Amplifying Women's Voices – Celebrating Africa

I Am Not Done with African Immigrant Literature

AiW Guest Shadreck Chikoti


I get afraid, very afraid, when somebody, anybody, prescribes to me which books to read and not to read. When somebody gives me a template of what African literature ought to look like.

And boy! You can imagine the shock I got when I read an article on written by the gifted Siyanda Mohutsiwa, in which she gave a prescription for African literature, authenticating some forms and denouncing another.

I’d just finished watching an interview with Dambudzo Marechera on YouTube, when a Facebook friend pointed me to this article in which the author pronounces her dislike of “African immigrant literature” and declares that she has, with immediate effect, stopped reading this genre because, she writes, “I couldn’t get over the fact that my first encounter with Alain Mabanckou’s work was a foot-chase in a Paris subway station (The Fugitive). I couldn’t take a single…

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A letter to racism in South Africa

racism in SA pic

To whom it may concern

Your recent spewing of hateful speech against black people in South Africa this month refers.

I am appalled that after all the years of exploitation, plunder and oppression under colonialism an apartheid, you have still not had enough. You are greedy, malicious and your hatred is so deeply ingrained that you can’t even hide it anymore. You have moved out of whispering your hatred in private spaces to a place of spreading your poison into the public space, into our face.

You call us monkeys, animals, scum of the nation and entitled victims. When we vocalise our anger and disappointment, you trivialize our experience and try to appease us with cheap sentiments that you that you are merely exercising free speech, that you have black friends and you did not mean anything by it.

You pretend to be gobsmacked at how sensitive we are, meanwhile you know exactly what you are doing; tearing our country apart. You know you have hit where it hurts and in your twisted mind you rationalize that you are putting us in ‘our’ place, out of your privileged spaces.

Well, this time South Africans have had enough of you

You see, we live with your overt and subliminal manifestations everyday and swallow your hatred.

We forgive you every time you cast suspicious and hostile looks at us when we enter your businesses. We know you think of most of us as criminals

We forgive you when we still have to ask a white colleague to call white property owners on our behalf or book restaurants in their names, because we know you lie about the availability of space for black faces.

We forgive you when you move out of residential areas and schools when black people move in. We swallow particularly hard when you downplay your lessons in hatred by separating black and white children into separate classes due to “English and Afrikaans language differences”.

When you meet us and address us as “you people” in a baas-like tone of authority, we keep quiet, pretend we didn’t hear you. The following day we smile and greet you because once again we have forgiven.

We forgive you when you pepper every social commentary with reference to black incompetence, corruption and laziness.

We forgive you when you will not try to learn the basics of any of our African languages and mispronounce our names while we make every effort to speak yours.

We forgive knowing this is not ok or normal. We give you the benefit of the doubt that steadily you will change you ways and join the rest of us in being human. But clearly we are mistaken, you have chosen to remain the insecure and scared monster that you are in spite of all the privileges that continue to cushion your life.

As for forgiving, the 70×7 principle extends to you too because we know people are victims of your deception.

2016 is year we clean the rot of racism under our national carpet.

God bless Africa!

Terry Tempest: “Why We Write”

“I write to make peace with things I cannot control. I write to create a fabric in a world that often appears black and white. I write to discover. I write to uncover. I write to meet my ghosts. I write to begin a dialogue. I write to imagine things differently and in imagining things differently perhaps the world will change.”

Reasons for Writing

This week I write from a womb of a city that never sleeps. Central Park is one of the few spots where I find solace and reprieve from the infinite hustle and bustle that is characteristic of New York.

It is undoubtedly the best time to visit this part of the world. Autumn is on display with giant leaves crashing down like stars in their browns, reds, orange and yellow hues. The sun is forgiving and the air is crisp with a smell of freedom and mystery.

It is here at Central Park’s great lawn that I am transported back to a few years back when I first called this city my second home. I was walking past the Sheep’s Meadow when the wind blew the leaves above my head like flying saucers.

As they circled around me, I saw a reflection of the unspoken: excitement, conflict, uncertainty, hopes and fears dancing in unison. I was developing what many sojourners call a love-hate relationship with the Big Apple. However, I had no voice to articulate this drama of the soul.

On that day though, I found my core suddenly filling up a storm of phrases, and metaphors that demanded an immediate outlet. A pen and store receipts came in handy from my pockets. I scribbled down words like one listening to dictation notes. And it was here that it was instilled in me that writing is like listening on paper and we are mere channels.

