Malibongwe: poems from the struggle by ANC women

Malibongwe: Tending our Mothers’ Garden
Uhuru Phalafala

I have been teaching a course on Black Consciousness poetry in the universities for close to seven years and have been nagged by the silence and absence of women in that unfolding radical moment. For about five years now, every August, the month that in South Africa marks women’s month, an image of Minister Lindiwe Zulu from the 1980s circulates on social media. She looks away from the book in her hands to confront us with a direct gaze into the camera, with a Kalashnikov resting easily next to her hip.

The image represents a battle fought with both ideological and military warfare; what the Cold War machine would have called soft power (culture) and hard power (artillery). That image of a female guerilla looks as provocative as it does organic: the people closest to the pain should be closest to power, driving and informing the contours and contents of a revolution. The country’s history dictated their constitution: black, hypermasculine, clandestine, and Molotov-wielding. The battle lines were drawn along racial lines exclusively.

When the white oligarchy peddled fear in their white subjects through the image of swart gevaar what they conjured was not black women. But history absolves them today. Their variegated voices erased by national liberation narratives shall be heard. Black women were at the frontlines and in the underground confronted with a distinctive battle, against the white supremacist machine impaling their families and communities, and often against hetero-patriarchy within their ranks, which came to symbolise the notion of nation. To be a female guerrilla was to submit oneself to multiple warfares. They were in the trenches of Tanzania, Angola, and Mozambique as fighters, teachers, students, guerillas, and nurses.

Lindiwe Mabuza championed the Malibongwe book project. She drafted a letter to the head of the ANC’s women’s section, Florence Maphosho, to propose the idea. Mabuza asked Maphosho to disseminate the letter to all the women in the camps, offices of the ANC around the world, and at the nascent Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College (Somafco). There was great interest as hand-written submissions from all the camps began to arrive in Lusaka. Angela Dladla-Sangweni, Mabuza’s sister in law, helped to type all the poems. Mabuza had the full manuscript by the time she went to Sweden in 1979. At the time she was also at the helm of fundraising to construct the new Somafco, and had arranged for artists within the Angola camps to contribute drawings and illustrations which she could sell to advance that cause.

She sold the originals to several Scandinavian countries as she was ANC’s official representative to the entire Nordic region, but kept copies for inclusion in the first edition of Malibongwe’s English version. She approached then-secretary at the Center for International Solidarity in Sweden, Bjorn Andreasson, to help raise funds for the publication of the poetry anthology. While this was in the pipelines, the German translation became the first to be published by Munich-based Weltkreis-Verlag in 1980. Translated by Elizabeth Thompson and Peter Schütt, this edition was expedited by the ambassador of the ANC Mission for the Federal Republic of Germany and Austria, Tony Seedat, and wife, Dr. Aziza Seedat. They had already been in liaison with the publisher in 1980, who was at the time publishing another South African poetry collection by Keorapetse Kgositsile titled Herzspeuren/Heartprints (1980), at the behest of Aziza Seedat.

In 1981 Bengt Save Soderbergh of the Centre for International Solidarity of the Labour Organization in Sweden had taken over oversee the full publication process, and published 2000 English language copies. Most copies were distributed by ANC officials around the world, at the discretion of the party’s chief representatives. At subsequent ANC meetings and rallies people were reading the women’s poetry. Meanwhile Soderberg approved funding for Erik Stinus to translate the anthology into Swedish and Danish, published in 1982 by the anti-apartheid solidarity group Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke. Later in the decade (date unknown) the Finnish Peace Committee had a smaller batch of the anthology translated into Finnish and published in Helsinki. The demand for Malibongwe’s German edition resulted in the second edition being reprinted in 1987, this time carrying five illustrations by ANC member and eminent abstract expressionist Dumile Feni, one emblazoned on the cover. This was inspired by the illustration and design of Kgositsile’s collection. We carry the spirit of collaboration in this edition through the awe inspiring Feni masterpiece. These networks of international solidarity and support attest to the power of culture in fostering strong political tools for revolution.

Some of the poets in this anthology have used pseudonyms as they were underground. The following contributors have since passed on: Belinda Martins, Thuli Kubeka, Phumzile Zulu, and Mpho Segomotso Dombo. May their revolutionary souls rest in peace.

