A work in progress…

Happy New Year everybody….Sigh..After ghosting this page for what feels like forever, lm happy to say l’m back. A lot has happened over the past few months ( side note , l feel like an influencer saying this) but anywayyyy l figured the best way to start the year is by talking about what almost everyone tweets about , HEALING. There is a saying that goes, ‘Time heals almost everything, give it time’ On a certain day when l was feeling low last year l tweeted that and l told myself , Next year l would go back to the tweet and I’m certain l would be in a better space. Guess what? I  have visited that tweet every single month from the day l wrote it and six months from then l realized that NOTHING had changed, l was so devastated cause l couldn’t believe how neither my Self love books, affirmations nor time had healed me. It is only then l came to a realization that unless we change our thoughts or habits and become intentional about healing ourselves, time will do nothing but just go by. I then started to become an active participant in my healing. My aunt once said, ‘Find out what Melissa Likes and feed her with that’ l have never been the same person again. I started searching for the little things that made me feel whole and made decisions  that made me happy. With every decision l took, l always told myself that there is no deadline for my healing, if this doesn’t bring me back to my old self by xx then it’s still fine. Healing is a journey and that being 100% healed is some crazy concept . I think the greatest thing one can do for themselves is acknowledge that they can be a masterpiece and still be a work in progress on their healing. If you are reading this and you are also on your ‘healing journey’, l wish you nothing but the best, l hope in trying to ‘fix’ yourself , you realize you are still a masterpiece. Wishing you a masterpiece of a week.

Credit : @dino_comics

Mbuya Nehanda: A symbol of resistance

A question to the reader. Do you believe in the afterlife and the existence of ancestors? Recently , there was a trend on Twitter where people caption their posts, ‘l am my ancestors wildest dreams’ l will ask again, ‘Do you believe in the afterlife and existence of ancestors? Musiiwa (2008), explains how the Shona people of Zimbabwe believe in the afterlife and how they believe in the role of the ancestors in the affairs of the living. This could explain why the liberation struggle songs in Zimbabwe embedded the names and influence of the ancestors in their songs. This l would like to believe was a way to motivate the freedom fighters. One famous song is the song by Harare Mambos – Mbuya Nehanda ;

Mbuya Nehanda kufa vachitaura shuwa kuti tinotora sei nyika ino, 

shoko rimwe ravakatiudza, tora gidi uzvitonge.Vadzoka kuhondo, 

shuwa here vakamhanyamhanya nemasango vakatora anti air kuti ruzhinji ruzvitonge’

The song explains that Mbuya Nehanda said the way to regain freedom was to take up arms and fight. Now the question is, Who was Mbuya Nehanda? 

Nehanda was a Mhondoro, a powerful and respected ancestral spirit. Mbuya Nehanda was actually the spirit medium of Nehanda. Her name was Charwe Nyakasikana. She was a Hera of the Hwata Dynasty. She was born in 1840 and died in 1898. Charwe was the daughter of Chitaura. Chitaura was the younger son of Shayachimwe who was the founder of the Hwata dynasty. She was born in what is now known today as Chishawasha District in Mashonaland Central in Zimbabwe. She was from the Shona tribe , one of the major ethnic tribes in Zimbabwe.

Nubia Watu on Twitter: "One of the leaders The First Chimurenga War 1896.  Nehanda Charwe Nyakasikana 1840–98. Hera =Queen of the Hwata family, High  Priestess of the Shona, chiShona/Zezuru people of Zimbabwe.
Mbuya Nehanda (1840 – 1898) medium, leader

The Nehanda spirit has been known to originate from Nyamhita. Nyamhita was a daughter of Monomutapa Mutota, the founder of the Mutapa state. Mutota convinced or rather instructed his son Matope, who was to take the throne after him, to engage with Nyamhita (his half sister) so that they could have children and this would increase Matope’s rule and empire.  She is believed to have dissapeared in a mountain.  Afterwards her spirit (Nehanda) settled in different women and about 500 years later it finally settled in Charwe Nyakasikana. The Nehanda spirit was one of the very powerful spirits, it was known to be responsible for the rainmaking, healing and the medium possessing it would be able to advise the locals.

