Hello! My black sisters and brothers, how proud are you of your colour?
So, last weekend during my trip to pop beach club, where I had the most relaxing time away from the craziness of work and Lagos. I finally got the opportunity to finish reading one of the books I purchased from last year’s Lagos International Poetry Festival guest, Nkateko Masinga. I’d be reviewing her book, ‘The Sin In My Blackness’ today and I’ll be sharing an excerpt from the book too.
The sin in my blackness is a chapbook collection of twenty-five poems, twenty-three of them which are written by South African born Author, Nkateko Masinga while two are featured poem of her friends Penelope Makgati and Zuki Mqeke. This book deals with the themes of Xenophobia, Black Consciousness, Love and Loss. The Author also appraises Warshan Shire, Tapiwa Mugabe, Nayyirah, and Yrsa Daley-Ward as her source of inspiration.
This book is an honest work that encourages black people to love themselves and be comfortable in their own skin. Also, during a dark time when some black South Africans were said to kill other black foreigners whom they believed were ‘stealing’ their jobs, Nkateko through her poems, rendered her voice against this gruesome act. As seen in one of her poems from the book, “Betrayal”
The language is simple and easy to understand. The book also features aesthetic drawings by Thierry Baranzika that makes one conjure clear image in mind. Nkateko uses imagery and metaphors in the most beautiful manner. The book is a pride of Africa that asserts who we are as Africans and the manner in which words are crafted makes it emotionally compelling.
According to Nkateko, “many articles have been written about the desirability (or lack thereof) of black skin. It breaks my heart that such conversations even need to happen and hence I worry about my unborn black children but I believe one cannot equate desire with value. The fact that something is not desired by someone does not make it any less valuable. I have found beauty in blackness that I am willing to defend, a beauty that I will not allow to be contained or stifled. I refuse to succumb to the notion that I must hide my hair, bleach my skin or make apologies for the way I sound when I speak. There is no shame or sin in my blackness.”
Nkateko Masinga is a South African author, publisher, spoken word artist, theatre actress, TEDx speaker, World Economic Forum Global Shaper and 2018 Mandela Washington Fellow. She was born in Mamelodi and completed her schooling at Glenstantia Primary School, The Glen High School and Dansa International College. She went on to study Medicine (MBChB) at the University of Pretoria and was selected to be a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society for her outstanding academic achievements. In 2018 she moved to the United States of America to study Civic Leadership at Wagner College in New York as part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, the flagship
program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI).
In July 2018, South African publication News24 named Nkateko one of the ‘100 Young Mandelas of The Future’ in celebration of what would have been former president Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday, an accolade created to honour 100 young South Africans who embody the characteristics that Mandela was known for. Nkateko is the author of three poetry collections: ‘The Sin In My Blackness’ (2015). ‘A War Within The Blood’ (2016), and ‘While The World Was Burning’ (2017). She is the founder and managing director of NSUKU Publishing Consultancy, a 100% black-owned company which provides African writers with
access to information and services regarding publishing books.
Her written work is widely celebrated and is published locally and internationally.
A poem: “The sin in my Blackness.”
My blackness is red sirens,
Gunshots two blocks
From your block of flats.
Women on the street in their gowns
Asking “What happened, what happened?”
My blackness mimics tragedy in small towns.
My blackness cannot be contained.
You tried all those years ago and failed.
Look, your hands are stained.
My blackness is flashing lights,
Red tape outside your house.
Orange cones on the road that leads to reconciliation.
But you walk here and find me waiting,
Burdened with the weight of waiting.
But you never come close enough,
So I have to ask:
Does my blackness offend you?
I mean, the colour of my skin,
The texture of my hair…
Do these things offend you?
Do they make you question what God was trying to do
When He created me, as opposed to you?
Does my blackness make you get on your feet
And deliberately choose another seat
Or another place to eat?
Tell me this:
When we meet in town,
Does my blackness earn me a frown
Or even worse, a half-hearted lopsided smile
That lasts a while and disappears?
Because you see, for years
I struggled with my blackness too.
I made alterations to it like you do
When you change my name
From Nkateko to Kate.
I tried to plait my hair
I plaited it tightly against my scalp
Like a forced hug.
Then I covered it with hair
That looks like yours:
And then I realized that your only fault
Is not that you do not look like me
But that you showed me the sin in my blackness.
– Nkateko Masinga.