RSS

Monthly Archives: May 2014

Once A Tarzan, Always A Tarzan (Part 1): ‘The Immaculate Fumble’

Back in my high school days I was what you might call a Tarzan. Tarzan was the name given to guys who either could not or were just never seen talking to girls. The socially awkward brothers with no game. Despite being interested in girls I never invested my time or resources to interact with them. I was about that nerd life instead. I always had my nose in a book. Right up until the start of my A-Levels which are the last two years of high school I was your stereotypical Tarzan.

Tarzan giving Jane Flowers

Tarzan giving Jane Flowers

My high school was an all-boy Catholic boarding school located in one of the most remote areas in the country and was run by the Marist Brothers. We did not have a single female teacher. In fact the entire school only had three female employees. Yes, three. And they were all ‘Waxers’ who only worked part time shining the school corridors a few days of the week. The nearest girl’s school that we had social engagements with was at least a good 100km away. This meant whenever there was a function only a busload of girls would grace our school of about 600 boys and the reverse was true for when our visited. I only really started interacting with girls when I was doing my A-Levels. Now a senior I now had the opportunity to visit the girls school more frequently and the odds were stacked heavily in my favour.

Fast forward to my university days and I found myself riding on the wave of being the token black guy. I was the ‘exotic’guy with the accent and boy did I milk it. My Tarzan ways quickly became a thing of the past, for the most part.
Most of us have had crushes at some point in our lives. Most of us put our crushes on a pedestal even before we get to know them properly. We project our romantic idealism onto them. I was no exception.

In my second year I found myself enamored with this girl without ever having uttered as much as a word to her. At all. But that’s pretty much standard fare for most guys at some point who have determined they have something to lose in life. Many, many people have stories of a love interest they never knew. Today I am going to share my story of a girl I had a crush on for years but never acted on it. There was a failure to launch on my part. Thinking back on it my inaction was so mind blowingly asinine that I sometimes can’t believe that it actually went down the way that it did.

Anyway, for the purposes of this story I will call this girl Jane, because … Tarzan.

I remember the very first time I saw Jane. It was early first semester and I was sitting in the Student Union in between classes with one of my boys when I see Jane. She was gorgeous. Like absolutely stunning, without fail, easily a ten. The kind nobody questions. Well, I’m trying to tell my boy how fine she is and he keeps asking me which one she is. My attempts to describe apparently fell on deaf ears – odd considering he easily agreed how hot she was – so I did the only thing I could think of to illustrate to him who I was talking about.

I pointed at her.

And said, “Her, that one right there is the one I’m talking about. The hot one!”Loudly. Or at least loud enough amidst the relative quiet of the Student Union that a few people turned to see who was talking. Mind you, there are maybe 15 -20 of us in the SU so they all saw me pointing. And so did Jane. And she smiled at me. A huge smile. One of those, “awww” smiles. One of those, “I see you, I’m flattered and that’s cute.”

I was embarrassed, but all I could do was laugh. And smile back. We exchanged a smile. She knew I was alive. For those of you who have been cool your entire lives, a woman that you find attractive that knows your alive is pretty much where you can pack it up and go home. You’ve achieved it all. Funny thing is, in every other facet but this woman, I was actually considered one of the cool kids.

Later that same day on my way to my tutorial I saw her again. She looked directly at me, smiled again, and then kept it moving. My boy was like, “Yep, she definitely isn’t forgetting you. You’re in.”

True enough, she didn’t forget me. How do I know this? Because for the next three years, we danced without ever touching.

Because the purpose of this little anecdote was to talk about missed opportunities, I won’t dwell on the regular see her on campus sightings and mutual stare downs, though they happened frequently. So much so that even my boys were annoyed that I never tried to holler because it was clear that just from our visual interaction, she would at least give me the chance to fail.

Which, really, is all any man needs in life, at the very least the opportunity to blow it. Maybe you win and you ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after. Maybe you lose, but you went down swinging and you live to fight another day.

Anyway, during the course of what was my second year (her first year) we of course saw one another a million times throughout the La Trobe University Campus. I’d see her randomly at the library or whenever I had tutes in the Business building. And at the Cafeteria.We’d always lock eyes for at least a second. Always. Almost as if she was just waiting for me to take a chance. I never did. In fact, if I was her, I’d have thought I was a lame. Which given this story, is accurate. But it got taken to a new level Roberto Baggio in ’94 levels  one fine summers day in Freemantle, Perth.

Well, that summer I went up to Perth, about a 4hr flight from Melbourne to spend Christmas with my cousin who lived up there. Perth might as well have been a different country, hell it was a different time zone altogether. One Saturday my cousin and I hit up the mall to do some last minute shopping. The whole of Perth must have been at the mall that day.

And yes, you know exactly where this is going.

So we’re walking through the mall and who (but who) do I see walking towards me looking like the goddess that she was? Yup, you guessed it.

Jane.

She stopped dead in her tracks when she saw me. I pretty sure my jaw was on the floor at this point.
We look at each other and she kept walking towards me. I stop her (see I did speak finally) to say the only thing I could think of.

