Take a trip to Nairobi, Kenya and you will find a country at war with itself where political contest continues to be a zero-sum game. Next to them in Kampala Uganda even the right to protest is under threat so, citizens and politicians wear red headbands instead.Or you can go across to Togo over Benin in the west and find multitudes of people protesting 50 years of autocratic rule or fly a take a short flight to Nigeria to find a country divided with a people still seeking cessation – Biafra calls. Next door to them in Cameroon hundreds have died in protest against a controlling government. If you like, drift placidly down to Zimbabwe where citizens have resigned themselves to their fate – President Robert Mugabe for life. Or glance up to South Sudan where millions cross the border daily seeking refuge from a hailstorm of bullets flooding their homes. Let your eyes settle for a moment in the Democratic Republic of Congo which has been in the grip of a low-level civil war since King Leopold the second of Belgium declared it his personal property. The landscape is littered with people who are in pain displaced in their own countries because even though the lights are on – there is no one home. There’s no one to listen. There is no compassion or empathy. No sense of duty except, the duty to explicitly self-enrich at the expense of all others. Greed is killing people.

Everything seems set in stone until…

Someone comes along who does something remarkable. His name. Jose Pepe Mujica. Ironically described by the media as the poorest president in the world. In an interview with Al-Jazeera’s’ Lucia Newman in 2013, the 82-year-old former president who served  Uruguay between from 2010 and 2015 …. sips bitter tea, in a small living room barely large enough to fit a TV crew and decorated with shelves full of books which he shares with his wife and a three-legged dog. He speaks like somebody we know

“No. I’m not a poor president,” he said. “Poor are those who describe me as poor. My definition of poor is those who need too much because those who need too much are never satisfied. I am frugal, not poor”

Which means he’s economical about how he spends his money, giving  90 percent of his salary back into public service.

“Frugal with a light suitcase. I live with little, just what’s necessary. Not too tied down to material things. Why? so that I can have free time. For what? to do what I like.Freedom is having time to live. Living Frugally is a philosophy of life but I’m not poor. I have a way of life that doesn’t change because I’m president.

I earn more than I need even if it’s not enough for others. My wife is a senator and she has to contribute a lot to her party. But her salary is enough for us to live. And we still have a bit left over which we put in the bank just in case. I contribute to my political group and projects like housing for unmarried mothers. For me, it’s not a sacrifice it’s a duty.”

He explains

“I don’t oppose consumption. I am against waste.  We have to produce food for the hungry, roofs for those who need a home. Build schools for those who don’t have schools. We have to solve the water problem now. If every powerful person has three, four, five cars and needs 400sq meters to live and a house on the beach and an aeroplane to get here and there… then there isn’t enough for everyone. What does modern science tell us? It tells us indisputable facts. If the current world population aspired to consume like the average American. We would need three planet earth(s). Which means that if we continue tossing out things. Naturally, a great part of humanity will never have anything. They are doomed.”

Mujica only has one car, a 1980s beetle golf. When asked why he hasn’t tried to change the status quo or how his fellow countrymen live,  he doesn’t beat about the bush.

“Because if I tried to impose my way of living on the rest they’d kill me. They’d kill me I know it. But allow me the freedom to express myself. Because we complain about global warming while we assault nature by producing so much waste. We are mortgaging the future of the next generations. I can’t fix this as a government, I am a prisoner of this myself. What I’m pointing out is where we are heading. True there is extraordinary waste here. There are houses only used 20 days a year in Punta del Est. Luxurious houses while other’s don’t even have a shack to sleep at night. It’s crazy unjust. I oppose that world, but I am a prisoner of that world.”

The former Marxist guerrilla fighter is against re-election. For him, a president in a republic is a high-level official who is elected to carry out a function. He is neither a King nor a God. He is especially not – a witch doctor of a tribe who knows everything. He is a civil servant and as such he must leave and be replaced. Mujica believes the ideal way for a president to live is like the vast majority of the people whom he is attempting to serve and represent.

“My goal is to achieve a little less injustice in Uruguay to help the most vulnerable and leave behind a political way of thinking a way of looking at a future that will be passed on and used to move forward. There’s nothing short-term, no victory around the corner. I will not achieve paradise or anything like that. What I want is to fight a common good for progress. Life slips by, the way to continue it is for others to continue your work.”


Once in a while, something so surprisingly beautiful happens.Just when you think you are going to fall into an endless tunnel of nothingness suspended in space and time, you blink and there it is. A, way.

The question is, will you choose it?




