We live in a world that continuously rejects us on the basis of our skin, gender, sex and we crave spaces where we feel accepted.
We continue our conversation with Silindile Nyathikazi of These Dam Blacks, exploring how space and participation are crucial for change.
What is the importance of gatherings for black people?
We live in times of increased isolation and loneliness as black people, not only in Johannesburg but in the country and even the world as a whole. Because we live in a world that demands us to interact and deal with whiteness on a daily basis, we feel suffocated.
We live in a world that continuously rejects us on the basis of our skin, gender, sex and we crave spaces where we feel accepted. Much like the Abantu Book Festival, These Dam Blacks is a space for us by us where we feel safe as black people and where we feel we can just be without feeling the need for us to perform our blackness for other people.
We gather because we crave spaces where we can free, unpretentious, where we can love each other with no inhibitions. We gather also as an act of rebellion – in a world that demands us to ship up, to shape up, to conform to the status quo that we are unhappy with, we create this space because we would rather be part of creating a world that we’ve envisioned and that we shape.
Photos by Ayabongile Cawe 2018
What are some of the obstacles to gatherings for black people in this day?
We hope that TDB will grow to become a movement with gatherings held bi-monthly in all cities and towns across the country and even abroad. Some of the challenges of organizing such gatherings include that:
We need to start holding each other accountable in honest, gentle ways and ways that seek to build us on individual and collective levels.
What is the way forward?
We’d like more blacks to join so we can raise more money to have more gatherings more often. At the moment it takes us about R20 000 to host each event and this money has been raised by organizers from their own pockets and other generous donations in the form of wines from Sis Rose who makes Bridges of Hope wines for example. Join These Dam Blacks Facebook group. https://web.facebook.com/groups/1035171463287741/about/
This week we catch up with the creators of These Dam Blacks (TDB) - a movement of black people erupting in Johannesburg, and across South Africa to build conscious solidarity that translates into impact and empowerment! Silindile Nyathikazi shares her thoughts with the Watu Africa team.
Riveting pictures of the movement Ayabonga Cawe © 2017
who are you?
We are a collective of black people who know each other mostly by virtue of our connection with the City of Johannesburg. We know each other through similar interests and connected social circles.
Black gatherings have their own beauty, power and a kind of defiance in a world determined to alienate us from each other and ourselves.
What is these dam blacks?
We are a collective of black people who love being in the company of other blacks. We are a group of black people who have come together to build each other and with one another for the progression of the black nation. We are a group of black people who are woke to our political, economic and social dispossession and we choose to gather because we find comfort, upliftment and joy in us, blacks, being together. We also gather because we realise the power in ourselves as a network; so when we gather we talk and exchange about our interests and the work that we do in order to establish synergies. At our gatherings we also invite black people who make clothes, jewellery, wine, gin, food.etc to showcase their works, sell some items and even close some deals.
These Dam Blacks is a black gathering where we as blacks gather at Emmarentia Dam (and sometimes at Darlene's house when the weather is counter-revolutionary) for some scenic views of our stolen land where we dish out black love, warmth, heart and laughter.
Black gatherings have their own beauty, power and a kind of defiance in a world determined to alienate us from each other and ourselves. So we call blacks to come to a social gathering with a little twist. With chilled vibes, we connect with each other across different pursuits (hustle) to find crossovers between our lines of hustle and explore productive collaborations. We experiment with collective solutions to our collective structural problems to challenge individualized black exceptionalisms of first or only black to be this or that.
You will find emerging black business people, connecting them to a conscious customer base that is determined to rotate the rand within the black community. Explore ways to utilize our collective buying power nationally by starting small. We also welcome people in social development programmes such as education, health promotion, media, community safety, etc. to meet others and share with us on how we can join and bring our resources in finance, labour (compensated or voluntary), networks, etc. for solution-driven goals.
