Friday, 20 June 2014

A secure path


I grew up more being a good listener of stories than a reader myself. I grew cradled by the voice of my nanny Sera, who was a second mother to me, spending almost half of the day with her eating what she had prepared for herself, mainly pap (corn flour) and spiced minced meat with a considerable amount of fried onions, instead of what she had cooked for me. Every day I was longing for more stories till she was at the door, with one foot out and my hand on her belly asking to stay, just a little more, ignoring that she had six children in her house in the township of Alexandra, waiting for her care. Ignoring that in about an hour she would start to work again, taking care of her own family till late, while others got to go to sleep and rest.
Stories where often accompanied by lullabies and rhymes in her own language, Sesotho. I still remember this one:

Noyana tse peli
Hodima sefate
Engue ke mantso
Engue ke mosoeu
Fufa mantso
Fufa mosoeu
Boea mantso
Boea mosoeu


The time my family and I had to travel for a journey or a short trip somewhere in the country or overseas, I terribly missed her. I missed her stories and her voice through which every single character had a special tune. Her voice sounded in my ears every time her face appeared in my mind. Missing her, I had become an avid reader myself. Charles Dickens, Jules Verne, Louise May Alcott, Frances Burnett, Stevenson, Kipling, Jack London, and Victor Hugo were some of my first important reads. Also because of Sera, with her warm presence, I remember my childhood so vividly with no wrinkles as if the time passed left no sign on it.
It’s hard to establish exactly when I started writing. I can’t be sure of the year but I would surely identify the experience which lead me to words with my first migration to Europe. Since birth, I grew up in South Africa when the country was isolated from the rest of the world due to racial segregation. Leaving in the mid-80s when it was still struggling for democracy, at a very complex age like teenager hood, wasn’t an easy experience for me.
Leaving what I had considered my country, leaving my affections, my friends, my nanny Sera, leaving my being a witness of the enormous grief that was racial segregation ignored by the rest of the world, leaving the country totally isolated in its pain, I fell apart. I found myself in a different world, even though it was the place where my family came from, Italy. To me it was like being thrown in the mouth of a ferocious beast always hungry of innocent and unarmed preys, without any possibility to escape and set myself free.
No possibility except writing.
I started writing poems and short stories, interpreting my interior world through metaphors and trying to explain the impact that the new life had on me. I felt healed, somehow. Later in life, reading Alice Walker I came to realize that the only thing which can “save us” (from anything) is awareness, and awareness is nicely brought by stories, because stories have a wider space where anyone can fit in. Stories are flexible, transcultural; they don’t have barriers, nothing to decode, they just tell us how it is.
However, I soon realized that my writing was far too attached to my tight little closed interior world, and I found that it was not enough for me. I needed a larger view on the experience I was living; I needed to connect with the loss that was still haunting me with all its grief.
So I can say stories came to look for me and I looked for them, in a sort of mutual connection.
I remember the first year in school when I reached Italy. It was tremendous, alienating. I remember my schoolmates describing South Africa in a way I could not recognize the country I loved. They talked about it pretending to know it better than I. They barely even knew where South Africa was on the map. I told them that it was simply at the South of the African continent, but still they didn’t get it and continued to annoy me with questions of no means.  They pointed at me as a girl going to school following a long muddy path in company of elephants and zebras. Well, I wouldn’t mind, but it was not like that. It was not real. I attended a normal school in Houghton, Johannesburg. Of course it had a green field, but was quite different from being any kind of wild bush. South Africa was out of the collective imagination of people, surely due to the political and economical isolation during the apartheid regime, but also because at that time Africa was still a mysterious place, far away from the Italian reality, not like today where thousands of African immigrants live and work in Italy and somehow are integrated (even though I often stumble upon some people who still have a distorted concept of Africa).
So I realized how much I was isolated, alone and lost. No one could recognize the place I grew up in. No one could share a different thought than the exotic way of knowing Africa. None knew about apartheid. How could I let them feel the extraordinary cultures that South Africa was trying to carry and promote, even from under ways!? Hard to believe I was alone. I remained alone for many years till I found an answer to all my questions. Going back and telling the truth. I decided to go back, to return “home”, as I always called South Africa, to return to my school, to my city, to my second mother Sera, my beloved nanny. To go back to the place where History has had a huge impact on everyone’s life since the XVII century. That is how my personal writing took new forms. It became a journalistic writing reporting on a country and a continent which was like a ghost, hidden, invisible to many in the northern part of the world, what we so easily  call the Western World.
I travelled all the way to South Africa and all around Eastern Africa trying to connect to that womb from which I was “exiled”, without even knowing the meaning of this word. I just knew that my family made a choice and I was suddenly swallowed by it.
In 1994 when the country was ready to make the dreamt change, I returned home. Going back home was an exciting, difficult and compelling experience. I had to find a new language that could accept me back, that could translate the many changes I’ve passed through in my life as an immigrant. If I think at my writing, I can easily find a common thread in all my works: “return” is the file rouge. In all the past years, I always had this need to go back and forth and feel the return as an uninterrupted dialogue among the different “I” that lived in me.
Once I had been back and forth from what I considered home, I started realizing how ‘belonging’ had nothing to do with a geographical place, as well as roots. I started being aware that roots are inside us, that we bring them wherever we go and that is the easiest way to deal with the experience of loss and dislocation. I love Edward Said’s words quoting a XII century Saxon monk who said: The man who finds his homeland sweet is still a tender beginner; he to whom every soil is as his native one is already strong; but he is perfect to whom the entire world is as a foreign land.”.
I should say I’m longing to fully identify in the third man; the process is still on the way. Certainly there is a place for which I feel a certain affection and this basically is South Africa, but I’m trying to be more and more confident with the idea of identity as a portable treasure, something that can’t just hold on one physical place. In all this emotional turmoil, writing is the real place where all the complexity of emotions, feelings, and ideas are translated, and this to me is the only secure path I can walk towards: stories, writing. French philosopher Jean Grenier said that in everyone’s life, especially at its beginning, there is a moment that changes everything. Living and growing in South Africa has been that moment for me. From there my writing started …



Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Conversation with Filmaker Beryl Magoko on Female Genital Mutilation

I
Here the extract of the conversation I had with Kenyan Filmaker Beryl Magoko on Female Genital Mutilation published on Pambazuka Magazine

In her poem Dahabo Musa, a Somali woman, describes infibulation as “three feminine sorrows, the procedure itself, the wedding night when the woman has to be cut open, the childbirth when she has to be cut again”. Infibulation is one of the three different practices which are included in the definition of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), along with clitoridectomy and excision which are severe forms of removing, partially or totally, the external female genitalia. 

Though FGM seems to be an issue far from our imagination, it requires a lot of attention considering that is currently practiced in the five continents, regardless of religion and the law. Numbers speak: 140 million women in the world have undergone Female Genital Mutilation. 3 millions of girls from early infants to 15 years old are at risk every year. FGM is a cultural practice in more than 50 countries between Africa and South Asia. Many anthropological studies refer to it as an old practice, having traces from ancient Egypt to the Roman Empire. Perhaps unknown to many, in more recent times, in the 19th century, FGM was performed in the United States as well as in some European countries to treat lesbianism, masturbation and hysteria. 

In 2014 it is necessary to set FGM in a new context, as it is not just performed in the countries where it was was born. Immigration, in fact, has contributed in spreading the practice all over the world enlarging the geographic impact of FGM. The main reason of this is that communities which have established themselves in a new country where laws punish whoever follows the practice seek to maintain bonds with their homeland. FGM is seen as a significant mark in man-woman relationships. Often women who have not undergone the cut are outcast and unmarriageable in their own communities.

Based on inequality between the sexes, it is one of the extreme forms of discrimination against women. FGM is internationally recognised as a violation of the human rights of girls and women as it violates their right to health, security and physically integrity. In some countries like Djibouti and Somalia where 98 per cent of women are still cut, there’s also a high percentage of mortality among women and girls. 

The inhuman and degrading process which a mutilated woman undergoes requires world-wide attention: promoting awareness in schools as well as in other fields of the social life to help raise of a public dialogue. The stigma women have on them is unspeakable, let alone the physical and psychological stress they have to live with on a daily basis. 

Changing a social convention needs time and the commitment of all the social parts of the community, involving three important basics: information, education and confrontation. Immigrants are called to play a significant role as mediators between the old and the new, between the custom and human rights. 

