I Buried a Dog Today


sleeping_puppy-1

 

I buried a dead dog today, but it wasn’t my dog. It was a beige and white puppy, that looked about two months old. It had a beige-brown coat, and wisps of white fur on its chest. My sister spotted the puppy on the side of the road-up a hill that we climb on the way home. I had climbed the same hill maybe twenty minutes before she did-but I didn’t see the puppy. She saw the puppy a day ago, in the evening. She says when she saw it she thought it was taking a nap. But it’s chest was not moving and the angle of it’s head suggested that it might have been hurt. She stood there maybe for ten minutes-thinking that the puppy might still be alive, expecting it to move. She soon realized that the puppy was dead-and she saw a fresh wound on the side of his head. Heavy hearted she headed home-and that was the first thing she said when she saw me-she asked ‘Have you seen the puppy?’. I hadn’t seen the puppy and I didn’t know what puppy she spoke of. She told me how she had seen a beautiful dead puppy of the side of the road-and she thinks that someone, probably a school child on its way home from school, must have thrown stones at the animal, and fatally wounded it. This made me sad.

The puppy didn’t look like a stray animal. It was healthy and looked well cared for. It must have strayed from home, on an adventure outside the safety of a closed gate. School children, looking for interesting sport, must have chased down the terrified pup, with sticks and stones, until one connected with the animals left temple, and killed it. I hope that if nothing else, that the animal had a swift death. That it did not lie on the side of the road for hours, in agony and pain, unattended to and uncared for by people that have bigger problems than a dying dog. I’d like to imagine that it was trying to find its way back home-or its way to safety, away from the group or the child that had found a helpless victim to vent its own frustrations at. I would like to imagine that until the sad day that it died, the puppy was a happy animal, loved, cared for and looked after by a person, or people that valued and respected its life.

My sister and I dug a hole in the back yard, until we reached the hard rocks and the stones. We didn’t know how deep a hole for burying a puppy should be. So we dug and dug, and took turns with different tools to get as much out of the hard dry earth. My little son helped-but we sent him into the house before we went to retrieve the body of the dead puppy. When we felt that we had heaved enough earth out for the puppy, we tried to make its final resting place a comfortable one. Soft wet earth was the best we could do, and sometimes your best has to be enough. We walked the 200metres up the hill to where the puppy still lay, still bleeding, and a bit bloated from spending a whole day in the hot sun. We carried the puppy’s limp body all the way home and gently rested its body in the soft earth. Peace at death now, if not in life. I cried. I was taken over by a deep sadness that life could be so devalued by people so young. I thought of all the women, all over the world, whose children’s dead bodies were brought home to them, broken and wounded by a world that has very little regard for life. I cried for its life-and how little value it had in the eyes of the children whose lives also have little meaning and importance in a world made for adults and powerful people. The smaller something or someone is, it seems, the less value it has.

My sister and I said a few kind words for the puppy, and wished it a restful sleep, and apologized for our species and our superiority complex. We assured the dead animal that we weren’t all like that, and many people value animal life. We filled the hole with the same dirt and stones that we had dug out, and made a small tombstone of rocks as a marker.

I love animals, all animals, including human animals. The value that I place on non-human life does not mean that I devalue human life. If I love puppies then I by default absolutely love babies. Anything that has life has the right to be here-and live free of fear. Dogs and cats are the few animals that like human beings-that trust us enough not to maul and attack us even though they have the ability to. And we abuse that trust more often than we realize. But I also realize that it’s a cycle of abuse, especially on my continent. Where adults abuse the authority and the power they have over children, and children then act the same towards animals and smaller living beings. It’s how people communicate, or try to assert their presence and importance in a place that has equally devalued them.  Why young people would find it okay to kill a puppy is indicative of a bigger problem-of how we all don’t value each other, and some people feel that the only way to be seen, is to hurt others and other beings. Or to make other people or beings feel their pain. We all need healing and love-and much as I wanted to find the children that did this and give them a piece of my wonderfully coloured mind, I realize that they too are as much victims as the puppy was. Sad but true.

All anyone said when they saw us carrying the dead dog away was that at least we will be sparing the neighbourhood the smell of decomposing flesh. Clearly, very many people have bigger problems than a dying dog.

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About (some very few, annoying) stupid men


WomenAreCrazy_MenAreStupid

I totally agree with you George Carlin and here’s why.

I like to take a stroll sometimes, or a long walk. Sometimes I walk around my neighbourhood, and sometimes I walk around town. When the weather sucks like it did this morning, I take mental strolls inside the interwebs, and see what interesting things I can find. My interweb walk took me to a place that was shocking, then interesting, then hilarious. And no it was not porn. I came across a Facebook group called M.A.W.E, which when sounded out is Kiswahili for stones, but what M.A.W.E really is, is an acronym for an NGO called Men Against Women Empowerment. If their Facebook page is anything to go by, then this group of (supposedly) disempowered men have stones for brains, as the logic of their arguments against women’s empowerment is severely lacking. So this is what M.A.W.E’s Facebook page says they are about:

M.A.W.E is a non profit organisation that is against women empowerment in the society.even the bible qoute that the man is the head of the family so we MAWE are against things that makes men inferior like
1.buttering of men
2.women earning more money

For starters-y’all can’t spell. Maybe you’re inability to spell is what makes the women in your life earn more money than you. It’s hard to take your cause seriously when you can’t spell battering. And just so you know, the ‘buttering’ of men is the reason why we’re here in the first place. We have buttered and coddled you too long and it’s time the tables turned. So technically, if we’re to take your typo’s meaning as literal, you are in fact against your own cause because us feminists too are against the buttering of men. Very much so. I’m against buttering of any kind actually. Even on my toast. Butter is problem. A big one.  Now, please elaborate-women earning more money than who? Than other women? Than men? Than circus animals? Anyone on this side of the fight for gender parity knows that women still earn far less than men in practically every job slot around-right up to management and CEO level. But clearly you, and all your 123 Facebook ‘friends’ feel hard done by the fact that a woman you know is employed and you probably are not. Sorry to wake you from your centuries long slumber, but the earth is no longer flat, the earth rotates on its axis and we now have birth control. Yes, that much has changed. So when you start quoting the Bible as the one infallible truth that gives men superiority over women, I can’t help but feel that this is a group ran by cavemen that just thawed. Welcome to the 21st Century friends, toss your sheepskins and clubs-we have clothes and laws now.

