Sunday, November 22, 2009

Lebogang Mashile: The South African Soul With A Rhythm

People often talk about the rhythm of life and the rhythm of the soul. I have heard the expression that we all have a rhythm for what we do, hence, the reason why we do it effortlessly. For example, TD Jakes once asked the question; do you have the rhythm of love? Do you have the rhythm of a wife? Do you have the rhythm of a mother? It made sense to me because not every woman is wired to be a wife or a mother. If you are a wife, you have the rhythm to be a wife to your husband and be a mother to the children that come from your love and still have time to nurture your home, make love to your man, take care of the kids, cook, clean, get them ready for school and on your way out the door, you remember to kiss your man. Now, rhythm in marriage is not one sided. It takes two and the man must have rhythm too.

My focus right now is not marriage; I was setting the scene up for you. You like that? Now stay with me.

I have heard poets and I have heard poets but Lebogang Mashile blew me away at the Southbank recently when she came down to London with the ‘Beyond Words’ team of poets. Wow! What a night it was. At 30, she had the audience fixated as they listened to her every word and move.

Don’t try to imagine this is one big lady, taller than everyone in the room and bigger than everybody to the contrary; she is of average height, built the way a woman like her should be built and she is a pretty lady with a funny American accent. She was born in the US during the Apartheid years but found her voice when she went back to South Africa over 14 years ago.

Lebo left university while she was reading Law because she just realised she didn’t want to be a lawyer anymore and she was already writing.

I have sat down with Lebo to talk and she reached and touched my soul. The words that come out of Lebo Mashile are the words of a woman who has lived and is now the source of wisdom for her children, grand-children and great-grand children. Lebo Mashile is a woman of Wisdom and I dare add great wisdom. One of the most intelligent people I have met lately and she knows what she is talking about, from politics to everyday life, fashion to the film world, she knows her stuff.

Lebo delivered poetry with rhythm. She spoke from her heart and danced to her words. She created music with her words; her voice was all the instruments she needed. If you were not there and you are lost where poetry is concerned, I am of the opinion that when you see and hear Lebo Mashile live, you will change your mind and fall in love with the rhythm of words.

That’s right, she knows how to make words make love to each other and sound so emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically healthy like two lovers making love without the cares of the world.

I was lucky to get one of her live albums and just finished listening again. I just had to write this blog entry because she had me bopping my head and dreaming dreams. When I got to the piece, ‘Every Child My Child,’ she took me back to that evening at the Southbank. My world, that poem had me in pieces. One of the most powerful things I have heard all year and of course, Lebo made it what it was. If you were there am sure you remember, ‘Every child, my child, wrapped in ribbon of rhythm.’ I hope I got that right!

I remember the first poem she did at the Southbank was ‘What Kind Of A Woman.’ If you don’t know the type of woman you are or you are in the discovery room, do get Lebo’s book, ‘Flying Above The Sky,’ and get yourself some piece of that powerful word.

Ms Mashile had the baby in me kicking with her words and I can’t wait until January when she is back at the Southbank. Lebogang Mashile, my South African sister, keep the words coming because I’m going to keep listening.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

It Happened In My Lifetime - Stepping Out on A Wing and A Prayer.

A few months back, my contract at the place where I worked ended. I know anyone would kill to work at the BBC right? Even take whatever you are given, just so, you can say I work at the BBC. Don't get me wrong, it is a good learning ground and I learnt so much in the space of time I was in there. In fact, I made sure that I got as much out of it like I put into it.

But when the contract ended and the prospect of a new job was not offering itself, I asked around as to what was available. Of course, getting shifts was the most feasible option to go for, which I did get some and loved the experience and hope to get some more.

However, there was another role which was just not for me. I thought about it, weighed it up, spoke to my mentor. Now this should make you laugh, she knows me so well, she said, if you take that, you are going to be depressed and I don't want you to go silent on me.

I happen to be one of those people, whose mind works faster than their body can keep-up with and if I am doing something I am not passionate about, I get depressed. The role that was on offer was such that when it was being pitched to me, I was told, I'm sure we can find a way to pay you. A kind offer but it was not journalism related. I studied and trained to be a journalist. That is all I dream of and of course other things I would like to do with my life. I can’t quantify the joy that bubbles in my soul when I see my name in print.

Now please, don’t get me wrong and I say this with all due respect...after a degree, a postgrad and spending 3 years gaining work experience...that did not sound very attractive to me.

However I was also scared. I was afraid that I won't have a job, afraid that I’ll no longer be able to say, I work at the BBC and people would be like oh! I was afraid of what I would live on and how I would survive. I was afraid that the cushion of being a student was not there for me to fall back on. I was afraid bottom-line because the world was in a recession and here I am, leaving my first full time job after studies.

But I knew that if I settled for anything because it’s better than nothing, that would kill me faster than being jobless. So, I decided, we are going to give freelance a try and see how it goes. After all, I was doing that as a student in order to build my portfolio and I had learnt some good lessons along the way. This was in addition to the fact that I had built some good contacts and still building my contacts list.

And my world is the ‘freelance world’ scary. Editors have so many people to deal with; they might not get back to you for days and some might not get back to you at all. The chasing up and the most despondent of them all, the 'NO' that you get after five emails got to me. I felt undervalued and unimportant.

But the breakthrough came and it came one day at a time. It has not been easy, there have been tears and days when I locked myself away and didn't want to talk to a soul.
Days when Facebook became my escape route from dealing with the reality, days when the disparity between the vision and dream I carry inside me was so different to the reality of my present time and days when I cried until I could cry no more and my salty tears tasted comforting to me, days when I could not express what I felt because my soul was hurt by life's fair share and my spirit was really angry and wanted to beat up on life for being so unfair.

But then the morning of each day brought a new challenge, pitch an idea, wait and see...lately it has been better. The ideas are working and the platform to be a journalist is trickling in and I am doing a variation of things...challenging myself and my own intellect. I'm writing for publications whose ethos I believe in and admire a lot and can be picked up in different countries around the globe.

But this blog is because some of the things that may never have happened to me if I had stayed at the BBC with the job that was available at the time are happening.

It was the 25th anniversary of Wasafiri, a magazine of international contemporary writing and I took myself along to the Southbank. I went as an audience member and a journalist. And in my life time, I interviewed Ngugi wa Thiong'o and Kiran Desai and the editor of Wasafiri. Susheila Nasta.

If someone had told me that week that in one day, one email would give me access to two of literature luminaries, I would have said ‘No way, get out of town.’ But it happened to me and it happened in my lifetime. And I am very glad I stepped out on a wing and a prayer though fear sat deep down in my heart and there are days when I am still scared because I have no idea when the next commission will come through my inbox.

But If I had stayed in there just because I wanted to be able to say I work at the BBC, it may never have happened. This is not to say I would turn down a job at the BBC. I would give it great thought and if the shoe fits, wear it the right way. But for now, I would like this road of a wing and a prayer to take me places I never dreamt possible and open doors I never thought would open.

The unknown is scary but once you start on the journey of the unknown, you do learn a lot and the unknown becomes the known. It happened in my lifetime and I am still stepping out on a wing and a prayer.

Image: Google Images...