I came across Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) many years ago in Kenya, but in recent times I have had the chance to focus on the issue while working with a collective of women in Cape Town, South Africa, in a workshop based on “telling spaces through narrative and exploring one’s impact in society in terms of human rights sensitiveness”. Some of the women who participated in the workshop were migrants from other African countries and had experienced Female Genital Mutilation in their life. These were women who have been taught to suffer in silence, to avoid the shame that the community would throw at them if showing signs of opposition. Working with them was such a rewarding and humbling experience, especially because, by attending the workshop, they soon became conscious of the power of imagination and art as a media through which to share their sense of loss due to the cut. Theatre, writing, dance, poetry have provided a strong sense of awareness that has led them to a choice that is also a statement: fighting FGM in their own communities by embracing the idea that, as violence is cultural, it is through culture that it has to come to an end. In the words of Amina, one of the women of the group: “I carried my wound secretly uploading the custom as a pride to wear on my bleeding scar/ but time has provided me with the right words / I hold this pen to fix the wound and raise the change I made for my daughter to be/I sewed the cut with the thread of words and the seed of knowledge.” 

At the beginning of this year, film director and producer Andreas Frowein, a professor at Kampala University, stumbled upon my work and that’s how I met Kenyan filmmaker and activist Beryl Magoko, producer of ‘The Cut’, a documentary on Female Genital Mutilation shot in her home vil-lage in Kuria, Kenya. The Kuria people, in Kenya and Tanzania, are still practicing FGM as a ritual. Even though is officially banned in Kenya since October 2011, FGM is highly practiced among different ethnic groups who put pressure on the girls, who fear to find no husband if not cut. 

The merit of this documentary is the attention given to perspectives. All the members of the community in the village were asked their opinion on FGM; no one was left voiceless: women, girls who are not yet cut, girls who are already circumcised, circumcisers, men, doctors, teachers. Pro-moting a new sense of awareness, available to all, that there’s another possible future for many girls, who today still can be potential victims of FGM, is an undeniable merit of this film. 

Presenting her documentary in different countries, Magoko achieved im-portant recognition: “Best Feature Film” at London Feminist Film Festival, “Best Documentary” at Great Rift Valley Film Festival, “Best East African Film” at Kenya International Film Festival, “Best Documentary” at Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival. Born in Komotobo, Kuria, Kenya, Ma-goko studied Graphic Design at Mombasa Polytechnic and later attended a Film-TV-Production course at Kampala University in Uganda. She is cur-rently working on two new films, both representing difficult situations that Africa women confront. Here’s our conversation.

VALENTINA ACAVA MMAKA: Beryl, you produced ‘The Cut’ as a film fo a diploma course while attending Kampala University in Uganda. What moved you to choose such a delicate theme like Female Genital Mutilation, a part from being yourself a victim of this practice?

BERYL MAGOKO – First, I don’t like to be referred to as a victim. The Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) topic has been in my mind since childhood. In early 1995, a certain NGO came to our school to teach us about the effects of FGM. That was when I knew it wasn’t good. For me that was a few moths too late. I thought someday I would tell the story to inform/ educate my people. Nevertheless, I didn’t know how to do that at that time. After my secondary education, I studied graphic design, but it could not help much in telling the story. When later I was studying Mass Communication from November 2007 on, I thought of writing a newspaper article, but that was not going to reach my target audience. In 2009, film was introduced in our university. I didn’t hesitate to register for the course. I knew if I had a chance to make film my medium.

VALENTINA ACAVA MMAKA - The documentary is set among the Kuria people, who still practice FGM, a community to which you belong. How did being circumcised effect you as a person when you moved out of your community to study and meet other women? How did this practice effect you as a girl and as a woman?

BERYL MAGOKO - This is a difficult question. The good thing is the by physical appearance you can’t distinguish between a circumcised girl and one who is not unless she tells you. There is no discrimination and I hardly talked about it, (unless I was with some people that had gone through that and they asked me. But that was so rare). Most people don’t want to discuss it for reasons known to them. It didn’t affect me. Once you know the truth, you have to find a way to deal with it. And going to different communities just widened my horizon. I found that not all women have undergone FGM. Once I found out that it serves no purpose, I was not happy and I regretted having gone through FGM. At the end of the day I had to accept and learn how to live with it .

VALENTINA ACAVA MMAKA - What was the position of your family regarding FGM and how did they receive your work?

BERYL MAGOKO - During research my mother and my sister told me to choose another topic (since the subject was more complex than circumcision itself). They were worried of my well-being. After explaining to them that I wanted the project, they supported me. I remember my mother wanted to be part of the research if other women refused to talk to me! During shooting, I underwent many challenges, but my family was there for me. They were and have been so supportive.

