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Lhola Amira

Me and Us

by Lhola Amira / 14.09.2010

When I was 9 my mother led me to her room, combed my hair out and dressed me in a yellow dress. While staring straight into the mirror she silently sang Nina Simone’s “Angel of the Morning”. With every stroke of the comb running through my hair I felt her tears splatter on me. She had prepared me for him, so by the age of 9 I knew of a man’s sweaty smell and had felt his penetration. And years after I learned to negotiate with my body, trade it for possessions and positions, it became my tool, instrument and site.
After years of travelling, South Africa 16 years deep into democracy, and me aged 30, I’m home.

Unfortunately the reconstruction has not democraticized me, my history nor my people. From Mandela the so called “God of Humanism” and symbol of “Black Freedom”, Mbeki the renowned English Gentleman, Irish Poet and unfortunate economist and now to Zuma the Traditionalist, Polygamist “People of the people” and the “Zulu feared by Whites”. I am not just hellbent on deconstructing and destroying this reconstruction process, but I am also an astute black businesswoman waiting to exhale. The 2008 “so called Xenophobic” attacks, sparked in Johannesburg, allowed me to exhale.

Can you imagine the extent of the black violence exercised and experienced during that time? And the response… OH MY GOD, THE SAVAGES ARE AT IT AGAIN, FIRST THEY RAPE THEIR CHILDREN AND NOW THEY ARE KILLING EACH OTHER! AND OUR PRESIDENT IS ZUMA, AHHHHH. This calls for another white intervention, not on a colonist level, of course, but academic. So in 2009, an internationally established black male curator and up and coming white female curator invited me to organise a talk to discuss the notion of “us” in response to the “xenophobic” attacks. Problem was, both were socio-economically and politically removed from the brutality of the black violence.

I, professioned in body trade, was surrounded by intellectuals of all species. Sociologists, artists, curators, political/socialist activists, strategists, professors and university lecturers. All these theorists had to answer one simple question: what constitutes an “us”?. And I suppose the most fascinating response was that of a white woman, who said, ‘the “us” is an illusion and the I is the real’. And I agree, for our democracy has taught us that much – the capitalist system has no space for an “us” it only has space for an I. Of course the capitalist system sugar-coats the illusion with democracy, independence and humanism.

When my father was on top of me, there was no “us” between me and my mother, nor any other black women. Post-1994 loosened any “us” there was between black people – the white “us” remained because they formed the institution, structure and system. They have a foundational “us”, they divided and ruled the black, oppressed and exploited, extricated black identities and implanted the road to whiteness. I know I sound like a broken record when I say 1994 changed nothing.

So here I am, sitting in my room reading a text message from my mother hoping to salvage a 9 year old girl lost between the sheets and sweat of her old man. It reads, “I am sorry, sorry that you are a woman, sorry that you are black in poverty, sorry that my oppression led to yours, sorry you had to be strong, sorry for the yellow dress, love me”. But democracy has not apologised for any misfortune – so I quote Sartre: “Let us waste no time in sterile litanies and nauseating mimicry”.

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RESPONSES (27)
  1. mick says:

    Powerful, unfortunate text.

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  2. brandon edmonds says:

    Lhola Amira is a prostitute. An executive call girl. We promised not to edit her work. There are more of her amazing stories to follow.

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  3. julius says:

    this is heartwrenching stuff. and unflinchingly unsentimental.

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  4. in limbo says:

    This piece makes me angry and frustrated, but not for the most obvious reasons. I am seeing more and more comment here, on Facebook and elsewhere from literate, well educated and socially committed young black South Africans who are on the periphery of society and the economy. Why?? You would think that with our growing economy and the strong drives towards employment equity, that government and the private sector would be seeking out such people and offering them great career opportunities – the opportunities that would make them an integral part of our economy and our social stability. All we hear about in the news is more and more reports of corruption and incompetence, while talented people like Lhola feel excluded by mainstream society. Why??

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  5. Warrior says:

    Lhola Amira, Christ Jesus loves you!

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  6. yip says:

    @ warrior – don’t bring god into this man!

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  7. Anonymous says:

    is she really a call girl or is she a call girl when she’s in character mode?

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  8. Anonymous says:

    why don’t u have delete option here?
    i entered too quickly and was going to say it’s quite an astute observation, the figure of the prostitute is accurate. reading it reminded me of bob marley’s pimper’s paradise – yea i’ve had my morning spliff.

