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Art & African news


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My Therapeutic Writing Journey

One of my favourite writers, Monique Roffey said her writing career started from a very young age when she was writing diaries and journals. Everything else followed from that. I am in no way implying that I am at the level of Monique, but I am convinced there is a lot that is common between how she started writing and how I developed my writing career.
I have, all along, been unconscious of how I ended up being the writer I am today. Before embarking on this project, I never thought about my journey as a writer. What you are reading was constructed over time as I wondered how I travelled from being one of the ordinary local boys to what some people refer to as a writer.
I am not even sure if I deserve this title.
“You deny you are a writer?” said Sphe, my chicky eighteen you old, as he moved his head left and right in response to music coming from his mobile through earphones. “So, you’re at a state of denial, dad.”
“Somebody must confirm I’m a good writer.” I said in response, trying to be funny.
“I just have.” he said so quickly as if he had expected my answer.
Over time, I have accepted that writers write and that, writing is exactly what I do almost every day.
For me, it all started in 1978 at 16. Now I am giving away my age and you are already counting how old I am. It was not planned. My place of birth is somehow responsible for imposing writing on me at, not so tender age.
Imagine a dry, semi-desert plains covered with goats, donkeys, herds of cattle and many under nourished domesticated animals. That sounds like an area somewhere else in the desert, not in South Africa. Wrong this was in KwaZulu- Natal, the most traditional, but now fast transforming of provinces in the country.
The only entertainment available or should I say accessible to the young people like myself, then, especially in the afternoons after school, was stick fighting, soccer, bird trapping, herding the only four donkeys my dad owned and unbelievably, even organizing cattle mating session. I would engage in almost all the above, including following girls telling them all sorts of lies, but I always found myself with plenty more time and absolutely nothing else to do.
During the week, I would follow my routine lifestyle. It entailed going to church on Sundays on my aunt’s insistence. Weekdays were reserved for school. Fridays were fascinating. My domestic worker mum would come home after spending time in town, away from me. She brought home all sorts of old newspapers and magazines. I devoured them.
As part of preserving them, I would make cuttings of pictures and paste them into an exercise book. Next to each picture, I would write a paragraph or two explaining what the picture was all about. Little did I realise that I was sharpening my writing skills. Over time the exercise book would become a full book.
One day my mum also brought home an old diary. I made good use of it. I made random entries. It became so interesting. I kept all those documents or “books” until I got married to my beautiful wife. But please do not ask me where these books are today. If you are brave enough, you are welcome to ask my wife. She would gladly explain to you where my cuttings are.
It took me some time to realise what she was up to. She would wait for me to be out of the house and then start cleaning up. Cleaning for her, is about making sure that no papers are lying around the house. Then all my writings would find their way to the dustbin.
“Where’s my book?” I would ask whenever I found my study neat without papers scattered around the table.
“No idea. You know I don’t throw any paper away.” she would say with a straight round face, brightened up by disarming smile.
Honestly, I had no intention to be a writer. It was simply one way of keeping myself busy. Later, more mature types of my writings followed the earlier ones. I wrote poems. But the sad news is, like other earlier writings, my poems remained just that – my poems. I kept them stored away from the eyes of other people.
It was only in the 1990s that I entered some poetry competitions. No winnings, though. In hindsight, I now know that my writing skills were the winner because they became better whenever I finished a piece.
Not so long ago I made and effort to have my writings published. Nothing could stand on my way. And the publishing industry did not disappoint. In a single year, I published more pieces than I had ever published in three decades. They ranged from feature articles to poems. They were in different publications. But still, I was not sure whether to call myself a writer. Now with some material published, I do not think I am being ambitious if I describe myself as a writer. I can no longer avoid this title, the writer.
When and why do I write?
Unlike before, I now plan my writing. To me, writing is a healing exercise. I write because I find it so therapeutic for me. When I am sad I write, when I am angry, I write, when I am tired I still write. Whenever, I write, I am responding to an emotional state that I may be in at that time.
The relief I get after writing is amazing. It is like slipping into a deep sleep after being denied sleep for days.

 


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Begging for her freedom

She had wide and broad shoulders

That carried us all

During the roaring and ferocious winds

Out in the cold all alone.

That was my mother.

 

She fought and won wars

That were too complex for her.

While all those she trusted

Turned their backs on her

And alone and lonely she conquered.

 

Today in her sleep

Those who never dared to face her

Still torment her name

As they cannot touch her soul

And in her slumber, she still fights back.

 

A woman is a rock indeed

That stands still in the face of challenges.

With her mouth permanently shut

I can still hear her war cry

And it pierces deep inside me.

 

Can you let her rest?

For she has very little energy left

After facing all the wars on her own.

Let her enjoy the eternal peace

And please, afford her time to prepare for our inevitable arrival.

 

 


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You may be gone but…

Every time I go to sleep

I see your round wrinkled face

Covered in a smile,

Though you never had a reason to laugh.

 

Every time I listen

I hear your sweet soothing voice

Telling me to march on

Because the land of honey was near.

 

Every time I think of you

I see all your toiling

Meant to put a plate on our laps

Even if it meant scavenging like a stray dog.

 

Every Time I hear your name

I confirm that you were a brave woman

Who gave all her life

For the love and life of us all.

 

And though you are gone  

I feel you live among your grandchildren

Even though they are yet to meet you

And feel your ever present and endless love.


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The last prayer

Take me back

To my mother’s womb

Where there is warmth,

Happiness and love.

 

What was once my home has been strafed.

Flying bullets have blinded my eyes and blocked my tiny ears.

I hear nothing but wailing children

Yelling for their mothers and father prostrated on the ground.

 

The powerful have spoken

All I can do is duck now and again

To save my only possession –

My innocent soul.

 

Mortars and smoke

Hide the sky from me,

But not me from You

For Your eyes, can see through the thickest darkness.

 

Come for me now

I see no light

It’s midnight darkness,

And hope is what I lack.

 


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Song of the condemned

It’s been years waiting

For the huge brute.

To do his only job

Of demonstrating his prowess

Amid women’s ululation.

 

“On your knees & keep your neck straight,” he would say.

In his hand a razor- sharp sword shall turn and twist.

My heart shall dance against chest.

Though fallible like me he holds my life

Or lack thereof in his hands.

 

A pitch- black cloth shall descend over my head

Preventing me from seeing

His cruelty.

But still I will see my way to Him.

I will see what they cannot see.

 

The man or is he a real man?

Will swing his sword once above my head

And once against my neck.

Yes, the long-awaited moment will have finally come

Turning the ground blood red.

 

Freedom comes in many ways.

I will strut Home and free.

Leaving them guilty

For they know they are no God

But sinners like me.