Charwe Nyakasikana upon being possessed by the spirit Nehanda, was now named Mbuya Nehanda. Mbuya means grandmother and then Nehanda was the spirit. Mbuya Nehanda was the medium who was to communicate with ancestors and Mwari. Mwari is known to others as God. When the British South Africa Company settled in Zimbabwe led by Cecil John Rhodes, Mbuya Nehanda encouraged people to welcome them as she also thought they had nothing but good intentions. She even encouraged the locals to send them a black cow as a way to welcome them. Trouble began when the settlers started expatriating the people’s land, mines and cattle. They started forcing them to work for the English Pioneer settlers on their farms, under very harsh conditions. It was no surprise that this led the locals to start an uprising against the settlers. Mbuya Nehanda told the locals that according to Mwari, the settlers were responsible for the locusts and rinderpest. They encouraged the people to drive the settlers out and Mwari had said their bullets would turn into water hence, they had nothing to fear. Mbuya Nehanda together with Mukwati in Matebeleland and Kaguvi in Western Mashonaland were leaders of the revolt. It is said that sekuru Kaguvi was the one who encouraged Mbuya Nehanda to convince the people to start an uprising. 

Most people have/had this idea (myself included) that sekuru Kaguvi and Charwe Nyakasikana (mbuya Nehanda) were married. We have a picture of both of them in our textbooks and we just decided that somehow they were married. Kaguvi, who some Historians have actually said was actually  Kagubi/Kakubi Ncube and that Kaguvi was a bastardization of his name by Europeans. Kagubi was a spirit and the medium (at that time working with Charwe and Mukwati) was Gumboreshumba, loosely translated as lion’s paw/foot. Kaguvi was actually believed to be the spiritual husband of Nehanda. Therefore, the spirits were ‘married’, however Gumboreshumba actually had three wives one of whom was Chief Mashonganyika’s daughter and the other were from a headman called Gondo. Charwe is said to have also been married, unfortunately l coouldnt get the name of the husband. So there you have it folks, Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi were not married. Ngilizwe futhi lisitsho njalo, ndikunzwei muchidaro. Loosely translated as ‘let me hear you ever say that again’ 

They continued to lead the people in the liberation struggle known as Chimurenga War. Mbuya Nehanda played such an important and crucial role and is the only recorded woman known to hold such a position during the 19th century. It was also believed that during war in possesed form, she could tell where danger resided. When the settlers saw how the spirit mediums were of great influence to the people, they decided the best way to handle them was to eliminate them. They then captured and charged Mbuya Nehanda with murder of Henry Hawkins Pollard, a European Commisioner. He had been killed in the battle and they decided to accuse Mbuya Nehanda and they even had a witness ,a Black man (sigh). Sekuru Kaguvi was accused of killing a police officer. Anyway some say they were hanged and others through oral tradition say they were blindfolded and shot in the head. Before being killed, the priest who was present was trying to convince them to convert to Christianity but they both refused. Word says that after Mbuya Nehanda was killed, sekuru Kaguvi agreed to convert then he was killed afterwards. Before dying, Mbuya Nehanda chanted , ‘Mapfuma angu achamuka’, which means my bones will rise. This was believed to have motivated the locals and led to the 2nd Chimurenga war. 

Zimbabwe Denies Mbuya Nehanda A Heroes Funeral | News of the South
Mbuya Nehanda, Sekuru Kaguvi

(Charumbira, 2020) writes on how the Nehanda presented by Trevor Ranger in the book, ‘Revolt in Southern Rhodesia, 1896-7: A Study in African Resistance’ is more of a  mystical and political figure. Whereas, the Nehanda presented by Yvonne Vera in the book, ‘Nehanda’ was a feminist nationalist Nehanda-Charwe. I cant comment much on this right now, however, l am going to get time to read the book by Yvonne Vera and let’s have a deeper conversation on it. As for Revolt, (grin), if l am able to get hold of the book we can compare and contrast the two. For those interested you can check them out on Amazon, Revolt by Trevor Ranger and Nehanda by Yvonne Vera 

Mbuya Nehanda is still being honoured today through songs, poems, a maternity ward was named after her and a statue erected in Harare in honour of her. Her legacy lives on and may we continue to never forget her. She was a symbol of resistance and she is a Mbokodo.

Mudede Arrested For Opposing Erection Of Mbuya Nehanda Statue - Mawarire ⋆  Pindula News
Mbuya Nehanda statue in in the center of the capital, Harare

Acknowledgements

Charumbira, R. (Ed.). (2020). Chapter 2. Historians and nehanda of zimbabwe in history and memory. In Women warriors and national heroes (pp. 39–54). Bloomsbury Open.

