By Menzi Maseko
Nowadays Poets and Black First Land First Movement: A Seminar/Dialogue – Topic: Feminism, Patriarchy and The role of Black Womxn in the Liberation Struggle.
“Explain to the
In the village
That you are
Twenty and belong—
To no one.” – Alice Walker (Collected Poems: Her Blue Body Everything We Know)
“The revolution and women’s liberation go together. We do not talk of women’s emancipation as an act of charity or because of a surge of human compassion. It is a basic necessity for the triumph of the revolution. Women hold up the other half of the sky.” – Thomas Sankara, President of Burkina Faso (1983-1987)
The collaboration between the legendary Poetry/Storytellers and Cultural activists group established in the year 2000 in KZN, and the Black Consciousness based Black First Land First movement is long overdue.
The roots of the Nowadays Poets/Izimbongi Zesimanje have always been nourished by elements of Black radical Feminism. Before it was even registered as a poetry organisation, Nowadays was a space at the BAT Centre utilised by intellectual and controversial Artivists. Women such as Gabi Ngcobo and Bandile Gumbi, Manu Ngcobo and others whose artistry and socio-political activism knew no limitations.
They had formed a multi-arts fraternity called Third Eye movement where painters, musicians, storytellers, choreographers and all sorts of creative people would gather to share ideas, cook, drink and discuss current and historical topics at the deck of this Community Arts Centre and at each other’s homes.
Central to the discussions and exhibitions and poetry performances was the freeing of each individuals vision and how that vision affected the rest of society. These were people who were Queer, Rasta’s, Avant Garde visual and conceptual artists and other rebels.
The recurring themes at their gatherings were always touching on topics such as gender equity, tradition and homophobia, artist’s roles in the shaping and channelling of revolutionary theories and the social impact of each one’s work.
Third Eye movement transformed into a Poetry Session that happened and still takes place every Wednesday at the BAT Centre. The Nowadays Poets and Slam Poetry Operation Team are custodians of that legacy.
It is always said that culture is dynamic. So in the spirit of that dynamism and constant questioning, the Nowadays Poets has established various projects wherein topics of universal importance are tackled via the medium of the Spoken/Written/Illustrated Word.
Princess To Queen Agenda is one of those projects wherein mostly the female members of Nowadays are striving to address matters related to the gender equity and women’s suffrage. The formation of Princess To Queen Agenda comes at a very crucial time in Azania. Black Womxn and young girls are preyed upon by ignorant and unscrupulous men who are in turn preyed upon by a viciously anti-black system of white male supremacy. The Poets are tired of listening to the echoes of their own voices while the painful cries of womxn are silenced by a patriarchal world. They want to take the conversation and the solutions to the people, beyond the show or the usual poetry circle.
Not only are matters of crucial importance to womxn discussed and solutions sought, the members of Nowadays/Princess to Queen Agenda are very keen to work with any progressive movement in the Afrika Centred and Black Radical space. They launched their first seminar a few months ago through a collaboration with the Institute of Afrikology and hundreds of young girls and womxn and men attended.
Nowadays Poetry Sessions have always been characterised by robust reasoning and arguments related to topics ranging from Politics, Blackness, Spirituality, Education, Sciences, History and Feminism.
The latter subject is always punctuated with arguments and debates that are never really concluded harmoniously. The levels of understanding of the subject of Feminism, Womacentricism, LGBTQ and the Afrikan perspectives on such subjects varies sharply. There are many poets and young people who still hold reactionary views regarding LGBTQ matters. Questions of what is traditionally or culturally acceptable abound and because the level of progressive political education is unequal, some disagreements often lead to acrimony.
The relationship that is being formed between young BLF cadres and this Poetry group is truly significant as KZN is especially teeming with unjustified prejudices and patriarchal attitudes. The BLF is offering a much needed dose of Sankarist and progressive ideological framework and guidance to a group that has the ears of potentially thousands of followers.
This relationship and open dialogue can only bear the fruits of much needed psychological liberation and attitude change especially in a province that is stereotyped as being a hotbed of backwardness and traditional male chauvinism.
The BLF’s unequivocally anti-imperialist agenda and Sankarist approach will explode the question of what the roles of Black womxn are in the liberation struggle. As Black Radical activists who seek to end the world of exploitation and ignorance, the artists and the revolutionaries should always work hand in hand. The weapon of theory against capitalist tyranny and the weapon of culture against imperialist monopoly should never be separated.
