Archive | February, 2020

Slavery or Exposure?

26 Feb


I began my career as an entertainer and activist over two decades ago. The journey has been phenomenal with many joys and successes and just as many challenges, downfalls,​ and mistakes. I suppose these are all part of our learnings and time on this earth, sometimes we are faced with situations that we continue to make the same mistakes, as the adage goes- “You can never make the same mistake twice because the second time you make it, it’s not a mistake, it’s a choice.”

― Steven Denn

I wanted to write about something that affects many artists and activists worldwide but particularly in Africa. When I refer to artists I am including actors, TV & radio personalities, musicians and fine artists. Unfortunately, the entertainment industry has not been given the recognition and respect that it deserves, one can look at the lack of funds allocated to artists, we could unpack how labor laws have excluded us. This then leads to many artists having to do many jobs to make ends meet and often dying as paupers. With this lack of respect for our talent many people, corporates, governments often do not see the need to remunerate us, exhibit our work or help in promoting us on the correct platforms.
A few months ago, a published author under a local publishing label was called to an event only to find that the event organizers, were profiling him but instead of buying his books, they opted to photocopy the whole book and distribute it to the guests. Not only is this disrespectful but is also against the law. Knowing very well, that legal fees cost a lot, they ill probably get away with it.

So I want to focus on the notion of people thinking that we will work for free under the banner of exposure and now since the hashtag #GBV is on everyone tongues, they are approaching activists to come and do work for free. I have spoken about this on many platforms but yesterday I received a request which rubbed me up the wrong way. I received a WhatsApp message from a person, a stranger, stating she received my number from a mutual friend, she as requesting my services at a GBV hackathon, which was to run for two days in conjunction with an embassy. I asked her to send me an email, so I could get a better understanding of the event, so I can quote appropriately as my rate card includes consulting work, speaking, facilitation and emceeing. She immediately replied to say that the client had not allocated a budget for my job description so the job would be pro bono. So firstly, asking a stranger to work for free is rude and constitutes another form of abuse, secondly, if there was a budget for everything else, why were the talent excluded?
Needless to say, she replied with an apology and then quickly tried to change things around stating that she was not getting paid as the company she was working for was hosting it so to strengthen relations with the embassy. So somebody is getting paid, Mmmmm!!!


A simple apology would have been enough but knowing the fact that they were willing to exploit women for their benefit, speaks to the reality that as Black women we still carry the load of other people and are not seen or respected.
This then brings me to another factor of expecting activists to do the work for free. As activists we did not wake up and decide that we would choose this carer, for many of us, it was a calling. It is a job that often requires a lot of hours, unpaid hours, it takes us into dangerous places and often dangerous scenarios as we are dismantling the patriarchy and therefore have to go up against the misogyny and hatred that is attached to that ideology. Then there is the emotional stress that we have to endure for being in the sector, to missing out on family time and often worrying about getting food on the table and paying bills, as our work often takes us away from paying jobs. There are very few of us who can afford psychologists and additional therapy, so we carry a load of others as well as our own, but we continue as this is who we have been called to be. We have studied and have learned life experiences from being in the sector for decades, so when we raise the alarm or our voices, we are speaking from places of authority and agency, we know what we bring to the table, using us to better or promote your platforms can be done in a symbiotic way but we will not tolerate being exploited under the banner of CSI or giving back. We understand that corporates have their CSI projects but our livelihood is our CSI so when you need a speaker, researcher or expert/consultant to come and do your work, we are capable but it is not our duty to operate as slaves on your sinking ships.

This, of course, is different when it comes to NGO work, as we understand the challenges that are faced and we often opt to assist​ where we can.

So in closing understand the dynamics and different levels of abuse. We know the obvious ones of physical and sexual, there is emotional and psychological​ and​ financial​l. Examples of financial abuse are not allowing​ somebody to work, or making them work but not paying them, trying to make them feel bad and coercing them to work for free by saying that they should​ want to give back, is playing on their emotions and then denying them remuneration is financial abuse. Think about the long term effects that this can play on an individual who already does​ the good work but is expected to make your image look good and they go home hungry.


Respect, to our warriors in Malawi!