This is Me:

Between my Aunt Masi’s legs. I have been nagging her all week, all day and all night to “please, please plait my hair” . She finally is now.  There’s something comforting about being trapped between her ample thighs and the sound her thin silver bangles make as she twists and turns my hair into submission with wool. I try to focus on that and on the conversation, her frequent hearty belly laughter which she seems to draw from the very core of her stomach. I enjoy the sound of her voice and the easy conversation which floats fluidly through her finger tips, I enjoy the punctuation marks she makes as she chews her gum.  I can feel her breathing and in between twists I hear the inner movements of her belly. The sweet smell of her sweat hovers over my nose. The warm rays of  sunshine pierce into each and every pore on my skin and hers. I feel hot. clammy, dizzy. I am tired of sitting in this position. My buttocks are growing cold, numb and my shoulders involuntarily  reach up to my ears in an effort to shield them from a wave of terror.  Everything is beginning to sound loud like blaring disco music, a collection of sounds gather around my ear lobes like buzzing bees to honey as she chats, laughs, and inflates her chewing gum with hot air , snapping the bubbles flat with her short razor-sharp teeth. I want it all to stop. I am regretting my decision now. I forget how sensitive my scalp is, and how roughly she  seems to de-tangle my steel wool like hair. This is as close to a nightmare  one  can get in broad day light. She calls my hair “skirrrpot” a colloquial reference to the iron scrubs used to scour burnt food from pots. That is how tough my hair can be. I can feel the pull of each strand of hair as she separates it into parts and it feels as if she’s drawing blood from a  rock hard skull, my neck sinks into my chest with each touch. This is a conundrum. I can’t even look at myself in the mirror – I don’t know how I will look, I don’t know how far she is. I am about to pee on myself. Now I truly wish I never asked. Why did I even think this would be a good idea for Masibeso to do my hair, I know how she is: tough, no toilet breaks, no going to look at the mirror. You have to sit down until she’s done with you. Then you have to cover your head until the next day. Oh my god, this is never going to end I tell myself swallowing hard to suppress an urgent pressing need to just stand up and run and never look back.  “Are you finished?” I ask sheepishly wincing from the pain and bracing myself for a sharp retort made louder by my tight grip on her legs. “Haaiman poppy man, how will I finish when you keep running away? sit tight and don’t move” She says trapping me even deeper into her triangle  with her heavy long legs“ Relax your shoulders and bend your head”. I try to imagine what my head looks like from her vantage point. “But it’s painful” I manage to say in a whimper. It’s a routine we are both familiar with  by now. I know my aunt dislikes plaiting my hair because I am afraid of a hair comb and I cry at the mere suggestion of possible physical pain. Plaiting my hair is not a walk in the park. But if I see someone’s hair done I am relentless in my pestering. “Bona! ” She finally shouts at me “It’s the last time I do your hair, how many times have you been pestering me… o batlang mara Hhe?”  She would say. I will start to cry. Because  it hurts and I know I will want her to do my hair again despite the pain and  the gnawing fear hat I had finally ruined any future possibility that she would do my hair again. She’s the best and the only one who can do hair in the family, in fact there’s a long waiting list.   But I just don’t know how to stomach the pain.  “Don’t worry, we’ll be finished just now” she says,  her voice softening, her way of silencing my now loud cries. We both know how the story ends: I will be the happiest child in the world after my hair is done.  Perhaps I will walk like I am stepping on sleeping snakes for a day or two but after that, the war waged with me between her thighs is always worth it. She too will be rewarded. I see the proud twinkle in her eye when she looks at me and says  “See how beautiful you are, cecece! “.  I think of my aunt now that I myself have grown up to be an aunt to an increasing list of nieces and nephews some of whom I am yet to meet. I may not be the best hair braider in the family but I  do work with words. So it gives me great pleasure to introduce my niece, Buhle Zulu, who is our guest blogger in the second installment of a series of hair stories.  This is her short  hair piece:

 HAIR IS HAIR by Buhle  ZuLu

Historically hair  represents different things for women across the African continent. For Ethiopians hair was worn as a crowning glory in elaborate, elegant styles when a woman was about to marry, much like the ubiquitous tiara. Ethiopian Traditional Wedding HairKenyans traditionally wore their hair in protective styles using oils and clay to style it. maasai4 Pride was the common denominator in all these hairdressing traditions; hair represented a source of pride for  women.  Morden Kenyan Masai Hair Style

 I used to like the fact that hair represents pride and is defined by some as a woman’s crown.  But after I learnt that the above was a social construct as well as a western influence my opinion changed. Hair became a political issue for me when long flowing hair and light skin became the standards by which a woman’s beauty was measured.  Relaxers and lye were introduced to deter women of colour from appreciating their natural hair textures and features.
As a child who used to get my hair  relaxed all the time, I have come to find that what ever  I do to my hair, the truth of who I am grows back underneath all the relaxed hair without fail. So I started  to accept my hair as it is. I have found that natural oils; mixing mayonnaise with eggs and using less heat has been the best way  of taking care of my hair.
The biggest challenge with maintaining natural hair has been a lack of knowledge and information. So I got a little help from the world-wide web or the internet as there was little information on ways to take care of it or  to determine which hairstyles would best suit my hair texture.  During this process I also discovered that it is possible for one person to have two or more different hair textures  :(.
The notion that black hair is hard to manage  is  subjective and  it  does not mean that women who prefer weaves to natural hair are less African. I do however applaud those who have taken the time to acquire in-depth knowledge about the healthiest way to take care of natural hair. Maintaining natural hair is relatively cheap or affordable and can cost me up to a 150 ZAR.  The greatest triumph in my natural hair journey was watching my  hair grow towards the sky as if it was trying to be close to God. The healthier it was, the more it glowed. I keep my hair mostly natural and I also enjoy wearing it in braids.
 Buhle Zulu is reading law at the University of Cape Town, she’s also a  performing Artist and vlogger. You can follow her many hairstyles on her Facebook Profile.


