Conversation with Enhle Khumalo

by Thulasizwe Somdyala

This month’s edition of Quarta Past focuses on culture and heritage; September being the month highlighted for this discourse. i had a conversation with Enhle Khumalo, a Wits student who recently embarked on head wrap entrepreneurship. Having been apart of the decolonisation project at Wits and practically engaging with the road to independence via self-ownership with her new venture; only right to weave through her mind.

If a book, Enhle says she would be titled, Vibrate Higher. “The title, i feel, encapsulates romanticism and free spiritedness. Most things i take part in are informed by this nature, love and spiritual consciousness. My philosophies are wild, but i believe many answers reside in the ‘void’, or in the absence of noise. In the moments of stillness.”

“The book would most likely highlight the nature of my childhood. My family did a good job. i’ve been through a lot, but function wonderfully despite my circumstances. Circumstance, to me, is merely temporary and changing. There is a sacred place within which i refer to when times are hard.”

Thula: So we gearing for Spring. Two things come in mind, spring cleaning and heritage month. We can guess the braai day backlash to come. It feels like South Afrika needs impepo filing every corner right now. What cleansing do you see for us as a priority?

Enhle: So there have been a few things on the agenda that have been manifesting big time since 2015. One is obviously the project of decolonising; especially specific spaces such as universities, curriculum, work places and what not. So when i mean decolonisation, i mean spring cleaning all the way down to patriarchy and the other binaries of the colonial project.

NO LETTING UP: Wits university students at the main campus in Johannesburg on Monday continue with their strike protest over the increases in on fees. Picture: ANTONIO MUCHAVE
Enhle on the frontline Decolonising and Remembering Marikana

With the win by Wayde van Niekerk, shout out to the homie, South Afrika went into a coloured discourse. i thought by skin-tone ‘coloured’ people are the only ones visible, whereas in mainstream even the darkest of us are mixed or far removed from our roots. i mean mainstream in terms of cities, away from rural areas, where here we only practise our heritage on occasion and it is not our lived experience anymore. Is the Black man alone because he is not at home? Our geography is European, system of governing- English, laws are Dutch-Roman, sense of time- Gregorian, even the most looked to ancestor is from Nazareth. So is the Black man really alone because he is not at home?

i mean contextually, and this is sort of a global phenomenon that extends just beyond you know, Afrika or people outside of the Afrikan continent, you would call us “unpeopled”. So when you are unpeopled you sort of forgo certain instances which assume that you are either Afrikan, Black or whatever. In that regard, i would say the Afrikan man is alone. But i think that is why such things as Heritage Day or heritage month comes into play so we can always remember. A part of being unpeopled, and i guess the colonial project, is to make sure for we forget and to let go. And that’s why i also have a problem calling Heritage day, braai day; it reduces the significance of why we have a thing such as Heritage Day. We always having to assimilate into this Western, Eurocentric standard and ways of being. In a lot of instances you sort of jolted into a different kind of existence that is not your own; you are alone.

So we find ourselves in unnatural spaces…

Yeah, it’s arguably unnatural. But i mean, like with citizenship, you sort of become naturalised with time right? i think that is where we are going. That is why calling something like Heritage Day, Heritage Day, would be an insult to the sensed of Western modernity.

Uh huh uh huh i see you. So wearing ourselves as costumes, how long are we gonna do that for? Wena when you look at it and it is not something imposed by government and you like, “why am i wearing myself as a costume?”

And why is it an occasional sort of performance of self?

Mmmh…

But i mean, i don’t believe in being overtly over nostalgic. Equally, i also don’t think it is something to be performed on only when called upon. That is why that whole #RespectTheDoek movement started. When a presenter decided to wear her head wrap, i think it was on tv or radio, to her office. It was problematised by the people she worked for. It was only problematised because of its association with tradition and Afrikanism and Blackness i suppose. In those type of situations, where you questioned for relating to your identity i think that is when it becomes problematic and we need to have these type of conversations. Why do we have to explain ourselves, our traditions, our aesthetics and cultural choices. That is when it becomes something worth backlashing over. So i think the balance of not being overly nostalgic and also not having to explain why you look and choose to live the way you do is a good balance.