Months later I retrieved my carefully saved notes and tried to make sense of what was there that was giving me sleepless nights. It was no mystery, only a revelation of the purposes of writing.

We write for fun, revolutionary and noble reasons:

We write because it is sets the soul free and helps us make meaning of the world around us.

Our writing gives voice to the voiceless. We help shape and change perceptions through our ink-advocacy.

We write to share knowledge and experiences, perhaps to leave a legacy for the next generation.

We write for existential reasons, about our hopes, fears, sorrows and the condition of being human.

We write to feel alive and make a living.

We write because it is fulfilling, it enriches our souls and expands our imaginations.

We write because we LOVE…


Writing Africa back to freedom…

African Renaissance statue: Senegal

He lies face up on a tattered blanket against a cold cement wall that reeks of a tortured past. His leathery forehead glistens with drops of sweat. A dry trail of tears, carves its way through his cheeks.

His bony hands are clasped together like one lying in a coffin. An air of dignity shrouds his lopsided frame.

He inhales deep, as though drawing from a place afar, perhaps the only place where his weary existence finds rest. He dreams of a future devoid of slavery, poverty and dis-ease.

Curious looks of passersby pierce through his being. They walk by silently and quickly, averting their children’s eyes from the living corpse, rotting in public. They analyze and throw pittance of charity.

I kneel by, close enough to observe his neat manicured hands. Close enough to study the titles of the pillow of books his head is resting on:

“The idea of Africa – Valentine Mudimbe”
“I write what I like – Steve Biko”
“Freedom in our Lifetime – Anton Lembede”
“The State of the Nation – Kwesi Kwaa Prah”
“Let my People Go – Albert Luthuli”
“An Afrocentric Manifesto – Molefi Asante”
“A long walk to Freedom- Nelson Mandela”

“I am an African – Thabo Mbeki”

With his eyes glued shut, he calmly asks me “what do you want”?


“I am not dead yet, don’t write Africa off”, he mutters.

I smile and walk away. Africa is alive !

God bless Afrika!

Pearl Pebetse

Swallowed by the Mediterranean : The migrants crisis


by Pearl Mashabane

Lampedusa 3 Oct 2013 Lampedusa 3 Oct 2013

We sat crammed in an overcrowded boat travelling on the mercy of winds and greedy sailors.  Our hearts rose and fell with the rising and calming of the ocean tides.

We held our breaths and rested our minds on the promise of a new life awaiting us on the other side of the shore. We clang tightly to our meagre belongings and said little to each other with words, but with our eyes we shared collective fears and hopes about the unknowns of new beginnings.

We were on our way to Lampedusa; an island near Italy, which we were told is a stepping-stone into freedom and liberty. We parted with the last bits of our savings to pay for a journey across the perilous sea aboard a fishing boat that made no promises that we will reach our destination.

We boarded the vessel resting on grand…

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Awakening the writing voice

Photo Booth Library
It is Spring and I ‘m listening to the first rains awakening the sleeping earth out of the arms of winter. It has been a few months since I came back to my beloved South Africa and I still have to wrap my head around the tipsy torvy arrangements of seasons.

My eyes behold the budding flowers unravelling like brides ushered out by a soothing blanket of warm air. Yet my head is still convinced it is the beginning of Autumn and a few months away from white Christmas.

Spring is associated with new life, allergies and a popular South African joke that it is also awakens madness in people. I can’t vouch for my mental states, but I am definitely fascinated by the birthing of new life all around.

My yard is sprouting with various fruit trees from the seedlings that I have acquired a habit of carelessly throwing all over. I crack my head guessing which of the new sprouts belong to which tree. But I remember a message that we will only know a tree by the fruit it produces. That means a few years of patiently watering and pruning these little mysteries until I get pleasantly surprised.

This analogy not only applies to fruit trees, but to people and situations too. We never fully know who or what we are dealing with, until a change of time and seasons reveals the fruit or the reality of situation. Then there is no more guesswork. We are given a chance to embrace or discard the fruits springing out of the various seeds planted in different areas of our lives.

This spring however, I am embracing the rebirth of my writing voice, which has been lying dormant for a while. I am embracing the re-awakening of hope, of voice and purpose. I am grateful to re-discover that which gives me sanity and rest amidst all kinds of things that the spring rain is awakening into the light of impending summer.

