Through Vangi-tinted glasses

Perspectives from an African


Undressing in front of the Window - a collection of poems by Vangi Gantsho

Undressing in front of the Window – a collection of poems by Vangi Gantsho

The journey to this collection has not been without many challenges, and in hindsight, I realise that the journey to Vangi has been equally filled with ups and downs.  But finally… Here we are!!!

It is with great pleasure that I introduce Undressing in front of the window – A collection of poems By Vangi Gantsho.

“The need and the quest to be listened to, and to be understood and valued as a serious-minded poet, is the deep-lying, and unuttered plea of every poet. Vangile Gantsho is no different; her works ring true as a testimony. This biographical anthology, despite traces of her stoic mettle and strong character, underscore that deep-lying, unuttered plea to be listened to and valued.” – Tamkhulu Don Mattera

I really am delighted to share this work with everyone.  It contains older poems such as I expect more from you, Talking Frankly and In the company of royals; as well as newer pieces like I will remember this forever and My favourite pair of All-Stars.  I believe in it with all my heart and have been so incredibly blessed to have the most amazing people walk with me on this journey.  Undressing in front of the Window has been edited by Phillippa Yaa De Villiers, proofread by Gillian Godsell and reviewed by former South African journalist, Miranda Strydom and award-winning musician, Gloria Bosman.  The beautiful cover was created by the talented Tanya Pretorius from Thursday’s Cat, from a photo originally taken by the photo therapist, Saddi Khali.

Watch this space for release dates!!!

Both electronic and physical copies will be available for sale from mid-May and I will be carrying a few copies with me on my Azania to DC tour. Undressing in front of the Window will also be available at various Protea Books across South Africa.




broken door January 13, 2015

broken door

on a taxi yesterday

I met a grey haired ghost with a rumbling silence

swollen, her belly brewed a hushed anger

a stillness of breaths

that remembered promises and children.

She told me of a dream she once had

a country she once carried.

she told me of twenty six days of night

how she imagined the sun and the sky

lay dreaming on a cement wetness

fought memories of a broken door 

her babies’ screams

one was five, the other three.

she could not allow herself to think of them

of what had happened to them.

she did not cry

nor was she cold

she could not tell me when exactly her womb had turned to lead

only that countries and children are a sorrow

worse than dying


in the Friday afternoon queue June 5, 2014

Filed under: #fortheloveofpoetry,Poems by Vangi — Vangi Gantsho @ 21:06
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In the Friday afternoon queue

a woman eats a sandwich
just bread. no butter. no milk
another keeps asking me the time
she has to fetch her granddaughter from crèche
says she had to wait for her madam to come back from work
couldn’t leave the children by themselves

i recognize Mme Gladys, a few people ahead of me
she works as a teller at the BP garage
her husband left her sometime last year
after she had her ovaries removed
said he couldn’t be with someone
who wouldn’t be able to have children

he is sixty one
they have two boys and a daughter

in the past thirty minutes
only one taxi has passed
Mme Gladys is now at the front of the queue
this makes me happy
she’s been through so much already

there are only two men in this line
many men walk past
all in some kind of a rush
Some carrying black plastic bags
i remember that it’s Friday

if a taxi doesn’t come soon
i will be late for my date

feels quite insignificant though
considering these women
who have spent all day cleaning
and ironing

they still need to cook
and wash their grandchildren.
service their men, maybe


I miss you sometimes February 5, 2014

Filed under: Poems by Vangi — Vangi Gantsho @ 06:20

(For Lindelwa and her Siya, who were separated too soon)


I miss you sometimes

Not all the time

Like now

And yesterday

And on Sunday when the light bulb fused

and I had to change it myself


I miss you sometimes

 Your sons keep asking me about daddy

 And heaven is so abstract

Even I struggle to understand what God means


He says you are with us in spirit


I want you here

With me


I really do miss you sometimes

Like now

And yesterday

And last month when the car wouldn’t start

You weren’t particularly good at getting it to start, really

 But you tried and I enjoyed watching you try


I just miss you sometimes

Most times

When my tears leave stains on my face

And my sorrow feels like it’s swallowing me whole

And I can’t get out of bed, or even pray for this too to pass


I really do miss you sometimes

And it’s not even just the sad

Sometimes I look at your boys and they remind me so much of you

Like how protective you were

Or how I just know Lutho’s gonna grow up

to be the silent powerful type

Or how they make me laugh and enjoy and heal


But I still miss you sometimes

(Siyabulela Mrwata:  19/06/1976 – 05/02/2010)


we hold you fiercely December 14, 2013

We hold you fiercely

As our own

Of our blood

Spilt over 300 years of looting

You are ours

Our forgiveness.  Our tolerance

Our pain and loss

We will bury pieces of you

Everywhere our blood has ever poured 

Give parts of you to everyone who has had to forgive

Mkhonto we sizwe sethu

This is a time for mourning

For grieving

Scars that have not healed

Prayers, sons, daughters.  Loss

27 days of darkness

Giving 67 years of black



Our boxer, father

Tata we sizwe sethu

We will remember you

Honour you

Teach our hearts to forgive like you

But before then

You must be ours!