“Excuse me, you look familiar…do you go to La Trobe?” (Of course she goes to La Trobe you have been stalking her for the whole year, Why did you say that?

Her: “Yeah…I do. Do you go to La Trobe?” (Aww she played it coo, I might be in love)

Me: “I sure do! You’re in the business faculty right?” (Dude! you know she’s in the business faculty but at least she’s playing along…this is going well…)

Her: “I am…are you from here?????”

Me: “Nah. I’m up visiting my cousin who lives here….
And this is where, I, Tafadzwa Tichawangana, pulled the most ridiculous sh*t known to man in the history of evolution.

Wait for it…

Wait for it…

Wait for it…

Me: “Well nice to see you, take care!”
Walks off.

As I walked off, she just stood there standing, dumbfounded. My cousin had the total sh*t face.

I didn’t even ask her what her name was. (I already knew it but that’s neither here nor there).

She was carrying the biggest shopping bags in history. I could have asked her if she needed help carrying them to her car and prolonged the conversation and parlayed that into exchanging information or at least a “See you on campus.” Something.

Anything.

My cousin, after a few minutes, said, “Taf, you my man, and I love you, but I’ve never seen a person f*ck up a green light like you just f*cked it up. I mean that was super bad how hard you fumbled. She was talking. She was smiling. She’s fine as hell. And she was right there. And you f*cked that one all up. Cuz, you disappointed me today.”

He just shook his head and kept telling me how dumb I was.

And dumb I was. So dumb. And lame.

But wait it gets worse … There’s more.

Ah, but of the awkwardness of young lust.

Part II will be the ultimate icing on the cake. This Tarzan’s Immaculate Fumble with Jane has not reached its conclusion.

Le sigh.
To be continued …

Advertisements
 
1 Comment

Posted by on May 31, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , ,

The Names They Have Called Me

first-names

Mum: Tafadzwa?!

Me: Ma –aah!

Whenever this exchange took place between my mum and I when I was a kid I was almost always in trouble for something. My name is Tafadzwa. It’s quite ironic that the few times that my mum actually called me by my full first name it was usually because she wasn’t too happy with me or whatever it is I had done. Why is this ironic? Well, glad you asked.

My name is a Shona name that means ‘You’ve made us happy’. And therein lays the irony.

Despite my conditioned response to immediately tense up and fear the worst whenever my mum shouted Tafadzwa across the house I have always loved my name. I love the way it rolls of the tongue when pronounced correctly and I love that it means something. According to my parents my name is a testament to how they felt when I arrived into this world. They were happy. I’m glad they stuck with Shona, because ‘Happy’ as a name just doesn’t have the same panache too it. Tafadzwa on the other hand. So much panache.

When I wasn’t in trouble and my mum was actually happy with me she called me Fafi. So did my baby sister. My dad and brothers called me Tafi. Very few people in my life have consistently called me by my proper first name Tafadzwa. Even those who are Shona like me and would not have any difficulties pronouncing it always seemed to opt for shortened variations of Tafadzwa. That or they called me by one of the many nicknames I went by in primary and high school.

This probably explains why every time anyone consistently makes an effort to call Tafadzwa I fall in love with them a little, especially if they are not Shona and they pronounce it right.

Consider me sprung as soon as my name rolls of your tongue. Mummy issues, perhaps? I don’t even know if that’s even a thing, but I do know that just about all the non Shona speaking women I’ve dated have had this in common. They have all called me Tafadzwa.

Nowadays most people call me Taf. It’s been that way for the last decade or so. Most of the responsibility for that lies between me and the time I lived outside Zimbabwe. It was only during that period that I started introducing myself as Taf. And it has stuck like glue. Even my own family now calls me Taf. It still feels weird being called Taf by my own parents.

Before I started uni I don’t actually remember anyone calling me Taf. Ever. It was Tafi,Taffy Tooth, Fafi, Fadzi or some other variation of my name but never Taf. It was only after I moved to Australia that I started going by Taf. Most Australians were either just too lazy or too intimidated to try and say my name. And most of those brave enough to try pronouncing often strangled all meaning out of it when they did. On my arrival down under and after only a few attempts to introduce myself as Tafadzwa I resigned myself to being Taf. A name with no grace, no meaning, no history and one that doesn’t belong in any language.

I deliberately didn’t introduce myself as Fafi, because that was reserved for my mum and my baby sister thing. They were the only people I allowed to call me Fafi. It was scared in that regard. So why not Tafi?, which until I became Taf was the more popular name I went by. Now that I was in university Tafi all of a sudden felt and sounded too effeminate. Tafadzwa is actually a unisex name and for the first time I felt Tafi was more appropriate for the girls called Tafadzwa. Taf on the other hand sounded more macho and to my 19 year old self this was a no brainer. Taf, it was.

It didn’t help ‘Tafi’s’ case that every time a girl I fancied called me that it was a clear an indicator as any that I had fallen into the mythical black hole that is the friend zone. On the flip side two girls I have dated call me Taf Taf. So nice they have to say it twice.