Culture and Society. (2020, March 26). [Post]. Facebook. https://web.facebook.com/ZimNatives/posts/great-zimbabweans-mbuya-nehandamapfupa-angu-achamuka-my-bones-shall-risemany-of-/241251320609602/?_rdc=1&_rdr

Life and times of Kaguvi. (n.d.). Bulawayo1872.Com. http://www.bulawayo1872.com/history/kaguvisekuru.htm

Mazama, A. (2015, December 16). Nehanda. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Nehanda

Mazama, A. (2021, April 23). Charwe. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Charwe

I experienced God in the mountains…

I went mountain climbing today. That sounds too plain, l went up the highest mountain in West Africa .Gosh it was such an experience. We will ignore the fact that the bus we used gave us a hard time and we arrived there 7 hours later. Initially when we went up l found it to be a way to exercise and remove some fat. We started the journey with my sisters and we later on went in front with Mel. All we wanted to do was to get to the top. We were surrounded by so many people from different places all with a goal of going to the top.  We started with so much energy , literally just going up. 

Then we started feeling tired and had to take some breaks after a few minutes of climbing. After what feels like forever we saw a big green post and we were excited thinking gosh we are almost there. Tell me how we had just made it to a quarter of the journey. I let out a sigh. We had climbed for like a lifetime just to be told we had gone a quarter way. We stopped at a point and l looked at Mel. I asked her one of the most random questions and said ‘Why are we even climbing?’ She looked at me and said let’s go up a little and talk about it as we climb. From there that’s when the journey felt meaningful. We had a good conversation on why we were there. We are so different but so similar and there is one thing we both had come to do.It wasnt to exercise or to prove a point or to be the first from our tribe. It was something bigger than that. So here we were two strong, outspoken and unruly girls with nothing but a backpack and a few mls of water going up a mountain to seek answers and closure. We stopped so many times trying to catch our breath. We laughed, we met strangers who were kind enough to give us a helping hand to get up. There were a lot of motivational speakers. Personally l was tired of them. How dare you tell me I’m almost there when l have not reached halfway. Guys stop giving people false hope (written on a very light note). When we sat down for our break before reaching halfway through our journey we met Arnold who was kind enough to give us his bottle of water. Shout out to him for being so helpful. Mel was like I’m sure we can get to the top now we have enough water to last us. You know what l liked about this experience; in the mountain anyone and everyone was willing to help. If I needed a helping hand they were ready to assist and so were we. The world would be a better place if we all behaved the way we did up that mountain.

Anyway fast forward now  three quarters up. It was there that we decided we weren’t going back. Side note the same way you came up was the same way you went down. There wasn’t any shortcut down or some help. Silly me was like are we getting a helicopter up there to take us down. Since we were walking and taking breaks to reflect we were a bit left behind. When we were up our final quarter l was like, ‘ Madzimai l hope it rains heavily when we get to the top so l can soak it in’ Listen God listens and when l tell you that when we were thirty minutes it started drizzling. There hadn’t been a sign of rain the last few hours.  At that time some people were coming down and we could hear others shouting that they had got to the top. Nobody said anything between me and Mel and we just continued with our climb. We didn’t even take our usual breaks, we just went up. It’s as if the rains gave us the strength we needed. The more we went up the more the rain came . Those motivational speakers didn’t stop with their ‘ You are almost there’ , and they all said 5 minutes more but we weren’t even five minutes away. Like i said if you are one of those people ‘stop it mhani’ (hahaha).

We started seeing some light, finally we were almost there. The moment l set foot on the top the heavens opened and it rained heavily. Did I mention that God is a beautiful God? At that moment everything was released , l found a rock for myself, sat there and had the most painful cry l have ever had. It was as if everything had been released from my shoulders. I had a conversation with God. I don’t even know what we talked about, it was just a cry to Him. When Jutsa (if you know you know) saw me, they uttered that l should just take everything in. For a good 15 minutes I felt what I had never felt in a very long time. See the thing is people like me who are known to be strong and all rarely or never cry. We suck up things and we MOVE. Today was different because we got to be vulnerable. I can never describe the feeling in a way that makes you understand how beautiful everything was. I went to Mel who had found her own spot and we hugged. I somehow wish that someone captured that moment but it’s very clear in my mind and l know l won’t forget it. We later took pictures. We looked terrible but we were happier, calmer and at peace. How we came back down is a story for another day but all l can say is it’s always easier going down than coming up ( my body still aches ) So buckle up mate we are still climbing. This is your Sunday reminder that your healing is a journey and the road up is never easy. 

So then the two strong, outspoken, unruly Black women who were also tired, upset, mad, sad and disappointed made their way down. But this time we were different. We didn’t get the answers we wanted but we found peace, closure, happiness,  healing and we saw the most beautiful view you could ever see in your lifetime. I am more energized and ready to carry on. Ladies and gentlemen I felt and experienced God in the mountains and lm never the same. My journey is indeed my reward and lm becoming.