Cultural institutions such as the Institute of Afrikology, Nowadays Poets and many others cannot hope to be meaningful or to be taken seriously if they do not engage with the subjects of the day, the bold and brave acts that seek to change the world, and end the exploitation of certain sections of humanity. The language of poetry, the incisive voice of the poet who is also a revolutionary, resonate much further and deeper than an average political speech. Poets are not beholden to the structures of dogma or even rigid political affiliation, but they should have convictions.
The Princess to Queen Agenda as the title suggests, hopes to elevate the status of young girls who are subjected to so much abuse and alienation of their rights, towards inalienable and regal stature as the ones who hold up the other part of the sky.
BLF will just add that crucial Sankarist element. Here is what is said of Sankara in one of the IsiZulu newspapers:
“OkaSankara waba ngumholi wokuqala e-Afrika ukugqamisa nokumela ukuphathwa kahle kwamalungelo abesifazane. Wakucacisa bha kubaholi ayenabo Kanye nezakhamuzi zaseBurkina Faso, ukuthi angeke bakwazi ukuqeda ubuphofu uma isizwe singathathu izinyathelo ezifanele ukuthuthukisa la malungu. Waba ngumholi wokuqala e-Afrika ukuba aqoke abesifazane eminyangweni kaHulumeni eminingi futhi ebaluleke kakhulu.” – (p.2, Bayede/ 13 kuMfumfu – 20 kuMfumfu 2016 / *Hlaziya IPolitiki Ngolimi Lwakho, Imisebenzi Yakhe Iyohlala imlandela uSankara)
Here is a very short list of Womxn who have stood and some who continue to fight against imperialism of all kinds:
– Ama Ata Aidoo – Ghanaian author of, Our Sister Killjoy, Sisterhood Is Global: The International Women’s Movement Anthology, poet and academic, former Minister of Education in Ghana, establisher of Mbaasem Foundation to promote and support the work of women writers.
– bell hooks – African American cultural theorist, feminist
– Mohau Pheko – South Afrikan ambassador to Japan, coordinator of Gender and Trade Network in Africa
– Miriam Makeba – Azanian singer/songwriter and social activist
– Zoraida Reyes – Trans rights and immigrant rights activist murdered in 2014
– In 1973, the Black Consciousness Movement inspired the Black Women’s Federation*
– Arundanthi Roy – Indian author of The God of Small Things, Capitalism: A Ghost Story and the Ordinary persons Guide to Empire.
– Vendana Shiva – Indian scholar, environmental activists and anti-globalization author
– Wangari Maathai – Was a Kenyan political activist and environmentalist who defied male domination and imperialist’s agenda.
– Angela Davis – American scholar, political activist, author of Women, Race and Class, Feminist Family Values Forum and Blues Legacies and Black Feminism
– Marimba Ani – Anthropologist, African studies scholar, author of Yurugu: An Afrikan-centred Critique of European Cultural Thought and Behavior, The Ideology of European Dominanc, European Mythology: The Ideology of Progress, The Nyama of the Blacksmith: The Metaphysical Significance of Metallurgy in Africa etc
Mohau Pheko in her article titled Black Consciousness: A Mind of One’s Own writes: “Almost every canonized Western philosopher is on record as viewing women as inferior, incompetent, or disqualified epistemic or moral agents. There are social arrangements that subordinate or oppress women which are served and protected by patterns of belief and social interactions that make truths about women’s subordination and its alternatives hard to recognise, or easy to cover up.” – (M. Pheko, January 2013)
What the author is basically stating is the fact that Western philosophy and as a result, the foundations of imperialism are both sexist as well as racist. Womxn are not treated as equal in that society and therefore their significant contributions are systemically frustrated and denied. The fact that Black youth are having this conversation should give even the older adherents of Black Consciousness a sign that the seeds they have planted in our minds are beginning to bear fruit. In a society where womxn are so violated and ill-treated, it can only take a radical revolution of consciousness to eradicate the scourge of white/Western consciousness which our society is infected with.
Only a decidedly anti-imperialist frame of mind can guarantee a sustainable cure.
Menzi Maseko is a member of both Nowadays Poets and the Black First Land First movement