Let us have mourning

Let us grieve the rebellious terrorist

No one claims to have hunted down

We loved you under a Lilliesleaf

EQunu.  Entabeni

Before prisons


On principle



the boxer


I want to speak to my children May 29, 2012

Filed under: Poems by Vangi — Vangi Gantsho @ 13:55

I want to speak to my children

Those who have been forced out of their homes in the middle of the night

and those who remain sleeping, warm, in comfortable beds

Those who walk barefoot towards uncertain futures

Those who have been swept under Exile’s carpet

I want to speak to the youth of 76

the children of Sierra Leone

the Lost Boys of Sudan

I want to hold each one of them in my arms

Whisper courage into their ears

Tell them that they will spark revolutions

Stand as a constant reminder of our need to repent

I want to assure them that God has not grown tired of them

That their homes, though broken, are not beyond repair

Come to me my little ones

My beautiful ones, come to me

Ours is the bond of mother and child

Deeply rooted in the Cradle of Humankind

Creation flows through our blood reaching far beyond the Sahara and the Kalahari

You, little Anathi’s and Adewale’s

Need to be told of the Nubian truth

of how the Kush decorated our homes

filled them with art and knowledge and architecture

and walls that were books

You need to know that you come from a people who spoke with stars

long before they were sold astrology

Bring me my children

Let them come and sit at my feet.  Ndizakubabalisela iintsomi

I want to tell them tales of magnificent battles where their fathers were heroes

Paint them a portrait of Isandlwana

Then take them to El Obeid and Sheykan

Then I want to journey with them to the beautiful forgotten land of Adwa

Where Menelik and Taitu won a colossal victory

against the dark forces of colonialism

I need my children to know that we have our own epic stories

That Ghandor is in Africa

That they are the lions’ historians

Lions who have left many scars of the face of the audacious hunt

And when my children sleep

I want my children to dream

I want them to dream of the courageous Yaa Asantewa

and the beautiful Queen Makeda

Dream of Kemet and Songhay and Timbuktu

of Nkruma and Nyerere and Lumumba

Then I want them to awake!

And to write!

I want my children to write for Gaddafi and the South Sudan

For Zimbabwe and the DRC

For the African Union and about the International Criminal Court

I want my children to tell our tales through fresh discerning eyes

To imagine and dream on our behalves.

Dream for yourselves then tell us what is to be

my young lion scribes

Call all my children to me

Tell them to come home

Tell them youth is purpose

Tell them to learn and to remember

That although history has already been told

They are the authors of our tomorrow




As we have always been


By Vangile Gantsho ©


I will learn to pray for you March 22, 2012

Filed under: Poems by Vangi — Vangi Gantsho @ 23:41

I will pray for you
In my anger
I will pray for you
That one day you will keep the promises you made
that day four years ago
When I gave you a cross
and in return you told me things would be different
Then turned around and hurt me
Lied to me
Stole from me
You came into my house and stole my curtains
Exposed my poverty for the world to see
You drank expensive wine
and spilt it on my tattered couch
laughed at me when I told you
I didn’t have ice
because I didn’t have water
or a fridge
And when I gave you my last slice of bread
As if to make fun,
You demanded I serve it with jam on a crystal plate

But I will learn to pray for you
I will tell my heart that next year
things will be different
I will give you my cross again
I will walk barefoot to the tent in the burnt down veld
I will ignore the dilapidated school
or bustling bottle store
I will quell my anger when my feet hurt
from the heat and gravel stones
And I will teach my heart to pray for you

Because that’s what my mother taught me
And that’s what her mother taught her

I just hope that THIS TIME, God is listening.

By Vangile Gantsho ©


Peasants Paint Scorched Vines February 28, 2012

Filed under: Poems by Vangi — Vangi Gantsho @ 12:41

This is the price that often comes with true love.  For the brave few who dare to love completely, it’s a risk we take…that our love might not be returned.  And the pain that comes with that.  That is the pain that no one can comfort us from.  It is the pain that we must live through, and often we feel the only way to do that is through regret.  Perhaps by turning the love into some bad memory we once had, we can change the past and make it easier to walk away…but in actual truth, we just ruin a perfectly pure and memorable life-long experience.


