The Art of Learning and Unlearning : Death

I want to learn to embrace death.I would love to unlearn fearing death.

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But as for now, I am afraid of death. Both mine and that of the people close to me. I attribute part my fear to how society generally treats the phenomena. With such heaviness and sacredness. As children we would just hear people bursting with tears in the house. The next thing, the grown ups would either pack their bags, tell us that a relative had passed on . Or the sofas would be taken outside the house as a symbol of mourning. As children we were not allowed at funerals. That on its own left a lot to the imagination. But I wondered what that meant for the children who had lost their loved ones. Did the same rule apply? Could they pay their respects to their loved ones who had departed if they wanted to ? Were they allowed? Personally, I had a million questions like what would a dead person looks like. And if their soul or spirit was watching from another dimension? And what was this dimension called? I would ask myself why they did not fight hard enough? Or if they could somehow communicate with the living but we were just not paying enough attention. As I became older, I realized that death is not only inevitable, but it happens. Ndoo nzira yedu tose. For centuries, many have tried to predict what lies ahead but, the truth is, noone really knows. We dodge the bullet everyday by the choices we make. Perhaps by postponing our journeys, choosing to take the train over our own cars, or by choosing to not walk on the left or right side of the side-way.The problem is that you can never know which choice is the best.

First things first – I have acknowledged my fear. I don’t really know if it is possible to completely get rid of it, but I would love to. Years ago I watched a video about a family that worked together in trying to embrace death. The mother passed on, leaving behind her husband and her children who were quite grown. Together they bathed the body, dressed and adorned it. They stayed with her for some days before contacting their funeral home. When asked why, they simply answered that it was according to the deceased’s will and that it was the family’s way of embracing the inevitable phenomena.

Culture, race, sex, gender and many other factors influence our relationship with death. But at the end, life goes on as we await our own death.

 

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This is a dedication to all who lost their loved ones. May their dear souls rest in eternal peace. And also to my Grandmother Mhurai Chomunorwa who passed on on the 1st of July, 2018. Rest beautifully.

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The Art of Learning and Unlearning

“In a world where oppression is the daily bread, living a little is often demonized.”

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 Credits : Star Trek Discovery Season  Website

Growing up, we are taught certain things that eventually shape how we view and experience the world. Our behaviors and ideas are influenced  by unseen societal forces that teach us to obey instructions and to to act according to expectations. There are systems to be followed. Norms to be respected and standards to be maintained. Altogether, we are taught to give a damn. Just a recent realization that I made : society is anyone who is not me. I have come to believe that every human being harbors certain beliefs that are influenced by certain forces or experiences. These ideas and beliefs are diffused from one person to another through interaction, and the cycle goes on and on.

However, there comes a time when you realize there is  probably a different way of doing things. You discover new ways of praying. It becomes clear that red lipstick can be worn by anyone. You breath a little and start to live life. You grab those clothes you have been burying in your closet. Go on road trips with the people close to you. Break the norms. Cross the line. Most importantly, you learn and unlearn.

To be continued…

 

 

The Other Face of The City

“I weighed the possibilities, anticipated the worst possible scenario, and prepared to scream as loud as possible.”

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Pss…Psss…Bhebhi.” I increase my pace and pretend as if i’m not listening.”We mean you!” I try to concentrate on the music but the bass is failing me. I’m immediately stopped by one of the guys who is now standing right in-font of me, in my face, extending  his hands and plucking out my earphones violently from my ears. “Handisi Kuenda…”, i say this with my voice shaking and my eyes almost watery. I’m angry, confused and scared.  There is a police station right behind the bus. But some of the touts are sharing lighter moments with the police over the girl who is being forced to get into the bus. “But…” before i finish my statement my handbag is pulled from behind. I look over my shoulder and i see three men behind me. One breathes down my neck and whispers ,”Get into the bus, girlie.” I follow the instruction.I am escorted by the  guy holding my earphones and the three strangers following closely behind me. My adrenaline shoots when a lady in the bus screams at me, “Imbavha! Pinda mubhazi vanokubira!” The grip on my bag is tightened from behind, and i feel my clothes being pulled by the other guy. I push forward and rush for my salvation. Panting and teary, i sink into the seat in the front row and thank the lady for coming to my rescue.

Seconds, minutes, hours pass by. I am still in shock. And remember the lady who just rescued me? Turns out she is the conductor of the bus. She carelessly chews gum as she scribbles on the receipts. Upon noticing my disappointment,  she avoids eye contact. After some time, duty calls. She rushes to the entrance of the bus to save more victims like myself. To tell them to rush into the bus lest they get robbed. It is a cycle. And i feel helpless just from watching through the window.