After the climb. The natural hair did what it knows after being wet by the rain

Campus diaries

Today l woke up in a good mood. I went by Bra Simon’s place to get a kota and diet coke. When l woke up it felt like l was ready to conquer the world. Melody and l were catching up on campus gossip. I heard the girl in her class, short hair, always wearing a doek and skirts that almost touch the ground, the one who is always following Professor Ncube, is getting married next week. Yoo haa aah chomie!, l say to Mel. That girl is practically a baby. Apparently the guy impregnated her and he wants to do a quick job of marrying her otherwise they both will be chased from church. I never understood these churches that chase people because of pregnancies outside wedlock. Isn’t God an understanding God though. Anyways l could have never guessed that Patricia would do such. She belongs to the part of campus that attends church everyday. That day she gave me a dirty eye when she saw me sharing condoms during the Sex Ed event. Shame, poor girl should have befriended me and l would have given her some. Anyways, that’s none of my business. Besides, l have much better things to do with my time. Things like continue sobbing over my lost love. Yesterday was a mess. I cried myself to sleep. It felt like a part of me died. I thought l was good when l woke up. I laid my bed and had a nice long shower. I was catching up on my Business Law revision. There is so much work to do. Why do we even get tests ? Can the lecturers just trust that we understand the material? Studying is keeping me busy. It’s good but what happens after this. At one point l took a power nap. Actually it was a failed attempt. My pillow is tired of carrying the floods. I’m sure Ed Sheraan is asking for water to drink, poor guy has been on repeat the whole time with no break. I never thought l would cry like this. I’m the definition of strong. The strong is not stronging like it should. It’s been two days and l have been crying non stop. I suspect lm now crying for the family members l have lost phela this is not normal. Anyway l need to get back to my old self. Patrick wants to meet me for our Entrepreneurship project. That boy is a very hardworking shame. He makes the rest of us look like we are not serious with this degree. I heard his father has 8 wives. Eight !!! guys, l mean njani. He has a lot of siblings and since he is the first born he has to work and provide for them. Our parents used to tell us we should understand our backgrounds. Iminwe ayilingani mntanami my mother would say. We have the very wealthy here and we have those that really dont have much and are working to provide for their families. I hope he actually makes it, Patrick l mean. Its 10 already, l have to get going…

Mama Winnie Mandela…. (Part 2)

When she was thrown in prison, she was put near the torture chamber where she could hear the white women torturing the Black women. However, their violence was erased and hers was put out there on the spot. Her story has shown her to be the one who was using violence in the struggle against apartheid, and her husband was that of peace. With Madiba being a lawyer, he used the constitutional and legal approach to fighting apartheid. It was only around  1953 that Mandela had come to the realization that the use of these sophisticated ways was not necessarily going to bring about change; hence, he leaned more to the side of ‘physical action’. Mandela founded the Umkhonto WeSizwe and resorted to violence. When they were married, Winnie had already been in the loop that embarking on this journey with Mandela meant blood had to be shed and violence was inevitable in getting freedom. So when we talk about Winnie and the necklacing, matches, and sticks may we not forget that there was a background to this, may she not be painted as if she sorely decided that as for her, violence would be used in the liberation struggle. It was simply a response to what was an already violent country. This in no way justifies any form of violence. If we are to name everyone who has used violence during apartheid then may we name all of them and not single one out. This also led me to reflect on the violence we still experience today. The consequences of what was a violent country are felt and seen even today. The use of violence simply left a dent In the African countries and people have become comfortable with the use of it. One would then question if this violence could be linked to the normality of gender-based violence. Martin Luther King wrote: If you sow the seeds of violence in your struggle, unborn generations will reap the whirlwind of social disintegration. 

Pin by Era Ann on africa | Winnie mandela, Mandela, Winnie
Picture credits: Pininterest

Winnie was later brought to the TRC, (a body created after apartheid were victims and witnesses were brought to give statements and possibly apologize ) , where she was put In a position to apologize for what happened to Stompie. The problem wIth TRC was that it leveled White and Black violence. It was a matter of ‘we both did wrong in being violent, let us  apologize.’ However, Winnie refused to just let the issue go by simply apologizing and accepting that both parties were being violent in a ‘justified’ way. Winnie viewed herself and had already been labeled as Mother of Nation. Mama presented a very different idea on activism and the patriarchy at that time could not contain that. Could it be why her story was then mainly focused on the incident of the late Stompie? I mean the worst thing that can happen to a mother of a nation who is a social worker, is that they are convicted of killing a young boy. If we allow patriarchy to paint a picture of who uMama was, we have allowed ourselves as women to be erased from history. We have allowed the Black women to be erased from the History of those who were on the frontline of fighting in the struggle. May we not silence our stories in fear of being called mad or angry. So yes, uMama had her fair portion of scandals and if we were not there to witness what happened may we not use the accusations of her killing as her main story. The media has done enough in painting her image in a horrible manner. It is up to us as the young Black woman to write her story and make sure uMama’s story, the Black woman’s story is not archived.  