Peasants Paint Scorched Vines


Peasants weep as jesters for the king

and artists must die

to give their masterpieces life

In a world that should have

that could have

I learnt that even the gentle flame

can bring harm to the finest of vines

when we don’t




I love you in ways my sorrow

cannot forgive

from a deep pit within my chest

that distances itself from

my rational

I have carved you a throne

crowned you king and

fallen victim to the tyranny

of your absence.

You have made me that peasant

who weeps for mercy

at emerald phones

constantly rejected by servants

who bask in the poetry of your presence

and snicker at this girl

who has forgotten her place


I love you in ways my sleepless nights

cannot overlook

beyond glistening eyelids

and imaginations that

spark hope

I have painted You, my portrait

framed You, my masterpiece

neglected in the basements

of your absence.

You have gathered dust awaiting my death

Your betrayal will emerge when I have passed

some random vagabond will remove my dust

and relish in the fortunes of your smile…

never knowing the artist

behind the frame that so selflessly

makes you worth that extra rand


And I realise now


I should have burnt you at the stake

before you said hello

thrown your charms into the furnace

before your heat kissed my skin

before your flames devoured my cave

I should never have let you

paint my breasts

with possibilities of red and orange

I should have forbidden you from filling my head

with thick grey lies




You could have been gentler with my vines

With some compassion

our harvests could have produced bottles

of TrueLove’s finest

With only the slightest commitment

you could have sipped

the richness of fermented affections                                                            and

if that was not your wish…

you could have simply left

Instead of watching me mature

into this sad bottle of nothingness.


And I know now that


Peasants do indeed weep

as jesters for the king

and artists must truly die

to give their masterpieces life

In a world that should have

that could have

I learnt that even the gentlest of flames

can bring ruin to the finest vines

when we don’t.


So we love without caution

And when that love is not


we hurt without solace


                                                By:  Vangile Gantsho ©


You gotta walk, run and dance in my shoes, before you can tell me what to do

Filed under: Poems by Vangi — Vangi Gantsho @ 12:39

Being woman is many things to different people. For some, it is that deep connection to life: that mothering – your womb is umbilically-connectected to the source of the earth – new ageism. For others it’s diapers, and groceries and bills; or power suits, and boardrooms. But to me, it’s shoes. Heels, wedges, stilettos, sneakers and boots; different shoes for different occasions. Nothing defines being a woman, to me, more than shoes. The shoes we own, the ones we want and the ones we know we can never afford; shoes can make a woman smile like she’s won the lotto or cry like she’s just found out her soul mate married her high school nemesis. It really doesn’t get more woman than shoes.

But before your read this poem, remember: as sad as some lessons may be, the beauty is in learning, loving and healing. Be blessed.

Heavy Souls in New Shoes


I took a few steps

and soon learned that

the walk through womanhood

would leave me corned and blistered

That my shoes would rip

and I would patch

and they would break

and I would limp

That my heels would crack

my souls would wear thin

and the road would be cruel

I learned that

there is more gravel than tar

and falling on either hurts like hell

that stilettos sink in grass

and stuck in mud

and even walking in wedges is difficult

That flats cause flat-foot

Sneakers get sweaty

and boots never fit my calves

I have learned that

one must crawl before

one walks before

one falls before

one starts all over again


I have learned that for every


there are girls in youthful skirts

exposing innocent thighs

to predator loins

That these BABIES grow corns

in Guess knock-offs

find themselves knocked up

and blistered on gravel roads

Coz Lebo said it right?

Tits in Jozi are a bitch!

Hell! Tits. Period.

heavy with milk to feed

suckling sugar-daddies

and produce bastard babies

who will in turn

be tormented

by perverted boys


For every

graceful stride

I have seen [perhaps been] post-puberty younglings

throw caution to the wind

and dance to intoxicating

drums while telling virginal lies

after being sold to 50year old kings

These NOT-YET-LADIES grew corns

in On Sale stilettos

sailed through strangers’ beds

found themselves passed-out

and plagued

by:          could-haves



but have none


You see,

Their heels broke

and the fall was hard

It forced faithful wives

onto ARVs,


soon-to-be abandoned babies


grow corns

in Green-Cross flats

they remain without child

in fear their blistered wombs

will bear damaged victims

or heartless villains

So they take off their shoes

tip-toe around

egos of mid-life insecurities

and sneak into early graves

coz shoes without feet

grow cobwebs

and rot barren deaths


But the saddest lesson learnt:

there is no finish line

though our strides remain hopeful

the corns hurt

And the blisters spread

And our heels don’t always walk on carpets

And the tiles are always slippery

I have learned that the walk through womanhood

is Cinderella


desperately hoping

for Prince Charming

to return her glass slipper



By:  Vangile Gantsho ©


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