Aight aight. You mentioned “overly nostalgic.” Please explain that…

i do think that we so far gone; in the sense that i wear this Eurocentrism as a second skin. So i think there’s this idea of looking backwards when we speak of tradition, culture or heritage. i want to intimidate and say that is not the case. What i’m saying is that culture can be placed in a modern context. In that kind of case, don’t be overly nostalgic of practises that we do forgo that do not make sense to us now within modernity. We engine culture, we drive it, and it’s okay for us to mould it as we see fit. It belongs to us and therefore, it needs to make sense to us.

Ok ok i do hear you. But “overly nostalgic” kinda sounds as if we do not have the culture anymore. And i would argue and say, it is very much alive – just not in the city…

It is alive, and yes, it is less present in the city of migrants, i would agree with you to an extent. But just looking at the hegemonic system and how it functions; economy, politics, and the way we speak, as like you were saying in the beginning of the interview- it is very Westernised and Eurocentric. Cultural preservation might be more sustained outside the cities, but what happens in the cities has a trickle effect on what happens outside of it.

Aight, i hear you… So traditionally iqhiya is worn as a sign of respect and gives a woman her social status. Contemporarily, as you mentioned with the #RespectTheDoek moment, it seems to have added a layer of self-ownership away from the system. With contemporary challenges to being a woman, how would you like women to assert themselves?

i mean, just going back to the #RespectTheDoek movement, we use the doek as symbolism, as a tool of not only resistance but self-actualisation and self-love. The doek is also being placed in contemporary, modern spaces now. So i think the process of self-actualising through symbolism is very important. Do i think it’s enough? No, certainly not. i think a lot of our problems are very systemic. There is a lot of unlearning we have to do. i think we are moving towards that direction. And obviously some people are very antagonistic; for instance anti-feminismists, anti-decolonisation(ists). And that’s cool, there is always gonna be the ‘other’. Life works in opposites. Day & night, black white, sad happy. So we understand that. For now we can use symbolism as a point of entry and from there we can sort of challenge and critique the system.

Available Head Wraps from Enhle. Follow her on Twitter for Purchase.
Available Head Wraps from Enhle. Follow her on Twitter for Purchase.

100. So i am just thinking to myself now, in reference to opposites, that back in the days we praised not just a God in terms of a male figure but Goddesses too. How would you realign the spiritual consciousness of your child to see the unification between man and woman? To see that it’s not that deep, there’s a bit of both in all of us.

Like i was saying, opposites. Male and female energy are equally important. If i did have a child, the first thing i would tell him or her is that there is no such thing as gender beyond biology. So fine a woman can give birth, she goes on her period. A man is stronger for instance and releases more testosterone. But beyond biology there is no such thing as gender. The rest is merely a construct. So whatever he is capable of, she is capable of. i guess we need to completely dismantle this thing of gender. Especially in the 21st century; a woman can function in absolute isolation without a man and she’ll be fine. So why do you want to put boxes and binaries and create these constructs around gender. It is just a way of policing people and regulating you know, the system; patriarchy.

Real… You tweeted about how there isn’t dignity in begging someone who doesn’t recognise your humanity in reference to #BlackLivesMatter…

(Laughs) Yeah, i tweeted that?

(Laughs) Yeah, not in those exact words but the idea that you begging for your humanity..

Oh yeah, that was so long ago (laughs)

(laughs) (i wasn’t stalking, just research)… but i felt the same sentiment living in a country where we chose to forgive people who didn’t ask for our forgiveness but continue to offer our hand to them. Feels like a parallel. In a TRC for our inter-hate crimes against each other, what would you like to say to the Black man and woman before you forgive so to enable trust & unity again, amongst us real niggas?