They also say that their mission is to ensure as long equality is there men should always be on top. Again I ask-on top of what? Mt. Kenya? Times Tower? Be specific. Maybe you need to be on top in bed? Makes no sense whatsoever. But then again neither does sexism, chauvinism and a whole load of things that tip the gender scales in favour of men. Even the Bible is apparently on your side, or so you like to say. But then again you only read the Old Testament so that explains your stance on women and our role and place in life. Sigh.

I’m glad that you’re outnumbered. Because 123 men(and possibly women-chauvinism knows no gender) in a country like Kenya (where this rag-tag band of anti-empowerment preachers hail from) is literally a drop in the ocean of forward thinking, progressive minded and not-so-inclined-to-bullshit people. Thank goodness for that. But it still boggles the mind that such people exist-enough to form a Facebook group. Sigh. Oh well. Just another day at the circus of life.

TEN MINUTES WITH: Shishani


Photo by Paolo Schneider
Photo by Paolo Schneider

 

Music has charms to soothe a savage Breast,
To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.
I’ve read, that things inanimate have mov’d,
And, as with living Souls, have been inform’d

 

Thank you William Congreve, I can take it from here.

 

I have already put up a post that talks about my life’s memories in music, and how, I think, that a slew of music makers and music players over the years have saved my life. Music, I will say again should be the new religion-that gets all of us warring people-whether we’re waging wars with other people or with ourselves-to calm the hell down and just listen to music. Any kind of music.

 

I am one of those people that think music has changed-and I do feel like getting out a fuddy-duddy sweater with leather enforced elbows and a pipe when I want to talk about how ‘they don’t make it like they used to these days.’ Don’t get me wrong-on a night out I will happily dance the night away to whatever the DJ is spinning. Often, the music will be an ode to sex, love and (sometimes) rock n’ roll. I will gyrate my hips to the sound of Pharell Williams and Daft Punk making me believe that tonight I can get lucky. But when the smoke machine is off and the only beat I can hear is the sound of my heart pumping blood to my overextended ears-the sole memory of the night is my sore feet and a mild hangover. Music today, rarely makes me think. Popular music anyway.

 

But-there’s always a glimmer of hope, and one of my favourite silver linings in music has to be Shishani. I wish I liked her music because she is beautiful. I wish I liked her music because I know her. I wish I liked her music for a multitude of other things-but I like, no, love her music quite simply because it makes sense. Shishani’s music is a mirror reflection of her self-beautiful, unpretentious, honest and real. She sings about things that we can all relate to-giving music that culture crossing quality that I love so much. When you listen to her music, you don’t really care what her roots and parentage and origin is. You care that she’s singing about saving a beach-much like many beaches around the world that need saving from capitalist greed and complete disregard for the bigger picture. You care that the words you hear are not just words but real feelings and genuine sentiments coming from a woman who has felt or is feeling the love that she is singing about. Shishani’s music cares.

 

Shishani’s music asks questions that we should ask ourselves. What are we doing here? Why do you love that person? How honest are you with yourself?

One of my favourite Shishani songs comes from her Windhoek EP and is titled ‘Raining Words’.

 

The distance speaks,

No turning back,

There’s only road ahead,

I broke your heart,

Got to carry the pain,

Now I go my way.

The rules of love,

Are written in those clouds above,

I tell no lies,

I know we had our time now we say bye bye.

Though it’s raining,

Words escaping me,

No explanations to how I feel,

All the letters ,

Can fall into patterns,

But the sentences would make no sense.

Though it’s raining words,

Telling you how I feel,

Telling you how I feel, remains difficult to reveal.

 

Poetry. I get goosebumps just writing about it. Shishani’s songs are emotions in motion (can I trademark that phrase or has someone already?) I could go on for days about why I think artists like Shishani should get more airplay than Rick Ross. But that’s just me.

Anyhow, Shishani found time off her uber busy schedule to answer a few questions about herself and her music. Thanks Shishani. Set the clock:

 

Sistaseeker: What do you sing about and why?

Shishani: I sing about my feelings and how I see life. I sing about things that matter to me and things I want to raise awareness about.

(Inner voice): Not just a pretty face. Her music has a conscience too-I like that!

 

Sistaseeker: How powerful is music a tool for change?

Shishani: Music is extremely powerful as a tool for change. It can lift spirits up when hope seems gone. Think of how Bob Marley used music to create political awareness in Jamaica, how traditional Mbira music was used to do the same during the war for independence in Zimbabwe, how Hip Hop was the music of the Tunisian revolution. Music can approach matters that speech alone can’t, it is accessible. That’s why I try to sing about equality and respecting our nature through music. It’s my personal channelization. (Is that a word?)

(Inner voice): Apparently channelization is a word-had no idea-you live you learn right? I also didn’t know about that role that Hip Hop played in the Tunisian revolution. Typing into Google now…

 

Sistaseeker: How many albums have you put out?

Shishani: In 2011, I released my Windhoek EP. Right now I’m working on my first full album.

(Inner Voice): I have that EP and I love every song on it.

 

Sistaseeker: Where can we get your music and how much does it cost?

Shishani: Once the album is out, you will get to know aaaaaall about those questions.

(Inner Voice): Yes sir ma’am.