Allow.

Anyway back to the chronicles of Tafadzwa.

Even though when I started uni I started going by Taf, some people for reasons best know to themselves still found it cumbersome, and that is how a few people actually ended up calling me Jeff. Of all the things I have been called in my life, this in particular annoyed me the most. Jeff? Really? You can’t say Taf but you can say Jeff.

Le sigh.

One nickname I did like though was the one my football coach who happened to be Italian gave me. And it was Teflon. Awesome, right? Unfortunately it didn’t stick. (See what I did there?)

Most of my university professors didn’t even bother with my name. The first day with each knew lecturer plays out the same always.

After calling out a long line of Scott’s, Michael’s, Sarah, Rebecca’s, etc they rest on my name in silence. They squint. They have never seen this combination of letters strung together in this order before. They are incomprehensible. What is the z doing after the d? Maybe it’s a typo.

They smother my name in their mouths. It is a hindrance for their tongues. They hand me papers silently. One of them mumbles it unintelligibly whenever he calls on my hand. Another just calls me “T.”

But like most things in life there is always an exception.

At the start of my second year, I walk into a microbiology class. My lecturer is blond and blue-eyed. Her name is Beth. When she comes to my name on the roll call, she takes the requisite pause.

I hold my breath.

Lecturer: “How do I pronounce your name?”

Me: “Just call me Taf.”

Lecturer: “Is that how it’s pronounced?”

Me: “No one’s ever been able to pronounce it.”

Lecturer: “That’s probably because they didn’t want to try,”“What is your name?”

Me: Ta-fad-zwa

When I say my name, it feels like redemption. I have never said it this way before. Tafadzwa. She repeats it back to me several times until she gets it. It is difficult for her British tongue. Hers has none of the strength, none of the force of most native Shona speakers. But she gets it, eventually, and it sounds beautiful. I have never heard it sound so beautiful. I have never felt so proud of my name. My name feels like a crown.

From that moment on hardly a lecture goes by without her calling out my name for one reason or the other. Every time she poses a question and no answers, you guessed it,

“Tafadzwa, what are your thoughts?

For this reason I am always at attention during all my Microbiology lectures. I become more engaged than I am in all my other units. And the results show for themselves. I ace my Microbiology exam. All this because my lecturer was able to say my name properly.

I am in love with my name again. I fall in love with next girl to say it right.

Years later after I graduated, my name almost kills me. Sort of. That’s what I thought when I was desperately trying to keep the Grim Reaper at bay. I had been the victim of a violent robbery and as I lay there in a pool of my own blood the first respondents kept asking me to say my name. I kept saying Tafadzwa. And they kept asking me to say it over and over again. I remember getting frustrated and thinking that I was going to die because the police couldn’t understand me when I said my name. In those moments I briefly resented my name. ( I have no idea why I didn’t just say Taf). But I later found out that it was standard procedure for them to repeatedly ask Trauma patients questions just to make sure they maintain consciousness.

I remember hearing a story once, about a tribe in some remote, rural place that has no name for the color blue. They do not know what the color blue is. It has no name so it does not exist. It does not exist because it has no name.

My name is Tafadzwa. It’s a tough t clinging to a sharp a, which melts into a frivolous ffff, which loosely hugs an a that falls into a deep d, chocked by a z and released by a w and accentuated by an a at the end. Ta-fad-zwa .You have to accentuate that last a. Tafadzwa. My name is Tafadzwa. My name is a valuable undertaking. My name requires your rapt attention. Say my name in one swift note – Tafadzwaaaaah.

Tafadzwa. My name is an endeavor. My name is a song. Tafadzwa. It means you’ve made us happy or we are pleased depending on the context. Tafadzwa. Wrap your tongue around my name, unravel it with the music of your voice, and it will make both you and I happy.

Footnote: I am convinced that my full name Tafadzwa Tichawangana is one of the many reasons I love writing. In Grade 1 when I was still learning to write my teacher would make me write my name over and over again as practice. I had the longest name in my class, so you can imagine that I got more practice that all the other kids. I loved writing my name. And so began my love affair with writing.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on May 30, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Hey Lover

Your smile gives me so much life.

I love the way your lips curve effortlessly as they lift your cheeks until those beautiful little dents of delight appear.

And…

When you smile with your eyes you make me smile with my heart. I feel your happy.

Your laugh is the perfect soundtrack to my happy.

There is something about the way you throttle your laugh when you are tired and these beautiful pockets of joy are released into the space around you.

It’s so adorable. And Infectious.

I love your eyes.Those big beautiful round windows to your soul.I

In your eyes I see the best man I could ever be.In your eyes I see my forever.

Your eyes are everything and more.

I love your spirit. And your energy.

Your essence is overwhelming. It draws me in. All of me.

You’re awesomeness personified.

The embodiment of infinity and a moment.

You’re all that a bag of chips and free salad. You slay just by being.

I love your mind.