VALENTINA ACAVA MMAKA - The film is rich by the fact that it includes all the people concerned with this practice: girls, circumcised and uncircumcised, circumcisers, men, women, activists, doctors, bringing different perspectives. Working in your homeland among your people did it prevent you from having difficulties? Did you encounter some obstacles while working?

BERYL MAGOKO - Yes, it was not as easy as I had thought. I had thought that working in my home area I could do research within a few days, but that was not the case. It took me five weeks. In the beginning, it was difficult for me to get people who are willing to talk about the practice since it is a taboo. Some people thought that I was investigating and feared that I would tell the police so that they will be arrested. The hardest part of all was to get girls who were circumcised and were willing to talk about it. For many girls who underwent FGM that is not easy. Many would tell me that they didn’t go through it, although they did. But I understood. During shooting, there was harassment, but I endured it.

VALENTINA ACAVA MMAKA - Watching the documentary there’s a number of girls who refuse to undergo FGM. What is their role within a community so traditionally linked to this practice? How will they be able to find a way to effectively reject the practice against their families or community?

BERYL MAGOKO - They are the role models to other young girls who are growing up. But without telling others that they didn’t go through FGM how will they know? They can achieve that through motivation, information and encouragement from activists, the church and from teachers. However much pressure they face, they should be strong and learn to say 'No' to FGM, no matter the circumstance they are going through. I know this is difficult but wherever there is a will there is a way.

VALENTINA ACAVA MMAKA: It’s interesting that young men stand by women’s rights, not wanting their girlfriends and wives cut. What is the percentage?

BERYL MAGOKO: I can’t really tell the percentage. All I know is Kuria men marry women from other tribes who are not circumcised and nowadays some marry Kuria ladies who are not circumcised, but they are few…

VALENTINA ACAVA MMAKA: A woman who has undergone FGM is often a woman who feels a sense of loss, physically and psychologically, especially when it comes to confronting herself in a context different from hers. What made you aware that FGM is a wrong thing and what drove you to embrace the cause of fighting it?

BERYL MAGOKO - It was in 1995 when an NGO came to our school telling us the effects of FGM using some pictures. Then I realized that it was not good. Most girls go through it unwillingly, just because they do what the parents say, and many don’t even know that these effects are there. I just want to find a way of giving the necessary information to the community.

VALENTINA ACAVA MMAKA: Numbers speaks alone: 140 million women in the world are victims of FGM regardless of religion and geography. One of the consistent facts is that FGM is widely practiced in the diaspora among the migrant communities who often practice it against the law in a very hidden way. How do you think a documentary like yours can affect the diaspora communities in Europe, USA, Australia for example, in perceiving a different vision about it and in thinking about a possible change for the future generations?

BERYL MAGOKO: I hope that many people will see the film and learn what it really does to the girls. A big number of men do not really know what happens and many women do not know enough about the consequences. Therefore, I hope that ‘The Cut’ can give them more information to understand that FGM is a human rights violation that should end as soon as possible. I also hope that those who have understood this will be courageous enough to talk to their relatives back home.

VALENTINA ACAVA MMAKA: Even though in countries like Kenya FGM is illegal, laws are still not working to defeat the practice. What do local communities and migrants need to do to eradicate FGM?

BERYL MAGOKO: What the communities need is education, more education and information about the practice. Also, the activists should not concentrate in one region only; rather they should spread and even reach the minority in other communities. Don’t get me wrong, I am not against the law. But to me arresting one couple who have circumcised their daughter and leaving hundreds walk free isn’t going to solve the problem. Give the people information that they need; if they don’t follow then the law breakers concerned can be arrested.

VALENTINA ACAVA MMAKA: What was the response from the audience where your documentary was screened? Did you notice a different reception in Africa and in Europe? If yes, how? Did you have the chance to confront directly with women in the audience who have been cut? What have you been told so far about your work?