 

Sistaseeker: What do you do to unwind?

Shishani: I pick up my guitar. Doing the dishes also helps sometimes.

(Inner Voice): I do the dishes too. And a whole lot of cleaning. The cleaner my space, the worse for wear I am. How bizarre.

 

Sistaseeker: Do your partners ask you to sing them to sleep?

Shishani: Hmm, I remember being asked maybe twice only 🙂 He he he. Maybe I sang them crazy.

already.

(Inner voice): Twice? Only? Ungrateful people. If your singing drives people crazy then I am ready for the loony bin. Have been for a while…

 

Sistaseeker: If you, for whatever reason, couldn’t do music, what else would you like to do for a living?

Shishani: I’d be thinking of ways to do music therapy- oh wait, no music at all?! Then I’d be working with people, mainly kids, and trying to help develop their artistic potential.

(Inner Voice): Awwwwwww!

 

Sistaseeker: Where in the world have you performed and which has been you best received performance to date?

Shishani:  I’ve performed in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Ireland, Ibiza, Czech Republic, Poland, Morocco, Malawi, South Africa and Namibia. Best reception, wow, it’s so hard to tell because maybe people are really appreciating the music but process that internally 🙂 The best reception by far was in Namibia though, if we take into account that people loved it and they SHOWED it. Most recently, Poland showed me how you can have a party whateverrr the weatherrr. People were dancing and sliding in the mud through the rain for two hours. Yup, these Slavic people know how to party. So there you have it. Top two: Namibia and Poland. Best received gigs: April 20th FNCC, Windhoek Namibia: record breaking amount of people turned up at that venue, jam packed an amazing vibe in the air that night.

(Inner Voice): Wow, you remember the date and everything-must have been some vibe….

 

Sistaseeker: What’s your dream collaboration team?

Shishani: Dream collaboration team?! Holy moly. I’d love to do a joint collaboration with D’Angelo, Lauryn Hill, Tracy Chapman and Radiohead. Yup. Wow.

(Inner Voice): Tracy Chapman AND Radiohead? That is SOME collaboration for sure. I wish it into your life. Tweet them all viciously. As for Tracy, get in line-Zahara says she has dibs…

 

Sistaseeker: If you were stranded on an island, for three months, which three people would you like to be stuck there with?

Shishani: Which three people?! Holy moly 2.0. Okay, in random order: Karima el Fillali, my bezzie, with a beautiful voice and ability to crack me up like nobody’s business. We’d be trying to make wonderful music but end up laughing instead. Can’t I melt my band members into one person? It’s 2013…And Nikola Conradie, that woman works too much and needs a serious chill.

(Inner Voice): No you cannot melt people together Shishani! (There’s a UN charter about something that I am SURE prohibits the melting of people together). And it is totally unfair that you keep company with people that also have beautiful voices. I believe that practice is called music voiceism. (There’s another UN charter out there against that too.)

 

And there you have it. Ten Minutes with Shishani.

 

Now, Shishani is currently working on her second album INDIEGOGO, and is crowdsourcing the many monies that are needed to make this dream come true. I believe wholeheartedly that her music is worth investing in. If you would like to know how to be part of her INDIEGOGO project click HERE.

To hear some of her music and watch some of her songs see below. I am so proud to be associated with a person this awesome who gives music its power back.

 

Some more info on Shishani:
Shishani is a soulful singer/songwriter born in Namibia to a Belgian father and a Namibian mother. She left her motherland at the age of five and grew up in the Netherlands. In 2011 she started her solo
career in Namibia where she has been making headlines the past two years. She won the prestigious Last Band Standing competition, was a headliner at the Windhoek Jazz Festival (2012), and most recently her song “Minority” has been nominated for Best Music Video at the 2013 Namibian Annual Music Awards. Shishani is a social activist who addresses social issues in her music and uses art to create awareness and enhance social engagement with her audiences.
Currently she is working on her debut album through her crowdfunding campaign.

SHISHANI’S INDIEGOGO CAMPAIGN :
http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/shishani-s-debut-album

SHISHANI MEDIA:

Website: www.shishani.nl

Youtube Channel:
www.youtube.com/user/ShishaniNamibia

Facebook:
www.facebook.com/Shishani.music

Twitter:
https://twitter.com/ShishaniV

PRESS Reviews:
http://www.reverbnation.com/#!/shishani/press/

VIDEO’S
Raining Words:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FrGdRkcDmXc

Shishani @ Namibian Music Awards 2011
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKR1hp9l0b4

Minority Jazz Remix:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zAUh82NC3gI

Windhoek:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=izIFmmRpFUU

CONTACT:
Europe: + 31 6 13605311
Africa: +264 81 3000832

 

 

Why the (blank) would they censor the word (blank)?


www.anh-usa.org
http://www.anh-usa.org

Are you (blank)? Then this is for you. Somewhere in sunny Africa, television stations censor the word (blank) and also the word (blank) to {perhaps} keep little girls and boys on the heteronormative straight and narrow. It’s (blank)ing ridiculous.

One uneventful evening some months ago, I settled down to watch a telenovela with the rest of the family. I forget what it was called, but it was a riveting piece of work that my mother never missed, unless she came home late. So as I sat there and watched the superimposed voices act out a dialogue-the strangest thing happened.

The narrative being presented in the telenovela was about a community in where I think is Brazil, maybe not Brazil, but definitely somewhere in South America. Just so you know (if you didn’t already) telenovelas have been used for decades to address and build awareness around various social justice issues in South America, and with much success. It so happens that one of the issues being addressed in this particular one was around homophobia in that community, and how intolerable people would attack (especially) gay men. It also showed how there were safe gay spaces like cafés and clubs where gay men and other sexual minorities were welcome.

