Us­ing po­etry to help the bro­ken

Mas­hazi beats abuse to be­come na­tion-builder

African Times - - Front Page - MTHULISI SIBANDA

‘IF I were to be called by a dif­fer­ent name, I would be called ‘Sur­vivor.’ I have sur­vived sex­ual, phys­i­cal, emo­tional, ver­bal and fi­nan­cial abuse as well as emo­tional iso­la­tion, mo­lesta­tion, name-calling, dis­crim­i­na­tion and xeno­pho­bia.”

These are the poignant words of Thuli Mas­hazi, a sur­vivor of abuse, worst of it rape. She is mo­ti­va­tional speaker well on her jour­ney to restora­tion and al­low­ing other peo­ple to feed of her wounds and find their heal­ing.

“I could also be called ‘Favoured’ be­cause I have seen strangers open up their hearts and homes to ac­com­mo­date me and pro­vide for my needs. I may also be called‘Be­liever’ be­cause I have never stopped be­liev­ing there is a bet­ter day out there wait­ing for all of us to step into it and find peace at last.”

In an emo­tional but ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with CAJ News Africa in Jo­han­nes­burg, Mas­hazi (38) re­counted how she grew up ver­bally and phys­i­cally abused by her mother and sib­lings, mo­lested by a best friend’s un­cle and later in life abused by her hus­band.

None of these bru­tal­i­ties though come close to when her mother sent her to a so-called prophet or ‘man of God’ in or­der to “do what­ever he says.”

“The prophet claimed it was a cleans­ing ri­tual but I had to be treated for an STI (Sex­u­ally Trans­mit­ted In­fec­tion) af­ter that. My whole world crum­bled,” she said. “My al­ready frag­ile per­son­al­ity changed com­pletely af­ter that. I never re­ported, I was deal­ing with the roller coaster of what my mom in­tended and what ac­tu­ally hap­pened.”

Re­port­ing never came to mind as ear­lier, she had told her sis­ter (now de­ceased) about a blind neigh­bour who had in­de­cently as­saulted her. “She turned it into a joke. It was em­bar­rass­ing,” Mas­hazi said.

Af­ter such or­deals, born fifth in a fam­ily of six (three are now de­ceased), she does not think of her child­hood with nos­tal­gia.

Mas­hazi is not keen to talk about her fa­ther whom she said showed lit­tle com­mit­ment to the fam­ily. Re­con­nect­ing with him has thus far yielded noth­ing. She is grate­ful to her brother, Dou­glas for be­ing a fa­therly fig­ure. “I will thank him in a spe­cial way one day.”

Forced by her mother out of the house in the high den­sity sub­urb of Lu­veve in Zim­babwe’s sec­ond largest cap­i­tal Bu­l­awayo, Mas­hazi came to neigh­bour­ing South Africa a wounded soul.

“A lot had hap­pened be­tween me and my mother,” Mas­hazi said.

“I was an­gry with her. She had de­stroyed my life but I just acted in anger and never told her what I had ex­pe­ri­enced. She was frus­trated at me be­cause de­spite her best ef­forts to give me a good life I was stag­nant.”

She was about to turn 30, still had no boyfriend, child, job or in­come.

“I had gone through re­peated cir­cles of bro­ken­ness and, even­tu­ally, she (mom) told me to leave be­cause I was be­com­ing a bur­den. I had left home twice be­fore this. This time

I was de­ter­mined to never re­turn,” Mas­hazi said.

A stress­ful mar­riage ex­ac­er­bated Mas­hazi’s predica­ment.

“I was mar­ried to an abu­sive man. Af­ter six years of coun­selling ses­sions, I de­cided to ap­ply for a pro­tec­tion or­der. We are cur­rently in the di­vorce pro­ceed­ings,” the mother of a boy and girl aged six and two years re­spec­tively, dis­closed.

Mas­hazi’s jour­ney of heal­ing started when she, un­know­ably back then, de­cided to take back her life and not be­come a vic­tim.

It started with a fas­ci­na­tion for words and the English lan­guage.

“Po­etry came into my life to save me,” Mas­hazi, a teacher and Bach­e­lor of Busi­ness Ad­min­is­tra­tion (Univer­sity of South Africa) and a Diploma in Ad­min­is­tra­tion (City & Guilds, Lon­don), told CAJ News Africa.

Each time in iso­la­tion, she found her­self play­ing around with words to ex­press her feel­ings. To her sur­prise, she had writ­ten po­etry.

“Ef­fec­tively, I started writ­ing in 2000 but I re­call two or three very bit­ter po­ems I wrote in 1996 but I de­stroyed them be­cause read­ing them made my heart sore,”said Mas­hazi.

“I have told my­self I want to write em­pow­er­ing po­etry, not po­etry that makes peo­ple sym­pa­thise with me. I love po­etry and I don’t mind sit­ting at my ta­ble way into the night, it rein­vig­o­rates me.

“Through po­etry I’m learn­ing to build up my con­fi­dence and find the lit­tle girl that life broke and help her find her iden­tity.”

She has writ­ten and pub­lished an in­spi­ra­tional book, “Let This Poet Tes­tify”, in which she com­bined prose and po­etry to in­spire read­ers into a more in­ti­mate spir­i­tual jour­ney.