"We gather because we crave spaces where we can free, unpretentious, where we can love each other with no inhibitions. We gather also as an act of rebellion – in a world that demands us to ship up, to shape up, to conform to the status quo that we are unhappy with, we create this space because we would rather be part of creating a world that we’ve envisioned and that we shape."
Want to learn more? Tune in tomorrow for more exciting achievements by These Dam Blacks!
We catch up with Grace and Helena and talk about sister love.
I’ve learnt a whole lot being in a friendship with my young sister who is also my best friend. However one thing we have both learnt is that friendship is growth and we grow together, it’s a two way thing we’re we know the love is mutual. It sets the standards for other friendships but nothing comes close to or can match sisterly love.
The funniest memory with my sister ...lol. The day her phone went missing at church and after looking everywhere for it we heard it vibrating in the sanitary bin in the ladies bathroom. Without thinking twice I stuck my hand in the bun and pulled her phone out. It was distrusting at the time but now we laugh about it.
Our pet peeve... definitely feet! Lol all kinds of feet, we are not fans of feet .
Grace: Helena is a very creative person and she’s so full of talents . She’s good at every single thing she’s does, I mean everything!
Helena : “my favourite thing about Grace is definitely how hard working she is. I don’t really think I have a great work ethic so I admire hers”.
Because we are sisters we know that we will always be there for each other, there’s some security and no uncertainty.
We catch up with Zwi who shares his love for fiance Phindulo, and the commitments they've made to one another.
Today we catch up with Tawanda and Ruvimbo who share their bold love with us.
a) What have you learnt in being in a relationship/ friendship with this person
T: That communication is important
Rue: That there are so many different faces of love – so many different ways of
What one thing makes this work for you?
We completely agree that it’s our faith in God that makes this work as well as it does –
nothing else. From there everything else overflows: the love, trust, and learning to
compromise – it’s all rooted in the values that our faith keeps teaching us.
b) Funniest memory with the person
T: This is a tough one. There are so many funny moments between us it’s hard to think of
one. There are regular moments where we make each other laugh – she snorts, drools,
cries, there’s snot even, but I can’t think of a specific memory. We just laugh a lot of the
Rue: The snot thing’s not true by the way. Lol. But like him I can only picture me crying with laughter in different places at the most random of times. There’s lots of moments and I honestly can’t even think of why but we can really take some things to town and back-
there’s just so many things we can laugh about. I make fun of him a lot too though, he’s
currently plotting his comeback.
c) What is your favourite thing about this person
T: If I’m to pick one (and there are many) – I’d say it’s the way she understands who I am, it makes it easier to love her, and for her to love me for me.
Rue: There’s a lot – I’m going to have trouble narrowing this down. He’s an easy person to
like: even before romance, I just found him to be personable, a real people person – which
is tough for me sometimes because I’m definitely more recluse than he is. But it’s a good
challenge and has taught me to be a little more open (dare I say social?) so that’s good. Oh
and another favourite is that he always surprises me. That’s pretty amazing.
[We also agreed that we absolutely love each other’s openness to trying new things; so our
relationship is filled with the most amazing adventures together.]
e) What is your pet peeve?
Rue: He definitely knows this one before I even say it: having to wait for him – I really
believe he works on a different clock to the rest of the world.
T: This is not something bad, as in I hate it about you. But I don’t like that sometimes she
doesn’t have enough confidence in herself, that she doesn’t believe in herself enough and
so tends to short-change herself.
In addition to sharing their remarkable story, Ruvimbo shared some poetry inspired by their love:
An ode to black love
Good – oh so good –
It shifts the world. Magnificently. Tenderly. Without apology.
Black love has the power to turn you around, from meekness
From wars you never knew you were fighting
From histories you never realised you were running from
To victories that leave you wondering what weakness –
Ever kept you from seeking your worth.
Black love is the power of vulnerability
Of seeking truths beyond what the world dictates
Of breaking chains that have bound it in melancholic songs of unworthiness.
