Thoughts of a ‘clever black’


The Citizen (KZN) - - PROFILE - Simnikiwe Hlat­sha­neni

What is a clever black? The term has been used as a tool for si­lenc­ing peo­ple who are vo­cal about the state of af­fairs in the coun­try, says Mbali Gcabashe, who last year, launched her de­but book In­ti­mate Thoughts of a Clever Black.

Since then, she has been hold­ing di­a­logues around the coun­try con­tin­u­ing the con­ver­sa­tion of de­bunk­ing such so­cial myths as the “rain­bow na­tion” and the so­cial ills that con­tinue to put women at the bot­tom of the so­cio-po­lit­i­cal food chain.

“The book ad­dresses what I see as a pre­ma­ture ‘rain­bow na­tion’. I be­lieve we jumped the gun when it comes to in­te­gra­tion. A lot of is­sues needed to be ad­dressed to es­tab­lish trust, but in­stead we rushed to blend­ing the Black and White. The re­cent spats of racism prove just that. The book also touches on the is­sue of pa­tri­archy and gives men a chance to re­flect, and women get to re­flect on their con­tri­bu­tion to pa­tri­archy.”

Grow­ing up on the edge of the apartheid era, as Gcabashe de­scribed it, on the streets of Madadeni, a town­ship in New­cas­tle, Kwazulu-natal, as child she had many ques­tions which were never an­swered. Those ques­tions be­came the ba­sis of her am­bi­tion to write.

“I never un­der­stood why we had to be squashed in town­ships and only go to town on spe­cial oc­ca­sions. I knew that I wanted more for my­self, more than what I could see within the dusty streets of Madadeni. I al­ways knew there was more, white peo­ple cer­tainly ex­hib­ited that.

“As a child I knew that some­one needed to an­swer my ques­tions that were never asked, be­cause ask­ing was just not an op­tion, all we were taught was to get on with it. What was it? I par­tic­i­pated in de­bate teams as a child as a means to raise my ques­tions, need­less to say it was never enough.”

Com­ment­ing on so­cial me­dia and the plat­form it has given for racist at­tacks in light of the re­cent con­tro­versy around Jacaranda FM pre­sen­ter Tumi Mo­rake, Gcabashe says she is en­cour­aged by Mo­rake’s re­silience af­ter she was ac­cused of racism and sub­se­quently sub­jected to a bar­rage of racist at­tacks.

“So­cial me­dia is a re­flec­tion of the po­lit­i­cal space we are in, the era of si­lenc­ing and bul­ly­ing. The lead­er­ship we have, or the lack thereof is show­ing through the so­cial me­dia. There is a ris­ing com­mu­nity of bul­lies and in­tol­er­ant peo­ple and it is very re­gret­table. How­ever, see­ing the strength and re­silience of the likes of Tumi is en­cour­ag­ing.”

Go­ing back to lit­er­a­ture, fe­male writ­ers still have a long way to go, says the mother of four. In the lit­er­a­ture space women are def­i­nitely ris­ing to the task of writ­ing, but when it comes to the own­er­ship of the value chain, women are lag­ging far be­hind.

“Women are still not seen as equals in our so­ci­ety. You are ei­ther a good woman who toes the line or you are la­belled a trou­ble­some bit­ter Black woman who likes rock­ing the boat.” But progress is some­what no­table in the lit­er­ary world, she con­cedes, although it seems largely to be babysat by men.

“Women still need to be en­dorsed by some man, even in the lit­er­ary busi­ness, be­cause the big­gest play­ers in this field are male and mostly white. I am hope­ful when I see women who are push­ing like Baset­sana Ku­malo and Khanyi Dlomo, this gives me hope that an­other Africa is pos­si­ble.”

Own­er­ship in lit­er­a­ture, as in main­stream me­dia, is still largely un­bal­anced de­spite the resur­gence of writ­ing cul­ture in the coun­try, Gcabashe opines. “We don’t want a space where there are a lot of black writ­ers who do not own their ma­te­rial, and who end up just be­ing the feed­ers of con­tent.

“I be­lieve we have some amaz­ing writ­ers in Africa, we do com­pete very well, now we just need to com­pete in the eco­nomics of lit­er­a­ture.” Gcabashe’s on­go­ing In­ti­mate Chats di­a­logues have in­spired her to write a sec­ond book, and so a se­quel to her

de­but is def­i­nitely on the

SO­CIAL ILLS. Mbali Gcabashe says she be­lieves South Africa jumped the gun when it comes to in­te­gra­tion.

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