It’s yet another Sunday dear readers and I would like to warmly welcome you to yet another issue of your favorite youth section that ASPIRES to INSPIRE young people to be the best version of whatever they ASPIRE to be.
With December 1 being HIV/AIDS Day, I would like to start by reminding young people that HIV/AIDS still exists and that it is indeed ‘everyone’s problem’. You may not be infected but you are affected, so let us make sure that we take proper care of ourselves and further we shouldn’t stigmatize. Abstinence is still the best form of prevention for us young people, but if you feel ready mentally, physically and otherwise, please make it a point to use protection. Don’t make a foolish decision because of the festive vibes, and consequently ruin your future!
Coming back to today’s read, we have photographer Shaun DeSouza as our main interview today. We have a sit-down with this young man to discuss his love for photography and how it came about. He further takes us back to his childhood, and tells us about his passion for photography. Read his story on page 20.
I first saw Shaun in action during the Epic Gig, and have met him at a couple of events. I was really impressed when I saw the work he had done with Celenhle when I interviewed him, so I’ve been eager to work with him from then. From this interview, it’s clear that this young man loves what he does, and is surely destined for great things if he continues to keep a cool head and lets the work do all the talking.
On this very page, we kick-off the proceedings with our youth stories. Today, we have the second part of our series titles ‘Welcome’. On the next page, we have our poem of the week, and Lindelwe helps us understand self love on ASPIRE education.
Till next week, have a blessed read. And let’s converse at email@example.com.
When Tandzile called, Musa put her on speakerphone and Andile went into the bathroom, ignoring the voices babbling off the walls as she chattered to her child. After the call, Andile came back and sat next to Musa, a faded wrapper tied over her breasts.
‘ What are we going to do when Simphiwe starts talking?’ she teased him. ‘She’s going to mention me one day.’
‘We’ll just have to be more careful,’ he answered, and kissed her.
They drove around Manzini and Andile sat in the stretch of the back seat with Simphiwe, filling her sketchbook with pudgy arms and legs, with a partial smile chewing around a roasted corncob. She built charcoal toddlers that walked off her fingers and clutched her skirt. People kept thinking that Simphiwe was her child — they had the same complexion, the s a me l a r ge e yes a nd bi g s miles. Sometimes Musa corrected them and other times he didn’t. He watched Simphiwe grow three shades browner, with glowing gold undertones. He watched Andile hoist the baby up on her narrow hip, watched the baby pull at his girlfriend’s braids, and watched them both laugh at him with gorgeous open mouths.
Afterwards, after it happened, after the world broke, Andile left without packing, straight from the hospital, carrying the leather backpack that held her sketchbook with her good arm. Musa had bought that bag for her in Mbabane and the shoemaker at his gate had reinforced it with strong thick thread. She left him a voice note on Whatsapp and when he played it, it said something about inevitable conclusions, mostly that she was not going to wait for him to hate her with the kind of force she knew he had boiling in him. She was probably right, except that Musa hadn’t reached the stage of hating anyone else yet — he was still on himself. Simphiwe’s diaper bag was still in Andile’s bathroom at the guesthouse and Musa’s suitcase was still at Florence’s house. He hadn’t been back to either of those places and he didn’t plan on it.
So now he was at Lavumisa and now he had this childhood kitchen where he kept bread on top of the fridge in a black polythene bag, Musa tapped an egg on the edge of the frying pan and it radiated faults.
Before the world broke, Simphiwe had eyes like white oil, a mouth like cramped petals, and fat legs. Munachi was holding her in the back seat, clapping her little feet together; her chin nestled in the gentle cloud of baby hair. When the lorry’s brakes gave out, Musa glimpsed the bulk of it careening wildly towards them from the corner of his eye and he twisted his steering wheel in a useless reflex. Everything webbed into blunt pieces and Andile screamed. Those sounds kept following him now, weeks later, even when he tried to ignore them. The crunch of an eggshell as he stuffed it into the overflowing rubbish bin was the crack of an arm.
His breath had been scattered since the accident, as if his lungs saw no point in exertion, not after the weight of Simphiwe’s head had lolled against his chest, heavy and inert as he ran into the hospital. The first nurses asked about seatbelts as they busied their hands on her body, but he had nothing to give them. What was there to say with this mouth? That he only insisted on belts and car seats in America, where the cars passed safety inspections and pulled past each other smoothly, but that here, where the motorcycles bent madly through the traffic, where cars died in their lanes and buses tanked nose-first into gaping potholes, this was the place where he had decided it was fine if the seatbelt was off? That he had allowed his child to sprawl on his backseat freely, unrestrained, his second mistake, as if it was a playpen? No, there was nothing to say. So he remained silent as they took Simphiwe, as they led Andile away, his girlfriend cradling her arm like it was redeemable glass.
