OUT OF AFRICA
Inhambane | MOZAMBIQUE 2019
THE JOURNEY AHEAD
TAKING ON THE GREAT MAMA AFRICA
After spending the past five months finishing a degree that took five years to complete, shifting between part-time and full-time, I finally have the freedom from institutionalisms and schooling to find myself as an individual, as a human-being and find my purpose in life. It is only natural for us to want to understand the purpose of life itself and the only way I can make sense of this is to directly jump into the great pool that is this world. I have a great lust for this life and a hunger to explore more and now the power was in my hands, the ball was in my court and I was calling the shots of my own fate.
“But if you are going to wear blinders then you do not know the world.”
- Miriam Makeba
HOMESICKNESS CAN TAKE A BACKSEAT
After the longest four months in Portugal, stranded with no direction to life or idea on how to kill time, I murdered my time. It was in my interest to move to the EU to enter the next phase of ‘life’ or how it has been repetitively passed down generationally. Graduate high school, get a degree, find the average 9-5 job, pay your bills, buy a car, get married in your early 20s, buy a house, have children; to pass on what legacy? -The legacy of the same recipe that same formula to a successful life. How bland and stale – In my opinion. This isn’t an article telling you to quit your job and never do any of these things. Each to their own, this just wasn’t ever what I truly wanted.
I want to explore the world, no matter how challenging or intense or unwelcoming. I’d like to experience the world for what it truly is, not just the luxurious travel vlogs or Instagram posts you see – This can, at times, be superficially driven. No, I want the rawness of geography and culture. My trip to Morocco was something like this. I wanted to see the great sights, try the delicious vegan foods, experience the Saharan sands and ride a camel – but, I also read about theft and crime surrounding tourist and so, I experienced it first-hand. It was terrible, and I felt completely violated after the theft of my valuables, but those things are replaceable, and I can always return to the Sahara. After all, I did know what I was letting myself in to. It was a part of my cultural experience. Although, it gave a different meaning to the term ‘culture-shock’. HA! - I want to experience all of it!
THE CALL OF AFRICA
o chamado da áfrica
The call of Africa only hit me when I matured into adulthood, I guess I never really understood what it meant; with my European ancestry, to be living in a country as far from the EU as Southern Africa. It has always been my home here. I grew up with my loving ugogo (grandmother) Maria Sibaya taking care of me, feeding me pap and sauce, basically raising me (and her own children) on her back, as my second mother - my mama, along with the other strong African woman raising their children. She inspires me till this day. Gogo passed last year and she will forever be a part of my story as a South African and as a human being on this beautiful planet. It just goes to show that one’s identity isn’t necessarily determined by where you’re from or by your bloodline, beliefs or culture, it’s about how you choose to love and care for the the people in your life. Especially, the love from such early influences as my Gogo had on me determines a great deal of the person I am today, may she rest in peace and may I find her spirit in the open fields, rocky mountain ranges and clear rivers of Africa.
“the darkest thing about Africa is our ignorance of it”
So, when I went to university, I was exposed to the country and the people of my country through day-to-day living. Public transport, current affairs, hustling as a young adult etc. I was almost introduced to a whole new spectrum – a new perspective on this place I call home, the great Mama herself – I saw her for who she really is, and what a vastly beautiful lady she is. These people are different to those of the western world who might classify this vast Africa as third world – but the truth is.. These people, from the mother land, are hard working individuals who don’t need the fancy glass houses or sky-scrapers. In my opinion, I’d much rather want to carry fresh water from the river in a bucket atop my head than have it be chemically enhanced, or my food genetically modified to be juicer, bigger and better – how rotten in actuality... These people are strong, humble, kind and live off the land - the way it was intended. They take care of their community. It might not be as easy to call uber-eats or have the biggest-flattest television, but the western world has taught us to become competitive between one-another and selfish. HA!! ‘Poor Africa’…
I was assigned a photography project to create an artist book on a topic of my choice – the subject matter just had to be broad enough to fill up a coffee-table book of images, a look book of sorts. After multiple failed attempts I was fed up and clustered with ideas that only ended up in flames. The only place left to find some sort of inspiration was inwards, into Africa. It was right in front of, besides, above and under me this entire time. What a greater subject than this strange land I’ve been exposed to – thanks to my colonial ancestors. After a night of liquid encouragement, my friend and I woke the next morning with strong hangovers and packed a bag of road snacks and set out on the road with Ladysmith Black Mambazo sound blaring from the speakers. I had been planning to find and meet the goddess of Ndebele art and culture preservationist, Mama Esther Mahlangu for some time but always put it off to a later date. But on this day, I was determined to find at least some Ndebele houses, artworks or at least a road-side stall with painted pots and weaved mats.
The first house we stopped at turned out to be a school built and funded by Esther herself. We were photographing some children playing next to the dirt road and slowly approached the nearby village. We entered the school and to my utter shock and surprise I found Esther sitting on the stoep painting in the traditional elegance of the Ndebele - with a chicken feather. I couldn’t believe my eyes nor my luck. I was only expecting to find houses and huts. And so the book was called MAMA. What a grand manifestation – a true gift from the universe or was it the call of the great Mama herself?
WHERE WILL THE GREAT MAMA LEAD ME NEXT?
The Continuous Journey
a jornada contínua
The journey ahead is yet still unclear, but I am sure it is filled with great gems and treasures. I have a backpack, shoes and the company of a great man, Johan by my side. The only uncertainty is the road, the journey ahead. We can only have a fair idea or hopes for the future; we’d like to make our way up the East-Coast of Africa, crossing boarders from South Africa, passing Swaziland into Mozambique then make our wages and way up and over the river Rovuman into Tanzania. From Dar es Salaam crossing by boat onto Zanzibar Island and then crossing boarders to Kenya. Hopefully by the end of the Chinese year of the pig (which is the year I was born) I will be in Egypt, working some odd job and selling my artworks, if the year is in my favor. The possibilities are endless.
The plan might is definitely going to shift and change as we carry along the coast and meet new people and opportunities but that is the greatest part of it all. We’ll be exposed to so much more than just the average tourist experience with cash to blow on cocktails and memorabilia. We want to see Africa and the people for who they are, not the misconceptions constructed by Western culture. I want to show the world that it isn’t always ‘starving children from Ethiopia’. This is the way humans have lived for centuries. Pesticide-free, home grown produce, fresh and chemical less water, not genocide and famine.
My mission is to take the gift of artistry and storytelling I was born with and use it to tell the stories of Africa and its people, to change the minds of millions of people that dismiss the great Mama as just ‘some third world continent’.