You are slowly teaching me to find beauty and inspiration outside of words and I am grateful for that.

If I could, I would burrow deeply into your mind and stay there.

Make it my home.

Forever.

Crazy as it might sound, I want to know everything that you are thinking.

Where is it exactly that you travel to in your head?

I want to man all of the traffic that gets lost up there and guide it so that it all goes the right way.

I love listening to the sweet serenade that is your voice. So sultry and sassy.

I want to hear all the stories you have to share. Even the ones you are ashamed of.

You see and hear the small details in life and art that most can’t and that is a very beautiful thing.

If there is anything you have to teach me it’s that. I want to be your intern. I want you to teach me to see and hear the world the way you do.

I love your quirkiness and how silly and random you can be. You have such an infectious zest and lust for life.

You stay thirsting after this life thing and I love that.

And then there are the dimples on your back. Venusian dimples. The mark of a goddess.

Just thinking about them drives me absolutely crazy. Shit. Now all I want to do is have my way with you, but I guess for I’ll just have to make do with having my way with words.

Written By Tafadzwa Tichawangana

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 29, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , ,

Africa is a Country

‘ They call it Africa. We call it Home.’ …HAPPY AFRICA DAY! (Wrote this two years ago and decided to reblog in commemoration of Africa Day today)

Moonwalking With My Muse

When I left Zimbabwe to go to study in university in Australia, to be honest the only thing I was excited about was that I was leaving my parents house. No more curfew, no more “My House, My rules”. That long flight over the Indian Ocean was my very own long flight to freedom.It was my independence. It seems trivial and laughable now,but you did not break curfew in my parents house. Ever! ( which was usually 6pm for me). On top of that I had spent the entirety of my teenage years in an all boys Catholic boarding school. To say I felt like had been missing out is an understatement. So yeah this was freedom. On a scale I had never experienced before. It shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise that I wasn’t fully prepared for the challenges this new found freedom brought with it. Aside…

View original post 1,014 more words

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 25, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Wise Words From A Decent Man: ‘Africa Rising: Africa telling her story’

Earlier this week Zimbabwean media mogul, the Chairman of Alpha Media Holdings, Trevor Ncube gave a speech at the launch of the company’s new media venture The Mail and Guardian Africa in Nairobi, Kenya. In his speech he discussed Africa’s economic growth and development prospects, the role and importance of Africans in dictating the African narrative and the myriad of challenges that the continent faces. He also shared his views on the ‘Africa Rising’ mantra. He encouraged us (Africans) to look back at Africa’s history particularly the wave of optimism (Uhuru) that was omnipresent in newly independent African countries in the 60’s as he said this would be instructive as to how the Africa Rising narrative might pan out. In drawing parallels between Uhuru and Africa Rising he was highlighting the fact this is not the first time that Africa has been engulfed by a collective sense of optimism about its future.

Africa_Rising620

As a young African, who is deeply passionate about the continent this particular speech resonated. In his speech Trevor Ncube made quite a few salient points which I would like to highlight below.

• The danger of talking about Africa as it if were one uniform entity, with the same risks and rewards. There will never be a single African story, just like there will never be a single European story. But when the African continent is aligned in the same way that Europe is aligned in terms of economic integration, seamless borders and having a connected infrastructure it is possible for it to speak with one voice.

• Entrepreneurs across the continent are laying the foundation for a truly irreversible economic turnaround for the continent particularly in the fields of telecoms, technology,agriculture,infrastructure, tourism, media, education and healthcare.( Africa’s growth and it’s prosperity is not limited to it exploiting its abundant natural resources)

• The importance of Africans telling the African story to the rest of the world. By telling our own stories we will bring dynamism to the African narrative so that it is not reduced to binaries, torn between those who truly believe that Africa indeed is rising and those who perceive this as fanciful thinking.

You can read the full transcript of speech below

Africa Rising: Africa telling her story

Colleagues and dear friends, I think you’ll all agree with me that there is a palpable excitement about Africa, about the economic opportunities the continent presents, perhaps more than at any other time.No wonder the catch-all phrase — Africa Rising — has struck such a deep chord. But perhaps it is important to glance back on Africa’s history and realise that in the early 1960s there was similar optimism.Then it was about the arrival of freedom, Uhuru, heralding the birth of the world’s newest nations. And it is instructive to look at what became of that wave of optimism. Because it has important lessons for how the “Africa Rising” narrative may pan out.

I think even the most hardened Uhuru optimist would agree that for most Africans, the returns on political optimism in the 60s was dismal. Even as new flags were gracing the renamed capitals, wars, coups and dictatorship quickly became the norm.The freedom dividend went to a tiny political elite and for the vast majority of the continent’s citizens, life was unbearably hard. It wasn’t until the early 1990s that total despair was replaced by flickering hope with the first defeat of liberation parties in elections starting with Zambia.The lesson for us from how quickly hope turned to despair is that it was the behaviour of Africa’s new rulers that dashed the hopes of millions.

