until today, i have been crippled with fear.
afraid of the plague that plucked without mercy,
the best of us. that left children with
the mothers or fathers barren and eyes sunken.
with only the tattered bare clothes behind
the bare bone backs.
of wiltered grandparents
who looked forward to being the
bearers of tradition, and to rest their weary
feet, only now they had hordes of grandbabies
without parents and with little hope.
in the beginning, it began with statics and
grim pictures of emmaciated persons with thinned
hair and one foot on the grave. philly lutaya
was the first i saw. unfortuantely, not the
last. it was the early eighties and with the
big hair styles and reminiscent times of the
disco era, come with it mass denial. the leaders
claimed there was nothing to worry. it was accross
many of us died frightened, isolated and afraid.
then i grew up and felt the unspoken things.
didn't mama say never to open your legs
too wide, or too deep.
yet, i liked the touch. i looked forward for the
smile that spoke of delicious things to come..
quite looming in the background, was the fear.
the fear of the faces i had seen. the bodies
i had seen wilt away and the ever present sadness.
quite dilligently, i carried the fear with me.
across the atlantic, into the concrete jungle
and reflected it back to the faces that would
draw my soft contours into their hearts and loins.
quite naturally, i met a girl i liked. i so
longed to touch her. to become one with her.
to sing of the songs our people sang to each other.
the girl was afraid to touch me.
my skin was coarse to her she said.
covered with scales that would penetrate
into her body and break her down, bit by bit.
my juice, she said, would be the fuel that
held the dudu/the insect/the plague
my body reminded her of the fear.
because i, a woman who loved both women and men
was to be feared.
the girl stepped back. and i cried.
and i shouldered the fear and arched with
the heaviness. it laid deep where there
is no sunshine.
as joseph wrestled the angel in the wee hours
of the morning, i too fought with who i was.
the desires that i had felt. the people, i had
touched and who touched me. the skins that
glistered with knowingness and come alive
when careessed. the caress that only another human being
can posses. i thought of bodies that had held
me safe and content. whether, in the safeness
of it, laid the unspoken fear. whether i
unconscious and without knowing, carried the
fear with me, behind the smile. behind the
touch. behind the child bearing hips that
women before me carried in regal stature.
this year, i become unwell. my body fell apart,
bit, by bit. covered with excuriating boils
and the fear became very real. i was well the
docter said, i was just sad, in the sadness,
my body could no longer hold it together.
i thought of the man i took care of back home.
in a hospital ward, feveriously delirious and
hallucinating. his wife. by his side, holding
his skeletonal hand, her eyes no longer alive,
her body showing signs of wilting away.
i spoke yet to another man who was very smart.
he was dying and yet, stared at the face of death
with intellectualism that was sheer bravity.
we never talked much of the impending possibility.
instead, he went out to speak of his achievements.
what he had done. the people he had met. the
women he had loved. he knew as i did,
he was hold to the familiar past,
with the realization of what it was, the past.
i never said much. neither did he. instead,
we basked in the african sun with the abandonment
of children. he, with his ashy legs and i, with
my bald head.
this are the memory i most remember and treasure.
the present time.
this fear is a mitosis of far greater propotions.
it rests in the question of desire.
the meaning of it. the price it casts on our
heads and hearts. the sense of sacrilage or sacrife.
the choices of sexing who and fucking what.
this fear probes our basic question of humanity.
what is life, what is death.
until now, i was osciliating between delirious
heighs of desire and extreme lows of fear.
the numbers keep rising. and what would my
mother think. i thought of the young girls,
outside my window at home. playing grown-up
with tight clothing and well done hair styles.
still children wanting to be women.
i think of the women in africa. knowing what
lies infront of them. most of them, taking
what life presented to them. life,
most instances without protection. without
knowledge. without sisterfriends.
i think of the 'sweet' men i know back home.
where homosexuality is a criminal offence
and most likely a crime punishable by others
through death. these the brave men who met
in each others homes.away from the scutiny
reservered for those without marriage partners.
who loved and danced with each other. and
made the most filled food i had eaten in a long time.
who reached to each other, knowingly and
playfully, unbashful and in some instances recklessly
knowing very well, outside the spaces they had created
for themselves was the likelihood of death and imprisonment.
i can no longer be afraid. for being afraid
is declared that the fear has won. whenever,
one reads about aids in africa, especially
sub-saharan africa, the picture is very grim.
even though our continent lags behind in
medical interventions, we have each other.
we have interventions
such as this.
we have the songs that we alway sang. as we were shipped
to places of great distance and unknown.
we may not have drugs stocked in the pharmacies.
yet, our story
is sang far and wide.
amandla! means power in zulu. it was sang while
as the years of aparthied rolled on, it encouraged
us to be strong.
amandhla! means empowerment. that we, we the people of
africa are without fear. as we bury our dead, others
will take their place and we shall continue to talk.
continue to walk. continue with the struggle.
i am no longer afraid. i cannot be afraid any more.
i surrounded by my sisters and brothers who sing amandlha!
as they toil the land, preparing the land for the harvest.
i am no longer afraid. i sing amandlha instead.