Friday, 29 January 2016

How we walk the line between two worlds - A tale of the educated brown girl.

This week has been interesting for me. I was somehow caught up in the pleasure of my yuppie success. It was the first time I did some work for my boss who is this amazing womxn, and one of the first people I have met who has the ability to influence policy directly as a result of years of tireless work, her boundless wit and charisma.

Being caught up in the glitz and glamour of working late nights and the self-importance of waking up and rushing off to meetings, where your work is presented to the media in front of really influential people can give you a really nice buzz. The kind of buzz that makes you feel like you're on top of the world. Like; "Mmmm I am doing things right - now this is what I studied so hard for!"

Coming back to the office after my little voyage into public policy brought me back to reality in no way other than the way life does. It fucking grounds you man.

My sister texted me. Looks like I forgot my mum was going to have an operation today and aside from me feeling exceptionally guilty for not texting her, my sister alerts me to the fact that her husband is in hospital too.

"What? why?" I ask.  She tells me that he broke his fingers. I immediately assume it is because he injured himself at work.
To which she replies in the negative.
His brother tried to stab him.
I am perplexed.
The only reasonable explanation is drugs.
To which she responds in the affirmative.
 I then robotically ask why he is not in rehab.
To which she responds: "he ran away".
Of course.

For a good few seconds I stop and think. I don't feel like something has blown over me, instead I feel like I've come back to reality. Back home, dare I say. Because I have. This is what reality has always been for me. This is what reality is for those of us who walk the line between two very different yet very closely knit worlds.

We are chameleons, constantly moulding to the environment that we are in. Not because we are striving to be something we are not. And not because we long to be anything other than what we really are. But because what we are is a strange amalgamation of dysfunction and chaos coupled with a rare and lucky deep sense of social awareness and the ability to maneuver life skillfully (atleast this is how I perceive it to be).

I can think of countless other friends in this position. I have a friend Lindiwe* who is an investment banker in the U.K, and she has said to me that she feels like a wild card time and time again. Imposter syndrome doesn't get more real than this. She's told me about times when she comes home and her cousins have invited her to street bashes and it's so hard to couple a life in the fast-lane of Canary Wharf with the life of street bashes and bootlegging. These two bizarre worlds are hard to unify when you live in both of them.

It is a heavy burden to bear, because "dual-worlders" (if I can call it this) are often seen as outsiders by one of the many worlds they inhibit from time to time. More importantly dual-worlders feel like outsiders in any one of these worlds from time to time.

In my case, hanging out with rich friends who have trust funds and holiday houses in exotic locations is a kind of mind-fuck. I think about where I grew up and where I am now and I can't calibrate the two. Similarly, integrating an extended family life that consists of violence, drugs, extreme conservatism and plain old emotional stupidity is taxing and one soon forgets how to relate. Fortunately I have learnt to detach from my parents and my extended family - reaching out is often done only on my terms.

For many dual-worlders this is not the case. Strong family ties compel many people to be bound to their families - with their own growth not being accommodated by the constraints of age-old family boundaries. More pertinently, as we continue our day-to-day existence in a primarily western patriarchal and white-washed world, it becomes harder to remain grounded and tied to the roots that we began with.
Roots that are usually not even slightly white. Roots that were not strong in the first place, that were almost kind of rotten, by their nature, and in the process of trying to heal we actively try to strengthen these roots while new ones are being born, and as the new roots become grounded the old ones get reinfected and we have to keep remembering to water the new roots lest the old ones infect the new ones. All through this we live in perpetual fear of the old roots rotting away or ceasing to exist forever...

My sister later tells me that her husband has been retrenched and is starting a new business. This happened last year. I don't know any of it. I say I should visit. She says I'm too busy. I reluctantly agree.  She asks if I could look at the financials of her husbands' new business plan because "Maths is not her thing".  I more than happily agree, as I do I feel a little spark lighting inside me. My worlds overlap once more, this time for the better. I hope.

*Lindiwe's name has been changed to conceal her identity
**If you would like me to share your story about walking the line between two worlds email me at

Monday, 18 January 2016

John - The "potential" rapist.

This blog is new. So I want to start with something a little less contentious. An issue that womxn everywhere face and have experienced at some point in their lives.

This is a story about the time I did not get raped, but was violated.

A few summers ago I met a person named John. John is a white male. John is in a public profession, a noble one at that - teaching.

We met through an acquaintance and as these things go, hung out a couple of times. We did not have sex on the first date, but on the second after going out for cocktails and me offering to split the bill. John was funny. We laughed a lot.

When we got to John's place we had a rendezvous that was not very memorable. Aside for one thing that I just can't forget - he refused to wear a condom, and after my insistence did not put one on and stuck it in. I tried to stop him and eventually did, but he succeeded in getting it in for a good few seconds.

I gave John the benefit of the doubt, and decided to see him again. The second time I saw him, I was not in the mood to have sex but felt like watching a movie. He asked why I came to his place if I wasn't interested in sex, but I ignored the comment. He thought I was playing coy  and kept trying to hike my skirt up. Eventually some of John's friends showed up. A rowdy bunch of characters, and they suggested we go out. I joined. They said things like, "Why are you wearing heels? John doesn't like heels". In any case. We went out. Did shots. Got drunk.