Musa had been lucky, only a cut to his head, mild whiplash to his neck, a ringing headache that they said was nothing, some bruising. They let him hold Simphiwe again when they were finished. The doctor was explaining something about internal injuries but his baby just looked asleep, the colorful plastic bubbles in her hair catching the light against their seams. Her skin was grey, so far away from her alive golden brown. He looked down at her eyelashes, delicate blackness against the fullness of her cheek, and then he rested his hand on the marble of her chest, just to make sure. The doctor was still talking when Musa covered the baby’s face again with the white cloth they had brought her to him in and handed her back, then turned and walked out of the hospital. The staff let him go, seeing the grief steaming off him, but they thought he would come back. Janet had thought the same thing — that he would return with their daughter.
‘Bring my baby back,’ she had told him before he entered the taxi for the airport, fear thick like tar in her voice. She had never been to Nigeria. She was American, thirty-seven, and their daughter was her only child. Musa had loved her and married her, bought a house and had a baby with her.
He met Andile at a film screening where she was standing behind a pillar to hide from the crowd, charcoal smudged on her fingers as she sketched them. He even told Janet about her that night, before the affair started; nothing much, just that he’d met this amazing artist who did beautiful things with bodies on paper. They were putting the baby down and Janet had smiled at him. ‘That’s nice,’ she said. ‘We should buy some of her work. It’s good to support young artists.’
After the accident, when Musa called Janet from outside the hospital, he lied about the seat belt and told her that Simphiwe had been sitting in Florence’s lap, locked in. He told her what the doctors had said, about the injuries, about everything they’d tried.
‘Baby, I’m so sorry,’ he said. ‘Oh God, I’m so sorry. We lost her.’
Janet had made a low tearing sound that seared through the connection and sliced into him.
‘Please,’ he whispered, ‘forgive me,’ but she cut the line. When he tried back, she didn’t pick up until the fourth time and even then he couldn’t hear any words, just harsh wild weeping. He called her mother and told her about the accident.
‘Mom, you have to get to Janet,’ he added. ‘Right now, please, I don’t know what she’s going to do. You have to get to her.’
His mother- in- law had slipped straight into rage. ‘How could you let this happen? I told Janet not to let you take her; she should never have let you take her!’
‘ Mom, please —’ He was when she hung up on him.
The light was still gone when Musa slid his eggs from the pan to a scratched plate edged in blue flowers. He sat washed in candlelight, with his face in his hands, a thick slice of bread made yellow with margarine sitting next to the eggs. He kept making meals even though he’d barely eaten in weeks. He felt hollowed out, exactly how he wanted. After the accident, he’d booked a hotel room so he wouldn’t have to face the family or any reminders — those were the worst part, the weeds of memory pushing up to torment him.Like the car, like the unopened packet of multi-colored bendy straws he found afterwards under the passenger seat, the one that he’d picked up at Shoprite, so that Simphiwe could drink her milk. He’d been looking through the car at the mechanic shop by a petrol station when he found the straws, and he’d sat heavily inside the buckled door, holding a handful of rainbow plastic as fumes and mad- crying ness roared around his head. It was never going to stop. The day after he got to Lavumisa, while shaving, he remembered her eyes and his hand trembled, the razor breaking his skin. He stood in front of his reflection as thin red trickled down his throat, his pulse a limping footstep. It was never going to stop.
Musa wanted to run some more, to follow his child’s body back to America, where her mother had insisted she be buried, no matter how much it cost. Janet had been asking him, over and over, how quickly he could book a flight back so they could be together, so they could grieve together. The arrangements took time — there were officials to bribe and some of his family was arguing that Simphiwe should be buried in Swaziland. He overruled them and sent his daughter home. The day before his own flight, Janet called him. ‘I know,’ she said, as soon as he picked up. Her voice was different. ‘You know what?’
‘Florence told me Musa. I know who you were with when the accident happened.’
His heart cramped. He was going to lose her. He could hear it. ‘No, Janet, let me explain —’ ‘You don’t need to,’ she interrupted, her words brittle. ‘I don’t want to hear a single word that comes out of your mouth.’
‘Please, Janet, I’m coming home tomorrow.’ His fingers sweated against the glass of the phone. ‘We can talk then. Please baby, I can ’
‘I’m just calling to tell you — don’t ever come back here. I don’t want to see your face ever again. Musa, I swear to God. I’ll sue you to hell and back if you set foot in this country. Stay there with that girl of yours and let me bury my child.’
The line cut off like a dropped blade and Musa felt his chest die all over again.
He bent in half and fought for air, pressing his phone to his forehead as panic shook him. He tried calling her again and again and each time, her phone wouldn’t even ring. After the eleventh try, he called Florence. She didn’t pick up either. Musa then left the hotel and took a taxi to the airport. He moved like a missing person, getting ready to board a bus and calling a Brooklyn number whilst in it.