Through Vangi-tinted glasses

Perspectives from an African

Bad dancing doesn’t break an engagement February 28, 2012

Filed under: From Consciousness straight to you — Vangi Gantsho @ 10:57

Spring has sprung and no one is more excited about it than me!  It’s a time for new beginnings.  Re-invention.  This month we kick winter out the door and get ready for the sun, strapless tops and for those who are lucky enough to live by the coast… the beach.  But the most exciting thing about spring is that it is the season of love.  Not lust or infatuation – because that’s summer.  Spring is about love.  I saw a an elderly black couple at the jazz (maybe in their 70s) dancing to Caiphus Simenya and looking as in love as two love-struck teenagers.  How heart-warming is that?  In a world where at least 40% of all marriages end in divorce, that one couple grew old together.  They will bury each other and leave behind generations of children and grandchildren born out of love.  (Ok, so I’m a hopeless romantic who doesn’t know that couple from a bar of soap but I’m pretty sure if I did, that’s what they would tell me).

Human beings are social creatures.  We not designed to be alone; to be without family or friends.  It’s true that not everyone is meant to marry and grow old with someone, but everyone is meant to have at least one person who will love them and cherish them and take care of them.  Equally, everyone is designed to love at least one person.  To hold someone dear and be good to them:  a brother; a friend; your mother…  Life’s greatest gift is the ability to love, and its kindest pleasure is to be loved in return.  And as corny or clichéd as it sounds, it all starts with the self.  A love for yourself attracts, reflects and embraces a love from others.  So what often happens with those who find themselves feeling alone is that somewhere along the line, they stopped believing they were worthy of love and pushed it away.  One’s inability to recognise the beauty within oneself will make one doubt – and at times resent – those who do.  

But this love doesn’t just come.  It is learnt and practiced.  It is affirmed and reaffirmed by those around us until it becomes an irremovable part of us.  It is taught to us by our parents and teachers (or at least it should be) and reaffirmed by our friends and family – in an ideal world.  The work and commitment it takes to sustain a healthy relationship with another person, is the same work and commitment it takes to maintain a healthy relationship with You.  If you don’t respect your body, or you don’t take care of your emotional well-being, your relationships will reflect that.  And if you are insecure and doubt yourself, it is only natural that you will enter into insecure relationships (romantic and otherwise).  If you cannot be comfortable in your own skin, then you will never be completely comfortable in your partner’s arms.  So, when your boyfriend tells you he wants to spend a weekend with his boys, your insecurity will hear “he doesn’t want to be with me”.  And when your girlfriend of two years suddenly develops a love for make-up and sexy underwear, your insecurity will assume she has met someone else because she couldn’t possibly doing this for you (or herself- heaven forbid!).    

Love for The Self is about being able to be honest enough to make the necessary changes because The Self attracts what The Self reflects:  beauty attracts beauty; confidence attracts confidence.  In as much as you want your partner to be successful (personally and professionally), so too does your partner want these things from you.  In order to create healthy relationships, we need to ensure that the standards we set for others are the same standards we set for ourselves.  We also need to accept that as much as we are flawed, so too is the next person and a relationship with them will require some kind of give and take. 

The Luyia people of Western Kenya have a saying:  “bad dancing does not break an engagement”.  What this means is that imperfection is not a reason for separation.  Nobody is perfect but that doesn’t mean we are unlovable, it just means that that list you drew up in primary school (and reworked in high school)  about the perfect guy should be more of a guideline as opposed to being a rulebook. But please don’t take that to mean that all imperfections are worth accepting because they’re not.  A bad dancer and an abusive person are two completely different things:  bad dancing we can compromise on; abuse we should never settle for!   

Even though love isn’t quite the Hollywood movie (actually it often has as many twists and turns as a Nollywood movie – hopefully without the often disappointing endings), that doesn’t make it less worth pursuing.  The hopeless romantic in me says throw caution to the wind!  Love like you’ve never hurt before, guard your heart – but never so fiercely that you cage it from its purpose – and be good to your SELF.  Put your sandals on, walk barefoot on the beach and be sprung!

