"You strike a woman"
In my 23rd year of life, I often find myself wondering "when was the first time?" This particular first time seems somewhat grey and cloudy. I recall my then in her 60's grandmother wearing a white, green, yellow and black t-shirt with the face of Nomzamo Winnie Mandela printed on it.
Sunday... if I'm not mistaken.
I can still smell the pumpkin and stew lovingly prepared in the kitchen.
Coming together every week sharing in a meal was a ritual in our family, more especially at my grandmother's house, where any visit was cause enough for a feast.
"Heppppiiiii!" She cheered on. I, around 4 years old at the time, wondered what all this commotion was about. "Heppiiii Women's Day! *Ululating*" she said again directly at me.
I was an excitable child, hence although I didn’t even know what that meant, I took it on as a special day to celebrate me and the women I loved… “Heppiii Women’s day, Gogo!”
That is about as far as my memory serves me. Joy. Laughter. Food. White. Green. Yellow. Black. Ululating.
I am sure my mother and grandmother took to informing me what the August 8th holiday truly meant, but I only understood the meaning when we’d learn about it again at school. Twenty-thousand women, in all their shapes and forms marching straight to the lawmakers, to petition the country’s pass laws. This was a time where the lawmakers protected the laws by any means… with no thought given about the people the law was meant to protect. It was a fierce act of courage, strength and honour
As I look forward 20years from that first moment, a sadness clouds my soul. In 2020, when I think of women in my country and what it means for us to be brave, I think of how our existences in our society are acts of courage and bravery in themselves. Coming from a country where a woman is more likely to be raped than learn to read. Where in the past year and a half alone, over 3000 women and children have been murdered at the hands of intimate partners, family members or men in their communities.
It sickens me to even think that we can take a day, or even a whole month to “celebrate” women. The same women we neither protect nor consider. As a young South African woman, the sobriety this reality brings me can often feeling numbing.
However, I find hope in a reassuring message a friend shared with me when expressing my frustrations… “I hold you.”, she said.
I hold you.
That phrase felt so encapsulating of what I was doing and who I was doing it for. This following month is important for me more than ever, as I will be in community with female artists like myself going through the process of healing and contemplating and growing. I started this foundation with the intention of exploring and practicing ways to make us feel empowered to “hold” ourselves and each other. Each day we live to remind the world what that 1956 courage looks like. How we find crevices that can hold us as we continue building a foundation for generations to come.
This is not a conventional “Heppiii” Women’s Month.
We continue to step into the greatness paved for us in the past.
We carve new paths that go into territories unexplored.
We hold each other and lift each other up.
We reclaim the narrative that we are “rocks” as we sculpt out our own stories.
To follow more of these conversations, follow our “Wathint’abafazi, Women's Month Virtual Series”