Similarly, those of us who are genuinely excited about the opportunities that we see across a number of economic and social fronts must realise that it is how we respond and act on these opportunities that will determine the outcome.But I think that given the emergence of private sector investors who are independent of political leaders, there is a sense that Africa is going to seize the new opportunities and translate them into tangible returns for millions of its citizens.

Which brings me back to Africa Rising. Clearly, there are those who believe that Africa Rising is just one new sexy phrase about the continent, and that it bears little resemblance to reality. While I disagree with them, I think they do raise an important point, and one that is particularly important for organisations like ours. I think their main point is that it is dangerous to talk about Africa as if it is one uniform entity, with the same risks and the same rewards. And looking at the heartbreaking scenes playing out in the Central African Republic, South Sudan and other places, it is impossible to ignore their cautionary note.

But it is also true that there is a significant shift in economic fundamentals that goes beyond mere rhetoric. As I have travelled across the continent, from South Africa to Ethiopia, Rwanda, Kenya, Ghana and Zimbabwe, I have realised first hand that entrepreneurs are laying the foundation for a truly irreversible economic turn-around for our continent.
Jobs are being created in new sectors, and innovation and hard-nosed business acumen are combining to give credence to the overwhelming sense of optimism.
It is, of course, also interesting that this time around, the excitement about the economic prospects of our continent is not limited to natural resources, important as these still are.

Telecoms, technology, agriculture, infrastructure, tourism, media, fashion, education and healthcare are some of the sectors that are receiving attention.
Let me go through some of the most compelling indicators; these numbers underline the fact that ours is indeed a continent on the rise.

The sheer growth in the number of verifiably super rich Africans, Africa’s dollar billionaires who now number close to 60 far more than previously thought.

The incredible number of African professionals who have returned home from places like New York, London or Paris with key skills and capital in their pockets underlines the new opportunities back home.

Over the past decade, China has been the world’s economic powerhouse, but as its economic growth slows down, it is no accident that China’s key focus has been Africa. This surely says something about the economic prospects of our continent.

Given dismal growth elsewhere in the world, the International Monetary Fund and other bodies have identified sub-Saharan Africa’s growth at nearly 5% over the last six years — by comparison, the growth rate in the developed nations has been at a paltry 0,5% per year.

Investors are setting up offices across the continent and foreign investment is flowing into infrastructure projects, private equity players are rushing to stake their claim.
Africa’s richest entrepreneur, Nigeria’s Aliko Dangote — with a fortune of over $20,2 billion — is now one of the world’s richest individuals and the source of all his wealth is from Africa.

Urbanisation in Africa has resulted in huge opportunities in the retail and infrastructure sectors. Sadly, transport still lags behind, but I have no doubt entrepreneurs will seize these opportunities as well.

There has been a significant growth in philanthropy by wealthy Africans, with Dangote, donating more than $100m in one year to education, health and disaster relief in Nigeria.
Other entrepreneurs are South Africa’s Patrice Motsepe who donated a significant portion of his wealth to charity and Zimbabwe’s Strive Masiyiwa who donates significantly towards education and training.

Given all the optimism, the rosy indicators, and the widespread euphoria about the continent’s prospects, what then are some of the things that need to happen to make this sustainable?

Well, I strongly believe that the new generation of African leaders, be they entrepreneurs, technocrats, civil society or politicians have an important role to play.
Each of us has a responsibility to act boldly, but in ways that do not ignore the key social issues such as joblessness, poverty, poor education and neglected infrastructure.
I know it’s a big ask, but unless we think seriously about these problems, the vast majority of Africans will watch from the sidelines, condemned to poverty and despair. I think there is a greater chance of accountability right now because we live in a significantly more transparent world.

Where in the past the elite could act with impunity knowing they were accountable only to themselves, I think the new generation of Africans have little patience for leaders who are a law unto themselves.

But above all, I do think that a new breed of African leaders is rising to the challenge of redefining this continent that has for so long remained inexplicably poor and underdeveloped.
There is a rise in public sector and private sector partnerships, telecoms innovation has lowered the costs of banking, and Africa’s entrepreneurs are increasingly venturing beyond political borders to establish a new economic frontier. This can only bode well for government to government co-operation, showing that business and politics need not be at loggerheads.

But perhaps most importantly, as Africans we have to tell our own story.
I think nothing is more emblematic of how little influence Africa has wielded in world affairs than the fact that even Africans themselves rely on non-African media to know what is going on in their own backyard.

Even the Africa Rising Narrative is usually referenced using two cover stories by the Economist, one in 2003 and the other one in 2013. If you go to the lobbies of Africa’s best hotels, chances are the TV is tuned to CNN, the BBC or Sky. This is clearly untenable for a continent with serious ambitions.

So I do think that as we become masters of our own destiny as a continent, we have to invest in media that is independent, credible, visible and globally influential. In the past, government media was simply a mouthpiece for incumbent politicians, with little credibility.
Now we all know that there are, of course, significant investments required to operate at the level of Al Jazeera, but without it, Africa will continue to consume rather than produce the narrative that defines it.