Black love salutes the sturdy man – who is forever in his prime and ready to assert his place
While contributing to the upliftment of his fellows.
Black love exalts the steadfast woman – who is not enslaved to borders but reaches
unknown spaces to makes sure her tribe flourishes beyond the bellows:
Of sin, loss, #metoos, inequity and all that dethrones.
Black love is letting go
Black love is becoming
Black love is an assertion of TRUTH
And an uncompromising battle for oneness within self, its mate, and the universe that owes
Black love is soft – but wise – and it’s whole.
Black love is empowered. It’s empowering.
Black love is magical.
Black love is light. And we owe it its full place in this world where darkness continually tries
to tell us it doesn’t exist.
Black love is here. It’s present. It’s rooted. Black love is…
We catch up with Zuzi who shares how she has grown in love and reminds us that #blacklove is powerful and should be celebrated and cherished.
In today's feature, we catch up with Chipo - who teaches us what it means to practice self-love over time and how self-soothing can be done in ways that are healing and wholesome.
In this month of love, we at #Watuafrica are celebrating #blacklove in all its different forms. We are celebrating self love, sister love, brother love and romantic love.
Seno is a beautiful, talented woman that we have learnt so much about self love from:
"Self love has been a journey of acceptance of the essence of who I am. Loving me has meant accepting me, genuinely celebrating and appreciating things I am good at but at the same time being very aware of where I fall short but from a point of understanding not insecurity."
"I have learnt that I am a dynamic person. That there is so much to me that it’s impossible for me to limit myself to a box."
"I wish I could tell myself it’s okay to be me, there was no reason to hide myself. Younger me felt extremely self conscious about myself and so I hid. I would tell myself not to hide, to show myself to the world with pride."
"Externally- I’ve grown to cherish my smile
Internally- my enthusiasm"
We catch up with Tebogo, discussing love and its beautiful making and imagining together with Welile.
Today, South Africa observes Reconciliation Day with what can only be assumed to be a healthy dose of sobriety. 2016, infamous for its never-ending, unsuspecting and often unwanted surprises, has also proven to be a contentious year in the socio-political economy of the country. With unemployment reaching a 13-year high last quarter, a number of students left with uncertainty after the confirmed fee increases, a shortage of available spaces at some universities, continued high levels of inequality, and divisive racist and sexist outbursts on social media, it would be fair to look to December 16 2016 with cynicism, particularly after President Jacob Zuma declared that the theme for this day would be “Bridging the Divide Towards a Non-racial Society”.
Even in a historical reading of December 16, predating the anti-year of 2016, the irony is difficult to escape: events on this day include December 1838, when an army of roughly 10 000 Zulu soldiers were killed by 100 Afrikaans soldiers in the Battle of Blood River over land disputes. Or on December 16 1961, when after the Sharpeville Massacre, the ANC departed from its then non-violent stance to establish Umkhonto we Sizwe, its military wing co-founded by Nelson Mandela. December 16 can thus be said to represent an elusive conceptualisation of reconciliation, the term which in the presence of a precarious social contract, is made untenable by the very same conditions that make its modern day celebrations ironic. These include, but are in no way limited to, issues of land, wealth, service delivery and employment, which are elusive to the majority of South Africans living under similar structural violence as that underpinning the events of 1838 and 1961.
The dangers of romanticising reconciliation and terms like Ubuntu, is that they evoke a sense of national pride in symbols, without adequate consideration for the privileged access to services and employment that fall along contentious fault lines in South Africa, including but not limited to race, gender, ability and class. These dynamics help to explain why a number of South Africans express pride at being South African and a belief in Ubuntu, but have very low levels of trust for those from other identity groups. While the middle-to-upper income groups diversify (as more people of colour send their children to former model-c schools, ideally allowing for interactions on a level playing field that continues through to the workplace); it is the lower income groups that are alienated from the practical implications of the reconciliation narrative without adequate integration because their interaction is limited to the work place hierarchy where the maid-madam dynamic continues. However, the practical integration that is meaningful for creating a sustainable social contract requires that the state intervene in ways that bring into disrepute the current narrative of reconciliation – a baseless call for a symbolically integrated, but practically alienated society. Improving access to just and humanising service delivery, directly addressing spatial planning and land redistribution in urban and rural areas, and being responsive, adaptive and accountable to communities, are some of the ways in which the state can demonstrate that reconciliation is not a pacifying tactic designed to manage the legitimate expectations for the realisation of constitutional rights.