11 Feb


My three passions in life are Women, Africa, and the arts. A few weeks back we stood in solidarity with the warriors in Malawi, who decided to take a stand against gender-based violence. I reached out to the organizers to see how as a Pan African feminists we could show solidarity and try and help create awareness for the amazing work that they are doing.
I was led to a powerful young force, named Ulemu Hannah Kanyongolo. Ulemu, meaning ‘Respect’ is a 22-year-old feminist, she is the founder and president of the Young Feminists Network, a network which serves as a platform for young feminists to engage in dialogue and activism for social justice. The Network currently has 66 members with chapters in 3 cities; Blantyre, Lilongwe, and Zomba. With such a powerful name, she can only receive the respect she deserves as she works on being the change that is needed in the world.

Ulemu Hannah Kanyongolo

Through our work as activists, we are all faced with many challenges, regarding our safety, which is governed by policies and laws, that have been set out according to patriarchal principles. In Malawi, the situation is no different, as feminists, particularly the young feminists, one of the major challenges they face is the misconceptions about feminism. As Ulemu stated, ‘a lot of people seem to misunderstand what feminism is and what it seeks to achieve, some because they lack access to information and others because they don’t agree with feminism and deliberately misrepresent it at any given chance. Such misconceptions include the fact that feminism is a movement that seeks to get rid of men or to make women more dominant than men. This ignores the basic premise of feminism which recognizes the oppression women have faced since time immemorial and seeks to deconstruct the patriarchy which upholds this marginalization of women’.

She went on to say that, ‘people believe feminism is unAfrikan. However, this is also a misconception. Although the theories and conceptualizations of feminism may have originated in the West, acts of resistance to the patriarchy have existed in Afrika for centuries. Therefore, it isn’t anything new. ‘

Within the activism space, whether you are based in Africa or the USA, funding is always an issue, and of course in Malawi, it is no different. A lot of funding opportunities apply to registered organizations only, which makes it hard for informal feminist movements to get funding for their operations.


The Malawi women in March 2020.

On 1st February 2020, the Young Feminists Network in collaboration with PEPETA (an online community of young female SRHR activists from DRC, Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe) and over 20 other organizations and individuals organized the “Take It To The Streets” march against VAWG (violence against women) in Malawi. When we go up against the patriarchy, we are always met with resistance, in their case they were denied police protection from the relevant authorities and this was a major obstacle because this effectively meant the march couldn’t take place. Like, true warriors, they did not let this minor obstacle stop them from pushing ahead, they could not hold an official march so they were able to mobilize large numbers and in Blantyre they held a rally, in Lilongwe and Mzuzu they managed to march regardless.
Despite all the deliberate hiccups, in the end, they still managed to achieve their goal of raising awareness on the issues and calling for action from various stakeholders.

The PanAfrican warriors from Zambia, Kenya, and SA, showed solidarity with them through social media and various press. This also brought attention to a sexual assault case, in Blantyre. They were able to set up a time and visited a warrior, Vanessa Chilanga. Vanessa is a woman who was sexually assaulted by a gang of men in Blantyre. She was visited and they are currently creating platforms and strategies to help and support her and other survivors.

What can we do?
We need solidarity with our warriors from across the world, particularly on our continent. To assist the Young Feminists Network or the feminist movement in Malawi in general, please continue to follow their work and stand in solidarity with them and help amplify their voices by sharing what is happening.
As we know International women’s day is approaching so strategic collaboration would also be great and essential. Do you have any platforms, events or stages that we could collaborate on?
Let us get the conversation started. We can start small, with our feminists in the SADC region, we are all in the same time zones, so what is stopping us?

How to get in contact with The Young Feminist Network in Malawi-
Instagram @yfn265
Twitter @yfn265

Ulemu Hannah Kanyongolo- @ulemuhk

Rosie Motene @rosiemotene

In solidarity,​ we stand!!!!

Serepudi-A Queer Photography and Experimental Art Exhibition

3 Feb


On 11 June 2019, Botswana announced that they will decriminalize the same-sex act, through a unanimous ruling by the High Court of Botswana.
During the month of February, the first queer exhibition will be held in Gaborone.
The exhibition titled, Serepudi is a new pre-Valentine’s Day queer photography exhibition and be hosted by Queer Pride BW on February 13, 2020. The exhibition will showcase Queer Photography by experimental artist Sade Shoalane and photographer Raymond Geofrey. It will also debut the trailer of actor Donald Molosi’s new critically-acclaimed British queer film called 2064.


