T R A U M A

T – Try and try again. Tomorrow is another day.

R – Repeat it over and over again in your head, it might go away.

A – Attack my mind, my body and soul. I have no control.

U – Undermine all my efforts, ignore how long it’s taken for me to fall.

M – Manage everything, I mean you’re strong right?

A – Anxiety, paranoia. What made me think you’d ever leave me        alone?

 

Advertisements

(Z)enophobia

The years 2008 and 2009 brought us many things, and xenophobia was one of them.

I will never forget the day my cousin and I were walking home from town, speaking Swahili and joking around. You see, I now had two people who were going to be the reason for my sharpened linguistic and pronunciation skills, my vocabulary was going to grow so wide that I would be able to write this language down on my C.V.

I wanted to speak my home language as much as I could, because they couldn’t speak English yet, and because it forms part of my identity.

To my surprise, it was this very same language that put me in danger, on a random afternoon, during a walk home my cousin and I were stopped by a white Isuzu van, “where are your papers?”, asked the Home Affairs official in the passenger seat. With a dry mouth and shaky voice, I then replied, “zisendlini”, hoping that switching languages would put me in a better and safer position. We were then advised to make sure we always carried them with us, because we are not South African.

It was a Home Affairs official who felt obliged to remind two under age children that they indeed do not belong in a country they had no other choice but to call home. One who grew up in the country and another who fled the unrest of the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo), in search for a better, more promising life.

It was not long after this event, when the 2008/2009 xenophobic attacks hit South Africa, violence and hate that was experienced by Africans from Africans.

Having to avoid a situation that would turn you into a victim, going straight home from school, and straight to school from home. Speaking only English in public, and not a word of Swahili. My mother often closed her salon early enough for her to lose customers, but late enough to ensure her safety.

There are people who attempt to justify their extreme hate for us ‘foreign’ nationals, and I will never deny the wrongdoings of many of these nationals, but what I will say no to, is violence.

I am 1in3.

me too

(Picture source: Creative Commons)

My biggest fear is to get raped. Again.

After being molested from the age of 4, and being raped at 11, I hope and pray that it doesn’t happen to me. Again.

These were men that I trusted, some, I even looked up to. One, I even loved. But all predators.

I hated staying indoors after school, I made sure not to create a chance for yet another violation of my body. But then came the time that I was in my bed, in my room, a place I thought I was safe. I bleed for two and carried on with life.

Or the time when my vagina was dry and I had period pains. My no’s turned into mumbles, and those mumbles turned into tears, tears that escaped my eyes silently, but ever so forcefully.

Maybe you would rather prefer me to tell you about the time when I couldn’t walk straight for two days, because his fingers happened to enter me too deeply, or how I lived in the same house with this person, ate the same food he ate, slept in the same room that he slept in, always going to bed wondering if tonight will be the same as the other nights? Will I have to wake up and pretend to be on my periods again? Or won’t that seem to work as excuse this time around?

What about the men who wanted to keep it in the family, “oh, lets not press charges, we can talk this one through”. I am talking about the men that played with my newly formed boobs while forcing me to sit on their laps, the one that victimised me in my own home, then gave me R20 when he was done. That man that thought pride was the reason why I walked away, when he decided to use his fists instead of his words.

How could I forget the one that used my mothers illness to get a chance to touch my thighs, and that one that made sure I hid the stained sheets between the base and mattress, and the one who used, abused, then insisted on trying to break my spirit one day at a time, yes you that looked at me like a piece of meat that you couldn’t wait to devour.

I haven’t forgotten you. 

None of you.

”Uhm, sorry. Did you just say that NdingumXhosa?”

38260526_2009118752434275_6735025168470507520_n

Ever since I was a little girl, I have always struggled with my identity.

I recall not being able to complete a family tree assignment in grade R, and being the only one who could speak fluent isiXhosa at home. For me, I never managed to see where I fitted in, because, you see, at school I was too dark-skinned to be umXhosa, but at home I spoke too much isiXhosa to be considered, what my sister called, “a Rwandese girl”.