I have been thinking about Kenya as I am sure  have you, even though it may have been for just one fleeting moment. Indeed being a journalist the first thought that crossed by mind ( in fact always crosses my mind  when any story breaks ) when I saw the breaking story on the BBC world news headlines early Thursday morning was to rush to the airport  board the next plane to Kenya and start filing stories immediately. Since it was not possible to hop into a plane at that very moment, I started to think deeply about Kenya. I entered a place of meditation. I began to search my soul for the answers. I began to page through my memory book in the hope that I could find some piece of evidence, missing link, a clue, some piece of new or undiscovered information that could make this all fit logically into an equation we could all calculate and arrive  at the same answer. During my internal investigation I was hoping to find a piece of luminosity in this large stew of blood, tears, grief and tragedy. My thoughts first went to the obvious. The Easter weekend; celebrated by both Orthodox Jews and Christians. The Jews call it Passover and it  is a commemoration of a biblical event  when God freed the Jews from their life of slavery in Egypt. He inflicted 10 plagues on Egypt the last one being the slaughter of all of Egypt’s’ first born children. Before doing that the lord instructed  the Israelites/Jews to mark their homes with the blood of a spring lamb so that the Spirit of the lords  would pass over their homes.  Christians also mark the death of Jesus Christ on the cross and his subsequent resurrections during Easter.  While these Judeo-christian holiday celebrations may explain the timing of the attacks,  these parallels however are counter-productive and do not contribute meaningfully to the political stand-off. Religious references in this case will only serve to en-flame an already volatile situation. So I had to look somewhere else. I began yet again to  ask  myself how I  could write differently about a story which is being covered from every possible angle by all the major news networks around the world? What new information could I reveal about the situation in Kenya from my laptop in South Africa? What do I know about Kenyan politics, history and the events and contexts which have brought this and many other terrorists attacks  to the country since the 1998 US Embassy bombings in Nairobi and  Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The reasons for the 1998 attacks and those on the 2nd of April are not very different even though the organizations orchestrating them are. All of the terrorist attacks have been motivated by revenge and are connected by four countries; The United States, Somalia, Sudan and Kenya.  The latter paying the price for it’s  role as a broker and  go-between. But everyone knows about east-African regional politics and the global Jihadist movement. What more can I offer to the general conversation. The more I stayed with the question, the more I delved deeper into my own personal archives in search of something more interesting and relevant, a piece of new information. While in the midst of my thoughts a startling fact revealed itself to me.  At first I could not believe it you see, because the truth is often so unbelievably simple, you often continue to search for the answer even after it has been laid bare  for you. The more I tried to search for what I consider to be an intelligent, erudite and lucid analysis of current events in Kenya, the more it became apparent to me that the story I needed to tell about Kenya was not a political one.   The story I am meant to write has nothing to do with terrorism, death, Al-Qaeda or Al-Shabaab.

The first time I traveled to Kenya was in 2002. It was my maiden trip to a foreign country and my first flight ever. I was glad to be travelling in company with a friend and colleague MG, who made the experience so much more enjoyable.  I was young, fresh and eager to absorb the newness of a new country and city.  We had been invited by the United Nations Development Agency (UNDP) for a  reporting workshop.  But all  I  and our my colleagues wanted was to break out of the conference walls and experience the city and its people who were infinitely more interesting than the workshop.  We did eventually find our way to the market place where MG was forced to literally hold my hand through the human traffic lest I be swept away by  waves of people moving like the sea in all directions.  My head was spinning just as fast. I found everything  interesting, my curiosity was inflamed by the sights,  sounds and smells of the city. It was a new form of  intoxication one that I had never experienced before but I knew for sure I could never get enough of.  It was a drunken rush of  new experiences to my head. I wanted take it all in. Asante Sana. Jambo. Saying Hello and Thank you had never been so exhilarating. I looked forward to any and every opportunity of saying Asante, sana.    I was inspired by the infinite possibilities of learning a new language. I wanted to stay.

It was such a heady experience all I managed to do in lieu of work while there was to take a sound recording of the city in the hope that one day the sounds could take shape and become words which I could one day use to return to that place over and over again.  It was a silent interaction,  where I did the listening.  I never once wrote a story. This is a first.

I fell in love with the African continent in Kenya. I fell in love with life.