In an interview on The Oral History Archive, uMama Mandela says, ‘ It is an individual choice you make in your life to make a difference. It is an individual choice to understand that my neighbour is not as privileged as I am. Extend your heart to those around you and that is the democracy you must protect, that is the democracy that should make you have an individual choice. Are you going to make a difference in your life? And we depend entirely on you. Please better our lives so that when I go for good tomorrow you will be a president.’ 

So who was Winnie Madikizela Mandela? Mama Winnie Mandela was a woman who dared to be all she could, she was an intellectual, a carer, giver, wife, mother, and an activist. Winnie Madikizela Mandela was all she told herself she was and we won’t allow anyone to put a label over her nor put her story in an archive. UMama Winnie ngomunye weziMbokodo

Black History Month: Natural Hair Icons | Curls Understood | Black history,  History, Black history month
Picture credits:coralthirteen

Let’s have another boring conversation on Feminism…

African Feminism: We Want Feminism But We Want Healing Families More - The  Pan Africanist Diary
Picture credits:The Pan Africanist Diary

There are so many questions that all of us have when it comes to the topic of feminism. Questions like; What is Feminism? Who is a feminist? Are feminists a group of women who have been hurt by men and now resort to saying men are trash whenever they can? Is feminism associated with empowerment? Am l a feminist and if lm not what does it mean for me?

According to Oxford Languages, Feminism is a range of social movements, political movements, and ideologies that aim to define and establish the political, economic, personal, and social equality of the sexes. In my own understanding, feminism is a robust egalitarian movement that advocates for equal rights amongst everyone regardless of gender. It is providing an equal ground for both men and women, where we are all given equal opportunities and also realizing that it is not meant to push up only one gender. Feminism does not seek to push an agenda that women and men are the same, because it is evident we are different in the way we are physically built, it is there to acknowledge that we are equal. Many people fear that feminism will overturn time-honored traditions, religious beliefs, and established gender roles. It is important to realize most of these things we had put in place as tradition or culture were put in place by patriarchy to ensure that women are forever beneath them. Culture can change, beliefs can also change, and if for nothing but the main purpose of creating a better society. Hence, it is important that we realize what women are advocating for is the basic things for a normal human being. Founding feminists were at the frontline advocating for greater access to education; more equitable pay with men; the right to initiate divorce proceedings; the right of women to make individual decisions regarding pregnancy (including access to contraceptives and abortion). Feminism has no intentions to belittle men nor is it for female supremacy. It is only a pity that some people have turned feminism into hatred for men hence there are some beliefs that Feminists are bitter and angry women who blame and hate men.
One thing we can never separate from Feminism is empowerment.

New Book by History Professor Recasts Second-Wave Feminism
Picture credits:Fordum News

In many places, people speak of feminism they will always talk about empowerment. I believe it’s because empowerment strongly goes hand in hand with a woman having her rights and being released from the shackles of patriarchy. I have had a couple of conversations with my friends whereby we argue if Feminism means l support women in everything l do even though l am against it, for instance, some women willingly enter into things like sex work, and some women decide to become housewives. Some believe this goes against what we are trying to fight for as feminists when we talk of empowerment. One thing l have come to appreciate through my experiences is that we don’t have to agree with the choices people make or believe in those choices, however, our feminism should regard that people have choices. In short, l see it as we all have the abilities to make choices and l should be able to respect your choices even if l don’t believe in them. So a female who willingly decides to be a housewife (used this because it’s one of the things that have women have been trying to move away from), should be equally seen as empowered as a woman who decides to go ahead and work at a 9 to 5 job. Empowerment is the ability to choose whatever we want without expectations on what we ought to choose.


