I can’t tell you my name
I want to start off by telling you my name, really, I do. Both my names taste good in any mouth. I wouldn’t mind you seeing my profile either, you’d love my face, you’d want to sit and just look at it. I have glorious features; you’d rave about my hair and interject with compliments about my smile.
No, listen, ngimuhle. My voice is a new thing. It’s a fresh sound, probably a melody your soul has longed for. I am talented, ngite titayela but I can dance. I come from a people that sing so needless to say, ngiyayibamba inote.
My hands have a lot of my mother and a reminder of my father. This shouldn’t mean anything to you, just an interesting observation my end. But whilst we are on my hands, I can write you a letter that would change your whole mind.
I am humble. Believe me. And shy too. Mangeyisa.
Yet with all this knowledge of self and confidence too, I still won’t tell you my name. I can’t. I mean, I can but I can’t. It would be far too reckless on my side in so much as it actually shouldn’t be political. But it is. I know it’s a problem that I am free but not free enough to show face and to offer anything alluding to who I am. I know, we are all missing out. It’s not so much about fear but knowledge of a space that is adamant to shut down even this harmless introduction of a faceless somebody. I’m not faceless.
So I spoke to the editors of this platform and asked not to share my name. Being published on this platform makes one controversial. Stop it, you know this! Already I am aligned with delinquents, it’s enough being one in my family! And I know too that we are awesome but I still won’t share my name. Not my face. Not my hands. Shiya.
It’s a shame that this is how things are. Kubi vele. But for now, allow me to engage my way.
What I will tell you though is that I am a poet (too). I write to make sense of self, others, situations, circumstances and the world. I really am telling you too much but alas…
So as you would have it, I will share a poem. I wrote it 10 years ago (or maybe 9 but asitsi 10), completely unbelievable but believable too. Niyati sibuyaphi and solo sikuphi. I went through it the other day and landed to where I am now; ka ‘I can’t tell you my name’.
I want to say ‘enjoy’ but it also seems inappropriate because I’m not trying to entertain you. Noma asitsi, ‘see below’:
About ‘this’ Country
I’m trying to figure out
How to write about
My country without
Fear of penetrating forbidden spaces,
Landing on sensitive bases,
This leading to a confrontation with unpleasant faces
It’s difficult to conceive of any type of freedom
Within a country that translates peace to mean silence
It’s more difficult to trace the residence of wisdom
Among people who have settled to view the meaning of tranquillity with the same lense
I’m struggling to pose simple questions
Throw in meaningful suggestions
And make my contribution towards a promising destination
What about increasing the volume of my voice?
In the midst of an audience which will only recognize a woman making noise?
Whilst my questions concerning land, salaries, pensions, business, security, law, power, resources and human rights, remain un-answered?
And what about being a liberal
On a land that has no conception of choice?
I’m struggling to write about this country
That I’m so conscious of even labelling
For fear of…the unknown-
Lest I land up in a cell all alone
But how do I write of a sphere
that to me is so dear
Yet prohibits me to stand and be clear
About my concerns
And for more people to stand and take turns
In pointing out where they really burn?
And what shoves my heart to the floor
Are citizen soldiers standing guard in front of doors
Protecting greed, corruption, selfishness, squandering, theft, insanity, foolishness, incompetency, abuse and everything related
How do I write positively and joyously
About a country that teaches dependency;
That blessed is the hand that receiveth
And of course, deceiveth
Are many minds
But what about the thoughts of my kind?
I’m not sure whether to call for assistance in writing this piece
Or to call for applause for the resistance
To my country’s conception of peace
I guess what eventually lifts my heart from my feet
Is that little level of consciousness rising,
Threatening ancient deceit
One can sigh in relief
And stand with those that deny the belief
Of one true story
That weaves us all together in one body
Uniting our thoughts,
Defining our cause
It brings colour to my features
That there exists a few that now know to question the lesson of a teacher
The unwritten truth
I like the few that grows familiar with their own voices
And realise that their loaded tongues should offload within critical discourses
That have their lives at the centre
And for this reason, what they say should matter
I must calm down…
This work should generate smiles
And not frowns
This work should be received with nods
And not intestines tied in knots
And at the end, I hope my elders will desire to give me a hug
And not cut off my tongue
But not so close
For I’d rather they too chose
To help me figure out
how to write about
My country without
Fear of penetrating forbidden spaces
Landing on sensitive bases
This leading to a confrontation with unpleasant faces…
NB: Cover imagine sourced from Charcoal Sibandze. Follow him on twitter at @brothercharcoal.