The story line unfolds and it turns out that one character’s son is in fact gay, and his father is struggling with how to come to terms with the new information. My first thought as I watched the actors and actresses going through their paces was that, it’s fantastic how a national television station was willing to air a show with a storyline that encouraged tolerance of sexual minorities. And that this was being screened in an African county infamous for its low tolerance of diverse sexual orientations, I thought to myself kudos, times are changing. Then the strange thing that I spoke about earlier happened.

There was perhaps a five minute conversation between the mother and father of the gay child, where the mother was trying to help her ex-husband understand what ‘gay’ means, that their son was attracted to men, and not to women as he had earlier been pretending to be. It took a minute before I fully understood why the conversation was so fragmented and difficult to follow. Then it hit me-the editors at the television station had muted out the word GAY! They had also muted the word SEX out, and because this was a five minute conversation about sex and being gay, it went a little something like this:

“What do you mean Berto’s (blank)?!” Exclaims the father

“It means he’s (blank), you know what being (blank) means don’t you?” The mother asks

“But he’s been dating Carlita for years! How can he suddenly be (blank)?” Father interjects.

“He’s been (blank) for years. Him and Carlita never had (blank), it was all pretense.” Mother informs father.

“What? So who has he been having (blank) with?! I gave him the talk about safe (blank) and everything, but how does that help him now that he’s (blank)?!” Exasperated dad asks, while pacing furiously around the small flat.

“Look, Berto is still your son. He has not changed who he is just because he is (blank). Being (blank) is a very small part of him, but it’s not just about who he has (blank) with. Berto is (blank). Plain and simple.” Mother tries to sooth angry father.

“Why didn’t he tell me he was (blank)?” Father asks

“Because he knew you would react like this. It’s very hard for him to be open about his (blank)ness. Our society is very harsh on (blank) people. Just the other day, Marita found a homeless (blank) man that was beaten to death by homophobes near her cafe. It’s not easy for Berto.”

The above is not the conversation verbatim, but you catch the drift. I sat there with my mouth open for all of the five minutes of this (blank) conversation. I don’t know what the censorship laws are here, but it seems that whoever’s decision it was to censor the words gay and sex, probably did it out of some strong moral compulsion to not dirty the minds of younglings that might have been watching.

The censoring also probably spared parents the need to explain to inquisitive young minds what being gay is all about. Typical to television, they never showed any scenes with two men kissing or making out or holding hands. Maybe there were such scenes initially, but were quickly edited out by the moral powers that be. Bloody censorship. I can imagine how hard it must be for a parent, in a conservative country, to have to field curious questions about gayness and what being gay means and why people get beaten to death for being gay. Homosexuality is something our parents have barely wrapped their heads around and the possibility of their own children being same-sex lovers in too much to bear.

Try as I may, I still don’t understand what would compel a television station to censor the word. Hearing the word gay will NOT make you gay. Hearing the word SEX will not make you go out and have sex. If the whole point of this senseless censorship was to protect the minds of little children then sad to say, television station, you have failed. Because guess what? There’s the internet now and in one way or another, the innocent little people will gain access to information from sources we as parents cannot control.

That said-I’m glad they can’t censor this.

Lesbian. Gay. Intersex. Bisexual. Transsexual. Tranny. Dyke. Fag. Clit. Penis. Dick. Vagina. Vulva. Pussy. Cunt. Prick. Dildo. Masturbate. Wank. Fap. Cum. Semen. Anus. Ass. Fingering. Fisting.

There, I said it.

The Wedding Ring


http://www.dailypainters.com

 

She arrived late. She seemed nervous as she made her way through the pews to find an empty space to sit. She found one next to me right at the front of the whole meeting area. We were sitting on pews because the school had a chapel, and the pews had been carried out into the assembly grounds, where a tent had been erected. The school started as a Baptist church mission, which explained the imposing presence of the school chapel and its stained glass windows. She smiled nervously at me as I made space on the pew for her. I moved my bag and put it on my lap. She settled into her space and we politely whispered our hellos. Without another word she fixed her eyes to the front stage and let out a deep sigh.

She looked like a million other women in the country. She wasn’t rich. But she made sure she looked presentable for her child’s prize giving day. She was wearing a pretty dress made from the kitenge fabric, known for its bright colours and bold patterns. Her hair was tied in a neat ponytail that had been plaited into lots of little braids. I could see strands of her grey hairs showing through the braids. She wore low heeled beige shoes that matched the beige parts of her kitenge dress. She had her hands and legs crossed in a similar way, with one over the other, that made her already small frame shrink even more.

That’s when I saw her wedding ring. A small, thin band of brass, or perhaps tarnished gold. It looked like she had not taken it off in years. She had put on some weight, because the ring looked like it was suffocating her finger. Maybe, her wedding ring was symbolic of her marriage. Restrictive. Suffocating. Painful. It looked painful to have that ring around her finger. But at the same time, she didn’t seem to notice. It’s like her ring finer had ceased to be a part of her body that felt pain. Or it was a pain she endured with pride-as all marriage woes were. The more you endured patiently, the better your rewards. I looked at her ring finger for a while. And wondered when it was that she stopped feeling the pain. Or if she ever felt any pain in the first place. Perhaps her marriage, like her ring, was not something you got out of, or took off, no matter what. Perhaps, even, it would have hurt her finger more if you took the ring off. Blood would start flowing to a part of her body that she had completely forgotten exists. Cut off from the rest of her body by a band of faithfulness.

I will never forget that ring, and her ring finger. I sat through several performances. One of them of my child singing about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I took some pictures with my phone for posterity. But that ring finger is a mental image, I will never forget.

About blood and gore and Django Unchained (sort of)


I just watched Django Unchained. It’s your usual Quentin Tarantino signature serve of a gorno festival-with blood and brains splattering every white surface every ten minutes. I’m not a huge fan of gore, but when I can stomach it, I watch the odd tribute to violence and testosterone that action movies usually are. So I watched Django Unchained because it was supposed to be different in its narrative of slavery and slave trade in America. And it was. But still lots of gratuitous violence, and oh so much blood.