My second trip to Kenya was to visit a friend and colleague and pursue what I thought was a promising romantic prospect.   I was not prepared for the loving warm reception I would receive from my friends’s friends.  We danced like crazy, ate and laughed the weekend away. I was cloaked in-love from head to toe. All my frantic search for something new, for new facts and information have led me back to where I started in the first place.

My quest to write something led me to the very same conclusion that I reached the first time I arrived in Kenya. Words were not necessary.

The one thing I know about Kenya is that love lives there.  It is a voice that doesn’t use words. Listen. 1917248_720063085777_2353745_n


The human race and their costumes
The human race and their costumes

Recently my Facebook homepage has been populated with a litany of race commentary from all walks of life. It doesn’t matter what the topic was about. I found that the issue of race keeps coming up over and over again in politics, sports, fashion, education, you name it. First it was a white girl who painted her face black with a permanent marker to poke fun at black people. The commentary there was: the joke is on her  because she will remain black like that forever, which of course in not true. Then yesterday an admission by a Kenyan Socialite that she has deliberately lightened her skin to make money because her body is a business drew much attention from local and international networks. Comments on that story were highly judgmental against “black “women’s general lack of self-worth and self-esteem.

So what is it about race that matters so much? What is it about the colour of one skin that makes it so important above everything else we share as human beings on this earth that we have to kill each other for it?
Why is race important today in the 21st century when we have more than enough scientific proof that there really is absolutely no biological difference between races except of course the colour of their skin. Maybe the shape of your nose and mouth or eyes… but isn’t that different anyway regardless? Why are people judged often solely on how they look?
I met a man the other day who said he often borrows from nature to answer life’s big questions. So I will learn from him and use “nature” to try to explain why I think race matters today more than ever but of course not for the same reasons we have been conditioned to think it does.


To use nature to explain the challenge of race I will not go on a wild African safari. Instead I’ll start at home. Using  an example of an animal said to be the  human’s best friend. The Dog.

Yes I am comparing humans to dogs.

In the world of dogs: there are different types of dogs, different colours, personalities, characters  and  strengths. But they are all dogs though, and the only thing that helps us tell them apart – is their shape/size and colour/character. If dogs were only short and black and didn’t come in any other variety, I’m sure humans would run  experiment testing what would happen if  mixed a dog’s genes with those of cats for example. But ultimately, if that were the case we would not be able to tell the difference between one short black dog to another. To tell the difference we’d have to spend time with each dog  in order to discover its unique peculiarities which sets its apart from the packs in order to  know the difference.

So there you go. Humans are like dogs. We’re the same. And since we are so much alike in every way imaginable, race becomes important. If we were all black and looked exactly like me – exact copies of who I am, Jedi Ramalapa with my history and everything that I am now there would be no US, but only ME or as the Rastafarians like to say, there would only be I and I.  I will be the only person I know because there would be no one else who is different from me. There would be no “other”one who would be me, I would be you. So I need there to be white people, Chinese, Indian people, black people, short people, tall people, all colours because that’s the only way that I will ever know that I exist as a human being . I know I am human because you are human, but I know I’m me because you are not me even though you are, like me, human.
This is where I think where the notion of I am because you are –” umuntu ungumuntu ngabantu “– I am human because you are human comes from. I know I am me because you are not me. If you were I wouldn’t be who I am. I will not be able to tell myself apart from any other human person because we would all be exactly  the same. Imagine if we all had the same thought, at the same time, felt the same, had the exact same families, backgrounds, histories, and training, skin colouring, feelings at the same time what would make you different from me? Nothing. If you were me, the whole world would be sitting at Lucky Bean in Melville, Johannesburg writing this blog post. But there would be no one singing, cooking or making food because the whole world would think like me, feel like me want the exact same thing as I want right now. Nothing else would be happening.
You wouldn’t exist as an individual, because I am exactly the same as you so we are  ultimately,  one.


So race matters only in so far as like the clothes we wear helps us to tell each other apart even though we are all part of the same thing or source. That’s the only thing. There are of course many other things which make people different. Where you grew up,  your  environment and what you were taught. Depending on where you come from and how you were educated about yourself, that  differentiates you from the next person. The differences between humans though are beyond skin. Take for example my siblings and I. We were all raised by the same parents, lived for the most part under one roof.  But we are all distinctly different from each other and we all want to do different things with our lives. My brother has chosen a different life for himself where he feels needed and wanted as an entrepreneur, my younger sister is married with children, my oldest sister has not lived anywhere else but at home with my parents since I’ve known her, I have traveled the world and still have itchy feet to this day. We all love music, we appreciate dance, education and the value of hard work but we appreciate those things in our own unique way. So even though we share the “same” DNA we are all different, even if we may share similar features, even though our skin colour is the same and from the same person. We are as diverse as the vegetation in nature.