You are probably curious to know how i broke free, right? I’ll tell you how…

I weighed the possibilities, anticipated the worst possible scenario, and prepared to scream as loud as possible.I got my phone on standby for a voice note. A video could have been more ideal, but the phone could get easily snatched.

I meditated and asked God for strength. Courage. Balls. I did this as i slowly rose from the seat and walked towards the exit of the bus. “Unofunga urikuendepi?” One of the touts asked with a smirk on his face. Doubt and fear embraced me once again. “Handisi kuenda. Handitorina mari futi.” Time stood still. At this point i noticed how peaceful life was on the other side of the road, with people getting on with their lives. Back to reality. I was contained. Imprisoned. And i was once free just like the people on the other side of the road. I negotiated with one of the guys who agreed to walk me away from the bus. Another savior. And my salvation costed me two dollars.

Translation :

Bhebhi– Babe

Handisi kuenda” – I’m not going

Imbavha! Pinda mubhazi vanokubira! “- Thieves! Get into the bus, they’ll rob you!

Unofunga urikuendepi?” – Where do you think you are going?

“Handisi kuenda. Handitorina mari futi.” – I’m not going. I don’t even have the money.

 

 

Disclaimer : Picture insert obtained from Newsday website.

The Giant Elephant in Our Homes

I struggled putting this one together. I found myself caught in-between my personal experiences , beliefs, what i should and should not say, risking my reputation  and the feeling that i should probably just shut the hell up. So, sometime back i came across a video of the “Red Table Talk” by Jada Pinkett Smith, her mother – Adrienne Banfield-Norris and her (Jada’s) daughter – Willow Smith. Three generations of women – the grandma, mother and daughter talking about SEX by the Red Table. Quite interesting, right?

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To start off with, the color of the table was striking – red. A symbol of sacredness, life,blood. Red is bold, daring, sexy and these are some of the things that are demonized by society, for example, growing up i was not allowed to wear red nail polish or red lipstick because it was said to be meant for “prostitutes”. Something that i had to unlearn at a later stage in life, and today i wear my lipstick as red as can be. Still on red, i remember being told never to wear red clothes during heavy rains because red attracts lightning. I know there are many other meanings , but for now i will try and stick to the context of sex talk within our families.

Facts on the table – sex is happening  amongst young people. We just do not talk about it because we are taught from an early age that it is a taboo subject. Around 10-11, that is when sex is introduced in a very hidden manner by our aunts and other figures who tell us to start pulling our labias for reasons unexplained. “Without those you will never get married. But if you do get married, you will be sent back home.” Believe me, i was frightened by the idea of being sent back. Days, weeks, months and years passed by before i got to know the real reason why i was told to “pull”. Uncle Google was not yet around those days, and today we can’t deny the impact that globalization has had on sex and young people. Children as young as 3 are exposed to sex through the media. In this global village,  a password can only do much to “bar” a young person from bumping into the birds and the bees. Those things will always pop up  unexpectedly on the corner of the screen.

I do not know how far true this is, but it is a widespread belief that discussing sex with young people will only encourage them to indulge. Maybe that is why sex is “officially” introduced to girls at  kitchen parties. For boys, oh well, it’s a totally different issue.Their masculinity is measured by the number of girls they “deflowered”. Most families  shy away from having sex talks with young people .That contributes to why young people end up acquiring wrong information and become silent about issues of rape and sexual assault. Maybe that is why today we even have higher rates of teenage, unwanted and unplanned pregnancies that are consequential to young people. Maybe that is why young people lack the power and courage to say no, to give consent and to make informed decisions on issues affecting their bodies. Our families are primary agents of socialization, and it is time we at-least have discussions around sex education with young people. That’s just my two cents.

 

Oh! You might want to watch this video 😉

Disclaimer :I do not own the rights to the video and picture insert.

 

Where do you practice your feminism?

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How do you practice your feminism?                              

Is it in your thoughts? 

Are they liberal?

Radical? 

Lord knows, the list is endless!

How do you practice your feminism? 

Is it in the way you talk? 

Does the texture, pitch and volume of your voice project your kind of feminism? 

Does your sharp voice pierce through large  crowds and reach the peaks of the tallest mountains,

or does it stay mellow with great clarity still? 

Tell me, how you practice your feminism? 

Is it in the way you dress? 

Do your clothes project your kind of feminism? 

Are you for fierce doeks with prints? 

Or you prefer to rock your crown as it is? 

Make up or none? 

Only you know!

Tell me how you practice your feminism.

Is it in the way you stray from man-made standards and norms? 

Is it in the way you proudly wear the names they give you without care! 

Oh how that pisses them off. 

So tell me how you practice your feminism.

Do you follow it like a religion,

Or it pops up like bread from a toaster?

Is it a lifestyle,

or as temporary as a hairstyle? 

Are you ,

Or you are yet to become? 

Only you know.

Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to the picture insert. 