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A walk through Stellenbosch

Written by Ilse Harmse

 friday, 15 october 2021, 20:11 

about Stellenbosch, sometime after 18:00 

i got caught in the rain this evening. 

maybe caught isnt the right word. i knew it would rain today, so as i was walking back from my cousin's res, Concordia, and the rain started i was prepared for it. 

i noticed that this wasnt the case for everyone wandering around this evening. there were men rushing down the street in blue coveralls or security uniforms, students in k-way jackets and long coats walking with umbrellas on the pavements, and homeless men and women hidden away under trees or next to the tall buildings, shielding themselves from the wind and rain. 

the rain gives a clear indication of who Stellenbosch accommodates and who it spurns. students move about in comfort, without fear of getting caught out in the rain, while the working men and women rush though the rain to leave and return to a more obliging space, but homeless people are reduced to huddling under thin blankets and braving the weather to remain in the hostile territory. 

the weather showed that Stellenbosch only remains accommodating to a select populace. 

❖ 

saturday, 16 october 2021, 11;03. 

about Stellenbosch, sometime after 10:30. 

mornings in Stellenbosch are not particularly busy. 

but there's something heavy about this morning - maybe its because of the panic-attack i had this morning at res before my test or maybe it was the girl i saw in the bathroom at our venue, going through the same thing - i think it may be the fact that it was not only students occupying the town this morning. 

i saw quite a few tourists walking through the streets and that unsettled something about Stellenbosch for me. many were looking up at the contrasting buildings - the cape-dutch style roofs and the victorian designs and the sleek modern architecture - all existing on the same street and not paying much attention to their immediate surroundings. i noticed how easily and freely they moved about the area, clutching their bags to their chests and pointing out little, hidden boutiques to one another, anxiously passing students and the occasional homeless person. 

this stuck out to me. 

the fact that the homeless people and students are as much part of the infrastructure of Stellenbosch as the buildings are. we occupy the space much like these buildings do. some of us exist in a big way - in the way these sleek modern buildings do - standing out and taking up space, playing soccer or rugby on campus. some of us exist in smaller, more fragile ways - like the once great victorian or cape-dutch style buildings – like crying students outside the Engineering Building or panic-attacks at Harmonie Ladies Residence. and others exist like a secret - like hidden boutiques and untrodden short cuts - like the homeless and begging men and women on the streets, in the alley ways, on the rooi plein, outside the Willcocks. 

Stellenbosch contains multitudes, all that occupy the space differently, although im not sure why some are entitled to take up space and others need to use as little as possible. Stellenbosch doesnt discriminate between who or what it contains, it’s the populace’s attitudes that determines who is allowed to exist so freely. 

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A Walk Through Stellenbosch

Written by Samuel Strand

There is a man I walk past on my way to the Stellenbosch SPAR. For three years I have walked the same road, and for three years he has sat under the same storefront balcony, week after week, month after month. Every time I have walked past laden with food, he has given me a gentle smile. He has never asked for money, food or clothes. Maybe this is why I have never changed my route to avoid him, as I have done so many times in other places to avoid those who walk alongside me and plead for anything I can spare them. There’s a sick irony in poverty’s ability to be so rife that those with the means to create change become so desensitized to the sight of hardship that they will seldom raise a finger to correct it. I have gazed through people and said no more times than I ever want to admit.

The older I’ve gotten the more value I’ve placed on wealth. Maybe it’s from watching my dad grow old and increasingly bitter upon the realization that he will never impress his father. I won’t be like my dad. I’m now twenty and have a well-paying part-time job, but I often struggle to enjoy it. There’s a guilt attached to wealth here, even if you argue that you’ve worked hard for it. That argument doesn’t hold up when your family’s gardener always greets you with a smile, even after waking up at 4am to commute for two hours to reach your house. It’s immoral that I already make more than he ever will. But I don’t change anything. I get paid too much to want to change anything. It’s these constant, uncomfortable reminders of how much I have to be grateful for that make me long to move back to Sweden where I was born. Every single time I have said no to someone on the street, I have thought about how Stockholm’s cobbled roadways offer such peace of mind. Life is easier when everyone around you can afford to be beautiful. On those cobbled streets and among those beautiful people, money doesn’t feel so political. I guess carefree wealth comes easily when the only time you see desperation is through another person’s camera lens.

This July, I spent my winter holiday savoring the gentle warmth of the Swedish countryside. I bathed in vast lakes and watched amber sunlight filter through the pine forests onto the rich moss of the forest floor below. When I came back to Stellenbosch, the man I had walked past for three years was no longer there. Maybe he found a different spot, or maybe he went to stay with his grandkids. Or maybe he died of pneumonia after being forced to sleep outside, through rain and hail, night after night. There was a nauseating sickness in my realization that, although I had the power to follow the sun’s warmth into the Northern Hemisphere, I may have looked a man in the eyes for three years and never asked his name.