 *FIRST PUBLISHED BY *  (September 2009)


A Debt is not a Loss Once one knows the Debtor

Filed under: From Consciousness straight to you — Vangi Gantsho @ 10:48

Janet Fitch once wrote that loneliness was the human condition but I have grown to believe that the human condition is in fact loss. Loss of loved ones, loss of possessions, and at times: loss of self. As human beings, we are constantly battling to hold on to what we hold dear, but no matter how much we fight, we cannot win all those battles. In fact, it was Benjamin Franklin who once wrote: “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes”.

Death is one of those things that one can never get used to. No matter who it is, no matter what the circumstance, there is no way to ever truly prepare oneself for it. In Xhosa we would say: ukufa akuqheleki. A friend of mine recently lost his mother to cancer, and even though it had become quite apparent that she wasn’t likely to win the battle; that blasted thing called hope made the loss unbearable. Because we can’t help but hope. We need to hope actually. As people, we need to believe that the doctors are wrong and God’s will is our own. Otherwise there isn’t much to hold on to. The thing about death that strikes me the most, however, is how much closer it brings us to our own mortality. It forces us to examine the paths we have chosen; what we will leave behind (and what happens next). There is nothing quite like a funeral to make you think of your own obituary. What will people say about you? How will you be remembered? Who (and what) will leave behind?

There are also a number of other kinds of loss though; like the loss of self. There is this young woman I know (let’s call her Thandi). For as long as I have known Thandi, she has always been an incredibly confident and secure woman: comfortable in her own skin; and most importantly, comfortable in her own self. But over the years, I have watched my friend lose her self. Slowly. Over the years, a bit too many encounters with unfortunate relationships (romantic and otherwise) took their toll on her and she found herself doubting her self more and more. Each rotten apple took with it a piece of her optimism and sense of worth. Work, friends, men… each one of them stole from her; and now she finds herself doubting all those things she used to take for granted. That she is beautiful. And LOVEly (and I’m not just saying all this because she’s my friend). But Thandi isn’t the only one. Many of us throw ourselves into our various relationships. We give all we have (and the idealist in me still maintains: rightfully so!) but sadly, don’t always get enough back. “So we love without caution/ and when that love is not returned/ we hurt without solace”

The Batembo people of the Democratic Republic of Congo have a saying: A debt is not a loss once one knows the debtor. This proverb actually speaks of physical debt, and is informed by the belief that debt is a way of sharing goods so that they are at the disposal of the community. So it is not a loss if it will benefit the community because someone else’s debt will also benefit you at some point. But I came across this saying a few weeks back and it resonated different meaning for me. My family recently suffered a great loss. A single car accident took two of my uncles and an aunt, leaving my one set cousins orphaned and another aunt widowed, pregnant and with a three year old son. But exactly 4 days after the accident, my aunt gave birth to a beautiful healthy baby boy. So when I can across this saying, it made me realise that even though the loss is great, we are also incredibly blessed. Being the God-loving person that I am, I believe that: the Lord does not take without giving. And when we lose to Him, we are not losing at all because when He gives, He gives in abundance.

We cannot foresee death. Nor can we always prevent it. Some things are just not within our control. All we can do is love and honour. We can love the ones we lose so that they rest in peace knowing that they were truly loved, and we can honour them. Honour their wishes and their spirits in the way we carry on. In that way, they are never truly lost. As for our selves… we need to be careful who we lose our selves to. Make sure that we guard ourselves from those who will take and never give back. Watch out for those who steal but don’t share. Be mindful of relationships that leave us in debt with selfish debtors.

In Loving memory of Siyabulela Mrwata, Daluxolo Mrwata and Sebang Mrwata. We will love, honour and cherish you always.


 *FIRST PUBLISHED BY *  (March 2010)


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