 

The Midnight Call

“It is taboo in my African culture to question a relative whom they are or where they are from.”

We had finished saying our evening prayers and were about to call it a day when the phone rang. It was an unknown number, unknown voice too.My mother felt a bit apologetic for not remembering her.I had never heard of her. Apparently her bus to town had broken down just close to our house and, together with the other passengers, she was stranded.It took about a minute for her to explain whom she really was. None of us really understood, but my poor mother could not further question how exactly we were related because that would seem rude. “I am not sleeping in, just send the food to the bus stop. I am wearing a green jersey and a black skirt.” Then the call ended. Wait a minute…”the food”?There wasn’t any. “The food” made it sound like all we had to do was heat it up, yet in actual fact we had to prepare it from scratch! 

Doing the things that make the pots to be done…

‘The eye’ gave my sister and i the signal to get up from the sofas and rush to the kitchen.The feeling of having to start dealing with the pots at midnight was almost similar to that of hearing your name being called soon after closing the toilet door. Having to change from our pyjamas and having to boil water for sadza from a pot was just exasperating. Worse still, our stove had been acting up for quite sometime. And just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse – BAM! Power cut! So guess what, we had to go and light a fire outside, at midnight. All this couldn’t have happened if we had just gone to sleep before the phone call (face palm!).

The long walk…

Lol. Ever watched “Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom”? Ours was a long walk to go and deliver sadza at midnight. Fuming and growling, we left the house. Once the bus got in sight, we saw a lady standing outside. She had a green jersey and a black skirt. “Makadii? Ndimi?”, my sister took the initiative. “Vana VaSonile!”, she said with a wide smile.The greetings went pretty well, but every now and then her eyes wondered to the basin full of fresh vegetables, sadza and scrambled eggs. I could not tell whether it was guilt or shame that was written in her eyes. What if the bus had not broken down? What if the takeaway shops were still open? None of that really mattered any more. 

They ate ate hungrily!

See the source imageShe shared the food with her friend whom she had made  along the way.They washed their hands, handed back the empty basin and instructed us to run back home as fast as we could. There was no thank you. It could have been nice to get a thank you.I mean, we had sacrificed our sleep for crying out loud! Do you even know how many time we had to blow wind into the stubborn midnight fire for this meal to be possible? We fumed as we walked from the bus.Some seconds later, the bus disappeared into the thick darkness. 

We never heard from her again. Karl Max wasn’t so wrong after all! 

 

The Dreaded Conversation about Periods!

I could not believe it!I tried convincing myself that I had probably scratched myself unknowingly whilst playing with my friend next door. But no! There was no pain whatsoever! The blood was there. On my panties. I did not have to look twice. I was paying next door when I rushed to the toilet after I had  felt an uncomfortable and unfamiliar trickling. I was so miserable.

What now?

I did not know what do do or whom to tell.Worst nightmares confirmed. We had covered the topic in science, and our teacher at the sewing club had tried in vain to open up the dialogue in one sewing session. Her opening statement, “Is there anyone In this room whose blood dribbles on a monthly basis like mine?”, marked the end of the discussion. Talk about awkwardness. My mother had also tried to tell me about menstruation, but the language was too metaphoric for me to understand. She had a friend from my school who was also a teacher. The late Mrs Philime would hunt for me every now and then to try and tell me about menstruation.Still, all these conversations were awkward for me! I mean, I was not even comfortable in my own body – I had started developing hips, my butt all of a sudden started growing bigger and not to mention my breasts. I became very conscious of how I looked, and I became more worried about how my body would jiggle every-time I walked. A double-knitted jersey became a permanent feature of mine, and the periods made life more miserable for me. I had no idea where the blood was coming from, and for how long it would be coming out.

 

“ It should never fall…”

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I remember my mother ululating as she called my sister to come and hear the news.  “Mwana akura!” ( the child has grown!).We went to our bedroom, and as my sister rolled a ball of cotton wool for me, she desperately emphasized that “ it should never fall.” What would my brothers say if it did? And what would my schoolmates say if I dropped it on my way to the board to solve a mathematics problem? I’d be a disgrace, so I guarded my cotton wool with all my strength. I felt more like a sin than a disgrace. I stopped playing ball during break-time. Walking to the board became scary. The worst was having to walk into a shop and ask for a packet of pads.They would know that I was having my periods.

An unusual item on the grocery list

We stayed 60km from town, and less than 1km from our shops. I could not bear the shame of having to ask the shopkeeper for a packet of pads, so I decided to add my sanitary wear to my mother’s grocery list! This came as a surprise to my brothers. One day my mother came back from town and rushed to answer the phone before we could unpack the groceries. My brother came holding the packet and asked what it was. “Those are face wipes for Vimbi’s face.” I grabbed the packet and retreated to the back of the house.