We got back to John's place where I intended on sobering up. We ended up hooking up, and when I asked him to put on a condom - no demanded it, he accused me of having a disease that I would give to him... I mean, I thought this only happened in the movies, not among intelligent conscious men. Not among white boys whose parents' were struggle allies and gave them middle names like Keketso or Fezile. Not among school teachers.

The next morning I got up and as I was about to leave, I said - "Hey my head hurts, you pulled my hair really hard last night". And he said "Well, you wanted it".

I left, got home, cleaned up and went to a braai with my best friend. I told her all about it and she instructed me to cut all contact with him, but not before confronting him for what he did.

I could not muster the strength to confront John immediately, or at all. After a few days I removed him from facebook and a few days later told him to leave me alone.

It never made sense to me why I felt so dirty and disgusted after what happened. I was certain that me being there implied that there was some form of consent and I did reciprocate - there was no brute force. Still, writing this makes me feel grimy and gross and all I can recall is his lispy voice saying that I was going to give him a disease.

I bumped into John twice after that incident. John does not know that he is rapey. He does not know how he violated me. The last time I bumped into John he asked me where my boyfriend was and why I looked so nervous, then pulled up a chair next to me and crossed boundary after boundary of personal space, stroking my hair, making intense eye contact - until a male friend showed up. John then disappeared into thin air.

I don't know what's going through your mind now - maybe similar things to what go through mine every time I recount this episode:
-Why didn't I leave sooner?
-Why did I keep believing he was a nice guy when the signs were there that he was not?
-How the fuck did I let this happen?
-I am a feminist and an independent womxn, I coudn't have seen this coming, but why did I not leave when it got awkward.

Probably because of just that - it was awkward. I slipped into flight, fight or freeze. And froze. I am so curious to know how many victims this happens to? I wish I had a superhero alter-ego that could have done the intellectually right thing - kicking the pig in balls and fleeing, but not before wrecking his life. Unfortunately, the response was primal, programmed and deeply emotional. And I stayed. And I let what happened happen. I primally compromised me.

I feel dirty every time I see or think of John - like there is a layer of grey muck on my skin. I wish I could scratch it all away. And as a liberal womxn, one who owns the responsibility of her choices, especially the risk associated with enebriated sexual behaviour, I just have to ask: Is John a rapist?

Even if he isn't. He definitely has the potential to be. He probably will never know it but John violated me, and I am still recovering from the trauma that he imposed on me. And it is not even like there has been a catharsis, I feel today as I felt the first day it happened - hollow in my gut...

P.S Names have been changed.
P.P.S John had no technique, was tiny, is a terrible lay and a generally horrible humxn being.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Where do we belong? One voice for many brown womxn.

Writing is daunting. Writing as a woman of colour is umpteen times more daunting.

What will I say? How will I be perceived? Is what I say sensical and rational? Will it be read? Will it resonate? Will it be accepted?

Emotionally intelligent people will tell you that it shouldn't matter. That it all lies in the process and that all that matters is that you get what you have to say out there. But if you are like me, then this is definitely not the case. It does matter.

It matters because I was taught, from the time I was born, to second guess everything I think and say. To feel less than because of the colour of my skin and what's between my legs. To hide the lumps on my chest lest they detract from any debate yet at the same time to display them like ornaments to attract attention from potential mates - but not too much - just the right amount.

Mixed messages are all I received my entire life; growing up in a conservative community, not having the support of family around when needed, but having their judgment when uninvited was par for the course.

After a lifetime of socialisation leading to subconscious self-deprecation and chastisement I one day decided to start exploring who I am after all these layers are stripped away. A strong quest for egalitarianism and equality led me to various junctures that are changing my life. And this blog, is a story of what I have found, and what I am finding.

This is not dissimilar to what is happening around us, with our contemporaries increasingly taking a strong and vehement stand against societal bullshit, and demanding a rebalance of power and righting of past wrongs. This social awakening, or reawakening, is part of us all coming together to find out who we are. Demanding what is right. It is what I am doing on a micro basis, and what many people in much harsher situations than me are doing too - feeding the fire of the revolution. Finding a place for who we are. This process of finding a space, and carving it out is not an easy one.

I can sum it up for you in one sentence if you like. It is something that is age old and obvious -
A sense of belonging is hard to find when roots have been trampled, widespread and lost. 

You might be curious as to my roots after I have chosen to go by the title "Indo-African Queen". Is this person Indian? Are they African? Are they a mix between the two?

I will say that in this moment this does not matter (it obviously does matter), for I myself am not sure of the answer to this question. There are issues of biology and heritage and there are factors of culture, life and exposure. This is a question that I am still answering through my very existence.

The space I have created to explore the issues surrounding this quest is complex, multi-layered and messy. It is a space that has required minimal courage up to now, but will require increasingly more courage as I choose to write, share and expose more of my living experience. More of my perception of reality as a (black) marginalised member of a male dominant society. More of the systematic destruction of the storyline that tells me what I have to say does not count.  This is a space that will require tears, laughter, vulnerability, strength and humility. All of which I am sure I possess in some limited measure, but that I hope will grow as I explore the issues I face as I try to make sense of the fuckery that is existence in this context of vast and inhumane inequality.

This blog is for women faraway coming to terms with an identity that is shaped by the choices of our forefathers and foremothers, that we had no say in adopting.

My place is as an Indo-Afrikan Queen whose daily struggle is existing under the burdens of oppression, racism and patriarchy trying tirelessly to make it through each day.

What's yours?