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Muse

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

BOOKED @ Muse: Ndoni Khanyile

Ndoni Khanyile

Ndoni Khanyile is a performer, writer and producer based in Johannesburg. Her theatre training at UCT started her stage career and she has had the opportunity to work with various directors and writers such as Mike van Graan, Jay Pather, Sean Mathias and John Kani. Ndoni has appeared in numerous commercials and made her television debut in the award winning mini-series, When we were Black directed by Khalo Matabane.

She recently returned from New York where she received a Master’s degree in Broadcast Journalism from Columbia University. Ndoni is a founding member of poetry group Rite 2 Speak. Since 2004, they have performed at numerous club gigs, corporate and government functions including a tour to Portugal to star in the South African embassy’s Heritage Day performance. She co-founded a film production company called Black Salt Productions in 2009.

When the muse caught up with Ndoni in Cape Town at a poetry project shoot for an international magazine, this well-travelled writer and dream worker was reading, among others, Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides and The Wisdom of Whores by Elizabeth Pisani. “Very different but both incredibly good reads!”

Poems

I want to get to know you better…
15 June 2009

In the photograph he is young and defiant.

He has a fire nurtured by Che, Nkrumah and Albert Luthuli burning inside him.

His eyes are intense and ready.
Although he does not know what lies ahead of him – he knows himself.
And he believes he is destined for great things.
This, somehow, he has always known.

He stands with his legs apart. Firm and resolute.

His face hides a smile but it finds it’s way into his eyes.

It is playful.
Maybe a secret message between him and the person behind the lens.

This young man is a stranger to me.
I look at him and feel tugs of familiarity. But, I’ve never met him.

His face shows no sign of the deep furrows that will one day be etched between his eyes.
There is no trace of the heavy burden of responsibility that will gradually powder his now pitch black head.
In that moment he is the possibility of everything that could ever happen to him.

This man is a stranger to me.

In the years that stretch between the photograph and now, he fills his life with travels, books and the promise of change to come.
The defiance of his youth is tested again and again and slowly ripened to resilience.
The early promise of greatness is fulfilled.
He is given life beyond himself and he watches his family grow.

Now, I look at him through the eyes of my own defiant youth and wonder how different the young man in the photograph is from me.

Did his resolve ever give way to doubt?
Did his belief in himself ever falter?
Most of all, I wonder what he would have thought of me. What subtle similarities would stand as proof of our shared blood?

I wish I could get to know him better.
I wish I could know the innermost thoughts and wants that lived inside.

I stare so hard at his face that my eyes start to water. I look into the eyes of the man now and they give nothing away.

His absences have brought with them silences.

I love him so deeply and know so little of him.
He gives so generously but shares with no one.

He is the superhero of my childhood bedtime stories

*

What She Gave Me
4 June 2009

I remember the eyes of my grandmother.
She was a wise woman of the soil who understood that to live off the land, it must be nurtured.

I remember her weather beaten hands that gently coerced all things to grow.
Her almost manly hands that fed, held, nursed and protected all those around her.

She loved the rolling hills of Kwazulu.
The hills she was born to and no matter where she went, she saw as the most beautiful.
Kwazulu – she said- was the closest you could get to the heavens.

I hold onto the wisdom of my grandmother.
It feeds my dreams of an abundant home my children and their children in turn can call their own.

I want my children to belong to the world and revel in the vast beauty to be found in every one of its corners.

I want them to feel connected to the root that birthed them on African soil.
Their legacy inherited from generation after generation.
A legacy of an ancient land – fertile and plentiful, abundant enough to feed all of its children.

I didn’t know it then but that wise old woman’s words and stories and the silent messages held deep in her eyes, where silently teaching me.
Patiently giving me precious gifts.
The journey of a life well lived for me to follow.
Her footprints that continue to guide me will stay, etched in these green hills.

It is my dream that all I was given,
All I enjoyed
All that I witnessed will be granted to those after me.

That my footprint will dig as deep into this soil as hers.

*

The Beautiful Ones

They said we were too young to speak the way we did.
To claim equality and freedom as our birthright,
but more, to have the courage to fight.

They said we were too young to stand up
and not wait until time healed the wounds.
Stand up against oppressors who would sneak through freedom’s back door.
Stand up against attackers who would steal our sense of security,
In darkened streets and forced open bedroom doors.

They say we are too young, but will we live to make the wait?
The young ones get closer to the front lines
as disease strikes the older and greed occupies the wiser.
We live in a world we didn’t choose
and being young, just means not having anything to lose.

I say, the beautiful ones have been born,
Not still born but premature,
our fate is none others but our own.

The stones of ’76 too quickly turned to dust,
so I put my courage in my hand and I raise my voice to say
I may be young but life has made me ready.

 

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