Valentina A. Mmaka is a writer and human rights activist advocating to eradicate Female Genital Mutilation. She has published seven books. Il mondo a colori della famiglia BwanaVal – Kabiliana 2002 (children);Jabuni il mistero della città sommersa – EMI 2003 (children); Amani i nomi della pace – EMI 2004 (children), L’ottava nota-Prospettiva 2002 (poetry);Io..donna…immigrata… volere dire scrivere – EMI 2004 (drama);Cercando Lindiwe – Epoché 2007, Kabiliana Press 2014 (novel); Il Viaggio capovolto – Epoché 2010 (novel). Her new book on FGM will be published this year in English, French and Italian. She coordinates a number of workshops based on social theatre, gender equality, human rights and writing. She has 20 years experience in working with refugees, asylum seekers , immigrant communities in the diaspora, in Africa and Europe.
Does my whiteness
prejudices my worth to this continent
where I first breathed
and the sound cuddled my tiny ear
like the blink of a soft jacaranda petal?
Does my forced exile
compromised the sense of belonging
to this land of lost fathers
whom I buried in grief too early –
though is never the right time for farewells?
I elected my space according to
emotion not geography
feeling not citizenship
intellect not borders.
I though myself as an illegal seed
carried in a borrowed womb
for mysterious reasons that eludes
the logic of the thought.
Elephants migrate spreading seeds in foreign lands
the wind blows above the soil
carrying a bunch of tiny gems
feeding new horizons,
why shouldn’t I be having the same journey?
A seed launched out of circumstances…
It comes a time you got to kill your mother
to find your own belongings
shrug off the virginity of a safe place
embed in a different landscape:
love doesn’t have to coincide with blood
there’s a natural sentiment that comes along
ignoring given bonds.
I have two mothers:
my biological mother looks like me,
pale and strong bodied,
my other mother is brown like the soil
with a golden shade between her eyebrows
her name is Sera.
It was the time when History didn’t match with justice
and segregation fell lives apart
dividing people by
it was the time when History kidnapped people lives
and threw them in a cell underneat.,
Jo’burg was burning behind the walls built
to secure the wardens ‘lives;
waving their phallus they pleased their ego
entering the unlocked doors of the dreamer’s sleep.
But you were there, Mama Sera
You were there everyday
From Alexandra township walking your body
like the gentle flame of a candle
on the shores of everyday aspirations
to clean the sense of unease
that history has weaved on this patch of land
so fertile of life ‘n love.
No one, a part from myself,
know how secretly
I dreamt of an equal dialogue
between my two mothers.
I longed for a love that would not be defeated by roles,
a love that could be one and inseparable
but life has chosen for me
to be you my spiritual mother.
That’s how Mama Sera
Became my second mother:
She did not feed my stomach
she fed my imagination.
She did not carry me in her arms
she showed me the direction for the day
I could be strong enough to walk on my own.
She did not wash my face out of the sleep
she gave me a cup filled of water
and sang me the song of the rivers who travel all their way
to wash the surface of the mighty ocean
from losses and oblivion.
She didn’t lace my shoes
instead stood by my side encouraging me to do it myself
regardless to my tears of shame.
She did not bring me gifts for Christmas
she let me sit on her lap and tell me stories
where the hero wasn’t a beard old man sliding on the snow
but a child who walked three miles to fetch water and who
along the road met the ghost of his grand father
who saluted him playing the sacred drum.
She did not push me to my dreams with Cinderella’s league,
she encouraged the ancestor’s to bring me stories from the of old times.
She didn’t wish me happy birthday,
but taught me the reasons why we should be celebrating our life every day,
in struggle and peace –
celebration is a luxury of the losers – she said.
She didn’t fill my schoolbag with milk for the day
but taught me responsibility for the things I care.
I ‘ve spent afternoons staring at the cupboard
where you kept your personal things
clothes, old magazines and the box of perfumes
you received your first day of work,
someone assumed you needed to have one
and on the fundaments of this assumption
all of a sudden, I embarked on a different ship.
I started secretly, intimately, sailing on a different sea
drove by a sense of unease
which attempted to pollute my love for you.
That’s how you became my second mother.
I’ve spent bunches of time thinking weather
I should just open the door and throw those perfumes away
cause the idea that made them to be there was wrong.
For this I loved you more
and you became my second mother.
I’ve spent all my lunches sitting by your side,
close to the kitchen window where the stove stood
generous of steamy pots
I ate from your hand the sweet pap dipped in hot chilly gravy,
the food you were asked to prepare for me
wasn’t appealing to my taste.
I did an effort eating two meals
but I did, because I wanted that privilege
to remain still in maternal complicity with you
and for this I loved you more
and you became my second mother.
I played with my brother Tumelo.
When I was sick you brought him home
to fill my loneliness
playing kudoda and laughing and crying.
Empathy acts in mysterious ways.
Time has delivered an answer to the life I espoused
and I’m back
I came to look for your face
To mirror my wonder in your eyes
to caress your skillful hands.
I came back to listen more songs
I came back to see my brothers and sisters
who grew in the secrecy of my room
fearless and curious.
I came back to sit at the same table eating together
the dreamt food of my childhood
remembering the two of us sitting by the stove
eating pap from the pot
while the food on the table
was getting cold and tasteless.
I came back to tell you I managed to break the chains of my exile
That I came back to stay
That I had encountered the fear of loss
That I faced the judgment of the ignorant.
But strengthened my bones I chose
hardship out of hypocrisy and mediocrity.
I came to tell you that I’m your child,
just suspended in a limbo land
waiting to bring you something
you could be proud of
but you have already gone.
I wanted to be sure I existed in your life
as well as you existed in mine –
memory needs a double check.
I came back and drew your face on the red soil
outside in the field where we used to walk side by side
moving my first steps toward life.
I drew a big face with the golden shade between the eye browses,
it was the sun that marked your skin
– you said in delight
so that you could enlighten your children’s journey
in those arrogant days where freedom wasn’t available
I’m one of your children and I found my path
towards the destination you aimed for us.
Barefoot in countless sunny days you taught me
to feel before thinking
to think before judging
to chase ate out of my life
to trust myself
when I cannot trust others.
You’re now my memory
I’ll dig in the earth and deposit my seed
I’ll send it to the future
so that your grand children
will harvest love and gratitude.
Like a tree I will stand waiting for the birds
to lay on my branches and feed my lelhala.
Hours, days and weeks will shift in other rooms of time
While nostalgia will nourish your absence.