So I am Jedi Ramalapa, only because there is a Peace, Victoria, Didi and Immie in my life. I am who I am because no one else is like me, even though we share the same genes. I “wear” my genes differently and how I “wear” my genes changes also with time and the environment. But Victoria the “quiet” one in my family has strengths and skills I don’t possess, she knows things I don’t know, understands and interprets the same facts we both know differently. Her perspective is different from mine. Same with Didi, Immie and Peace. We have the same reference point but not the same perspectives, understanding or way of doing things. And that’s what makes us individuals. The me I am, only make sense in the difference that makes you who you are. I need an Immie,  a victoria, a Didi, a Peace in my life, because they in their difference complete me. They compensate for my shortfalls or should I say make my strengths more visible or are strong where I am weak and vise versa. We all have a role to play in life and our roles are as unique and different as life itself. I need another to be me, you need me to be myself not a copy of anyone else to be you. That is why we’re all, regardless of our colouring, irreplaceable.

Perhaps this is only a notion parents with more than one child can understand, but I’m definitely sure that if I can understand this so can you, child or no child.

So in all the debates about race, the issue is not race necessarily, but the desire to control and have power over another human being or a particular group of people that we decide at some point or other is inferior. They are not intrinsically inferior they just have different strengths and weaknesses to us. In order to control anyone or anything, you must insist on their weaknesses, highlight the points at which they are wrong, more than the points where they are strong and ‘right’.

Needless to say there is no wrong or right necessarily, what exists are the norms which we decide as a community should be deemed right or wrong in order to further perpetuate the notions of superiority, power and ultimately control.

In the cycle of life we are all equal, yet different. What makes nature so magnificent is the one thing we refuse to acknowledge in our human relationships. Difference makes  harmony possible.  There is no harmony without difference.

So yes you matter,  your race or whatever colouring you are matters. But not anymore or less than the next person who appears different from you. They make you who you are. Without them. You can’t be. You.

So instead of focusing on the superficial race arguments, lets talk about how to change the systems that make discrimination based on skin or anything else possible. Why should we fight about the very thing that makes us stronger as a human race. Why should someones skin be the basis on which you decide how to  treat them, when you yourself need and want the very same things as the other person? Food shelter, love, community, understanding, freedom. Why should someone else die for your comfort? Why can’t we use our strengths as individuals, races  and or communities to build a better world. We all need each other. No one is wholly and entirely self-sufficient. Not even the people we label crazy. I cannot exists without you, is the bottom line, and neither can you. Even if we all looked exactly the same,  we’d still be different or find  reasons to discriminate against each other based on other differences such as country or continent, age , gender, sexuality. Race would not matter then.

So why should it now?

What you choose to do with your body or skin, is ultimately up to you and no one else.


Model: Jedi Ramalapa Location: Fox Street Jozi Maboneng. Picture: Bheki
Model: Jedi Ramalapa
Location: Fox Street Jozi Maboneng.
Picture: Bheki Dube

04 October 2013.  Heita!Happy Friday Everyone! Wow it’s a beautiful summers’ day in Johannesburg Maboneng and I have been out and about. Today I think we all deserve some lightness of being. So with the generous help of  Johannesburg’s young and inspiring photographer/entrepreneur Bheki Dube: my brother from another mother,  I decided to have a mini–fashion shoot to answer some of your pressing questions: Where do I get my clothes?

Okay you might think I’m fashion obsessed if you see me walking down the street but I have come a very long, long way to “defining” my sense of style (ask those who knew me in college, I used to wear my father’s blue overalls to lectures, much to his chagrin). Basically, I am influenced by many people, places, spaces, but most importantly how I feel. I don’t really enjoy elaborate shopping sprees nor do I have the time for them but I will definitely buy what I like when I see it and if the pocket allows.  So my shopping is often sporadic, as in any day can be a shopping day. Most of the time though I don’t set out to go clothes shopping – clothes come to me.

So today, and it’s high time I do. I want to celebrate and thank some of the city’s wonderfully talented people and amazing friends who have contributed to my sense of “style” over the years;  especially those who have  “Dressed” me today.

The HAT: By the General.  This is a recent acquisition, a generous donation from one of Johannesburg city’s finest minds Sibusiso Nxumalo.  My home-boy (Sowetan). To say he is passionate about music would be an understatement would be an understatement. He can out-play -out-rap many of the city’s DJ’s when the spirit takes him, which is almost all the time. He can be found playing his African mixes at the Lucky Bean restaurant in Melville Johannesburg. He is a talented writer, analyst, and voracious consumer of arts and culture, media and entertainment. He has commissioned a number of thought-provoking programs for SABC1 – a hip African centric channel with a focus on South African youth Culture. He is featured in the documentary on South African Struggle music Amandla! with his other twin brother  Bra S’fiso Ntuli, with whom he ran the much-loved and sorely missed  Cultural (Dance) Venue and political institution a home to many:  ” The House of Nsako” – Nuff Said Kollective, in Brixton Johannesburg. He has been my protector in so many ways that I cannot describe in this here post.  A brother, a gift, an angel and shining light in many of my darkest days. He feeds me and anyone who walks into his lovely home.  He can fix just about anything well almost anything  You can identify him by the sound of his voice, no-one else has it, and high laugh and his dance. But I won’t rob you of the opportunity to get to know him, he is amazing! Dankie! Siyabonga. PRICE: More than money can buy!