A DVD record­ing is among other up­com­ing projects. She will be record­ing with artist Jus­tice Sun­diza from her home­land in March 2018.

“This will be the first time I work with some­one from home (Zim­babwe). It feels good.”

Mas­hazi has min­is­tered in po­etry in Botswana, Le­sotho, South Africa and Zim­babwe.

Be it min­is­ter­ing in po­etry in a funeral, a 70th birth­day cel­e­bra­tion in Le­sotho, high tea events, church con­fer­ences, women’s meet­ings, char­ity and school events, she makes sure she leaves an im­pres­sion on her au­di­ence.

In 2015, she was con­tribut­ing to a weekly youth talk show for South Africa’s na­tional Chris­tian sta­tion, Ra­dio Pul­pit, an op­por­tu­nity she trea­sures as hav­ing pre­sented her an op­por­tu­nity to play her part as a na­tion builder.

Cur­tain-rais­ing for fa­mous gospel artist Jay Mbiza, of Spirit of Praise fame, was also piv­otal.

She men­tions among other in­spi­ra­tions prom­i­nent Bishop Ben­jamin Dube, whose High Praise Cen­tre she at­tends, As­so­ciate Pas­tor Bon­isani Dube, with whom she shared a pas­sion for po­etry, and Pas­tor Good­will Shana, who once taught to off­load emo­tion­ally so to can take care of peo­ple who mat­ter.

“Pas­tor Shana be­lieved in me. He has been my great­est cheer­leader since the be­gin­ning. He en­cour­aged me to pack­age this gift and use it to min­is­ter to the world. I be­lieved him and I have been es­tab­lished. Po­etry set me on a whole new path.” She re­mem­bers the day Dube walked up to her af­ter a church ser­vice and told her she had booked the stu­dio for her to ac­com­mo­date two po­ems. “I was floored!”

“I’ve also en­joyed meet­ing new friends, peo­ple who love my work and cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties for me with­out me ask­ing,” she said.

Mas­hazi men­tioned Itume­leng Mot­seo, Themba Lukhele, Gabisile Khoza, Mosatsa Yako, Pas­tor Stan­ley Maphosa, Bar­bara Kal­ima-Phiri, Pas­tor Bethuel Ng­wenya and Pas­tor Thu­lani Mkhosana.“The list is end­less. It’s been awe­some.”

She is rev­el­ling in her new role as a na­tion builder for both South Africa and neigh­bour­ing Zim­babwe.

“I have found joy in peo­ple walk­ing up to me af­ter a per­for­mance and shar­ing how they have been abused and they are en­cour­aged to see me come out of it in this way.”

Amaz­ingly, Mas­hazi, has met par­ents whose chil­dren were abused, some of­fer­ing an apol­ogy on be­half of her mother or ask­ing her to talk to their chil­dren who were abused.

“That for me is the whole pur­pose of my per­for­mance. I am a wounded healer.”

She also men­tioned in­boxes from bro­ken women who had been in sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions shar­ing how lib­er­at­ing it was to hear her story, upon her in­ter­view on one com­mu­nity tele­vi­sion chan­nels for Gaut­eng prov­ince.

Af­ter an ex­haust­ing day at Glen­brack High School in Al­ber­ton, Jo­han­nes­burg, she set­tles down to write new po­ems.

“I have 100 good ones to date,” Mas­hazi said.

“It’s hec­tic but I have learned the art of jug­gling be­tween teach­ing, po­etry and tak­ing care of my kids. I leave time to play with my kids and put them to sleep at the right time and take them out now and again. I take the girl for a walk ev­ery now and then. The boy loves his car­toons.”

She tries to give them the happy and free child­hood she never ex­pe­ri­enced.

We some­times play around and get silly to­gether. They love play­ing tickle and they love tak­ing a steam­ing hot bath with mom, the proud mother said.

“I get lots of kisses from lit­tle soft lips ev­ery morn­ing I leave for work and when I re­turn. Some­times I have to beg to be left alone so I can have a chance to breathe.”

She and her mother are on a mend­ing path.

Mas­hazi re­calls the first call she re­ceived from her mother in Bu­l­awayo, Zim­babwe in years.

“She called me‘Sweety’.”I was so sur­prised, and asked who she wanted to talk to. She just laughed and de­manded to know if she must ask for per­mis­sion to love her daugh­ter. I laughed back and we have shared many such mo­ments since then.”

Af­ter all, she ad­mires her mother as a hard worker who car­ried the bur­den of pro­vid­ing for the fam­ily with the fa­ther help­less.

“Some­times the pres­sure to pro­vide pushed her to be very dif­fi­cult and emo­tion­ally de­tached.”

Mas­hazi be­lieves through­out, God has been at work and would bring every­thing to a glo­ri­ous end­ing.

“Be­ing a teacher, I hope learn­ers suf­fer­ing abuse will find hope to live, dream again and reach where an­gels fear to tread. That’s the best re­venge to give an abuser.”

Her dream is longevity “like my men­tor Pas­tor Sani who has been preach­ing the gospel for the last 50 years non-stop” as well as Maya Angelou, who died aged 82 but still hav­ing book­ings to at­tend to.

“I would be happy to know that my po­etry is read and heard all over the world one day. I’ve just opened my heart in a way I have never done be­fore,” she con­cluded.

FREE: Thuli Mas­hazi, a sur­vivor of abuse.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.