BERYL MAGOKO: The reception of the film was good – in most places. In Kenya a big number of people who have watched don’t understand why FGM is taking place when there is a law against it. Well, in Ouagadougou I saw men cry (it was touching for me). Some of those men came from regions where women are circumcised. In Europe more people attend the screenings; some have little idea what is all about FGM and others are already rather well informed about the topic. I can’t say ‘confront’ rather I met a few women who approached me for a quick chat. During the screening in Frankfurt, a woman from Egypt told me she went through it at a tender age, she realized later in life that she was circumcised, and she had to confront her parents (it took long for her to forgive them). When she saw the film she imagined what she underwent. Another lady from Brussels went through it at the age of seven and she was so emotional from the beginning of the film to the end. She told me her story too. In West Africa, a lady from Middle East didn’t want to watch the film because it was ‘hard’ for her.

Some women who have gone through it don’t want to watch the film because it brings back the memory that somebody is trying to ‘bury’… A big number of the people like my work. But one woman from Germany attacked me badly - although she has never watched the film - saying that I should have protected the girls by calling the government to intervene… She didn’t know what she was talking about, because the government representatives who work in Kuria are aware of the practice and some are invited to attend the ceremony and others stand on the way to watch! She not only attacked me but also other NGOs in German that fight FGM. Also one man from Kenya tried to urge me to shoot another film and show how important circumcision is.

VALENTINA ACAVA MMAKA: Sometimes when interviewing old men they speak on a defensive tone, pretending that it is the women who want FGM and not them imposing it. How would you describe this behaviour? Do you think it is a hidden sign of recognition from the elders that FGM is a wrong thing?

BERYLMAGOKO: When you ask men about FGM most of them say that it is the women who want it. To me this is not true. For instance in Kuria women don’t give orders. So men influence; they usually tell their wives that their daughters should be circumcised. Some few don’t tell the girls directly, they want the mothers to tell the girls. If mothers say no, sometimes men become violent and the mother and the girl have to accept FGM just for the sake of peace! In addition there are some cases of men marrying ladies who are not circumcised. Then they torture the ladies physically and psychological until they have no choice but to undergo FGM. This doesn’t happen in Kuria only but in other communities too. All in all, there is a lot of pressure from parents, neighbours and peers. To the elders that is their culture and it is a compulsory. Some of them know that some day it will end, but they don’t want to end it. Nevertheless some educated people don’t circumcise their daughters anymore.

VALENTINA ACAVA MMAKA: Recently Aminata Taouré, a politician writer and feminist from Mali said that while she is against FGM, she refuses that the Northern (read “western”) countries show African women how to fights this plague. What do you think about this? Is it possible to eradicate FGM without confronting the “otherness” and in which way do you think it is possible to build a public dialogue on FGM breaking? 

BERYL MAGOKO: There are few African women who are fighting against the practice. I think we need the Westerners for support. They should be in the background to hold us while the African women should be in the frontline because it is much easier for them to confront the supporters. In my view we need help. No, it is not possible to eradicate FGM without confrontation. We have to initiate dialogues with the girls, parents and the elders who organize circumcision, so that we make them understand that circumcision has no purpose and what the effects are. We need to convince them to stop FGM and find an alternative for this rite of passage rite - but force will not work.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Ele morreu de vergonha

Pambazuka Magazine translated one of my poems in Portugese
Um de meus poemas em Portugese (tradução Pambazuka)

Dedicado a ele
Ele era jovem
Ele era um filho
Ele era um amigo,
Ele era um gay,
Ele era humano


Ele morreu de vergonha

Eu o conhecia e eu não consigo me lembrar sua voz
Eu o conhecia e eu não consigo me lembrar da última vez que teve uma conversa
Eu o conhecia e eu não consigo descobrir o que era o seu último exame sobre
Eu o conhecia

Um dia
Não me lembro quando ...
Como posso?
Memória se afastou de mim
Sem indulgência
Apenas correu para fora de mim superficialmente como a vida diária suga a nossa atenção em pequenas coisas
Passando fome nos grandes eventos globais
Miles longe de nós
Fat e insignificante para o amor ea compaixão que precisamos de verdade

Um dia ele deixou um envelope de cor de café sobre a mesa, depois de palestra
Ele saiu e eu não sabia
Eu vi o envelope e manteve-o de lado
Esperando o melhor momento para abri-lo e ver o que estava lá dentro.
Dessa vez eu não vi que tinha deixado
Eu não sabia que era ele
Eu não sabia que era ele
Éramos tantos ...
Ele não parou para perguntar para um bate-papo , um único momento de atenção
Eu não sei se ele teria feito isso se for dada uma segunda chance
Por adivinhação ?
Ele já tinha escolhido o seu caminho para compartilhar o que ele precisava dizer

