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Art, Culture

Out the Box

by Naima Mclean / 04.10.2013

Self-determination and self definition are die-hard themes for people of colour, let alone women of colour – all over the world. Being (South) African makes this a given for any individual, who has to confront at some time the suffocating racial and cultural stereotyping still rampant in many minds. This we know. What makes this poetic commentary on the status quo worth listening to, is the integrity of Naima’s expression and the claiming if her unique voice. Naima has a command of her meaning and her vocal chords that makes you want to engage with her, respond to her honesty.

Out the box

I am Xhosa, Indian of Khoisan decent
I am Antigen cuz that’s where my forefathers were sent
Slave ships ride tyrant waves and seas,
And African American Grandma X is raped by an Irish gent.
First breath taken in the city of Manhattan,
But again we break the pattern and head south,
Where the mouth of my South African root is fed.
Bread all the way between Mmabatho and Cape Town,
In a house where celebrating Eid and Christmas facilitated common ground,
As we throw stones to consult our Ancestors through ritualistic sacrifices,
Sipping on holy red wine in the middle of Ramadan,
Believe it or not makes me one.
One with the sounds of father’s saxophone horn,
One with my mother’s nest where my soul was formed,
Born into a brewing pot of diversity,
I claim all of me and the beauty of my humanity.
The confliction does not come from the contradiction,
But rather the restriction of the box you constantly want to put me in.
Judging me because you think I form part of a black elite
Which is actually not about me, but a critique on transformed social structures,
But would it matter if I where white?
Questioning my black because there is a lack of African dialect
So you make excuses ‘cause I’m light.
Praising me on my well spoken English cuz I’m not like the others
But what are you saying about my fellow brothers.
Ahoi sista!!! Let’s get Irie high!!
Not considering the convenience of not having to relax, perm, braid, blow or die!
There’s no profound statement in these locks that consume my head, I just couldn’t be bothered to wear a doek every time I go to bed.
I’m drowning in the stigmas attached to being a strong black woman
And I’m tired you see…
The acknowledgement of my emotional state takes last priority,
Overlooking that my identity encapsulates immense insecurity,
And that strength is not mutually exclusive of overflowing rushes of vulnerability.
I need someone to cradle me,
I need someone to invest in me,
I need someone to embrace my vulnerability and not run away from me.
I need someone to catch my tears, confront my fears,
I’ve needed someone for years,
I need someone to engage my being,
Nurture the pain that I too am feeling,
Look through my eyes and listen to my silent cries
The confliction does not come from the contradiction,
But rather the restriction of the box you constantly want to put me in.
I rise I fall,
I have it in the palm of my hand and I lose it all.
A solid grip on reality for that moment remains eternally firm,
Then wrenched from my perfect dream and my world turns,
So I drink my sorrows to numb the pain,
Strip Naked and walk that lonely path praying to be soothed by cleansing rains,
And finally I’m breaking free!!!
Unlocking these chains that suffocate me
Music facilitates my poetry,
Releasing the realms that exist internally,
Creating the space I foresee as guaranteed possibility,
Because the truth is I just want you to relate to me,
Allowing us to engage our differences on a platform of similarity, simultaneously.
The point is I thank you.
I thank you for the confliction, I thank you for the contradiction, I thank you for the restriction of this box you constantly put me in.
You’ve paved a clearing,
Guided this life-long maze, providing me with certainty
That standing on this stage I embark on a journey to discover the whole African me

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