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  9. brandon edmonds says:

    She really is a call girl. Call her.

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  10. Anonymous says:

    This piece is just not that good.

    It’s deceptive. You want to like it because, ag shame, she’s had some problems in her life.

    But what does her abuse at the hands of her father have to do with democracy? Seriously? Democracy doesn’t claim to intrude into everyone’s private life and make all the wrongs right.

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  11. Anonymous says:

    Call girl, hey? How much for a fuck, baby?

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  12. Mary says:

    Lhola, are you suggesting there’s no black “us”?

    Colonialism and apartheid destroyed group identities that were here before, but now there are new ones. How good they are is not for me to decide, but they exist.

    You don’t have to be black to be on the periphery, you just have to refuse to play the game. As was found out by many activists during apartheid, white, black, Indian, purple, pink and yellow.

    The one thing 1994 did change was who’s to blame. White people may still have their money, but they are no longer voting in a white government who keeps it that way. Poor black people are voting in a black government who keeps it that way.

    I understand why poor black people resent white wealth, I would too. But getting angry with whites for having stuff (or with makwere for having stuff) isn’t going to change anything. Particularly seeing as our elected leaders very clearly don’t want a change in the status quo.

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  13. brandon edmonds says:

    There you go. That really helps things @anonymous. Thanks for that. Now hold five while everyone on planet earth turns to you and yells DOUCHE!

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  14. Anonymous says:

    Whoo-hoo-hoo, whoo-hoo-hoo, whoo- shucks! It’s schuster!

    Seriously, though – someone was bound to ask that question. I mean, she is a practising ‘executive call girl’ – they make shit loads of money. I don’t think she wants your pity Edmonds. So yeah, how much?

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  15. Anonymous says:

    is the shaving of pubic hair part of her cry for democracy? she writes good enough to get something that could be a tear from my eye. i hope her dad died.

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  16. Arlene says:

    Beautifully written but I’m confused …. what does black have to do with paedophilia and sexual abuse? There is power in ‘I’, if only your mother had known that.

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  17. Ricky says:

    Garbled nonsense – I don’t get the link between her own abuse and the lack of democracy in this country. She is clearly blaming racial politics for her own misfortune and that’s a huge and sloppy deductive leap, with a bit of academia thrown in for credibility. She should stick to what she knows best; Mahala is being sensationalist.

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  18. Anonymous says:

    Will someone actually answer this question, because we’re all asking it –

    what does her personal abuse have to do with racial politics and democracy?

    why does this qualify for Mahala? is it like, oh she’s a prostitute, that’s so edgy man. let her write what she wants? or what?

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  19. brandon edmonds says:

    We’re working on it. She’s out of the country. From conversations with her, Lhola is making a point about personal and political history. How you can’t separate them at the physical level – the body. The body she sells to make ends meet.

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  20. Alistair (-) E. Moose says:

    That photography, whilst having sweet fuck-all to do with the story, is amazing.

    Who’s the photographer, where’s it from?

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  21. brandon edmonds says:

    That’s Lhola.

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  22. Alistair (-) E. Moose says:

    So who’s the photographer? Where can I see more of their work?

    And by the way, Lhola is really terrible name. As far as “executive call girls” go, she could’ve gone with someting a little less tacky. No offence, yeah?

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  23. Mick says:

    Me loves when people inadvertently extend the ol’ colour metaphor to blue, pink, and yellow.. It reveals the utter sillyhood of the original binary. We be All of us coloured babes. Amen (Harry Caganoff)
    Oh yeah and, unrelated – That proud, aggressively fragile sapphic portrait is beaut on soo many levels

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  24. snapper says:

    i can see the paralells between violation of the body and violation of the mind.
    but the bitterness isnt constructive. critizing academics both for being priveledged and for trying to engage outside of their own priveldged experience, referring to these as a white intervention – is she saying whitenes and priveldge are the same thing (its not actual race which made the invitation white)? sure, power, distance from poverty and violence and whiteness are connected, but certainly not synonymous.
    somewhat offensive but thought-provoking. hope to see more

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  25. g says:

    appalling use of syntax, style is forced and relies too heavily on easy clichés. dislike.

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  26. Budstar says:

    why must I read about her father penetrating her, WTF ? to emotionally blackmail me into reading the rest of the crap? yeah I thought so…

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  27. Xtru says:

    First Paragraph and I I’d had enough… didn’t need to read further to know the rest. I am the story.

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