Personally, l have had instances where l have questioned my feminism. I have had to learn my feminism from other people without understanding what it meant for me. I allowed myself to go back to the grassroots and find what Feminism meant for them, what sparked their fires, and what they hoped to achieve, Of all things, l believe it is important before you fully engross yourself in Feminism, you should have an understanding of what it is, what it hopes to achieve and how you can also shape your feminism in a way that you don’t feel you are riding on another train you don’t know the destination. There are so many conversations we can raise on Feminsim and l believe one important thing we should have is the ability to learn all of the dynamics associated with it and most importantly one should allow themselves to always learn.

No rain, no flowers…

Today has been one of those days. College isn’t easy. I mean l never expected it to be but l wish it could have been a bit nicer, a little bit of fun there and some flexible hours over there but heyii, impilo yi Tadaa. Anyways apart from the back-to-back lectures and a lot of club activities lm doing well. Lent has started, l would like to believe we appreciate this kind of thing the more we grow older. Lent is a time for us to reflect and fast. For others if not most of the people it’s also a time to deprive ourselves of something we truly like or just any luxury. For those who are Christians what have, you decided to give up? Personally, it’s been a roller coaster ride and l don’t know if am doing it well enough but that’s my conversation with God. Have you ever felt like everything is just not going to plan? I know we have the luxury of blaming the pandemic on this but hayi no mahhnn !. If you are one of those people who hasn’t been winning lately, you are not alone. If we could all walk with our failures stuck to our foreheads lm sure we would see a lot. One thing l know is everything’s falling into place soon. I believe that’s how the universe works. We face a bit of bump and disappointments before we finally get to where we want. Be kind to yourself, the journey isn’t over till it’s over. In the words of Bobo ‘ilwa ntombo’. I mean it’s tough for all of us right now but we definitely are going to reach where we want, be it academically, financially, spiritually, or any aspect of our life. On a lighter note, one of my favorite guys has started saying ‘Gogoi’ and he even now knows how to lay his bed. Someone who knows or has a family member with autism will know how much joy these ‘little’ things bring. I’m so excited about it and so is the rest of the family. My other sibling now knows how to add 10 and 10. The other day she told me of how a boy in her class said water from the tap is solid. (I still couldn’t believe that she knew it was liquid)  Am l old enough to say ‘They grow up so fast’ It’s so cute and everyday lm always in awe of the smart human she is becoming. In the midst of all this I’m sure there is also something that makes you happy no matter how small. Remember every day is a good day to make things better. Be kind to yourself and allow yourself to go through everything. I just hope l am strong enough to do the same. Enjoy the rest of the week. 

Here are links to my two favourite songs  that have been keeping me sane. I hope you enjoy them as much as l do.

  1. Dj Zinhle – Indlovu  

The song is basically is saying l won’t lose hope, l will hold on and eventually be successful, l am an elephant (ndlovu). 

2.  Jub Jub & The Greats – The Official Music Video for the “Ndikhokhele Remake”

The song is someone basically asking for guidance from the Maker. It’s a remake with many other artists and lm sure you will enjoy it. For my fellow Christians, you might like to read Psalms 91 

Exploring the life of Winnie Mandela: Mama Africa

My tag line has been ‘Best believe your story will be told.’ It is my intention to write the stories of amazing women who have shaped our stories as Black women and created a place for us in society. I am excited to share my 2 part essay on one of the women who shaped feminism during apartheid in South Africa.  

Political Translator and Activist Winnie Mandela's Literary Achievement
Nomzamo Winifred Zanyiwe Madikizela

Winnie MadikizeIa Mandela (born Nomzamo Winifred Zanyiwe Madikizela) was born on September 26, 1936. She was born in Bizana, a rural village in the Transkei district of South Africa. She was the 6th child of her parents. Her father had been known to be longing for a boy child, so when Winnie came, he raised her as his son. Winnie was smart, bold, and very intelligent. She used to take part in games with young men, where they wrestled using sticks. Fast forward, Winnie got a chance to study at Jan Hofmeyr School of Social Work. The woman that arrived in Johannesburg was very rural but very politically aware. During her time, the women who were with her and also shaping the thoughts of women and feminists were Albertina Sisulu, and a whole lot of other women we now greatly know. In her early years in Johannesburg, she was surrounded and influenced by these women who were like-minded. In I956, she then met Nelson Mandela. We see her being swept off her feet by Nelson Mandela who I believe she felt had the same energy as her and shared the same vision. Mandela was a Lawyer and anti-apartheid activist, who had a vision for a better South Africa. It might be good to highlight that he was also married to Evelyn Mase. In a lot of documentaries or stories, uMama has been portrayed to have been made by Mandela. However, I would like to see both of them as equals who simply complimented each other. We have had so many men during the struggle who did what Mandela was doing. In fact, most of the Black men during Apartheid were fighting for Black people and were in and out of prisons. Of those men, how many do we remember, how many do we hear of their names? Some of them died silent deaths and others simply vanished from the face of the earth the moment they were thrown in prison. However, when Nelson Mandela was put in prison it was Winnie who made sure that people never forgot about him. She made sure his name was still on the people’s lips and even after 27 years of being locked up, people still remembered and highly respected Mandela.

