There Is A Market Where I Traded My Black …

There is this market

In my township, there is this market
(Although more the township next to my township)
I go there some Saturdays,
To pretend to think to pretend to write to pretend to be hip

(I go to eat overpriced but oh so worth it (is that a paradox?) white cheddar sandwiches…)

The market is beautiful

Live bands
Clean babies
Running children
Happy children

Hawkers who are in a permanent state of nirvana – like they don’t get pins and needles in their uncomfortable meditation postures

It’s organic
It’s communal

it has benches…
the sorts which force you to sit with people that you have not come with
or would, given a choice, given a chair, not sit with

there is a market

it is beautiful
and what’s most beautiful about it is that it has somehow managed to escape the hype of Johannesburg, it has managed to exist without becoming a scene…

…perhaps it owes this to its location

Perhaps it is so devoted to its pretentiousness that it’s become authentic in its pretentiousness … like the poor girl who marries a rich man and jewel by jewel pretence by pretence haircut by haircut becomes part of his world

Borrowed authenticity

There at the market,
on a Saturday laced with white cheddar,
I met a man

And we spoke

A hard conversation, a difficult conversation (surfaces are hard, conversations are difficult) although of course this conversation wasn’t difficult, just challenging

He had an accent,

I was writing
Trying to
It was my 3rd or 4th (maybe 5th if you count that screenplay) failed book.

I shared with him secrets and fantasies: I am a failure at writing. I want to be a writer

He was encouraging
He was nice
He was kind
And then he asked a question, in two stages, which question (in two stages), led him to saying the most useful thing that anyone has ever told me

He told me to master my mother tongue; master it (he said) because until you can write well in your mother tongue (he said) you won’t be able to write well in any other language
(he said)

But before that there was the question (in two stages)
What language do you write in?
Can you write in your mother tongue?

It was useful … and kinda useless

He doesn’t know

He is Swedish
He knows clean everything
He is of the people of
Little Dragon
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Swedish House Mafia

He knows no dispossession
He doesn’t understand dispossession

His people are free
(so I laugh.
I listen but I also laugh.
Because his people are free and he knows no dispossession)

I have been dispossessed

And I have particularly been dispossessed of my mother tongue

I have had, I had, to let it go
I had to dismiss it

The school bell rang and my mother tongue was dismissed

because to survive and thrive, in a white school, I had to immerse myself in whiteness, in white, in white culture
I had to be as close as possible to white, to be accepted, to be seen
I had to like white music
Like white dress
White food
White mannerisms

I had to cleanse myself of all blackness, of all black
and be white
I had to allow myself to be dispossessed, to be taken, to be lost
I had to shun my real
my me
my black

The school bell rang and I was dismissed

And so I cannot write well in my mother tongue, Mr Swedish Man
(so I laugh.
I listen but I also laugh.)

There is a market

in the township next to my township there is a market
It’s not the market where I traded jazz, the blues, ingoma? for rock
uphuthu for pasta
where I traded my blackness
myself for ??
mybeing for ??
no, not it’s not that one

there is a market where I eat white cheddar
pretend to think
pretend to write

pretend to…be.

Writer: Nomfundo Shezi