Visit him @ the Lucky Bean on Fridays/Sundays or sit just down for great food, atmosphere and people.

Location: No 16 7th Street  Melville

Contact:  011 482 4472

SUNGLASSES:  by Street Trader. This quite frankly was a shocking bargain, I stumbled on this guy shouting –  10rand, 10rand, and I asked just to be sure, he said “ yebo Sisi, sunglasses for 10 bucks, Kuse Jozi lapha” PRICE: R10.00. Love this city! Dankie! Siyabonga!

Location: Jeppe Street Johannesburg.

Contact: Walk the pavements.

THE SCARF:  By Mahlatse Gallens.  This is a VERY special scarf bought for me by my friend MG after a visit to Paris France; knowing my love for scarves and the many things French, she chose this special piece for me.  She said, “you need more colour in your wardrobe” when she gave it to me.

This is my favourite scarf of all time.  It has opened so many doors and it has travelled with me from SA to Senegal where someone offered to give me an Aldo scarf in exchange – I said no. This one is mine. It works for summer and winter – perfect for any season. Each time I wear it I feel closer and more in awe of the power of love and friendship.  Mahlatse Gallens is  well-known to our TV Screens and on our radio dials, her voice is distinctly hers. She is an accomplished  South African senior political journalist who has travelled the world reporting on Health, Natural Disasters, Politics and more. She has lived in Nairobi Kenya and Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo as a Foreign correspondent for the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).   She is a well-connected journalist with a wide network of contacts throughout out the continent. Politics is her Passion. Watching the Fixer (Scandal) is her chosen form of relaxation. She has paved the way for me in my own career in more ways than I can mention. She’s beautiful, loving and caring as a friend. She is passionate about politics, about the continent and its people.  Her latest assignment was in Zimbabwe during the country’s  recent national elections, for which she delivered in-depth reporting which for me was more compelling than what the traditional western media broadcasters were delivering under less than ideal conditions. She inspires me. PRICE:  More than money can Buy.

Location:  SABC.

Contact: Your TV/Radio

GREEN HEART NECKLACE By Jenna Desfontein.  This was an amazing gift from a sister whose unconditional love continues to floor me. It has made out of the prized Original Nguni Cowhide, and dyed green.  She presented the gift to me before my journey to Senegal, so that I remember who I am always. This beautiful soul hails from Durban KwaZulu Natal, a gifted singer whose voice continues to melt my heart. She is also a formidable storyteller and a natural caregiver. She recently released her solo Album  UnEarthed – which is just beautiful. She is also lead singer a Johannesburg based gospel group with whom she recently performed on SABC1’s  gospel music program, Gospel Gold. A talented musician who plays her chords with the strings of her soul,  a  lover of children, surfing and a creator of beautiful moments (events) full of love for everyone she meets. Love you, my sister. The Price: More than money can buy! Dankie.Siyabonga. KAKHULU!

Here’s a link to her album check it out:


GREY TANK TOP: By Real South African designs from Pick’n Pay Clothing department. I love grey, it’s awesome. Tank tops show off my skinny arms. I often wear sleaveless tops when I go to meet people at restuarants. I get real sympathy when people see them, and they often offer me food for free.. “poor thing –she must be hungry”  so sweet.   Price: R30 bucks.

Location: Most Pick ‘n Pays

Contact:  In almost all malls.

GREY PANTS: By EllA  Buter from  Superella.  A very quirky Afrikaans Woman. She’s lovely. Now these must count as the most “enviable” trousers I have ever owned. I am asked about them each time I wear them by both men and women and there have been many attempts to separate us. These pants were originally a dress, but Ella who pays attention to her customers was willing to modify them to fit my style making. They are still the most  fashionable item of clothing I own 4 years later. I have bought a number of items from Ella’s shop in Melville, but this is the  only piece I have managed to hold on to, the rest I have given way.  I have travelled to Senegal with these pants which have attracted admiration of the city of Dakar’s Bifal (Rastafarians) who ably looked after me in the most trying times, particularly during my pilgrimage to the MAGAL of TOUBA in 2012. I love these pants because I can dress them up or down, they are comfortable and provide ample room for free movement.  PRICE: R800. Dankie. Siyabonga.

Location:  Cnr Rustenburg Road
8th & 9th Street

Contact: best to walk in.

THE BAG: by Urban ZULU. I love these guys; it’s always such a pleasure walking into their shop. I always find something I love even though I cannot always afford it.  They have personalized sales people who pay attention to you and your needs until you are satisfied with a garment. They can be found near the Carlton Center in Johannesburg’s CBD. On my last visit they bought me coffee – as a thank you gift for making their day! How awesome is that? They always make one feel special and I love the brand because I am an Urban Zulu myself.  PRICE: R45.