Wishing all writers renewed inspiration, under any season your pen and paper meet.

God bless Africa!


Being African and Introverted: Creating Space for all Voices

I am deliberately trying not to get into the textbook explanations of what being an introvert means so that I can give a practical account, which I hope will give a better picture of what it means to be an introvert in a black African culture.

As I indicated in my previous post, my colleagues and in fact many others around struggle to understand a person who a psychological framework would describe as an introvert. In our culture we don’t have a name or label for it.

We often describe a person who is introverted as “shy, anxious, quiet” and sometimes descriptions can veer into the negatives like being “cold, proud, weird and self centered”. And this point of view for me is understandable given our dominant way of relating which is communal and vibrant.

In our traditional settings, we grow in large extended family structures with many shared activities. And I think this makes it easier for an introvert to “hide” or camouflage. They go with the flow and many times piggyback on the energy of the extroverts in the group.

Modern life however, creates opportunities for people to individuate and gives some space for introverts to operate at their default settings. There are more avenues to drift into inner sources of re-energizing and re-charging because prolonged social interaction and exposure to too much stimulation can become exhausting.

Unfortunately, due to our lack of knowledge and understanding of the different wirings and needs of people around us, misunderstandings and hostilities are inevitable. I have observed how some of my colleagues and friends are more introverted really struggle to fit in, face isolation and other prejudices. And this makes it hard for them to participate in some of our social platforms.

The short of this tale is that introverts are not anti-social or aliens in our pre-set ways of relating. When they retreat into their corners, not calling or other things that different kinds of introverts do, its best to just let it be instead of trying to push them into a prescriptive or acceptable way of being. I have often seen how insightful, funny and lively my fellow kin are when they come out of their shells. It’s entertaining to observe.

The point is that being a black African is not a homogenous “loud and outgoing” experience. We have many ways of being and relating and its important to include all voices in our interactions. That’s what the spirit of Ubuntu is all about.

God bless Africa!


Being an African Introvert: An Oxymoron?

I work in a crowded and lively open plan office, boasting an eclectic mix of personalities. Now the open plan office has its pros and cons. It allows for a seamless flow of work and information whilst doubling up as a mini theatre for all kinds of funny antics and informal lessons on love, life, fashion and everything in between.

The downside is that the constant hustle and bubble and lack of privacy can get overwhelming and distracting for work and personal concentration. And for someone like me with introverted leanings, it can be particularly challenging. When you feel your brain getting overwhelmed with too much sensory input, you are forced to find creative ways to switch off. You either have to get out and take a short walk or resort to reading or listening to music via headphones.

On one occasion, my escape routes became too obvious and when asked by a colleague why I switch off, I hinted without much detail that I am an introvert. And this led to a mini performance.

You are a what? Shouted a colleague at a far end corner

She said she is an introvert, replied the person I was talking with.

“Oh get outta here, shouted a colleague from cross the room. Don’t come here with your white tendencies”.

She continued; “let me explain cause this is simple. What is happening to you is a common illness that affects a lot of Africans who read too many books and hang around white folks a lot. Carry on like that and next thing you’ll be telling us you get sunburn or you are lactose intolerant.

The colleague next to me added: “you see, you are black and there is no such thing as being an introvert in our black culture. We are naturally loud. We sing, we dance, we talk to everyone and we are one big outgoing, sharing and lively community. That is what we are and as black Africans we don’t have a problem of people of people wanting their own private space to reflect, think, read, connect with yourself or whatever else it is that you so called introverts do.

Seriously, you need to get out more and connect with your roots and culture and you’ll be cured of this white flu you’ve caught. How about you come with me to my cousin’s friend’s wedding this weekend in Joburg?”

Me: “uhm..dont I need an invitation for that?”

Colleague: “I didn’t realize you have this introversion thing that bad. When did black people start needing invitations to weddings, funerals and parties? These are community events. A friend of my friend is my friend. Dude, you just need to rock up dressed to kill and the more the merrier. Now, enough with these weird excuses. Where do we meet?”

I agreed, for the sake of peace and sanity at that moment and I saw the glimmer of hope in my office mate’s faces that I was on my way to being cured of this socially acquired habit or illness called introversion.

But you and I know, you can’t change how you are wired. We adapt and play along until our inner batteries get over-heated and depleted of energy; and when we finally get a break we find a quiet spot to sleep, think, read, write, pray: Recharge for the next day.


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