I thought nothing much of the movie (this is not a movie review) until maybe a week later when I was watching television. On came an Always commercial and as has been since I knew what a sanitary pad was, the ‘blood’ in the ad was blue. And I don’t mean blue blood in the aristocratic context-I mean blue like the ink in a blue pen. I thought back to Django Unchained. The hundreds of pints of blood, fake blood actually, were red-like the blood that all people bleed. So why is the blood in a sanitary product commercial blue? What kind of subliminal messaging is going on here?

I remember my first sanitary pad commercial experience, in the comfort of the family living room, around dinner time, with the TV on. On came the pads, and the cotton wool and then the beaker of blue ink. The advert went through its paces, showing just how absorbent the pad is, and how it doesn’t leave any blue on you.  At that time, we had just started using ink fountain pens at school (the suggestion was that fountain pens improved your handwriting-I now think that it was probably leftovers from the colonial British education system). Anyhow, I tell my mother, between a mouthful of pap and vleis, that I need one of those for school. I keep messing with my ink pen and this pad thing seems to be just what I need to absorb all that ink. There is deathly silence in the room, and a chuckle from my mother. She mumbles sure and that’s supposed to be the end of the discussion.

The problem with that is when we finally learnt about periods in school, I could not make any kind of connection between the sanitary pads that the teacher was talking about and the ones on TV. None. The teacher said you bleed, and blood is red. Why would they use blue in a sanitary pad commercial? The pads on TV had to be for something entirely different. When I finally got my period and was presented with the pad, only then did I make the connection.

Many years and Django Unchained later, I beg the question. Is the fictitious depiction of period blood that disgusting? And what makes it so unpalatable for our delicate senses? If people can sit through almost two hours and maybe 180 litres of fake blood, why can’t they stomach 30 seconds and five mililitres of the same? Is it because it comes from our vagina’s? Is that what makes it disturbing? I can bet you my bra, a pair of shoes and a pack of cigarettes that there are pubescent boys that think girls bleed blue every month. Some will find out later that it’s not blue, and it’s really just blood, and others will never know what goes on down there when his girlfriend/wife/partner is having that ‘special time of the month’. Makes me sad. Then mad.

It’s this continued skewed, dishonest, sugarcoated, commercial presentation of natural, biological, healthy, processes of a woman’s reproductive cycle that increase women and girls own negative relationship with our bodies. Let blood be red-all blood. I don’t see how a sanitary pad advert will loose customers if they switch from blue to red in their demonstrations. They will be telling the truth. We need to tell more truths about women and women’s bodies-even if it’s something as simple and honest as the fact that we bleed red. Not blue.

About the birds and the bees…and the flowers and the trees.


Not many other women out there will be willing to admit this without a gun to their head, so here’s a truth-I’ve watched porn. Not many women in Africa anyway. So have very many girls, boys, women and men. Porn at that time, I thought would answer questions I had about sex, and no one that I knew could offer me explanations that satiated my questions. And that’s the truth.

Now, as we know, or can imagine, accessing porn in my day was harder that it is today. Much harder. Porn came in tapes, VHS tapes. Remember those? They were played by VCR’s and travelled a hell of a long way before they found their way to your neighbourhood. Once word spread in the neighbourhood that there was a ‘blue movie’ around, you had to send your closest, most trusted male friend to track it down. All this only after you made him swear on the lives of his six siblings and his ailing grandmother. God forbid that anyone knew that a woman was enquiring after something so salacious. When you got the porn, you told your inner circle of girl friends and organized a meet-up at the house with the latest and most reliable VCR. Worst case scenario would be the tape being chewed up by the machine or horror of horrors-get stuck in there.  Once you had your posse of curious, nervous, scared as hell girls together, you would watch exactly five to ten minutes of sixties porn. Saucer shaped eyes would be glued to the very grainy pictures of what we thought sex was. At that time there was no dialogue-no conversations. Kool And The Gang played in the background, and seemingly strangers would come together and have sex. Our curiosity satiated, we would switch off the porno, sit in disgusted silence and part ways with this deep, dark secret for us to keep for the rest of our days.

Even though we finally knew what goes where-the porn did not create a context for sex that we could understand. In the community I grew up, I had to be married to have sex. Were the characters in that porno married? Maybe they were. What conversation do people have that lead to sex? Did the handlebar moustache and afro play a role in determining what kind of sex people had? I needed a context and porn never created that for me. Watching that porn only confused me further. In high school, everyone I knew had read at least two ‘forbidden’ romance novels. There was always a man, and a woman that hated each other. But underneath this hatred was simmering some passion that would explode into heaving bosoms and throbbing members that naïve people such as myself had a hard time conceptualizing. The books created the conversational context, showed desire and mutual consent-but the intricacies of the sex act itself would remain a mystery still. Which meant in my day that sex was going to forever be a mystery, either until the day I got married or the day I had sex.

Fast forward 20 odd years later and the tables have turned. Pornography pervades everything we see around us. And is so easily accessible to anyone with a WAP enabled phone and curiosity. Sex and porn, whether we realize it, or acknowledge it are young people’s primary source of sex education. And just as it’s access has been simplified, it’s diversity has increased. If a young boy, or a group of young boys introduction to sex is a gangbang porno where a group of men have sex with an ‘eager’ and ‘willing’ female participant, shake hands then go their separate ways. Again, without a context and a clear understanding of the circumstances under which the porno was filmed, and an understanding that when it comes to sex that there should be informed consent and a mutual understanding reached regarding the kind of sexual intercourse that is to take place. Pornography doesn’t offer this. Even when watched by young women, such pornography presents the idea that one woman can be expected to sexually satisfy a man, or indeed a group of men without any particular expectation from herself or the men. Porn as a source of sex education is damning for both girls and boys. But as far as ten headed monsters go, the internet presents twenty alternative options for every 10 that firewalls and cyber nannies take away.