Now, what was it about me that deemed me to be either Rwandese, Burundian, Kenyan, Congolese, and when it suited people, umXhosa? Because, I can tell you it was the birth place of my ancestors, the birth place of my father, the place I was born, the birth place of my mother, and ultimately, the people I grew up with.

But, that still wouldn’t matter if everyone I met for the first time decided to disregard all of that and JUST called me umXhosa, because that’s all that matters right? I mean the most important factor of my diverse identity is that I grew up in South Africa and picked up isiXhosa as a language. There has to be nothing more intriguing than the fact that my accent is perfect and that I prefer head wraps as opposed to my tradition scarf. How else would I explain identifying as an African who has experienced Xenephobia just because of the home language I speak.

I mean is learning the language of the people around you so impossible, that perfecting it costs you your identity?

One that many people are so quick to disregard, dismiss, undermine and ignore.

Thank you for counting me in, but I wish you didn’t only do it when it suited you.

Trips to Home Affairs

Every few years, my family and I would make a trip down to Port Elizabeth Refugee Office.

From what I can remember, the visits were always dreadful, tedious, dehumanising, and if we were lucky, expensive.

“File number ECZBDIOOO50109”, the receptionist would call out loud in a room full of refugees, from Burundi, Congo, China and even Ethiopia. My mother always told us to count ourselves lucky, when we would spot a family with all their luggage, taking turns to sleep because they have been there since the beginning of the week, and cant afford to miss their turn.

There were times when my mother tried to turn the trips into somewhat of a holiday, but that was only when money permitted, otherwise we had to wake up just before dawn, in order to arrive early enough for us to be able to return later that very same day.

“Yes mama, yizani ngapha, bring your family this side”, was what one immigration officer said after being handed our file. My mother, my sister and I, would then be directed into an office where we would each be interviewed using a long list of generic questions. Once the interviews were done, a photograph would be taken, and your thumbprint would be used to authorise the entire process.

I have never witnessed any of the offices asking for a bribe, but I was asked for one four years ago, when I went to renew my Refugee Status at the very same offices. Of course I chose to play dumb, and instead offered the officer my Steri Stumpie, to which he accepted with gratitude.

I have not only been living in this country my entire life, I have been living in South Africa as a REFUGEE, where the law of this land clearly states that once an immigrant/refugee has been living in RSA for more that five years, he/she is then eligible to apply for permanent residence.

But here I am, still known as file number ECZBDIOOO50109.

I seem to have finally found my voice again.

screen

S/O to Evaan for encouraging me to find me voice again, its back and I hope its here to stay.

Those close to me know that I am also a rape survivor, and I use the word survivor, because the word victim makes my blood boil, among other things (rolls eyes).

I was raped by a family member and the effects of that trauma still at times, haunt me even today. And yes, it happened 12 years ago, but rape is not something you just go through, get over and overcome. It is an experience that left me confused, angry and feeling like a refugee in my own body.

Getting into an emotionally taxing and toxic relationship a few years after the rape, didn’t help either. Although it didn’t start out as the above, it sure turned into it and much more. Depression, anxiety, insecurities, unhealthy coping mechanisms, you name it, I was experiencing it all.

Now, I am not telling you this because I felt like it, or because I am trying to get something off my chest. I am sharing this with you because I read somewhere that, “it is important for us to share our traumatic experiences with people, so they too can have hope of surviving them”, and there it was the word survive. The one word that describes me the best, I mean if there is one thing I really know how to do, it is to survive.

When you look at me, what do you see?

blog

When you look at me, what do you see?

What is the first thing that jumps out for you?

Is it the pimples on my face? My small eyes, my crooked smile?

Or is it the rich colour of my dark, beautiful skin?

Do you pay more attention to my black dreadlocks, or do your eyes rather jump to the piercings on my ears?

I think you choose to look at the shape of my body, the size of my breasts, then you lower your gaze to my thick thighs and small feet. You measure my waist with your eyes, determining how much respect a womxn like me deserves. You then choose to categorise me according to the the clothes I’m wearing, the phone I’m carrying and the language I’m speaking.

As if being a womxn isn’t enough,

Nope.

I just had to be a BLACK womxn ❤