I am encouraged to see the emergence of globally respected Africans across so many fronts, such as architect David Adjaye, novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, entrepreneurs like Dangote who can all become the backbone of a compelling narrative about the new Africa.

Many of the continent’s best stories are still told by foreigners and overseas and I think it is time that Africa became the home of its best stories.
This is vitally important also because it will lead to a much more dynamic telling of Africa’s story, so that it is not reduced to binaries, torn between those who believe that this continent is set for an irreversible boom, and those who think this is pie-in-the-sky.

There will never be a single Africa, just like there is no single Europe, but when the continent is aligned in the way that Europe is
aligned, with economic integration, seamless borders and a connected infrastructure, it is possible to speak with one voice. I would like to leave you with two thoughts on the power of framing. Instead of us Africans proving how smart we are by talking about Africa’s Narrative, the real test perhaps lies in how we grab the opportunities the new optimism presents us.

The real measure of how Africa has risen won’t be found in conference halls, but will be reflected in hard socio-economic achievements bedded down during this period.

We are launching M&GAfrica.com because we have faith in the continent’s future and we believe we have a role to play in Africa telling her own story.
Second, we believe that nobody, but us as Africans can tell our story better. Expecting foreigners to tell the African story is expecting too much as it has clearly not happened over the past 100 years.

Foreign media tell the African story with one agenda in mind mainly — to satisfy the prejudices and curiosities of their audiences in London, New York, New Delhi, Beijing etc.
We don’t change the African narrative by pleading with the Western media to stop the African stereotypes, but by behaving differently and telling our own stories. These are stories of how we live and not how we die. These are stories of how we triumph against all odds. These are stories that share the good and bad in Africa. Stories of hope and despair and stories that celebrate the tremendous strides that we are making as a people.

Thank you
Trevor Ncube’s speech in Nairobi at the launch of M&G Africa on Tuesday May 20 2014

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 23, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Other Side Of Rape (Part 2)

The Other Side Of Rape (Part 1)

At this point a million thoughts are racing through my mind.

What just happened?

What did I do?

Did I hurt her in some way perhaps?

And the tears, what the f*ck?

This is not good. This is bad, real bad.

My own confusion and fear threatens to overwhelm me. This was definitely not how I had imagined things turning out. Remembering the way her body suddenly tensed sends shivers down my spine. There was something ominous about But despite the chaos in my head I somehow manage to keep a calm demeanor and I ask again.

‘Are you OK?’

No response.

She just averts her tear filled eyes from my inquisitive gaze. The tension in the air threatens to suffocate both of us but before it does she quickly wraps a towel around her torso and heads for the sanctuary of the bathroom. First she pushes me off her mid coitus and now runs off to bathroom. I get the message loud and clear. She doesn’t want to be anywhere in my vicinity, but why? Her rejection stings but that feeling is immediately overtaken by guilt for feeling that way in this situation. This is not about you. Or is it? There are only two people in this room and she is clearly traumatized by something. I have no idea what it is though.

F*ck!

All of sudden I become hyper conscious of my own nakedness. My eyes scan the room for my jocks. And as I put them back on fear and confusion writes itself all over my face. She isn’t gone for long and when she returns from the bathroom she sits upright on the bed with her knees pulled back towards her chest and her arms wrapped around her knees. I am still desperately trying to make sense of what is happening. I slowly take a sit on the edge of the bed, making a deliberate effort to keep some space between us. Even though I am not entirely sure what is going on yet, my instincts tell me that I need to make her feel safe and considering she pushed me off her mid coitus, I’ll be wise to keep my distance for now.

I still have no idea what is going on. One moment we were both lost in throes of passion and in the next she tensed up and just pushed me off from on top of her without saying a single word and then burst into tears. I had no idea why. I don’t know what to do now. I try to search for the answers behind her tears but all I see are the letters that anxiousness, shame and hurt have scribbled all over face. She seems just as confused and scared as I am. I want to tell her that everything will be OK, but I am not sure I even believe that. I want to console her, but I have no idea what I am consoling her on. Given the sudden turn of events it’s highly likely that I am the problem. The monster she needs to get away from. But that doesn’t make sense. Nothing about this whole scenario makes any sense at all.

‘Talk to me, please, I don’t understand what just happened and you are freaking me out right now’

At that she starts crying again. This is bad, real bad.

After what felt like forever she finally said something. In between her sobs all I managed to pick up ‘… raped’. The rest was pretty much incoherent. My heart stops. That word ‘raped’ sends chills down my spine and my head collapses into my hands. Is she saying that I ….Before I can finish that though she continues ‘I was 15 when my uncle raped me and just before when you were on top of me I had flashbacks of that horrific experience. I haven’t had an episode like this in a long time so it really caught me off guard and it’s just brought up a lot of emotions’ I was speechless. I didn’t know what to say. I also felt a temporary relief that it was not me (directly) that had hurt her.
‘Did I … rape you?’, I asked hesitantly still trying to come to terms with what was going on. (And maybe selfishly seeking some reassurance that I wasn’t at fault) ‘No, you stopped when I needed you to … Thank you. It just that sometimes certain things trigger flashbacks and I become overwhelmed’ As she said this shame and guilt weighed down on her voice and it trembled.