Ele morreu de vergonha

Eu mantive isso envelope por 24 horas
Foi o tempo mais longo que eu já contei
Eu mantive o envelope no sofá
Com livros e jornais anotou com notas ásperas de sonhos vazios
Foi lá descansando em paz
Enquanto as folhas de papel A4 dentro estavam cheios de palavras de vergonha e raiva
Beleza e amor,
A compaixão e compreensão
Palavras à procura de consolo
Gotas de mal-estar
Eu não sabia então
Agora eu sei

Ele morreu de vergonha

Eu não o conhecia bem
Ele era um deles
Um estudante chamado à sua missão
Tentando preencher um novo vocabulário para descrever sua geração
Quem não teve uma tradução apropriada
Para a sua identidade
onde hipocrisia
Forças paternalistas e ídolos que fingem
Ainda estão lutando para conquistar a imaginação ea liberdade
que pregam o amor ea fraternidade com uma mão sobre a Bíblia
e outra no bolso
matando irmãos e irmãs
que recusam o estigma

Ele morreu de vergonha

Eu não o conhecia muito
mas uma coisa que eu sempre soube
Desde que eu vi seus olhos
Ele tinha olhos famintos
Necessitados de imagens diferentes
Seus olhos pareciam cansados
mais alimentados com o mesmo cenário
com o que está na tela mundo
em E V E D A R Y Y vida
Global vs autenticidade
Estereótipo vs responsabilidade
Covardia vs honestidade

Seus olhos foram atraídos em um poço de ambigüidade.
Tristeza e raiva
beber do mesmo copo
Eu não ' saber o que estava acontecendo
Eu não abrir esse envelope na hora
24 horas foram o tempo mais longo que eu já contei

Uma carta de sete páginas, deixou para trás
Algo para ficar atrás dele
A longa carta para escapar da vergonha sete páginas que ele morreu com
A longa carta para pedir um vocabulário sete páginas
adequado o suficiente para traduzir a sua vergonha em uma bela verdade

Ele morreu de vergonha

Eu não sabia que eu ia ser tarde
Eu não sabia que eu estava indo para ser sugado em um pesadelo vivo
Eu não sabia que eu seria a pessoa que ignorou a necessidade de ser verdadeiro

Ele morreu de vergonha
Ele morreu de vergonha
E eu não estava lá
Quando ele perguntou para a resiliência
Em seus sete páginas longa carta
intimamente desenhado em sua verdade
Eu não estava lá , naquele mesmo lugar onde eu poderia encorajar
um conjunto de compreensão, um prato de partilha
Eu não estava lá para dizer
Estou com você
Lado a lado

Ele morreu de vergonha

Estou cheia de vazio
especular sobre chances e possibilidades
e sonhos
E se?
E se eu tivesse que abrir envelope na hora certa?
E se eu o havia chamado ao meu lado e abraçou-o
por sua coragem para confiar comigo
quem ele realmente era
procurando um lugar melhor, onde se sintam seguros
do estigma que os olhos de outras pessoas costurou em sua pele ?

Ele era Ele
Ele era Ele
Ele era Ele e morreu de vergonha
Ele escreveu para foder que a vergonha do rosto do mundo
Na solidão de seus sete papel A4 longa carta
Onde nenhum faria
etiqueta ele
rotulá-lo
qualificá-lo
identificá-lo
A humanidade é a única qualificação que visavam
Ele derramou a sua dor para fora
Sua solidão desenhado para o exílio
Um lugar estranho
Sempre que as circunstâncias se reúnem
Para bagunçar tudo com o seu deslocamento
Ele sonhava com amor
Uma palavra para emparelhar com Humano
Ele sonhava com a verdade

hoje
Sua verdade é a minha verdade
Sem acusação
Sem culpa
Sem indulgência falso
Sem piedade

Apenas a beleza da verdade



Pambazuka 2014-03-16, Edição 69

English Version here

Empathy

stuart hall
Migration is a one-way trip. There is no ‘home’ to go back to. There never was…The truth is, I am here because it’s where my family is not. I really came here to get away from my mother. Isn’t that the universal story of life? One is where one is to try and get away from somewhere else. That was the story which I could never tell anybody about myself. So I had to find other stories, other fictions, which were more authentic or, at any rate, more acceptable in place of the Big Story of the endless evasion of patriarchal family life.   Suart Hall