When they met, Madiba was still married to his first wife, and at that time he was in and out of prison. When Winnie met Mandela, she clearly understood what she was getting herself into, she married a man who had now dedicated his life to the struggle. Mandela and Winnie complimented each other because of their fighting spirit and their hunger for freedom. Each groomed the other. The relationship between these two struck me because it was a mixture of politics and romance. In most interviews, Winnie has always made a point that people had forgotten her name. They now would refer to her as the wife of Mandela and she said it was as if she had vanished. It is imperative to note that Winnie already was an activist and was pushed for the liberation of the people. She did not become an activist because of Mandela and continuing to identify her only as the wife of an activist would be unfair. It was Winnie who stayed behind whilst Mandela was locked up, she had to deal with the police knocking on her doors at midnight, she was in and out of prison and she also had to be a mother to her children with Mandela. In one of her interviews, she described herself as the ‘Most unmarried but married woman. During those times, it was difficult to navigate your way through patriarchy without your husband or a man who was in front protecting you. Still, Winnie proved to turn out okay though Mandela being locked in prison. So may we remember Winnie the activist and the mother of the nation, not Winnie the wife of Mandela. And for whatever reason they chose each other, I still admire their relationship and the way they complimented each other.

Winnie Mandela on her wedding day with Nelson Mandela
1958, Transkei, South Africa
Winnie Mandela on her wedding day with Nelson Mandela in Bizana
Photograph: Sipa


On May 12, 1969, Winnie was locked in prison and charged under the Suppression of Communism Act and the UnIawfuI Organizations Act aiming at the African National Congress, in this case, for 491 days. She was also accused of conspiring to commit sabotage. She was taken from her children in the middle of the night, was electrocuted, and put in solitary confinement. Prison food consisted of porridge with maggots and sometimes they would add pork fat to it, “and the porridge would actually swim in this fat” along with the maggots (Winnie Mandela, 2013, p. 62). She was later on released and put on house arrest. Her involvement in the struggle and her being married to Mandela led her to lose her job as a social worker and with Mandela in prison, it did not make things better. Nelson described how aII these events were eating him up, I mean it is expected considering this was a time when there was so much pressure that a man is a provider and men took (and still do) pride in being able to cater for their families. Mandela wrote: “The banning and harassment of my wife greatly troubled me. I could not look after her and the children, and the state was making it difficult for her to look after herself. My powerlessness gnawed at me” (1994, p 402). One of the consequences of apartheid was the separation of families and in this case, the government seemed to win.

People have often attached the term controversial when they speak about Winnie, mainly because she spoke of the necklacing, matches, and guns. The fact that she used these tools so openly and her being a woman made this very worse. It was unaccepted because people expected her as the wife of Madiba to hold herself to a certain standard. She was to be calm, soft, and be on the lead with praying for the Nation. Mama Winnie dared to be different and that is what shocked people. She was the lady with her fist in the air shouting Amandla! Her violence was complicated in the sense that, first of all, we condone violence and at that time a woman at the forefront of the struggle was scary but a woman being violent and at the forefront of the struggle was worse.

Winnie Madela, circa 1970s.
Winnie Madikizela Mandela Winnie Madela, circa 1970s.
Image: Sunday Times

What strikes me about Winnie is how she embraced her femininity and used it to her advantage in dealing with the world ruled by patriarchy and apartheid. She was the embodiment of a calm but fierce woman, sexy and dangerous. She wasn’t an average kind of woman. During the times she went to court she once dressed in her traditional attire and she was told that if she did not dress ‘properly’ she wouldn’t be allowed to come and attend the trials. She was very selective in the way she dressed. Maybe that was her using her femininity to try and navigate her way through patriarchy, be a woman’s lady, and a man’s lady. Nelson described in his book that: Winnie always dressed up for prison visits and tried to wear something new and elegant. It was tremendously frustrating not to be able to touch my wife, to speak tenderly to her, to have a private moment together (1994, p. 401). This was Winnie, a Black woman who refused to have a label and she created her own version of what was an activist and a woman.