This is not to dismiss the utility of promoting mutual respect and integration in society, surely the transition to democracy in 1994 was relatively peaceful because of the renewed sense of unity and commitment to a South African nation-building narrative. However, while the narrative guaranteed a successful transition in 1994, it included a political settlement that would ultimately contribute to the further fragmentation of society. The establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) that focused solely on gross human rights violations is an example of the challenges that emerged from the settlement that was useful for peace in 1994, but problematic for reform thereafter. The TRC allowed secondary perpetrators of human rights violations, including racism and sexist acts to detach from the public narrative of responsibility pitted against the foot soldiers of government agencies. A number of white suburban South Africans well-understood that they had not committed murder or aided a physical disappearance, rather they conceptualised their relative privilege as a function of hard work and not as a result of the structural violence of apartheid. Instead it was the foot soldiers of the AWB, NP and the Boeremag who despite the admission of guilt, were not the orchestrators of apartheid, some of whom were exonerated and left unscathed by the transition. Forgiveness then became the burden of those victims of gross human rights violations, who had to return to communities where countless of others on the receiving end of forced-land removals, intimidation, rape and harassment had to look to the promises of the Constitution for “equal opportunities”– pending available government funds.
It therefore comes with little surprise that the number of public protests have increased in the past few years, the most prominent of which have been the intersectional #MustFall movements emanating from university campuses. These movements call for equal urgency to address structural violence as that deployed by state agencies in response to physical violence. Equipped with the promise of equal opportunity and reconciliation on somewhat diverse campuses, the jarring reality of gross inequality, biased discourse and pedagogy, and the burden of forgiveness, has evoked a rage in the youth that is in revolt to the narrative of “Mandela’s Reconciliation”. These neo-black consciousness proponents push for a radical equality of race, class, ableism and sex and express frustration at the slow pace of social justice in the face of blatant state corruption and waste at the municipal level. And while they were initially broadly supported through canvassing efforts on social media, scepticism has begun to creep into public discourse as the movement is pushed into the ambit of “traffic inconveniences” and deviance, associated with other activist movements that have gone before them. That the state engages in brinkmanship also does little to support its so-called peace-promoting narrative of social cohesion that exists across multiple policy documents but with little impact at a societal level without adequate redress.
It goes without saying that rather than emphasise a non-racial society, as the state has so boldly done, what is necessary is the intersectional reading of privilege, power and inequality in South Africa – which displays all the characteristics of a racist, classist, sexist, able-ist society. The Restitution Conference hosted in Cape Town last month was one such attempt at surfacing tensions around redress, however moving from the Castle of Good Hope into the Waterfront and being confronted by the gross inequality that characterises Cape Town, one cannot help but think twice about the proponents of reconciliation and the choir that they preach to (myself included). As the upper-middle income diversifies it becomes easier for those of all races that live in relative privilege to deny the reality of the burden of reconciliation, because a more sober reading of what it might truly entail would serve to upend the very socioeconomic structures that perpetuate unrest for some but privilege for others. Instead of the narrative of unity in diversity, it is rather more necessary that December 16 be associated with the underlying conflicts that threaten the social contract if not adequately addressed for their legitimate concerns. Perhaps, 2016 will serve to heighten the sense of urgency for South Africans, as time seems to run out and patience in waiting for the promises of democracy wears thin.
This piece is based on research conducted at the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, Masana writes here in her personal capacity.
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