Shades.

Brown is so pretty.

Especially on black skin.

Its so magical that God created millions of variations.
I like that even on my own body I can peel away my clothes and find so many different tapestries.
My legs scarred from eczema have an art of their own.
Shades of caramel merge into deeper shades of black.
My bum. My little black bum is shaded with evidence of its stretching and growing, punctuated by a little birthmark that is yellow.
Also (by black superstition) as evidence of my Malawian heritage (because as my friend Bucie once told me, if you have this mark it means you are not from here, here being South Africa).

This melanin magic is not a myth, it’s a real thing.
A thing I also love uncovering on the bodies I like to fall asleep next to.

Melanin is a source of something.
It is a well of ancient information coded into our beings.
I have come to see it as a gift.
That is passed on through generations.
It contains a source of strength we all seem to have whether we asked for it or not.
It is resilience. An innate property that black people have been burdened with— but also something upon which they have been blessed.

Brown is so pretty.
Especially on black skin.

   -Nonjabulo Kandawire 

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Spaces.

​2002. 

My Black mother. My black sister and me. Eight years old. 

Walk into a high school named Benoni. My sister, a black drum majorette, watches my mother hand me a tiny plate of finger food. Knowing how much I love sweet things. My mouth salivates and my big eyes widen with joy. 

I hear a whisper from my sister in horror: “No Mama, they’re gonna think we don’t have food at home.” These big eyes scrunched up in confusion. “Of course we have food at home. Why would someone think we didn’t?”

My eyes, still big, and tongue savouring a mini chocolate éclair, scanned the room. 

White.

White faces, blonde heads. White eyeballs surveying us from the sides of their sockets. 

Stiff smiles. 

Move towards me, an eight year old, in a pack. One face proceeds with an open mouth to say “You know you can’t take those home with you right?” 

The rest cackle. I feel the delight of that eclair in my mouth spoil, expire. 

2002- My first taste of a space not made for me. My sister, the black drummie danced on though, she has the trophies to prove it. 

2002 or 3. 

Me again. Still a little girl. 

In a room full of other little girls and boys. A party for the old people in the next room. 

I laugh, I pleasure my sweet tooth once again and against my quiet nature I interact with the other kids quite well. 

And somewhere, like magic, dark magic, the lights were switched off. 

I feel slime on the side of my neck. It reminds me of the sensation of a slug crawling up against my foot. I feel something else, warm and alive touching my chest [where there was nothing yet to be touched] and another near that triangle between my legs. 

The tongue and the hands of a ten year old boy. Who whispers that he set all this up just for me. 

I run out of the room feeling dirty and ashamed not knowing what I did to make him think I wanted slime. 

2002/3- The first time a space I owned felt like it didn’t belong to me. Like what was mine, wasn’t. 

2004 or 5. 

My bedroom. My first all-girl, non-relative sleepover. My best and only friend at the time. 

Excitement and junk food and I think a T.V in the background.  

I can’t remember how or why but I remember my lips on hers. Feeling naughty. Giggling. Excited. 

I thought it was fun practice. For what? I don’t know.  

Our teeth fighting each other and confused tongues swimming around trying to find their way.

A door opens and a head pops in, it’s my mother. A smile turns into shock and confusion. For the first time I feel death in my chest. 

I wonder what she thought. 

I remember us both carrying on with life like it never happened and so I buried it, until I found a different set of lips to try it out with, a reminder. 

2004/5- The first time I jumped into a space that felt as natural as breathing. 

                          **********

All these spaces; spaces not meant for me built with fences. Spaces that belonged to me- invaded. Spaces that I wanted to enter, interrupted. 

Informed these black waters that I try to swim in. 

Two Moons. 

Two moons.                                                         A solar system.                                                   A multiverse.                                                 Two of the same thing.                     Familiar.

Two moons.                                                         A dark sky. Two moons orbiting their own round clusters of matter.             Their own oceans, desert storms and cloudy heavens.

Two moons.                                               Stop. Collide.                                           Merge for a moment.                             Bring their dark sides together.                   Create their own eclipse.

Two moons.                                                         But moons can never be together.       They were made for solitude.                         To shine on their own.

Two moons.                                                 Rock. Curved. Rounded.               Feminine. Secretive. Hard. Light.

These moons that interrupted each other’s singular orbit.

Kissed.

And then separated.

One moon.                                                     Left.                                                         Without tears to cry.                           Created storms on her own.                         A lunar phenom.
   -Nonjabulo Kandawire 

The In Between

I am learning that I have always been in the between.

I was born in it.

Too much of something. And not enough of another.                                                     Too quiet. Too in my head. Too much English.                                                           Not open enough. Not fun enough? Not black enough.                                                     

I have been stuck in one place trying to get into another.                                                Never stopping myself to ask where I am trying to get to, For Who?

In between.                                                         My mind and the world.                                   My affection for boys and for girls.

This state of limbo always left me feeling lacking.                                                                 Like my foot could never find the right fit on the left or the right.                             And each time I tried to choose a side I lost my balance.

Maybe, just maybe [and this is what I am learning]:

My place has always been in the grey.       Not a creation of one thing, but the summation of a spectrum.                             A blend of things too much for me to carry in the past, but something I can breathe into today. 

Maybe I don’t need to be understood.         But to understand myself.

Look into myself and see those parts of my extremes.                                                       The parts that shamed me and begin to recognise that they make me who I  am.

This is me. It’s always been and it’s never going to change.

[I know. Because I have tried and failed.    Cut and failed. Cried and failed.]           

This me, who I am, is going nowhere, clearly. And I don’t want her to. 

I need to accept that that God saw me this way before I was anything.                      That God knew these things that shamed me and created me anyways.

Thrust me into this metaphysical realm for me to come into myself.                           I am enough.                                                        I always have been and there was never any need for me to seek for myself in other people, in other places; in other homes.

I am meeting myself. Finally.                        Honestly.                                                             And I am glad I am alone.                                This is the perfect time for me to love myself when I have been draining myself of my love and vision and pouring it into others [At no ones fault but my own].

I am hurt. Damaged. But I am healing. And I’m proud of myself for allowing myself to finally begin.

   -Nonjabulo Kandawire