cultural forms, his language, his food habits, his sexual habits, his way of sitting down, of resting, of laughing , of enjoying himself the oppressed flings himself upon the imposed culture with the desperation of a drowning man”  Frantz Fanon.

That would be a logical  and easy assumption to make. An automatic logical expression of my oppression would be to hate  myself, my heritage, my identity, my background.  denying the past.  I would be and probably am  no different to  those  people who bleach their skin in order to have a fairer complexion, who loved their masters more than themselves,  who devised ways to straighten their hair, so that it’s lighter, softer and gentler to the touch. Those among us who dated and married white men so they could have nice brown and light-skinned children who would by extension have a better or easier hand at life. In this world which favours lightness – the closer one is to the Aryan race the better.   But I have never until that point given much thought to what being white must be like, except for the fact that I think the experience whatever it may be, must be generally easier than being a black woman.  I guess I never had time to think about how hard it must be to be white  – because I was busy trying to survive. Live.

Or perhaps my begging to be white could be an equally condescending and patronizing exercise as found in Krog’s  analysis of black culture  or ethos …” how they think”, her musings in orderly, efficient  Europe about the missed  benefits of Ubuntu. I could wonder how Europeans rationalize and justify their ideas  of “civilization” and if they are proud of the civilization (s) they have achieved so far in Africa and in Europe. The African continent should be by now a bright shining example of white innovation, intelligence, supremacy. After years of practice in Europe their systems, machinery,isms, education,  industrialization etc should have been easier and faster to implement here. How then has their efficiency, precision, logic, analytical mind (s) , all the “good” and genius that has  always been their birth right benefited anyone?

I am not begging to be white or black for that matter.  What I am doing is begging to understand why it is that I should (must) understand, how hard it must be to white – when the very  white people have not tried to understand what it must be like to be black – and their only reflection on the matter is only in response to their own guilty feelings about what black people must think and  feel about them? Why is it that I must be asked to constantly  measure, balance my experience, be polite, nice, not hurt any one’s feelings, to hear all sides before I can say something which is  my experience – not a feeling, but a fact. When it might reflect badly, upset, offend a white person?  Why must I understand that all black people are lazy, that we have never invented anything, that we are thieves, corrupt, diseased, as a matter of fact and  that the only way I can succeed is with some assistance or sponsorship, the AID of white people, why is it that I should be asked to understand that I am who I am, know what I know, live the way I do, speak the way I do, am because of my colonial saviours, because if they hadn’t  saved me  – I probably would be living in a rural mud-hut dressed in nothing but cow skin and breeding millions of children for  an old abusive patriarch if not dead?

Why must I understand that most things about my life have nothing to do with race actually, when they don’t understand that everything about their life is about race, because of race? On a more personal level, why is it that I cannot speak about my experience without being a racists ungrateful and disrespectful person. Why can’t we have a conversation?

I would love to live in a world, where I didn’t have to sell my DNA/My soul/My dignity in order to have a roof over my head. I would love to live in a world where my house is your house; my land is your land, where community is community. But I don’t and that is largely because Europeans, thought it  backward, uncivilized, uncultured, primitive and un-educated  to share. So they took that away centuries ago, made sure that any semblance of equity  was thoroughly destroyed. So yes, for me right now, in this country it is a matter of fact that it would be easier for me to find a place had I been white and rich. I look forward to the day when this would not be a matter of fact. 

” Historians of economic thought should be heedful therefore, not only of what gets said, but what is left unsaid.  And what in a sense cannot be said in arguments and articles meant to be heard and paid attention to. By considering the relationship between power, interests, and rhetoric among the elite producers of economic knowledge. Historians of economic thought may be able to further illuminate the nature and history of story-telling in economics. But in connecting these accounts historians of economic thought (must) should recognize that they themselves are storytellers, building partial accounts of the partial accounts written by economists. To the extent that the storytellers of economics however have been selected and socialized  to believe in and to have a stake in stories of individual objectivity and the free market place of ideas, these storytellers will continue  to present themselves as authoritative agents of truth. And as long as the rhetoric of the discipline in enforced thought and intellectual hierarchy resistant to transformative challenges, the telling of dissonant stories remains  fraught with professional peril.Diana Strassmann; The stories of Economics and the power of the storyteller (1993)

A bone to Chew

Disclaimer: This  is something I wrote for Facebook, at 2am in the middle of the night on Tuesday the 26th of April a year ago. A lot has happened since then.  For example: I am no longer chewing Chicken Bones ( We sort broke up a few weeks ago, it’s complicated you know) anyway I have  decided to write something each time thoughts of winged thighs and asses come to mind. Break-ups are hard guys I’m learning to accept and move on very quickly and yet it  still was…..

A Good Bone to Chew.

Posted April 2011:Johannesburg, South Africa: I was quite shocked the other day to discover what my friends find most interesting about me. As in if someone where to stop them and ask what  I like best in life, they’d say… wait for it… that I love chicken, but no wait and this is the best part, they’d say that what I love most of all is chewing chicken bones!!! They didn’t understand why I found this a shocking revelation, but I hope you can commiserate with me.  Imagine I become well known (for something other than chewing bones), and my friends are interviewed in one of those documentaries that fold peoples’ lives in neat easy to digestable packages – they would say my most favourite thing is to chew on chicken bones! And this I might add, not as a quirky aspect of my personality, but as a “thing” like a  hobby, a passion, something I would move mountains to do whether I was paid for it or not ala Carry Bradshaw’s obsession with shoes in Sex and the City!

They found it  funny too when I said, I doubt there are chicken eating fan clubs where people collect bones, like wine…. a 1968 collectable thigh bone I’d been waiting to chew  to celebrate a  very special occasion. Maybe I should start one.

Anyway, the chicken bone thing is so general, so ubiquitous of South Africans, and apparently Africans in general. Most people I know eat chicken and love it – breast thigh, fried, grilled, etc. I’m yet to go to a party,  dinner or braai or eating get together where chicken is not on the menu or spoken of.

Read this: The chicken industry in South Africa is worth 23billion rands ( 3bilion USD). And in 2009  each South African consumed 30.8kg of chicken compared to  3.7kg of mutton, 4.1kg of pork and 16.7kg of beef in 2009. These figures speak volumes for me. I must eat at least 100kg of chicken/bones a year!  My friends are not wrong. I do love chewing chicken bones when they are available to chew.

But I’ve always thought it a general thing. Where I grew up  everyone chewed bones, how can that be the most memorable feature of who I am?  Anyway – I don’t want to go down in living memory as the girl who chewed chicken bones with passion! I’d at least like to add other things that seem most substantial…. and so I will begin a journey to chew my bones in private, and give my friends another bone to chew on – this time hopefully not chicken!

Do you know what your chicken bone is?