Regardless my mind still couldn’t wrap itself around how anyone could commit such a barbaric act on what I imagine was at the time a beautiful young Nubian Princess. And a close trusted family member at that! This upsets me and I find myself consumed by anger for her rapist. For the rest of the night we just sat across the bed from each other as she narrated her ordeal and how it still affected her. This she explained was what she always felt the need to be in control. She explained to me that when her uncle had violated her it wasn’t the sexual act itself that left the deepest scars. It was the power and control he had over her during the rape still that affected her the most. Since then she had issue with letting anyone else be in control especially during sex. And when it comes to others aspects of her life being in independent for her gives her some semblance of power and control over her life.

And as she continued sharing her ordeal my confusion and anger morphed into empathy for and her story. She went on to tell how to this day she resents her family for ‘allowing’ her uncle to violet her in such a heinous manner. How when her friends talked about how they lost their virginity she had to make up a story about how she lost hers because she was too embarrassed to tell them she was raped. She said because of this she found it difficult to bond emotionally with anyone. Even though she still enjoyed sex it was only when she was in total control. She didn’t always want to be in control but every time she did let go the memories (almost always) came flooding back.

Listening to her narrate her story I sense that this whole process is more about her dealing with her demons in this moment and not necessarily about reassuring me or playing the victim in any way. The more of her story she shares with the more I realize that even though her uncle had stolen the innocence of a beautiful young Nubian princess she had still grown into the beautiful Queen of Sheba. Even though in some moments like this she might feel lost and vulnerable, she was still and would always be a Queen. And it is that vivacious, confident beautiful woman that I will always remember. The beautiful young Nubian Princess who grew up to become the Queen of Sheba.

Since that episode I have tried to as learned as much as I can about how men can help victims of sexual assault. I remembered my own panic and confusion in a time when she needed support and this has stayed with since. If I ever I found myself in a similar situation again I wanted to be in a better position to offer more support. With that in mind I have shared some of the things I have learned about the role than men in particular can play in helping rape victims heal below. If you as man ever find yourself in a situation where a rape victim turns to you for support hopefully some of this information will help.

A Man’s Guide to helping a Woman who has been raped

According to Matt Atkinson of the organization Resurrection after rape ‘ Males can have some of the greatest effects on a woman’s recovery. Depending on how we approach our role as helpers, we can either make her experience worse or better; we can either react badly or devastate her, or we can be one “key” in her recovery and healing. Since half of raped women turn to a male as their first source of help and advice, we play a crucial role in both the short-term and long-term experiences she has after the assault.
Although we men often want to help the survivor, we are often unprepared to be effective. We might think of rape as a “woman’s problem,” or assume that it’s something they can just “get over.” Or we may assume they’ll never “get over” it; that she will always be impure or “dirty” because of what someone else did. Maybe we realize we’re even angry at her, being critical of her decisions (“you put yourself in that situation!”) or wanting violent revenge against her attacker. As a result, a lot of poor decisions are made by well-meaning helpers.

Rape myths that men can help end

• Rape is a power crime, not a sex crime. Sex is the method of rape, not the goal.

• The victim is not responsible–even slightly–for what a rapist has chosen to do. Even if we
disagree with some of her decisions during the incident, some of her responses are instincts
(not choices), and even when she does choose some of her actions, no choices make rape
deserved, natural, or even likely. Only a rapist’s choice to attack makes a rape happen.

• All humans–men and women–have three instincts when we feel out life is threatened: Fight,
flight, or freeze. None of these choices is “better” than the other, so we should resist judging
a victim who did something other than “what I would have done in that situation…”

• Nearly all rape survivors will blame themselves or feel guilty after the rape. This is an
unhealthy but natural way for her to psychologically protect herself by trying to figure out
what she “did wrong,” so she’ll be able to “fix it” and keep it from happening again. It is
Important that you not go along with it, and even disagree and insist that none of it was her
fault.

You can help her by:
• Knowing the myths, and not falling for them

• Understanding what she is going through and why she blames herself

• Listening without asking prying questions, but also reminding her that she is not to blame

• Allowing her to make decisions to regain control (except the decision to blame herself; you
will gently but solidly teach her that she is not at fault)

You can access the full guide HERE

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 22, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Other Side Of Rape (Part 1)

Scars can be physical, emotional or mental. Whatever their shape or form we all bear them in one way or the other. Our scars are part of what makes us human. They are a testament to our fragility and vulnerability.They serve as reminders of our mortality and they always tell a story of the places we have been and what we have been through. Some of us wear them as badges of honour, displaying them for the rest of the world to see. These are usually the more visible physical scars. The ones that boldly declare that, ‘I have overcome and I am a warrior.’