So where does that leave us? And young people with hormones like tennis balls at a Serena Williams match? Back at square one it seems. There are certain things that parents, guardians and indeed grandparents need to understand and accept-young people are curious about sex. The act itself. What it feels like. What goes where. Why is it only done by adults. All the difficult to answer questions. And if they cannot get the truth from a source that gives them real, honest and context based answers to their sex questions, then there are a couple of porn films floating around in cyber space waiting to give them the wrong information about sex.

When I think of the many women and girls that have been victims and survivors of rape, sometimes gang rapes, carried out by 14 year old boys on 12 year old girls in some cases, it really makes me sure that wrong messages about sex are being passed around as truth. That young men, boys really, have been led to believe that it is okay to rape a girl, film it, and upload it on YouTube. That the possibly 6 million views of a similar pornographic film online are the seal of approval that tell him it’s okay to do that. When it comes to influencing and controlling the kind of information that young people can access, that influences their understanding of what sex is-we cannot be too careful. Information empowers, but the wrong information disempowers completely.

IF LIPS COULD TALK-Five things they might have to say


Leila-39-Somalia

She’s pregnant again. It’s going to be child number five and this time she seems sure it’s finally a boy. She says she feels like it’s bigger and heavier and is sitting lower than the other five. The last one nearly killed us all, and I was hoping that maybe she’s decided to call it quits. But I know and she knows that she doesn’t get to make that decision. They think I’m made of spandex. That I can expand and contract at will, and where I won’t stretch they can tear me and sow me up. Good as new. I’m pretty tired of all this. I want to catch a break. Maybe for a year or ten, where people just leave me alone. She doesn’t bother much with me, to be honest. It’s everyone else that I’m sick and tired of. I was pleased when we went to see a doctor, a real one with a degree and a stethoscope and everything. With clean hands and a gentle voice. But she took one look at me and her face changed. She murmured something to Leila-I couldn’t hear what, but it sounded serious. It was a bit weird being out there in the open. I want to say I enjoyed the rush of cool air from the fan in the room, but it’s such an unfamiliar feeling I didn’t know what to make of it. It was nice to be looked at though. And to get some attention. I heard birth control mentioned, and if I had hands I would clap. If I had lips I would whistle. If I had lips…But then it’s hard to miss what you never had right? Maybe they’re overrated. I heard Leila and some other women at the village talk about women in the cities, in the big towns and across the sea. Apparently they don’t cut anything off. They have all this stuff all over the place. They say it’s dirty to have all that, and all the women with Leila spit in disgust. Good thing I’m not dirty, I think. Maybe it’s easier to manage without all the stuff. Maybe all the stuff that’s cut off interferes with childbirth, I don’t know. There must be a good reason why it’s done, otherwise why would they do it? I don’t even remember how it felt when they cut the stuff off. No one recounts it really. Maybe that’s a good thing. The children are asleep, and I can hear his heavy footsteps approaching. I don’t know how big the pregnancy is at this stage-maybe he will leave us alone if it looks really big. I wish she would distend her stomach so that it looks big and he leaves us alone. They’re talking. No, it’s still early in the pregnancy so here goes. I wish people would just leave us alone. Me especially.

Karen-24-Kenya

Thank the gods of good sense she’s wearing cotton today. Whoever invented thongs should be hung by one. Oh it’s the granny panties. Period panties. I don’t get why the period is a reason not to put on the nice panties. Although I have to say on the face of a pad, a thong is highly impractical. I am glad it is cotton but the tight jeans aren’t helping much at all. It’s such a hot day. And I wish she would just stop shaving me. I know she found some of his porn and all she saw was shaved ones but for goodness sakes, this is becoming unbearable. The razor bumps are irritating and I feel so moody. And cold. It felt nice with the hair still on. But I guess if Jimmy doesn’t like it then neither does she. But nobody asks me, no one. All these things are done to me but no one pays attention to my complaints. It’s been six days since I had thrush, but no, out come the razors and the thongs as soon as the period is over. For a smart woman Karen has this incredible inability of listening to what he body is telling her. I love it when I bleed, because I get some peace. No shaving, poking or prodding of any kind, and warm fuzzy cotton granny panties. If it wouldn’t kill Karen I’d bleed everyday just to get some peace. And that Jimmy needs to go. All that porn watching has him thinking that I’m ready to go as soon as he pinches her nipple. The last time was especially painful and had me bruised for a week. Maybe two. It’s hard to tell between the endless poking and the thrush in between. I wish someone would tell her that this is not how it should be. I have no idea how it should, but I know that this is not it. I am sure of that. Yes Jimmy is her first and she doesn’t want to be known as a slut, but really Karen? Really? Quit this before you kill us both with pain and thrush. Oh thank goodness she’s going to visit her family in the village for a month. She can’t let her mum find her thongs so it’s granny pantie month! Hallelujah! And no Jimmy either. Holiday, here I come!

