Woman, You Are

Woman

You are the universe in summary

All the mosaic elements

Of all that is in existence

are written beneath your flesh

You’re the walls that erect galaxies

and the fingers that mould dust into stars

 

You carry the sun on your back

And the moon on your face

Hiding light in your womb

Clasping secrets in your fists

 

You’re the author of our dialects

Bending corners of syllables

Straightening creases on our tongues

Teaching your creation how to speak

 

The curving dimensions of your form

The mountains, the seas, the waves that crash

Within confined spaces

Where time ceases to be

And all the energies that quake

From the narrow parts of his passages

Converge in the chamber between your legs

 

From the stitches of your nest

You sew the genesis of life

Threading membranes into unified patterns

That stretch into our divine bodies

 

Just as rains whisper colour into waiting soils

You cry blood into empty veins

and beat our pulses into tune

Kissing breaths into our lungs

 

You are the universe in summary

You are all that’s in existence

And you exist in all that is

You are WOMAN

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Book Review: Maru by Bessie Head

Heinemann, African Writers Series

Date published: 1971

Maru photo

Margaret Cadmore is orphaned when her mother dies after giving birth. A white, British woman, a wife of a missionary and a teacher takes her home and raises her. The woman, Margaret Cadmore, who names the child after her takes the child as an experiment and their relationship is not that of mother and child, although there are the occasional bed-time stories and kisses. She grows up without being spared by other children a reminder of her being a Bushman. These remarks are rooted in the belief that Bushmen are lower than animals and should be treated accordingly, this includes actions such as spitting at her.

Seventeen years later, at the end of her teacher’s experiment, they part ways as the senior retires to England. The young girl gets a teaching post in a village called Dilepe. This new journey brings with it changes in her own life and in the lives of the people around her. Two men, Moleka and Maru, who have been the closest of friends find themselves in locked horns over who will get her. Both are in love with her; Moleka who has been changing women and whose heart never belonged to any of them finds himself a changed man with a changed heart because of his feelings for Margaret. Maru is more aggressive and possessive, he finds himself sharing the same visions and dreams as Margaret, hers translating into her drawings.

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(Photo: Mawande ‘Manez’ Sobethwa. https://www.facebook.com/manez134)

Her friendship with one of the teachers, Dikeledi who’s Maru’s sister strengthens. Through the social prejudices and frowns that she gets because she is a Masarwa, Dikeledi sees her as a person and continues to have a good relationship with her. The village of Dilepe is no different from the children that used to torment her in school. This is a place where her people are slaves and her being a teacher brings a stir. Margaret feels the same way about Moleka but nothing is done about it. It is when Dikeledi confides in her about something significant that happened between her and Moleka that Margaret’s feels the world completely shattering beneath her and that allows Maru’s engineered ways to have her to take place successfully.

This novel reveals the depth of discrimination that took place in Botswana and how black people were treating the Masarwa people the same way white people treated blacks. It is a story of friendships formed through seeing humanness before race and at the same time friendships lost because of love.

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(Photo: http://study.com/academy/lesson/bessie-head-biography-short-stories-books.html)

Bessies Head was born in South Africa in 1937, a mixed race child from a white mother and a black father. Her own life experiences bled into her novels. She trained as a teacher and four years after teaching she worked as a journalist for Drum magazine. Circumstances in her life set her off to teach in Botswana where she took refuge for fifteen years until her refugee status was changed and she was granted citizenship.

She has written When Rain Clouds Gather, A Question of Power, The Collector of Treasures, Serowe; Village of The Rain Wind, A Woman Alone, Tales of Tenderness, Power and The Cardinals.  She passed away in 1986 at the age of 49. A master of literature, with her work still holding a significant place in African literature.

Speak Without Words

Skin to skin, breath to breath
Speech is a burden
Bury your words under your tongue
Converse with the light in your eyes
Spell the letters of your name
With lines that shape your face

In a world sated with the superficial
Keep your background
Swallow your titles and designations
Shake my hand in silence
Show me the shade of your spirit
Colourful!

Dance with me
Draw sentences with your feet
Vibrations from your graceful soles
Tap the earth so fluently
I hear it all, beginning to end
The coherence of your secrets
The urgency of your sacred thoughts
Truths from the twists of your flesh

Palms on each other’s chests
Stories run through our veins
Then, now, will be
Untainted by cosmetic narration
That aim to please unimportant ears
If we bleed them in their purity
Our tales will be extraordinary

Hush! Spoken words are too shallow
Devoid of substance and marrow
Play the rattle of your bones
The timeless song in your soul
Skin to skin, breath to breath
Heart to heart, human to human

Weaving Threads

There’s no amount of ink better spent

no load of alphabets worth any less

than to lay your name on my loom

and weave the threads of your soul into a poem

 

I say, there’s not much better task

than to scribble on sheets of clouds

of endless dreams and soundless fantasies

the impressions of your delicate face

 

Who could ask for a better calling

than to warp the strings of your heart’s light

into plaited paragraphs that halo seraphic heads

and fabrics that clothe the shoulders of gods?