The Serepudi exhibition will run from February 13 to February 15, 2020. It will be held at the Culture Art Café in Molapo Crossing, Gaborone. The exhibition co-organizer Letlhogonolo Moremi says of Serepudi, “As Queer Pride BW we wanted to have an exhibition that includes photography, 3D items, and a film trailer, an exhibition is across media. That is to capture the breadth of possibilities in telling stories about ourselves as Queer bodies.”
One of the special features at the February 13 opening will be the artist-talks with both Shoalane and Geofrey about their work. The artist talks will be moderated by PR and Branding Strategist and LGBTQ Activist EminentGrey. Poet Phodiso Modirwa will also recite her spell-binding poetry.

Speaking about the new exhibition, Co-Founder of Queer Pride BW, actor, and writer Donald Molosi says, “Serepudi is Setswana for a stoop that one stands on in front of the house. It is a platform, and this exhibition wants to be that platform for inclusivity in Botswana arts. We are the generation that wants everyone to be represented in daily life and that is why we are standing on the serepudi of our shared dignity as human beings and queering Valentine’s Day this year through this exhibition. Serepudi is necessary decolonization of our ideas about sexuality. You don’t have to be queer to believe inequality. You just have to have an understanding.”

According to co-organizer Letlhogonolo Moremi, “a harrowing onslaught of homophobia has been meted to the Botswana Queer community in response to the June 11, 2019 decriminalization of same-sex relationships by the Botswana High Court. With this fresh wave of continued relegation of queer humanity to political talking points and spectacularization dressed as “social discourse,” it is obvious that the non-queer community does not intend on seeing queer people as fully human beings who are not defined by made-up “deviation.” Our collective house, as Batswana, is on fire! Who shall stand at the serepudi and announce that this is our home, too? What images shall stand on the serepudi and remind us of the full humanity of Queer People?”

Queer Pride BW believes that the most transformative way to stand on the proverbial serepudi and counter-violence is to highlight our shared humanity and to make a bold statement by queer bodies directly confronting queerphobia and its guardians. Therefore, in Serepudi, both Raymond Geofrey and Sade Shoalane explore queerness in ways that are not policed and not apologetic social convention. It is upon these images that Queer Pride BW seeks to stand and speak to a house on fire, confronting prejudice with boldness to embarrass patriarchy and hatred.

Sade Shoalane is an experimental artist who will be exhibiting her art at Serepudi. She says, “My work in Serepudi is very specific to the queer Afrikan narrative. I will even say the narrative of the black, queer womxn –much dismissed narrative even in supposed ‘safe queer black spaces’… it is this dismissal that I seek to turn on its head so that I may return the favor of poking, prodding, and questioning. I will mostly use the medium of fabric to conduct this interrogation.” She, laments the lack of art exhibitions in Gaborone. In her words, “there are very few regular and substantial art exhibitions in Gaborone. I think it is due to the usual culprits – the gatekeepers. Often the people who have been entrusted to run these art and culture institutions are quite clueless about the sector they represent. They tend to suppress art that redefines the culture of the country. I am deeply grateful for private institutions like Culture Art café that continue to support more radical art and artists alike.”
Serepudi comes the day before Valentine’s Day and co-organizer actor Donald Molosi says that this is deliberate. “Valentine’s Day is usually yet another celebration of heteronormativity, of being heterosexual. What about the queer people? Can they also participate visibly in these festivities of love? Serepudi is here to say that, yes they can and yes, they shall. We humanists are tired of such calendar days being triggers for the queer community because it reminds them that they are excluded. With Serepudi, a new generation of Batswana is unapologetically and fearlessly putting queerness at the center of Valentine’s Day 2020. We want to embarrass patriarchy.” Molosi asserts.

The exhibition will run from February 13 to February 15, 2020. It will be held at the Culture Art Café in Molapo Crossing, Gaborone. The opening reception will be on February 13 only and tickets can be pre-booked by calling +267 73410039.