Oh man. i guess it just boils down to love. i know it sounds cheesy but it is the universal source. You know, that is the most powerful thing in this world – it’s the most powerful and recognisable force and energy and vibrations. Because everything is energy…

That’s true. Before it manifests into the physical…

Absolutely. Even a grain of sand has energy. It has atoms, micro-atoms, vibrations- and so does love. i think if we are able to actualise our love in obvious and visible ways. i think that would assist us a lot on our different journeys.

Let’s say i am the Black man in this situation, what would you like to tell me?

Firstly, i’d say patriarchy is not your friend. This need to live up to hyper-masculinity is what is causing a lot of division within our own communities. i’d say, i get it, it’s tough being a Black man. Black men know we love them very much. And so if they could understand that and act accordingly, that would be great. (laughs)

(laughs) We don’t have to be bullies yeah…

Yeah. You don’t have to gather your masculinity and just impose it on us. Whatever, we get it. We in this together.

And so the Black woman, prior to forgiving…

i must say the Black women have been doing a really good job. i think Black women have been the ones vanguarding and advancing these important conversations. So big ups to Black women, we seem to be getting it really right… However, we are at the end of the day agents of the system. So i guess i’ll say we are all still learning and let’s be proactive in how we do it; be deliberate and say, ”hey, we here to fix something amongst ourselves.”

Image result for zulaikha biko lecture
Credit: WitsVuvuzela. Professor Angela Davis hails Pretoria High School’s girls.

Amen to that… ZimbabweEnhle. Dope ring to it. The best things are from Afrika, in abundance, yet they expensive to us. i believe in starting to use our own languages and heritage to make the message intimate to the majority will we raise our level of consciousness across the board. How best do you think we can raise the level so to cut out the middleman – government – and enjoy nice things in and across without seeing borders?

i think in the first instance, we just need to acknowledge that we cannot in totality rely on the government… Especially in sort of our personal and social spaces, because in those spaces, that is where we happen to each other. So things like xenophobia or afrophobia (to be more accurate), we need to do away with. As much as it is easy to point fingers and say it is poverty induced, greed induced or whatever, at the end of the day, we happen to each other in our personal spaces. We need to take responsibility with how we treat one another.

How can education go far in that. Because you spoke of a nostalgia of a culture. Meaning you are removed from where you are from. So in a context where you do not know that you travelled from north to south without seeing borders or a middleman. Now by removing the middle man who is imposing these borders still – making your environment unnatural – how can we raise the level? Let niggas know that, don’t listen to the viruses that they instilling in you. You so much bigger than your construct right now as if all you been your life (linage) is a southerner.

Oh man. How does one remedy that kind of thing. Even you asking me is putting me through an extensional crisis (laughs). i can’t imagine myself outside of the rules or outside of the current systems of governing. So without the borders, not knowing whether we came north to south…? Then i guess the common identity would be that we are all Afrikan. i think that should be our point of entry into all our conversations and interactions. We should pull ourselves towards ourselves.

Real… What is odd to me and that is why i put the language thing out, i have been looking and i’m like, “i Write What i Like,” why is not at least translated into Xhosa? Because right now it is our go to book on Black Consciousness and Black Consciousness is about actualising who you are. And now our go to manuscript is only in a language that is not ours. i find that odd. What is your take?

i mean the way that we engage education is not ahistoric. For many of us, we have always engaged with it using English. So it has sort of become the universal language. It has become easier and more practical for people to engage with English. When you say why hasn’t anyone translated it into isiXhosa, i’m like, why hasn’t anyone done it then. And that’s what is dangerous about out growing our cultures and heritage; the alternative becomes seemingly easier and more convenient. And the alternative would be English.

True that… But then, don’t you see how the disconnection happens. Because we now on this hyper-conscious in the cities, i guess, but what we are saying does not knit in with the majority who are not in the cities or sophisticated in English. So when people go to vote now, and the people who actually vote are in the rural areas. But they not getting the message or being knitted into the conversation; creating a disparity. So it would be important for the language to enable the message to be intimate with everybody…

Yeah. And we always say that the conversations we have in this ‘woke generation’ are very exclusionary and elitist in a lot of ways. But i think everyone is trying the best they can, but i hear what you saying. There needs to be action to make things more inclusive moving on from here on out, which would require letting go of the usual excuses such as ‘practicality’ and so on…

i mean the Biko Foundation is big bra. It wouldn’t take a lot of money to get someone to translate that, even to a couple of languages, but i mean at least, least Xhosa would have laid true to who he (Biko) was.

