There is something magical about underwater photography. Maybe it is because it takes us to places few of us have – or will – ever venture. This is also probably why I enjoy looking at images of outer space (since it is a bit late in life for me to decide to become an astronaut). In addition, like space, the ocean is a place we can visit but not inhabit which makes it intriguing territory. Here is a collection of some of my favourite underwater images from 2016 (click on an image to enlarge and read a brief caption).
One of my favourite poems by a South African poet, ‘Swartjie Bartman’ by Lesedi Thwala, is about women’s experience of street harassment, particularly black women. It is powerfully written, and makes reference to Saartjie Baartman, a Khoikhoi woman put on display for entertainment in England and France during the 1810s due to her large buttocks. She was displayed in several circuses, and wealthy customers could pay for private demonstrations in their homes, with their guests allowed to touch her. Thwala’s poem is about the sexual objectification of black women’s bodies, particularly by white men, drawing parallels with the ways in which Baartman’s body was perceived.
‘Swartjie Bartman’ by Lesedi Thwala
Jinne, hoekom het julle swartjies sulke mooi boude?
You hideously hiss and hoot while your
Tongue turbulently twirls twixt your teeth and your
Bulge bulbously bulges between your legs
Claiming that I should take it as a compliment
and be an accomplice and acquiesce you
a slice of the sjokolade-koek
because I am too beautiful for a black girl
and therefore should not be wearing a doek
en ek moet bly ommie-hoek
so that jou vrou en kinders don’t see
that you do not play by die boek
want swart en wit moet nooit meng nie
maar jy wil nou kroek
and I should know that my behind is all I am good for
en glad nie meer as dit ooit soek
ag nee! My skin is too dark
my English isn’t sharp
and my hair is so coarse!
But my butt…
My butt does wonders for you, of course!
So you drive past dark alleys hoping I will be there
So you can feed your fetid fetish and hope and wish that Oom Hans
Of Tant Sallie don’t see you met ‘n swartjie in jou bakkie
En as jy my sien,
You slow down and slobber
And flash me a twee-honderd-rand noot
And scream: “Kom vat meisietjie, gaan koop vir jou brood”
And you disclose your disgust
At my disapproval and drive past, while people stare at you aghast
Want jy kry dit nie man!
Dis duidelik dat ek is jou Swartjie Bartman
You can find out more about Lesedi Thwala here, where you can also hear the poet give a reading of ‘Swartjie Bartman’.
Women stand in small groups, sometimes even alone, silently holding placards: “REJECT SLUMS, SQUATTERS, GROUP AREAS BILLS” and “RELEASE OR CHARGE ALL DETAINEES”. People pass and stare, sometimes yelling angrily, or spit on them, or even driving up on the pavement to try and run them over. It’s the 1950s. The South African government is pushing one law after another through Parliament (more than 25 in that decade alone), with the aim of expanding the reach of white supremacy into every aspect of the lives of South Africans.
Four women stand in front of a room of the country’s most powerful people, silently holding pieces of paper which read “#1in3” and “Remember Khwezi”. People stare, and eventually the women are shoved out the door. It is 2016. The results of South Africa’s local elections are being announced to South Africa and the political elite, and four black women remind us that despite numerous allegations of sexual violence against him, our President has managed to dodge conviction while one of his accusers has to go into exile.
After a two week hiatus, here are reviews of several short stories I have read these past few weeks. All three stories are written by women from the African continent – specifically Zimbabwe, Nigeria and South Africa – and all deal with family conflict, the complexity of spoken and unspoken communication.
I’ve worked my way through several novels since the start of this year, and unfortunately they have all been somewhat lacklustre. They haven’t been bad exactly, just not particularly good. Finally, I have finished a rather epic tome that was wonderful, so here is a review. In addition, at the end I share a quick review of two short stories I read this week which I absolutely loved. Continue reading
This is one of my favourite poems by Margaret Atwood, in which she contemplates war and our reactions to victory and defeat. Taken from her collection of poetry, The Door.
Nobody Cares Who Wins Nobody cares who wins wars. They care at the moment: they like the parades, the cheering; but after that, winning diminishes. The silver cup on the mantle engraved with some year or other; a hoard of buttons, cut from corpses as souvenirs; a shameful thing you did in white, hot anger shoved back out of sight. Bad dreams, a bit of loot. There's not much to say about it. That was a fine time, you think. I've never felt more alive. Nonetheless, victory puzzles you. Some days you forget where you've put it, though younger men make speeches about it as if they had been there too. Of course it's better to win than not. Who wouldn't prefer it? Losing, though. That's different. Defeat grows like a mutant vegetable, swelling with the unsaid. It's always with you, spreading underground, feeding on what's gone missing: your son, your sister, your father's house, the life you should have had. It's never in the past, defeat. It soaks into the present, it stains even the morning sun the colour of burnt earth. At last it breaks the surface. It bursts. It bursts into song. Long songs, you understand. They go on and on.