Tafadzwa-16-Zimbabwe

Oh God I smell so bad. But Tafa knows how to sit just so that people don’t catch a whiff. I know it’s no one’s fault that there aren’t any pads in these parts, but truth be told, even if there were pads she couldn’t afford them anyway. The torn towel strips will have to suffice. I’m glad she’s not staying away from school because of this, smart girl. Plus it’s the story of every other girl here so there’s nothing to be ashamed of. I hate it when I bleed. It’s so stuffy, and the smell…I hate the smell. She’s on her second to last day so this will be over soon. Oooooh Tafa likes someone! She’s been having those dreams that make me moisten up in the middle of the night. She cries when she wakes up and finds me wet. Then she curses me and asks God what’s wrong with her. I wish she could speak to someone. She likes her science teacher a lot, maybe she should talk to her, and find that it’s normal. I can’t help myself, she’s the one that dreams those dreams and I just react accordingly. Anyway, maybe she will learn one day. Good thing her mother is not suspicious because she would be in for a beating for sure. One day, I don’t know what Tafa and the rest of them were doing, but she tore her school uniform, and you can imagine there was hell to pay. Her mother went at her with a leather belt, and in Tafa’s attempts at dodging the lashes, I caught the sting of the buckle. It was excruciating, and I bled a little. And I’m not looking forward to another beating, and neither is Tafa I hope. Okay here come some of her friends, it’s lunch time I think. Most of the girls when on their periods sit together a bit further from the rest and have their lunch there. Tafa and some girls are sitting under a tree and sharing their lunch. Wait, what’s going on. I’m moistening up! Maybe it’s the period…no it’s not, this is definitely arousal! So whoever Tafa has been dreaming of is right here! I wish I had eyes to see her! It is a her…Tafa aren’t you full of surprises! Don’t you worry girl, your secret is safe with me.

Alois-33-Democratic Republic of Congo

Bottles, spoons, sticks and stones-name it. Just name it. The butt of a gun too. And a maize cob. You know how people say they have seen it all? Well I have. I don’t have eyes, but I have seen it all. All of it. There’s nothing you can show me, or put inside me that will make me wonder what is going on. That’s the thing with being me, in a place like this. People think I am a letter box, a pigeon hole, a place where you put things that you don’t like, or things that you don’t want to see. Me, I have seen it all. And I don’t even live in the bad parts, I just end up in the wrong places at the wrong times. I must have been 12 the first time something was forced inside me. That really hurt. No warning, no time to lubricate, no pleasure. From then on the number and type of things that were forced inside me changed. Alois is a prostitute now. People say she should be called a sex worker. But the truth is that some of the things they do to me have nothing to do with sex. And definitely nothing to do with pleasure. I’m used to it now. So is Alois. It was the group of policemen and their guns that I think killed all feeling inside me. It was one thing to have all those men take turns with me for days. It was another thing to have them put their guns inside me. There was one that liked to do that-put things inside me. To see how far I can stretch. There was a big, cold, brown, empty bottle of beer that he was forcing inside me, when gunfire saved me. Ha! Saved by gunfire. That is funny. People like Alois. Because of the little feeling I have now, Alois is not picky. Anyone will do. And anyone can do anything. I hear there are people far away that have meetings and talk about what happens to us, to me. I don’t know what it changes because nothing has changed for me. The sun is going down. It will be time to go work soon. Alois has three children that she must send money home for. She has not seen them in many years. But the letters tell her they are fine. She does not know who their fathers are. I don’t think she cares. But she still provides for them. Well, I provide for them. But we are one and the same yes? I have to go. The customers are coming.

Henrietta-39-Cape Town

This fucking shit again? Again!? He’s been fucking around again that fucking bastard. The last time the doctor said that if I catch this one more time Etta is going to loose her eggs. Something like that. Won’t have kids or something like that. It sounds cruel but with the fucking shit that she has to put up with from that asshole, maybe losing her eggs is a good thing. She can’t bring kids into this mess. Why the fuck won’t she listen to me? Ek verstan nie. This has been going on for nine fucking years now. He stopped the beating and knocking her around and shit, but now with the fucking cheating? I don’t know what is worse. Maybe I’m being selfish because the sickness affects me more than the beatings did…but still. Everyone has told her that she deserves better than this idiot, but apparently the heart wants what it wants. Such fucking bullshit. I want to spend a year without itching the walls off myself and smelling like this. That’s what I want. And what I want makes everyone happy. It so strange that for something that people go through a lot of shit for, no one seems to care what’s going on with me ek se. People don’t see the connection ne? Between me and fucking global warming. Okay so maybe not global warming, but almost everything else. Let’s say for a second that we formed a union. Yes a fucking union. Then we all went on strike and say no kids are coming out of here, not one baby. Not one. Yeah let’s see what the world does then ek se. Let’s see. In fact, when I think of it that way, we have a lot to do with global warming after all! All these people were forced to produce affect the ozone or something right? I fucking knew we had something to do with global warming! I hope he’s travelled for work. I hope his car crashes and he gets amnesia and he forgets Etta. I hope Etta gets fucking amnesia too. I’m sick of this.

Is your father a man or a woman?


‘Is your father a man or a woman?’ This is a question that my child Pumpkin, was asked at daycare during an English oral exam. He got it wrong, and I was thrilled. This is supposed to be a no-brainer for anyone his age (he is three going on four years old) but his circumstances are very different. You see Pumpkin’s mother is a gender bending feminist  and in some ways a bit of a crazy person. Probably the only one for miles, and definitely the only one at Pumpkin’s school.

When Pumpkin was born, and was at that age when all babies look like, well, babies, people would always ask whether Pumpkin is girl or a boy. A question that as often as I could get away with, I declined to answer, and tried to always dress Pumpkin in gender neutral colours.  People showed mild elation that he was a boy, and told me how lucky I was to have a boy the first time around. That boys were easier and cheaper to raise. Almost four years down the line-the girl/boy, male/female binary is still a mystery for Pumpkin. When asked whether he is a girl or a boy, Pumpkin’s response changes depending on what he is doing. When playing, he sometimes demands that we call him Lady. He will not respond unless we call him Lady, and to him Lady is a tough talking character that always carries a gun that Lady never uses. Other times he is Mother and everyone in sight is a baby, and he goes about the duties he has watched mothers around him carry out. Just today he was Girl. Girl wears sunglasses the size of saucers and writes a lot. You see, to Pumpkin, girl is not assigned by sex or gender-it’s a role he can play when he wants to. So are the terms boy, and man and woman and every other member of the social gender assignment committee.