In the end, what difference does my self-awareness make? I’d be a fool to think that it makes a difference to anyone else. Moral quandaries and self-pity don’t help the man who freezes to death under a storefront balcony. 

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An Imposter Walks Through Stellenbosch in a Paranoid Fever Dream

Written by Kaiser Aryee

Dreaming

Walking down Victoria Street is a blissful fever dream. My headphones provide an indie soundtrack for my romantic saunter down the street. Safe enough to cocoon myself from the outside sounds with music on loud.  Mercilessly attractive women stroll with Airpods, flowing hair and strange clothes – hippie chic, hospice chic. White boys in slops. I wonder if they find me attractive, and I don’t even want them.
I don’t belong. Lucky. I’ve always been lucky. So lucky I feel guilty. My family doesn’t even know how lucky I am. I relive the flashbacks of relatives who I have never met, who sell fish in Ghana instead of going to school. It is a reality I have never lived but it hovers dangerously close, a rotten fever dream. I sober quickly when I get too comfortable, splicing painful memories through my consciousness while I pass through hot shadows cast by the towering oak trees.

Blending

Blending in is important, this town spits people out. Campus Security spits homeless people out of the Rooiplein daily. Thankfully so. The Rooiplein: backdrop for the diverse rainbow-nation college friend group seen on every prospective student’s pamphlet with an enticing “APPLY NOW”.  "Bergies" take your scraps and coins in exchange for a fleeting moment of saviour complex. My guilt, their currency, running a business on guilt. How exploitative.

I'm an imposter, it's only a matter of time before I am found out and spat out. Many have gone. Exclusion: financial, academic, social, mental health or simply the end of your degree. “You didn’t think this three-year vacation was permanent, did you?” croaks my inner cynic, a grim reaper around the corner. Blending in is important, this town spits people out. I start by finding the right attire.

Scavenging

The Hospice Shop, which I understand is some kind of goodwill establishment, but also where all the cool kids go to get their clothes. I've long ditched on-season trendy Mr Price outfits for much sought after thrifted overalls and mystical looking eastern style skirts. I had to make quite a trek – into the Badlands… The taxi rank beyond Eikestad Mall marks a hard border, showing the other side where the grass is a dull ochre. Spoiler: There is no grass.

People don’t stroll here; they walk like their employers are waiting. This is also the part of Stellenbosch where one is most likely to get robbed at knife point. I blend in, headphones are best tucked away.

I cross Bird Street, it hits closer to home than any of the boutique style coffee shops lining Dorp Street on the "good" side of town, I’ve tried and failed to acquire an expensive addiction to iced coffee - it gives me the jitters. I was genuinely shocked in my first year, that Stellenbosch had a CBD, thinking so this is where all the brown people are hiding. "Workers" (only poor people with jobs are "workers") make kissy faces and call me sweety. I'm angry; can’t they see that we are not the same?

At the Hospice Shop, I'm side-by-side a barefooted woman with dirty and calloused feet. She rummages through the same smelly pile of clothes as me, collects a few R10 to R30 items and heads to the counter where she pays for her goods. Moments later she returns to complain about a shirt with a hole torn in the armpit. A screaming match ensues, she spews the most impressive Cape curated profanities. I mind my own business. Maybe I’ll finally find a snazzy oversized denim jacket today, softened by years of wear. Hospice chic.


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E-mediation: a collection of poems by Rebecca Robinson


E-mediation

I want to read it immediately,

but I must unblock my ad-blocker first.

I want a response immediately,

but I must wait for you to wake up in America first.

I want to see it immediately,

but I must watch the ads first.

I want to read it immediately,

but I must sign-up with my e-mail and password,

as well as subscribe to the newsletter first.

I want a response immediately,

but I must wait for you to connect to the body of the internet,

and read it first.

I want to watch it immediately,

but I must let it buffer first.

And it is perhaps only in this frustrating moment of buffering

that I find the space to consider buffering

It is here that I find the immediacy of social media,

to be E-mediation.

That I find this buffering space,

to be a buffer.

An E-mediated cyber space,

rather than immediate space.

Fossil Fuelled Fossils

Once upon a time…

love made

the house a home.

Now plastic makes

the house a home.

Wooden planks – now vinyl stickers.

Mother-in-laws tongues – faux plants.

Compost heaps – rubbish dumps.

Once upon a time…

archaeologists unearthed

bones and stones.

