Sister. It’s festive; my inquisitive self sends me to the internet on an investigation for the etymology of the word “festive”. I discover its Latin roots, to mean a “joyful feast”. Joy has become a concept found only when one is on the hunt for it. I miss the days of our young selves, naïve, dreaming dreams beyond our tiny bodies and when joy would so easily blanket us warmly.
You, always the beautiful and hauntingly quiet older sister and I, the brainy and loud mouth younger sister, a tale etched in our sub-conscious by family, neighbours and later re-affirmed by teachers and our peers. Nobody said much about how intelligent you are, everyone’s interest was in making this beauty define the essence of who you are.
I remember the days of our innocence, some more pleasant than others. As it is tradition in our home and the homes of many black families, new clothes were bought only twice a year, during winter and in the festive. My mother, our mother made a habit of dressing us alike during festive and on the years she couldn’t, I would have my eyes bawling for clothes similar to yours.
To me, I would grow to know you to symbolise the epitome of beauty - your fair skin, your unique mid-silk, mid-coarse textured long hair-that nobody seen in the neighbourhood-, your pointy nose, and your curved body, so beautiful almost as though it was deliberately sculptured by a God only seen by you. I marvelled at the idea that the fruit of creation that produced you produced me too. I yearned for the world to know that we are of the same blood.
I would however, grow older and awakened to curse this beauty as I get exposed to the possessiveness of men towards you. It will turn scary with men objectifying and needing to control your being. Your quiet personality would get exhaustingly haunting, as I watch you sit in your own thoughts and I would wonder about your wounds as though they were my own.
The festive, which paints my thoughts with leaden clouds and foisted memories of pain I cannot control, is one where you were with a child, seven months in the belly if memory serves right. The father? A boy from our street, much older than yourself, but still a boy because I had reduced him to such a status in my mind due to the way in which he carried disrespect and claimed it as his own.
One day Mother and I heard you screaming from outside, we went rushing to check on you. Saw the “boy” grabbing your hair and kicking you at the back, with his knee. My heart goes racing, I scream for our father. He comes running, grabbed the boy and threw him on the floor. Fists began flying all over, father is damn near finishing the “boy”, and mother stops him and the “boy” went running.
I loathe that moment because it was to become your life still to this evening of me writing this. I was to spend the rest of that particular festive feeling like I just lost you, grieving, with a great sense of confusion.
When you first left home to live with the “boy”, in the first year I enthusiastically called you as frequently as I could. That enthusiasm, faded as years went by and we spent years not talking. Festive seasons became a blur for me. They came and went as fast as I could have them, unbearable they became. I kept expecting the worst, I live with the fear that I would someday answer the phone and hear news I dread the most.
Two beautiful nephews you gifted me. The imagination of the turmoil to which my nephews are to grow under produces in me angst so great it’s debilitating. Children are often times symptom bearers of problems which arise within their parent’s relationships. Society in and of itself has become the breeding ground for toxic masculinity and patriarchal norms; it has become perilous to raise black children. When the home is in turmoil as society, I wonder then what becomes of the children?
Your life has found a form of an embodiment in me. I took the pain of witnessing your pain and reconfigured it to fuel my defiance and my stubbornness in fighting against all oppressive systems we find ourselves subjected to.
Gender based violence is becoming increasingly petrifying in our country and festive seasons usually carry corpses of women, whom their men claimed to love. It is a dreadful time to witness. Black townships are ridden with men and women who are intoxicated from morning till dawn. That comes with the exercise of violence towards one another. It is as though the consequence of the collective trans-generational trauma and depression from centuries of oppression is being depicted before our eyes.
Bearing witness to the kind of social death you have experienced and many other women have, within relationships with men you so love, has made me pensive. I think about our country men, who have internalised the toxicity of relating to women. I think about possible solutions to this epidemic, I think about the healing of black men as deeply as I do about the healing of black women.
The evolution of blackness, in all kinds of systems we have found ourselves under, dictates that black people are fungible entities, open to gratuitous violence. That there is no autonomous power black people have over their bodies nor their lives. Perhaps then, our strength is in reproducing with the hope that those generations after ours would take back our long lost identity or perhaps there is power in collective consciousness and black radical love we are yet to put in praxis.