Location:  Cnr Fox&Kruis Opp Carlton Centre

Contact: 011 354 2139

Ghetto:  076 482 7789

Nthabi: 084 321 0221

email: info@urbanzulu.o.za

THE BELT: by Newtown Market. Now Newtown is well-known to many for its theater and jazz culture: Standard Bank Joy of Jazz festivals, Johannesburg Fashion Week, are just some of the annual events that bring life to this part of town. The African Museum and the Market Theater are mainstays which offer a delicious dish of the countries’ best actors, directors and creative Minds. It’s also the city’s dance hub, home to a number of dance companies, The Dance Factory and Moving into Dance. The photo market workshop has offered training to many of the city’s celebrated photographers. When I saw this leather stud belt I fell in love, but the traders (who have since been moved due to ongoing development of the area) where patient with me, the belt was too big, but they took their time until the belt could fit my waist. Awesome service.  PRICE: R40.00 bucks.  Dankie. Siyabonga

SHOES By Nelisiwe Xaba. I love BirkenStocks because though they might look ugly to some, they are a really great buy, good for your feet as they are designed to fit your foot for walking which I love and do a lot of. They keep me rooted to the ground. They were also a generous gift by South Africa’s most gifted, talented and hardworking Dancer-Choreographers– Nelisiwe Xaba.   I have written about her a couple of times in this blog. She is one in a million! She is the A-in awesome, the most stylish and  kindest woman I have met yet. Dankie. Siyabonga! PRICE: More than Money can BUY.

If you  want a pair, the sales ladies at the Birkenstock shop in Hyde Park, were absolutely awesome – we laughed a lot.  They were patient with me and entertaining and even got us a discount.  Very Kind.  We had fun in the shop!

Location: Hyde Park Corner (Mall)
Corner Jan Smuts Avenue and William Nicol Drive, Sandton, Gauteng

Contact: (011) 325 5893

So as you can see, I have only bought 4 items of clothing – mostly accessories – on my body right now – the rest have been gifts from Johannesburg’s’ Beautiful People.  This is what makes Johannesburg amazing: not the infrastructure which is good, nor the buildings which are great, or its history which is amazing, or its wealth which  is enormous.  It is the city’s people whose hearts are made of solid GOLD that make Johannesburg Great! Heita da!  Nowhere else in the world will you find such LOVE. Honestly, I am truly blessed, enormously, to be dressed by Johannesburg’s FINEST.

On  another day (one of my favourite dresses) Glasses: Mr Price  Price: R30 Dress: Big Blue Price: R500 Ring Silver: Prine of Newtown Price: R50 rand Yellow Ring: Jenna Leigh des Fontein Prices: Less Model: Jedi Ramalapa Loation: Mainstreet, Marsharll Town Johannesburg. Picture: Tshepo Ramalapa
On another day (one of my favourite dresses)
Glasses: Mr Price
Price: R30
Dress: Big Blue
Price: R500
Ring Silver: Prine of Newtown
Price: R50 rand
Yellow Ring: Jenna Leigh des Fontein
Prices: Less
Model: Jedi Ramalapa
Loation: Mainstreet, Marshall Town Johannesburg.
Picture: Tshepo Ramalapa


The Girl From Addis…(an unlikely book review)

Cover of "Girl from Addis"
Cover of Girl from Addis

Heaven for me is: A world full of books, and I’ve been buried under mounds of them here at the Kliptown Youth Center (SKY).   What I’m doing here is volunteering, assisting the volunteer staff to take stock of how many books there are in the learning center, with a view to eventually creating a data-base for a functioning Library.  My job is to clean up. I’m  in the  library every day and it takes all of my willpower to focus on the task at hand which is:  packing books, cleaning shelves, rearranging the furniture and shelves, cleaning, moving rubbish, shooing children who’ve so far used it as a playground, which would be great if they actually read the books in the learning center instead of destroying them.  It takes all of my willpower to look over interesting  and inviting books and titles and I just couldn’t resist reading….

The Girl from Addis by Ted Allbeury.

Suddenly I am lying on the black leather sofa and travelling to 1960 Ethiopia, with author Ted Allbeury, a former British M16 operative – or more officially, a former  Lieutenant-Colonel in the Army Intelligence Corps during the Second World War. Allbeury worked in Sales , advertising and radio ( at the BBC), after the war before writing his first novel. He has  written an estimated 20 novels under different names since then.

I was drawn to the book because Ethiopia has been on my lately for a number of reasons, I’ve never been to that land. And it was for me a great escape from Simone de Beauvoirs’ Second Sex , I felt rebuked, chastised from all sides by the author. I could also run away from the  rows and rows of books which seemed to be calling me to read them … though in actual fact they just needed a place to stay.  Besides the book  was so thin I could be done in a few hours.