Future archaeologists

– shampoo bottles and deodorant caps.

Now plastic makes

our house our home.

We-are-all-in-this-together-but-we-are-not-one

I fill the bath and burn the candles for romantic relaxation,

you walk a few miles to the communal drip to avoid death by dehydration.

I wear the 95% Cotton 5% spandex to protect my dignity,

you expose your body to the mechanic monster to provide a living.

I use deodorant to stop the sweat,

you sweat to get the deodorant in the shop.

I am unaware of the Colombite Tantalite keeping my phone from overheating,

you know that Coltan mining is heating up the Congo conflict.

I sit on the patio to take a moment for my mental health,

you mow the lawn to regulate my view.

I leave the yard lights on at night to enhance security,

you struggle in the dark of night against the weight of your asthmatic lungs.

I light a fire for my Heritage day braai,

you scuttle and sliver for your life amidst the veld fires and tree fellers.

I take a selfie on a blue flag beach,

you take apart the shipment of electronic waste on your shores.

I drive to the shops to pick up gas for my heater,

you sit shivering and oil-dead-fishing in the Niger delta.

I just wore my first surgical mask because global pandemic,

you’ve been wearing one for years because global consumer pandemonium.

I had to do research on the internet to type this poem,

you know the dark shadow of these things because you live them.

Zoom

We couldn’t gather at the office, the church, or the coffeeshop anymore –

so we www.zoomed.com.

We connected,

but this connection was

dis

con

nected from

our prior connections.

We zoomed into this disconnection and found

its connection to be

disconnected from

shared air, shared temperature, shared vibrations, shared immediacy, shared embodiment.

We took the sharing for granted.

We didn’t recognize it.

We zoomed past

until we zoomed in.

[Me] www.and.com  n|u|E The Lemon Tree

Most days I put on

[my]– clothes, wash my face, put in my contacts, put on face cream, brush my teeth,

and sit at my

n – desk

to work on my laptop.

I log into

my email – http://stbweb01.stb.sun.ac.za/webmail/

and start my googling reading typing day.

Sometimes I log out and look out the

|– window.

My first floor apartment sits on top of

a whole other

[apartment]

of concrete, windows, wires and wifi.

So when I look outside

 the glass | window,

down on the

U – ground floor

there is a small patch of grass before the

| – wall.

Atop the concrete wall is an

E– electric fence with five live wires,

and behind that grid is

the lemon tree.

I have been watching the lemon tree all year and considering its tenacity.

I’ve become so accustomed to apartment living that the apartmentalism has become unapparent.

But the truth is that I actually don’t

look right at the lemon tree,

but rather,

[I] www.look.com @ n|u|E the lemon tree

from behind my:

[]– contacts,

Www.com – laptop screen,

n– desk,

|– window,

U– first floor and grass patch,

|– wall, and

E– electric fence.

About Rebecca and her work:

Human exploitation of fossil fuels and the resultant accelerated development of, and reliance on, technologies have introduced the advent of the Anthropocene and petromodernity. Many middle and upper-class individuals take for granted, and thus remain ignorant, of both their oil-soaked reality and its harmful effects on their working-class counterparts. My own petromodern reality is mediated by electricity and technology, and although this technology is immediately present in my everyday life, I often fail to recognize the fossil-fuelled mediation of my middle-class reality. This ignorance is partly a result of a larger cultural failure to produce creative narratives and imaginaries to capture the texture of the everyday reality of petromodernity and the Anthropocene. I have written this collection of poems titled “E-mediation” to attempt to give texture to this reality based on my own embodied experiences as a middle-class oil subject.

Rebecca Robinson is an English Honours student at Stellenbosch University. During her undergraduate and post-graduate studies in the English Department, she has been inspired and encouraged to write poetry to compliment her academic exploits. She wrote and submitted her first collection of poetry as part of one of her final essays in a third-year seminar about poetry, and one of those poems was published in a South African literary journal. Similarly, she submitted this collection of poems as part of a final essay for one of her Honours modules about environmental politics. Her inspiration to write her own poetry was born out of her studies in the English Department, but has now overflowed into a developing practice of writing poetry in a non-academic capacity. She plans to continue to develop and pursue such writing as she considers whether to continue with her studies or take a break from formal academia.

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Abdulrazak Gurnah’s Nobel Prize for Literature: Read Tina Steiner in ‘The Conversation’

https://theconversation.com/nobel-winner-abdulrazak-gurnahs-fiction-traces-small-lives-with-wit-and-tenderness-169585

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