Let’s have the bloody conversation!

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When a subject is not often discussed about, there are higher risks of the development of discriminating myths. Very often menstruation is a subject that family members and communities shy away from discussing. And this has given birth to dangerous myths such as the ones below :

  • Menstruation is dirty
  • Menstruation is a curse
  • Menstruation is a sign that one is ready for marriage
  • Menstruation only affects women

Menstruation is a totally natural phenomena whereby the lining of the uterus sheds. It prepares the body for reproduction, and this does not justify theIMG_20180201_145256 marrying off of young girls in the name of culture. If menstruation only affects women, then why is it that most industries that manufacture sanitary wear are predominantly run by men? Demystifying menstruation is a key step in the attainment of women’s sexual and reproductive health. Access to information about what menstruation is, the changes that happen to the body, and also decent and affordable sanitary wear is just but what every young girl and woman deserves.Now is the time to start having the dreaded conversations around menstruation!

 

The Price-tag that My Feminism came with

Is that what you are going to do to your husband?’’, one of the family members asked  with a smirk on their face as I hastily drafted the cooking and cleaning timetable. They all stood in awe. “I now believe in equali…”, they all burst into laughter before i could finish talking. It was as if I had cracked a bad joke. I had won myself a title, a tag. The Activist. And the one I hated the most was the one they used to call me with when waking me up at 6:30am – “chimukai vemarights”. The title stripped me of my happiness.

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I knew I was for rights. I totally believed in the ideas of feminism. I was a feminist. But I had not anticipated the baggage that feminism would come with. I knew there are different kinds of feminism, but one thing for sure , I became unhappy with cleaning my brothers’ sleeping place whilst they sun-basked by the veranda. I became inquisitive about why I had to be the one always blowing wind into the fire every Christmas and New Years back in the roots. I became tired of scrubbing the floors over and over again for a reputation. All of a sudden I became aware- and that awareness changed my perceptions towards the people I loved the most. It was confusing and very uncomfortable. I’d wondered why every feminist workshop I had attended was full of happy feminists. Daring , free spirited and almost appearing to be having zero problems except for patriarchy. Speaking of systems, I have grown to believe that everyone who is not me is a society. You are society! (No offence). You harbor some beliefs and values that are,in some way, similar and different from mine. That way I have grown to realize where I got it wrong with my beautiful family : I assumed that because we lived together, we harbored the very same kind of beliefs and that we would be open and adaptive to “foreign” ideas. Wrong. Feminism came with a price tag. Hakuna chemahara pasi pano. I could say a lot more, but, this is just the beginning of me unpacking my experiences and thoughts on feminism, and also how it affected my relationship with my immediate family.

Translation :

Chimukai vemarights – Plural used for mockery effect. Almost equates  to “time to wake up, rights defender”.

Hakuna chemahara pasi panoNothing comes for free in this word.

NB: I do not own the rights to the picture inserted.

Consent Matters!

Written by Vimbai Nyika

“Don’t force people to drink tea when they don’t feel like tea.
Don’t force unconscious people to drink tea because you made it anyway.”

Common sense might not be that common after-all. Some things do not need a Sangoma or a prophet to explain or interpret for us. It is startling how people actually deny the existence of date rape when it’s there in our faces.The stats are there. We know who did it. We stay with them. We cross paths everyday, and yet we choose to swallow our words in the name of “vanozivana”, they know each other. Are we saying it is nothing because it happens to people who are “in love”? Or to people who stay together? If that’s so, how then do we define that type of love?

Consent

Sex and consent-same Whatsapp group! No kululu, no kalala. If she or he does not want to have sex, then don’t force it. If he or she consents for sex today, mazuva haafanani, tomorrow might be a different case altogether. Respect that.If he or she is drunk, why in the world is it assumed that they did it in order to get “laid”? Come to think of it.

Looking at rape in it’s broader sense, the culture of blaming the victim is still very present in our societies. Anga akapfekei? Why was she walking alone at night? She is the one who instigated the innocent man. Blah…Blah…Blah. This kind of thinking is dangerously barbaric and disturbingly outdated.

A no is a no.
A yes is a yes.
Anything in-between is not a yes. I repeat, Anything in-between is NOT consent.
Consent matters!

Watch this video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fGoWLWS4-kU to understand
what consent really is.

Disclaimer : I do not own the rights to this video.

Invisible Shackles

 

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We all have a strange connection to you,

Yet we’d  be lying if we said you are attractive.

Misleadingly shiny when new,

Rusty when  old,

Yet invisible throughout.

With or without permission,

You roll and wrap yourself around innocent beings

Leaving no space for movement.

You chase away the light and make the eyes loose sight,

Hands tremble as they try to fight,

But how can we fight that which the light has not made bright?

You have  left us wounded.