You know what i mean! And that is why you call it “radical politics” because, it might not make sense right now and it might not be the easiest but it has to be done.

Just to ponder off. i was looking and we were the last people to be colonised (not to confuse with slavery that started earlier). Around the 1600s they took Asia, Australia, The Americas and we were colonised late, late 1800s as a continent. Now when you look forward into time, look at Singapore, they fully functioning by themselves within themselves still knowing English. The Asians have sort of gone back and excluded that virus that came to disturb who they were…

But South Afrika is also such a unique place, we have so many languages here. i have travelled quite extensively and everywhere i’ve gone there is just one language. Maybe there are some dialects here and there but majority would understand Portuguese or understand Spanish. But then i come back home and it is a completely different situation, a completely different dynamic…

i have also travelled through SA and i have noticed everywhere they speak Zulu. When English fails, people understand you in Zulu. So we have a common base...

But ask a Sotho speaking person and they will say that is not true… Everyone’s sentiments are valid.

i hear what you saying but if you go to North-West or Free-State, people will understand you in Zulu. Having been to these places. Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the coast obviously. So we have a common base…

That is also a tricky one, having seen on the twitter news feed people saying, “Why do these Zulus keep imposing their language on us, they just assume we understand (laughs)…” The little hues of tribalism or cultural superiority start to be questioned. So there is a lot to consider in the South Afrikan context. And again this pre-dates to the colonial project which separated us into tribes, languages and borders. It is all a consequence of.

So it is important we have a TRC for ourselves…

(laughs)… cause there is a lot going on, even amongst ourselves. So i think before looking outside, we need to look within.

mmmh thats so real… A lot of times we always looking outside in and i’m like, that’s hustling backwards. You have to look within. As you said everything starts as energy; it starts from within and then it becomes a physical thing. Most the time we look at the external instead of saying, look at you, who are you, how did you become. But yea, that’s that… So you donating 10% of the proceeds to Wits Pad Drive. What sex education would give your children?

i think the second that we are willing to organise and rally for free pads, in the same way we did for free education or service delivery, we will be taken seriously. A lot of it is on our shoulders as women to organise ourselves. My initiative to sell doeks in order to buy pads for the girls on campus, is sort of reactionary in the sense that it is its sustainable, one. And two, it is again a systemic problem. Our energies could be aligned elsewhere if free pads were supplied by the government just as condoms are. We need to ask ourselves why pads are not handed out for free. And it’s obvious it’s because the system won’t bend if it’s the integrity of a woman’s body at play. (laughs)

(laughs)…

And sex education to my child? i would introduce the basics from a young age so i doesn’t become an internal shock when they confronted with hormones and the opposite gender. i would introduce it slowly from like 12, 12 years old, we’ll say. You know, condom, how to use it, how to take care of your body. So i would say don’t throw it all into an L.O. course when they in grade 11 that lasts one semester and then call it a day. (laughs)

(laughs) real. So i ask this because i was talking to this woman, and we were talking about the Tsonga vibe. Where they not really twerking; i was told it’s waist management. She is Shona and they vibe with that too. She told me when women are secluded from the community for initiation, they are taught how to hold a man down in different respects amongst other things. So you know when people are grumpy, there is a knee-jerk reaction of, “He/She needs to get laid.” So sex has healing powers. It has come to my attention lately that women do not really want to cater in terms of their sex game; it feels like the man should do everything. What’s your take?