But when it comes to the emotional or mental scars most of us work very hard to hide these from the glare of the world. However, more often than not it is these scars that become an integral part of who we are. They define us and our relationships with others, for better or worse. In most cases these scars are a result of a traumatic experience. Unfortunately most people don’t get the help they need to deal with the trauma that brought about the scars.Even though these scars are indelibly imprinted across our hearts and psyche we don’t always acknowledge how much they change us.Instead we worry about how the world would judge or treat us differently if they knew the stories behind these scars. And because we hide these scars from our friends, family and lovers they never familiarise themselves with our struggle and will never quite fully understand us or our actions.

Once in a while though someone comes along and they get close enough to see the scars that we are so desperately trying to hide.In such cases we are then forced to deal with the very demons we have been trying to pretend do not exist. And if we are lucky these people might help us deal with the lingering trauma that remains from these scars. If we let them.

I have written about some of my own scars both physical and emotional on this blog before. It has often been a cathartic process that has gone a long way in helping me own my scars. Today I want to write from a different perspective, that of the other person, who inadvertently discovers another’s scars and what that experience is like.

I once became close with this woman who on the surface was one of the most beautiful, vivacious, confident women you could ever meet. She was an independent and focused career woman. She had literally grabbed this life thing by the balls and had it at her mercy. When she walked into a room people noticed. She had this indefinable mystique and aura about her that seemed to simultaneously draw you in and keep you at a distance. Everyone seemed to know her and if they didn’t they wanted to get to know her. But her physical presence was merely a superficial mask that hid an even more amazing inner beauty that manifested itself in her graciousness, intellect and wit.

And from the get go I was enamoured with her. In so many ways she embodied many of the qualities that I find attractive in women. She was also a few years older than me. At the time we met I was 27 and she was 30. She alsomade it abundantly clear from the very beginning that she wasn’t looking for anything serious. I was totally on board. In fact I was just happy to be in the presence of such an amazing woman, but before I get carried away let me get to the story of how we met.

The circumstances of our meeting were quite fortuitous if I am to be entirely honest. It had been a rather quite night out at one of my favourite lounge bars. And as I was getting ready to call it a night I started making my way to the exit and that is when we literally bumped into each other. In the process I spilled the drink she had in her hand. Real smooth, I know. Embarrassed I apologized profusely for my clumsiness and offered to replace her drink. She gave me this smile that said aaawww cute, before politely declining my offer saying she was on her way out anyway. Maybe it was her smile, (it definitely was her smile) and also the fact that she took the whole incident within her stride that resonated with me and before I knew it I instinctively offered to make up for it another time. This again was out of character for me as nine times out of ten I would have just walked away with my tail between my legs but I didn’t. She already had a hold of me and to my surprise she agreed. As exchanged numbers one of her girlfriends mouthed ‘Girl he cute’. For once it seemed my clumsiness had turned to be quite the able wingman.

We met up post spill gate a couple of days later and we hit it off immediately. What started off as sundowners turned into another late night in which she invited me to join her and a couple of her others friends. Seeing us you would have thought we had known each other forever. Over the following days and weeks we increasingly spent more and more time together. During that time we were seeing each other I began to notice that she liked to be in control. Initially I put it down to her being older than me and it didn’t really bother me at first.

This was until we started getting intimate with each other. That is when I realized that her need to be in control extended to our sex life. She always had to be on top and always resisted any attempts I made to take the lead or change the status quo in any way. Admittedly she had the most unbelievable pelvic muscle control so I wasn’t really complaining too much. She knew what she wanted and how she wanted it and I was living la vida loca.

Everything was going well but I still struggled to understand her need to always be in control on the sexual front. Was it because I was younger than her and she assumed that I didn’t know what I was doing or wouldn’t be able to satisfy her needs? The more I thought about this the harder it became to just ignore this aspect of our ‘relationship’.

One day whilst laying in bed post coitus I casually teased her on her need to always be in control during sex. I hinted that I would surprise her if she let me. She immediately shot me down. In a flash she went from warm and relaxed to agitated and defensive and this caught me completely off guard. This was the first time I had seen this side of her. I quickly abandoned my attempts of getting to the bottom of the whole issue, but this was only after she had told me in no uncertain terms that if I didn’t like the way things were I could be on my way. She reminded me that she made it clear from the beginning that she wasn’t looking for anything serious. ‘This wasn’t a love thang.’ Anyway I dropped it and for the next couple of days we carried on as usual and pretended this little episode never happened.

Unbeknown to me I had struck a raw nerve with my teasing and I was soon to found out exactly how much in the most dramatic of circumstances. A couple of days later she encouraged me take the lead for the first time. At first I was hesitant but she cajoled me with her teasing and unlike her days earlier I gladly obliged. I felt her gradually let go and let me in ways she hadn’t before and as we both lost in the intensity of each other and it was beautiful … at first. Then mid coitus her body tensed rather abruptly. I froze mid stroke. Before I could say anything she pushed me off her and she started sobbing uncontrollably.

‘Are you OK? No response, just more sobbing.

She clearly wasn’t OK.

To be continued …

 
1 Comment

Posted by on May 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,