Winnie Mandela attends her husband's trial in 1962
1962, Pretoria
Winnie wears a traditional dress as she and two other women attend her husband’s trial, where Nelson pleaded not guilty in a special regional court to charges of incitement and leaving South Africa illegally
Photograph: AP

A gentle reminder…

Some of us are constantly waiting for people’s approval to believe in ourselves. We can never trust ourselves to be doing something so great and so well. I think l have also been a victim of that because I am always lowkey waiting on people to tell me how good l am at something before l feel confident. I have always felt the need for someone to stop me and say Hey, you are doing a great job, you are really good at ABC. But if l cant confidently tell myself that l am then what am l really doing. A lot of people have commended my confidence, smile, writing, beauty, my ability to comfort, support and many other things. Whenever l mention that lm nervous or scared, people tend to think lm bluffing because a few moments later l tend to deliver excellently in that which l am not confident of. My Geography teacher used to say ‘If you don’t say l am, no one will say you are” This is so true. You need to start constantly remind yourself of all the good things you are. Feed your inner soul with all the good things. You are beautiful, you are handsome, you are intelligent, smart, hardworking, confident and you deserve so much credit, You are a great Nurse, Entrepreneur, Mathematician(yes you are), Accountant, Doctor, Engineer, daughter, son, brother, sister, lover, friend and those who have you are very lucky. I throw a challenge at you, every day when you wake up speak words of affirmation to yourself, think highly of yourself, and keep on working to be the best version of yourself. This is a gentle reminder that you are on track, you are enough and we are all lucky to have you. Stay Blessed!!

A kind Of Death…


There is a kind of death that l cant really explain. It is not physical, no you cant really pass out and all but its a certain kind of death. Emotional maybe, yeah its more like an emotional death. You dont really know what died but something in you died.Its not the one that can be healed by a motivational video telling you that when life puts you down go back up higher.You cant even turn to your favorite kind of food because nothing makes it better.I dont even know if death can be healed but yeah, here we are looking for healing from this kind of death.
It wasnt until l had got in my early teens (twenties here we come) that l started hearing of a certain movement. Before, l had just been an ordinary girl,living an ordinary life just working for what l want. l didnt see gender neither did l think of what came with being a girl. Washing dishes was boring but fun, because my brother did that with me. Stealing my brother’s cars and going to brag to the other boys in my class was one of the nice things l liked doing, l enjoyed hanging out with my mother and telling her that l will never get married because l wanted to stay with her forever, which would be followed by a gentle laugh and a Ita zvaunoda one daughter. Then l came to know of how l can decide to wash the dishes or not, how pastel colors shouldnt have been the only colours my clothes were, how the kitchen wasn’t supposed to be my only favorite place, how l should never say that a person loses their viriginity, because virginity is not something you lose and its not that big of a deal because noone asks men who they lost their virginity to.l kind of enjoyed that, it has its good ideas you know, then there are some which are just mmhh. l went into another phase. The phase where you find out not everyone walks their talk.One were those who talk about never putting down another woman are the very same ones doing the opposite of that.You discover a whole new side of this.. Its not new, its something that you have always known but it is in this moment that you are like, flip this is the reality. You then discover that all along you were fighting an online battle with ghost accounts. A guy posts something and you are quick to hit the report button or you send out a full paragraph yelling how this is objectifying women and soon afterwards you lie in your bed feeling content,that yassss you are a true fighter and you called out the bad guys.


You eventually get tired. Feeling like you are living your life fighting but those who have gone before you tell you to never stop fighting, the battle is not over… You realise you are fighting for some things which you you can never win at. The truth dawns on you and in that moment you die a kind of death. You have tried running for so long but you realise there are some things you can never run away from. Thats when that kind of death comes. You let go of everything and wait to start on a new kind of life.Its not new, its just the older version that made sense to you, one that didnt go extreme, the one that was just perfect for you, the one that had made you who you were before. Its not comfort but its just what you prefer and it makes sense for you and sometimes it doesnt. One day you will realise you have been fighting an online battle and noone actually cared. Real people are those offline, the ones that will tell you what you dont want and want to hear.

How about making this new year not about fighting, rather discovering, what exactly we want, no mob pyscology just being plain you doing what has always felt and feels right to you.
Its sad because there are some things that can not be undone. We once in a while lie to ourselves that we have no regrets whatsover and we wouldnt have it either way but deep down we know its not true. Deep down if we could change our stories we would, but its sad because this thing called life doesnt have a restart button. You can only make a better next chapter. Regardless of everything that has made you die…Still, we move ….

PC:IG:island__er
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