 

These hands marvel at the given prestige

the honour of feeling the texture of your breathe

the gravity of your pulse at the edges of my finger

as your voice drips from the pore of a nib

 

I tell you, there’s no better mission

than to hold the graceful lines of your smile

and interlace them into a poetic pattern

that warms the hidden depths of my soul

Review: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

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Author: Maya Angelou

Publisher: USA Random House (1969), Virago House (1984)

Marguerite Annie Johnson, known as Dr Maya Angelou was born in St. Louis, Missouri on 4 April 1928. She was the second child of two, with an older brother, Bailey Junior whom she was close to and described as her ‘Kingdom Come’. Maya went on to become one of the most respected and influential voices in literature, poet, memoirist, dancer, educator, actress, filmmaker, producer, dramatist and civil rights activist.

She has published seven autobiographies, three essays, thirteen works of poetry, two children’s books, two picture books and two cookery books.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is the first of her autobiography collection. The journey in the book begins when she and her brother are sent to live with their paternal grandmother in Stamps after the end of their parents’ marriage. Their father later fetches them and takes them with to St. Louis to live with their mother, where life proves to be a far cry from the life they are used to back in Stamps.

She poignantly describes her trauma at a young age of being raped by her mother’s boyfriend, who was later found dead. They are sent back to Stamps and later back to live with their mother again.

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(Photo: http://blackdoctor.org/444210/maya-angelou-dies/)

This story richly depicts the hostility and challenges that spill from racial discrimination. It is also a portrayal of poverty, overcoming personal challenges and finding her voice in poetry, drama and dance. Not only does a reader cry with her through the journey but also laughs with her as she exquisitely describes the laughter and beauty of her experiences with her family and her achievements.

Maya’s absorbing autobiography captures seventeen years of her life through societal challenges, her struggles and her merriment. She ends on a happy note with the birth of her son.

Unlike a lot of autobiographies, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is a piece of art which reveals her creativity and her ability to detail true life in a creative and engrossing way.

Discovering a Phenomenal Woman

It was 2007, movie night with my friends and we were all set in our pyjamas, pizza, wine and more junk that we’d later feel guilty about. Someone had selected Madea’s Family Reunion and I was looking forward to have a good laugh.

Somewhere in the movie there was a scene of old women in the kitchen and one of them was this deep voiced old lady with a head of black hair and that had a white area at the front towards the right. Towards the end of the movie, at the wedding, she recited a poem that made me download the movie and repeat that particular scene over and over for about two weeks. I didn’t know who she was at the time and I honestly thought maybe it was part of the script and someone had written it for her simply as an actress. But it was too original, too raw and genuine that I had to find out more.

I hit Google: “tyler perrry family reunion poem at wedding” and there it was – In and Out of Time, Maya Angelou. That was the day I knew I was in love with her. I had found my inspiration.

The words were so powerful, intense and so profound. I started reading her work on the Internet and would print out some of them, paste them on my wall and recite them out loud as though I was the poet that had given birth to them.

Finding her book at the library was a mission and a thousand. They were always out but I kept on reading her poetry with the devotion that a Christian hold to the Bible. I remember the one I loved the most, the one that became sort of a mantra and my up-and-go-feel-good-about-yourself-and hold-your-head-up-high poem was Phenomenal Woman­. I even had a copy in my bag at all times; it gave me that oomph! It was when she passed away in May 2014 that I went on a hunt for her books and I bought a copy of I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. It took me a day and a half to finish and I just had to collect them all.

Maya Angelou was a true legend and her work and legacy still lives on. Many of us are inspired by her work and aspire to be as great and as influential as she was.

“I walk into a room

Just as cool as you please,   

And to a man,

The fellows stand or

Fall down on their knees.   

Then they swarm around me,

A hive of honey bees.   

I say,

It’s the fire in my eyes,   

And the flash of my teeth,   

The swing in my waist,   

And the joy in my feet.   

I’m a woman

Phenomenally.

 

Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.”

Maya Angelou, “Phenomenal Woman” from And Still I Rise. Copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou.

 

Book review follows.