Young, Black, Femme- Backstory Journal

On the road in a Five Seater.

I was lucky enough to be interning in a warm and somewhat familiar environment. Familiar in the sense that I felt some kind of a connection with the people I work with.

We have Mmetsa Makhwidiri (aka Rama, aka Mesh), our producer, who has an illuminating presence, with her subtle but undeniable air of feminine charm. When I speak to her, the little innocent girl in me recognizes the one in her, because I soon came to realize that she has very little inhibition. At the same time, her maturity is just as obvious, as if she can be two people depending on the person she is building an acquaintance with. When she gets comfortable after a few minutes, she has absolutely no problem just being herself. This quality is one of the things I first realized about Twiggy Matiwana, our director. They both have the unwillingness to please other’s at the expense of betraying the self.

Twiggy can be difficult to read as a person, not because she doesn’t wear her heart on her sleeve, but because there is simply no need for her assert her presence because her importance  seems almost too obvious. Being in a room with her for the first time did not perturb we in anyway because it had been as if she was always there. That is how clear her role in this entire project is. I didn’t trust her because Aunty Xoli told us to, I trusted her because I could tell that she would probably endorse herself.

That is already the first lesson I’ve learnt. As black women, we shouldn’t have to minimize our excellence because it causes other people discomfort, or shame even. I mean, if black women are being denied a chance in society, then maybe we should give it to ourselves. Above that we should rejoice in emancipating ourselves from the alienating constructs and the eternally oppressive ideologies that the world clings onto so tightly.

As a young adult, the black woman realizes that she has no choice but to assert herself if she loves herself. Linda Chengeta (production intern), much like myself, is a Gen Z, who has realized the importance of assertiveness. However, Linda is someone who seems to really know and understand what she deserves. This is definitely going to serve her well in the future because she can always be certain that what she has achieved, she has worked for. At the same time, she will always be aware of the moments that she is being short changed, and in that moment; she’ll know what to do. What ties Linda to Rama and Twiggy is their self-confidence, although it looks different in  each of them. Accepting that showed me that a person’s self-confidence is connected to a particular quality about them that already existed. This allows for some kind of an amplifying affect which refuses to let that person’s best quality go unnoticed.

That amplification also exists in the self-confidence of a kind of woman who lifts your spirit simply by welcoming you. That’s Jameelah Abdul, and one of the first things I noticed about her was her heart of gold. Jameelah is our production manager, and she has the ability to make a person feel cared for in a mystical and non-suffocating way.

Now that I’ve used the word mystical, let me also use the word mysterious, which is also a synonym for Zenande Khumalo. Zenande is actually the director’s intern, but above all she is the silent, dark horse in the crew. This is how I know that she will have something to do with a lot of the iconic moments behind the scenes.

Ultimately this crew is a team of mostly queer women, except for one; Uncle ‘Unkeli’ Evans. Unkeli is like the set manager who gets us from point A to point B on all our shoot days. He is also like the ‘control’ or ‘placebo’ of an experiment as a man, because he blends right in.

Filming hasn’t even started and this is where we are. Xoliswa Sithole, the woman making all of this possible, is entrusting us to make something groundbreaking. I get the feeling that each and every one of us want the same thing.

Then there’s me.

I don’t think I have never really been able to characterize myself in a way that I feel comfortable with. However, through this crew, and through this journey, I want to open myself up to some self-actualization, or at least some kind of epiphany.

We got together for a workshop on this day, just to discuss the ins and outs of our script and shooting schedule.

I much prefer this kind of an environment as opposed to a newsroom environment, simply because of my belief in the trust that we as humans should be putting into our instincts when capturing humanity.

This project, at the core, is meant to capture people from different walks of life, but similar in the sense that trials and tribulations are the consistent companions in their lives. If one were to gloss over the the character list of the documentary, they may simply say that they are a bunch of people with problems in their lives. However, if you are to truly interrogate and understand the plots before you, you would gather that it is not them who have the problems, but it is us as South African society, and it is also us a global society. It is our empty minded reservations. It is the unnatural rigidity of the so-called ‘normal’, instead of placing focus on just… being. It is also the negligence around the accommodation of the people that exist outside of the so-called ‘normal’, in a global system that is akin to moldy cheese.

A pandemic is the worst possible thing that could have happened to a social pariah. The human existence has essentially become paradoxical, as we patiently wait for Armageddon to end. The only thing I am certain about is that I for one have began to look back at my life in with nothing but melancholy and regret, and have become even more desperate for a future that I create a sense of happiness and pride in.

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