So when a teacher asks Pumpkin whether his father is a man or a woman, it is genuinely a difficult question for him to answer. Even without the influence of his mother’s gender bending  tendencies, Pumpkin comes from a single parent household. For his whole life he has lived with only his female parent. And has seen what society calls his ‘mother’ carry out what society calls a ‘father’s’ duties. Ask Pumpkin what gender his mother is and the response will be the same.  He will shrug his shoulders, and say he doesn’t know. As far as he is concerned, Mummy (who he chooses to call Auntie Sheena often) is a sexless genderless character that’s just Auntie Me. My parenting of him has nothing to do with whether I am a woman or a man. Just recently his grandmother asked him if he’s going to be an engineer when he grows up. Pumpkin shook his head no, he does not want to be an engineer he wants to be a boy. A boy is something you can become-not someone you are born.

The un-gendering of my child is something that I have done consciously, but not forced on Pumpkin. He lives in a world where everyone will tell him that he is a boy (or even that he is a man) and should behave accordingly. My sphere of influence is very limited. And eventually he will realize that my opinions and world view differ considerably from practically everyone else that he will come across. It’s sometimes seems to be a futile exercise, but one I believe is important in raising a different kind of person. A person that is not a slave to patriarchal gender stereotypes and all the misogyny and misadry that they come with.

Like many other little boys, Pumpkin just loves cars and moving things. I nurture his interest in cars and machines, as I would if Pumpkin were a girl. I believe that Pumpkin likes cars because cars are fun and cool. I myself love cars and moving things. Pumpkin also loves to cook (he insists on wearing the frilliest apron he can find in the kitchen) and has become my trusted sous chef. He insists on being part of every activity, whether it is gardening, cleaning, cooking, laundry, driving around on a lazy Sunday or doing nothing. He has grown up in a space where no one tells him consistently what he can or cannot do, what’s for girls and what is for boys, or who he can or cannot be. Or what society’s expectations are of him as a boy. He is Pumpkin, and as Pumpkin he is who he wants to be, when he wants to be it.

Many people feel that all the confusion and social decay is happening because we have forgotten our places in the gendered social system. If women could do what women do and men do what men do, all our problems will be solved. Raising Pumpkin the way I am, goes against everything society has taught. People have said to my face that allowing Pumpkin to paint his toes is what will turn him into a moffie (homosexual). Or that telling him it’s okay to cry when he is hurt or scared will make him soft. Pumpkin is only three-and there is no telling who or what he will become or what he wants to be. But if he can grow up knowing that just because society calls him a man, it does not mean that he is limited or restricted to the roles he is presented with, or that he observes. All I can do, all any parent can do really is try. And teaching him that sex and gender are far less important than patience, empathy and gentleness must be a step in the right direction.

A Different Kind of Inheritance


For about four years, in a land not-so-far away, I ran a business. I had registered a media and communications consultancy which I considered a success. All my clients were happy with my work and I managed to pay the bills. My rent was paid on time and so was my child’s fees. I even had money left over to treat myself and my child to the occasional movie, brunch or dinner out every month. When I took stock of my life I thought I was doing pretty well for a single-mother and a foreigner in a foreign land. And for a woman working for herself, and paving her own path.

It was a rude awakening during a visit back home when my parents told me quite matter-of-factly that I actually have nothing. I hadn’t bought a house, or a plot of land that I was developing. For all my education and experience I had nothing to show for it. When something like that comes from a parent, you can’t help but believe it’s true. Prior to their revelation of what I failure I was, I had considered myself something of a success. True, my bank balance at the middle of the month was no indication of just how well I was doing in my field, but that’s not how I had learned to measure my success. They went on about how Shaka would have nothing to inherit from me, and I would be going against the rule of nature that our children should do better than their parents. They said that ‘in their day’ with far less education and even less resources they had done a lot more than I have to date. I am 29.

I had to agree with the premise that our children should indeed have better lives than we had. They should have more opportunities than we had and wider options than were presented to us. But how do we measure this progress? Have I failed my child because I don’t yet own a shamba for my child to inherit? Have I failed as a person because I am still a tenant and not yet a house owner? What was my measure of success? After wallowing in self-pity for a few days, I decided to list my achievements, one by one, according to how I defined what my success is. It was a long list, and did not include a shamba or any property owned. Was I happy? Check. Was I independent? Check. Was I published? Check? Was I useful to my community? Check. Was I raising a happy, healthy, well-adjusted child single-handedly? Check. Surely I am not that big a failure. For all the things that I hadn’t done-there was a lot that I had.

Well what about my child’s inheritance? I realized that while people seem to get so fixated on raising children in better environments with better things, very often we forget to try and raise them to be better people. We think that the more our children have, the better people they will be. This is not the case.

A long with the shamba and the ten cows, our children inherit our mistakes, our anger, our frustrations.  We don’t always intentionally pass these unwanted gifts on-but we do anyway. Our children inherit tons of emotional baggage that we inherited from our own parents. And the letting go of this baggage, is my inheritance for my child. All the stored away anger and disappointment that I collected while growing up will not be his inheritance. It stops with me. My child will have to create its own psychological identity, hopefully free of my own flaws and inheritances. My child inherits an open mind-one that asks how I can support dreams to become a painter. My child inherits a free spirit, that lives each day to the fullest and appreciates the smaller things in life. My child inherits a relationship based on love, trust, and respect, not fear and trepidation. My child inherits a home, a humble one, but one where my child is always welcome and where success is measured by how happy we is, and how much our community is benefitting from our gifts and talents.

It’s indeed a different kind of inheritance-but worth more to my child’s spirit than a shamba ever will be. I’m still working on getting the house and the farm, and counting my many mini-successes along the way.

Shamba*-farm in Kiswahili