No. (laughs).. There’s this thing called ‘patriarchy sex’, as titled by Feminists, which no woman is trying to have anymore. This is to say that both partners need to be satisfied. It takes two. So it is not necessarily that she doesn’t care; i mean she is participating in the activity and so she is invested in it. The conversation around relationships no longer start and end at “How to please your man.”

i feel you. But let’s put it like this, when a man comes into a situation, he should be thinking, “how do i please the woman?”…

The conversation should be between both parties, ungender it and ask: How should you please each it other…

i get it… Then the woman says, “how do i please him.” i mean when you join them together, you pleasing each other. Ndizama ukuthi, i cannot come into the situation with a selfish thought of, “i need to get mine”…

But that’s what men used to think about sex… very funny.

i feel u but we trying to create a balance now… So if you come into a situation like hey, “let me do her in a way that i take her to levels.” It would be nice if that effort is reciprocated like “Yo, how can i take him to levels?”

Woman are not really greedy. Inherently so. We have also learnt to be pleasers. So i don’t think that’s necessarily an issue but everybody has their own experiences. Perhaps you have experienced women who really aren’t interested in your satisfaction…

Yoh. (Shots fired)

(laughs) … or whatever. But i think it is a personal experience, definitely. But right now women are saying, if we gonna be in this, then we both need to be in it.

Aiiight 100. So your thoughts on fuckboyism and HoeIsLife?

(Screams)

(Laughs)

i think people must do what they wanna do, just be safe. (Laughs).. i think HoeIsLife is, again, the use of language device to create symbolism. Hoeislife suggests: “i am going to do what i want”. It is just a point of… just making that point that i am going to do what i want despite the fact that there might be shaming or disgrace or whatever titles are associated with being a hoe. i think the title functions as social commentary; which says we have arrived at this point where we are not going to be policed and that our bodies belong only to us…

Ok ok…

…and fuckboyism, i don’t even know what it is. i guess its just men mistreating women. Come correct or don’t come at all.

i think it’s just a male version of HoeIsLife.

(Laughs) Really?

(Laughs) Yeah. it’s just males doing exactly what HoeIsLife is doing…

Only you can comment on that, you a guy, i don’t know. If i were to confronted with one i would say, come correct or don’t come at all.

You don’t know? You just said this thing is beyond gender vibes. You can comment on nigga things…

(Laughs) i don’t know why men choose to be fuckboys but i mean everybody has their story. So if you decide to go the fuckboy route, i mean there are certain consequences for that and certain lifestyle decisions. If that floats your boat, sure. i do think we can have healthier and more sustainable relationships especially as young Black women and men. I’d prefer we nurture a culture of loving each other correctly and yeah…

We need those 90s R&B niggas back in the streets… i’m with you on sustainable relationships. There’s a need for us to start building families again; remedy the displacement of Black homes. Families make up communities and knitted communities make up countries. Therefore, for us to have a country that represent and progress our family structures, we need families to begin with. As you said, it all starts in the personal spaces where we happen to each other… But yeah my final word out, what character as a child did you want to be on TV?

(Laughs) You know, i don’t really watch TV but i guess if i had to choose one. Ah man… it would have to be Garfield. Can i be a cat?

(Laughs) Yeah, you allowed..

Yeah. i wanna be a house cat that just chills and eats all day. i just wanna have a good time with my life. No drama, just me doing my own thing and being loved and cuddled.

(Laughs) i’m 100 with you on that.

Dope conversation with usisi. As she said, it is important that we reintegrate who we are into modern spaces. Modern not in the sense of Eurocentrism but modern as in the present time; our contemporary environment that happens to be Westernised. In looking back, we are able to decipher who we are, therefore, cyphering our existence. Life works in cycles, circles, waves and just like the energy we are, they don’t die. In knowing your past, you able to root yourself. Be one with the soil. You grow, give yourself to the Earth and go under again to resurface from the same roots. Just like the sun rises East, sets West and is not seen until coming from the East again. Life is that same circle. Even though you not seen for some time, you existence and we trust in your influence elsewhere and reemergence again. So young kings, queens, gods and goddesses. It is time we align ourselves with our natural environment and rise from the darkness to fulfil a brighter day. Your destiny and the proudest thing you can do is continuing the work of your ancestors; progressing your heritage in actualising the full potential of humanity through the talents you posses.

Until We See Azania

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