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

La questione dell'identità

Estratti dallo Studio Comparatistico

“La questione dell’identità in Cercando Lindiwe di Valentina A. Mmaka
 e in Se questo è un uomo di Primo Levi”

di Prof.ssa Antonella Piazza
Dipartimento Studi di Italianistica UNISA -Pretoria

In questa presentazione si intende offrire una lettura comparativa dei testi Cercando Lindiwe di Valentina Acava Mmaka  e Se questo è un uomo  di Primo Levi, e limitatamente ad essi, indagare la questione dell’ identità che emerge nei due regimi di segregazione in cui tali testi sono ambientati: quello dell’apartheid sudafricano e quello dei campi di lavoro nazisti. Si vuole mostrare come la storia di Lindiwe e quella di Levi, distanti nel tempo e nello spazio, abbiano diversi tratti comuni e simili problematiche esistenziali.  [...]

[...] La protagonista del libro dell’Acava Mmaka parte dal Sudafrica chiamandosi Lindiwe Masekela, ma una volta arrivata nell’altrove diventa Ruth, di nome e nell’animo, perché il nome d’origine è ritenuto impronunciabile. Il nome è ciò che identifica un essere umano fin dalla nascita; seppellito il nome natale, l’esistenza di questa scrittrice diviene «assente, silente e mutila», per lasciare spazio ad  una nuova identità, in cui peraltro la stessa protagonista stenta a riconoscersi. La scissione fra la donna di un tempo e quella dell’esilio richiama l’esperienza di Levi, che, nel lager, a vedersi sporco e piagato da capo a piedi, con indosso abiti logori e puzzolenti, non crede ai propri occhi; la realtà del momento si scontra con quella precedente e Levi fatica a recuperare l’identità dimenticata e attingere al «serbatoio dei ricordi».  [...]

[ …] La storia di Lindiwe, come quella di Levi, «è un caso in cui la realtà supera la fantasia». Sono vere le cicatrici sulla pelle degli esiliati, come sono veri i numeri tatuati sulla pelle dei deportati nella Buna e indelebili le umiliazioni subite. I diritti dei neri si volatilizzano nel fuoco di qualche rissa ad armi impari; quelli dei deportati nel campo nazista sono addirittura inesistenti e perfino irrilevanti: qualsiasi argomento, infatti, davanti alla fame perde importanza, anche se riguarda i diritti fondamentali dell’uomo.  [...]


TIME TO SAY NO BOOK 2013 P.E.N. AUSTRIA


My monologue FARIDA - TO WRITE is part of the TIME TO SAY NO BOOK 2013 edited by Philo Ikonya and Helmut Niederle for the PEN Club Austria.


"The right to education is a universal human right.It is a basic right which fosters and guarantees democracy founded on constitutional legality. This is idipendent and not limited by gender."

Sunday, 4 May 2014

MOTHER. A Poem

Tribute to a remarkable, unforgettable woman

I

Does my whiteness
prejudices my worth to this continent
where I first breathed
and the sound cuddled  my tiny ear
like the blink of a soft jacaranda petal?
Does my forced exile
compromised the sense of belonging
to this land of lost fathers
whom I buried in grief too early -
though is never the right time for farewells?
I elected my space according to
emotion not geography
feeling not citizenship
intellect not borders.
I though myself as an illegal seed
carried in a borrowed womb
for mysterious reasons that eludes
the logic of the thought.
Elephants migrate spreading seeds in foreign lands
the wind blows above the soil
carrying a bunch of tiny gems
feeding new horizons,
why shouldn’t I be having the same journey?
A seed launched out of circumstances…
It comes a time you got to kill your mother
to find your own belongings
shrug off the virginity of a safe place
embed in a different landscape:
love  doesn’t have to coincide with blood
there’s a natural sentiment that comes along
ignoring given bonds.

I have two mothers:
my biological mother looks like me,
pale and strong bodied,
my other mother is brown like the soil
with a golden shade between her eyebrows
her name is Sera.
MamaSera
It was the time when History didn’t match with justice
and segregation fell lives apart
dividing people by
color
race
ethnicity
minority
it was the time when History kidnapped people lives
and threw them in a cell underneat.,
Jo’burg was burning behind the walls built
to secure the wardens ‘lives;
waving their phallus they pleased their ego
entering the unlocked doors of the dreamer’s sleep.
But you were there, Mama Sera
You were there everyday
From Alexandra township walking your body
like  the gentle flame of a candle
on the shores of everyday aspirations
to clean the sense of unease
that history has weaved on this patch of land
so fertile of life ‘n love.
No one, a part from myself,
know how secretly
I dreamt of an equal dialogue
between my two mothers.
I longed for a love that would not be defeated by roles,
a love that could be one and inseparable
but life has chosen for me  
Mama Sera
to be you my spiritual mother.