In a sentence the story is about an ex-MI6 operative now working as a photographer, who returns to Ethiopia, where he finds both romance and danger waiting for him.

The book is set  shortly after  the  Ethiopian  war.  Which  began on 12 September 1974 when the Marxist Derg staged a coup d’état against Emperor Haile Selassie, whom the main character in the book was an advisor to, before his cover was blown. The civil war lasted until 1991 when the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front(EPRDF)—a coalition of rebel groups led by the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF)—overthrew the Derg government and installed a transitional government in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa The Derg government had been weakened by their loss of support due to the fall of communism in Eastern Europe. The book is about how this guy was used a pawn in an intricate chess game between, Russia, Britain, and to some lesser extent the US and Italy.  he was tasked to find and blow up military arms bases from Cuba and Russia stored on the border between Ethiopia and Somalia. Russia’s’  plan according to the Somali revolutionary army, was to destabilize Somalia, and take over the rest of East Africa including Kenya. The British seemingly had no real stake in the matter but were interested to know what their  enemies in this case Russia and Cuba were up to.  They eventually blew up the military arms base (triggering war  between Somalia and Ethiopia ) under the guise of helping the Somali revolutionaries, as a way of stopping russia from its planned takeover of the indian ocean, and East Africa. The Russians were using the Derg in Ethiopia and using the country as a base to occupy all of East Africa – which would mean control of the Indian Ocean etc.  The photographer and his love affair got off lightly from the ensuing espionage, but it was an invaluable read ( and snap-shot ) back in history especially in light of the recent terrorist attack by the Islamist Somali Group Al-shabaab , who have killed at least 60 people at Nairobi’s West Gate mall, in an effort to force Kenyan troops out of Somalia.




When I put the book back on the shelf,I felt like a naughty child who has just opened his present a day before christmas, or stolen a cookie from the cookie jar. it was a lovely trip. I am learning again and again, that we can learn from everything, and every situation and any book – Simone De Beauvoir says in her Seminal Book The Second Sex “Mystery is never more than a mirage that vanishes as we draw nearer to look at it”.   I  laugh at myself and think I do like punishing myself, why choose a book-worm to re-organize the library?

But the learning center – Library has been in disarray for some time now, and I feel even just a little order, a bit of cleanliness can restore some respect from those who use it.  Working in the Library, or learning center took me back to my college days when I would often go to the library on campus after lectures to read and watch documentaries then take a taxi to Pinetown where I lived and would spend the rest of the afternoon at the library reading books – mostly autobiographies, some romantic novels, and then hire out more BBC dramas which brought to life – such books as Pride and Prejudice, A Tale of Two city’s etc.  It would be a game of trying to figure out, if the characters on television would be the same as the characters you imagined while reading the book. As a family, my siblings and I loved the BBC dramas because they were long and we could stay in at home for an entire weekends without venturing outside, as long as we had enough movies to watch,  our parents didn’t encourage regular television. We had little access to TV1,2 and 3. Movies on the other  hand were encouraged, because my parents could select what we watched, and we used to look forward to holidays because my father would bring loads of them for us to watch.   I enjoyed the comfort of a library and it was the main reason I volunteered to work in the learning center, because it looked so lonely and without love, in the hope that  I could somehow re-create that same atmosphere at the center, which soothed me so as a teenager and young adult. I would love for them to enter into a quiet, safe space and find joy in travelling to other lands, spaces, places and experience a different life from the daily every day of their physical environment. That is what books did for me and movies.

Paradise for me is….

So here at SKY there are books on almost every subject under the skies and in different languages too. The children’s books are the best kind. There was one with a title “Chicken or Egg ?” which caught my attention and I started reading it mid-packing. The book described different types of chicken, what they are called etc and ended with this statement that got me chuckling  -“ So if someone asks you which came first the chicken or the egg? you can say the egg, because we eat eggs in the morning and chicken for  dinner” Now that’s an answer  I never considered. But yes to answer the question of Paradise: Paradise  for me would be – a time when we all can use this knowledge in decaying and neglected dusty book shelves to solve our problems, now – today. To create  sustainable livelihoods, to bring up positive, creative and loving people – to create a world where we can combine our experience, our talents and passions with  knowledge to break the chains of poverty,  disease and lack. The knowledge is there, but how do we apply it in our lives so that it brings about meaningful change? locally and globally?  This question haunts me a little because I fear books are fast becoming so unfashionable,  life happens online – a new way of travelling, seeing the world and meeting people, books are heavy, wordy, with few pictures, you have to use your imagination. Social Networking means people don’t have enough focus to read large heavy texts and fully spelled out words. I don’t object to technology at all, I am a fan.  Information is King, but what use is all this information or knowledge if it can’t be used to alleviate poverty, to create a better people, better homes, better relationships, working environments. What’s the use of having a lot of information about things which cannot help you to get out of a sticky situation, improve your own life. If I were able to do that – then I would not only be in heaven, my world will be paradise, because my heaven (books) would help me create Paradise on earth.