II

That’s how Mama Sera
Became my second mother:
She did not feed my stomach
she fed my imagination.
She did not carry me in her arms
she showed me the direction for the day
I could be strong enough to walk on my own.
She did not wash my face out of the sleep
she gave me a cup filled of water
and sang me the song of the rivers who travel all their way
to wash the surface of the mighty ocean
from losses and oblivion.
She didn’t lace my shoes
instead stood by my side encouraging me to do it myself
regardless to my tears of shame.
She did not bring me gifts for Christmas
she let me sit on her lap and tell me stories
where the hero wasn’t a beard old man sliding on the snow
but a child who walked three miles to fetch water and who
along the road met the ghost of his grand father
who saluted him playing the sacred drum.
She did not push me to my dreams with Cinderella’s league,
she encouraged the ancestor’s to bring me stories from the of old times.
She didn’t wish me  happy birthday,
but taught me the reasons why we should be celebrating our life every day,
in struggle and peace -
celebration is a luxury of the losers – she said.
She didn’t fill my schoolbag with milk for the day
but taught me responsibility for the things I care.

III

I ‘ve spent afternoons staring at the cupboard
where you kept some of your belongings
clothes, old magazines and the box of perfumes
you received your first day of work,
someone assumed you needed to have one
and on the fundaments of this assumption
all of a sudden, I embarked on a different ship.
I started secretly, intimately, sailing on a different sea
drove by a sense of unease
which attempted to pollute my love for you.
That’s how you became my second mother.
I’ve spent bunches of time thinking weather
I should just open the door and throw those perfumes away
cause the idea that made them to be there was wrong.
For this I loved you more
and you became my second mother.
I’ve spent all my lunches sitting by your side,
close to the kitchen window where the stove stood
generous of steamy pots
I ate from your hand the sweet pap dipped in hot chilly gravy,
the food you were asked to prepare for me
wasn’t appealing to my taste.
I did an effort eating two meals
but I did, because I wanted that privilege
to remain still in maternal complicity with you
and for this I loved you more
and you became my second mother.
I played with my brother Tumelo.
When I was sick you brought him home
to fill my loneliness
playing kudoda and laughing and crying.
Empathy acts in mysterious ways.

IV

Time has delivered an answer to the life I espoused
and I’m back
I came to look for your face
Mama Sera.
To mirror my wonder in your eyes
to caress your skillful hands.
I came back to listen more songs
and stories.
I came back to see my brothers and sisters
who grew in the secrecy of my room
fearless and curious.
I came back to sit at the same table eating together
the dreamt food of my childhood
remembering the two of us sitting by the stove
eating pap from the pot
while the food on the table
was getting cold and tasteless.
I came back to tell you I managed to break the chains of my exile
that I came back to stay
that I had encountered the fear of loss
that I faced the judgment of the ignorant.

But strengthened my bones I chose
hardship out of hypocrisy and mediocrity.
I came to tell you that I’m your child,
never lost,
just suspended in a limbo land
waiting to bring you something
you could be proud of
but you have already gone.
I wanted to be sure I existed in your life
as well as you existed in mine -
                            memory needs a double check.
I came back and drew your face on the red soil
outside in the field where we used to walk side by side
moving my first steps toward life.
I drew a big face with the golden shade between the eye browses,
it was the sun that marked your skin
                                  – you said in delight
so that you could enlighten your children’s journey
towards freedom
in those arrogant days where freedom wasn’t available
I’m one of your children and I found my path
towards the destination you aimed for us.
Barefoot in countless sunny days you taught me
to feel before thinking
to think before judging
to chase ate out of my life
to trust myself
when I cannot trust others.

You’re now my memory
I’ll dig in the earth and deposit my seed
deep inside
I’ll send it to the future
so that your grand children
will harvest love and gratitude.
Like a tree I will stand waiting for the birds
to lay on my branches and feed my lelhala.
Hours, days and weeks will shift in other rooms of time
While nostalgia will nourish your absence.