VAGUE (Am I beautiful?)

written pieces by Stephanie Wanga titled 'Am I beautiful?' and 'The Mind speaks' by Wangui Kinyua

VAGUE (ft. Koketso Mbuli, Stephanie Wanga, Wangui Kinyua, Scott Dani),

'Am I beautiful?'

Am I beautiful, I ask the tall dark handsome man I am staring at as he stares at the other girl, eyebrows done and buttocks otherworldly.

Am I beautiful, I ask as he asks her whether he can get her a drink. I am hovering around the two of them, laughing louder than she does at the jokes he cracks and being all too pleasant. I raise my voice, speaking to him as he tries to speak to her, not even seeing me, looking at her as he answers me.

Am I beautiful, I ask as I refuse to invite you for the party because my friend Emma will be there, and I know you would like her. Her skin is light and buttery. Her hair is all loose curls and glory. Her presence is something like disturbing. I cower before her, cover my nose as I laugh with her, nose wide as my widening inadequacy.

Am I beautiful, I ask as I stare at our chat on WhatsApp, stare at it waiting to see you online, waiting to prove that you are ignoring me after all. I stare at our chat wondering if you might still ignore me if I looked like that girl we saw the other day – aloof and flat-stomached, lipsticked and calm, weave long and flowing, a girl well done.

Am I beautiful now, I ask as I have finally let you get away with my body. Sweat. Passion. The systematic disappearance of my soul. Methodical. Brilliant. Devastating. Am I beautiful now?

I lie flat on my back now, my tongue tired of the asking. I close my eyes, feel the sun warm on the lids of them, and say, I am tired.

I say, I am tired of contorting my body into an acceptable shape, of caging my laughter within the walls of my hands, of stretching myself to meet you wherever you may be, of asking for your permission to look the way I came.

I say, I am tired of hungrily studying the ten things I could do with my hair that would get you to look at me, the 5 ways I could pretend that I do not look like I do. I twist my head to feel the sunshine just a little bit more as I refuse to take note of your awareness of the unevenness of my skin tone. I refuse to bow when I see you looking at me, looking at me as if my originality is a problem, in fact your problem to solve.

I open my eyes and look at you as you try to make me share your problems, as you try to plant un-freedoms in the soils of my soul. I look at you as you tell me, “Here is how we can fix this issue of you.” I look at you and tell you – in a tone of voice that is a refusal to whisper – that my existence is not a thing contingent on your preference, I am not a recipe gone wrong, fixable in 3 easy steps. I am full, wonderfully full, teeming with oddities and regularities, I am neither wrong nor right, I am only real, only human.

I look inside me and laugh at the enemy within. I leave my scars on display as an act of daring, an act of disturbance, an act of protest, an act of life. I am choosing not to call myself a mistake, nor to lord my reality above the realities of others, I am only choosing to claim all I am, and to call it fine.


'The mind speaks'

Flabby tummy, aligned stretch marks, peachy breast, the phat ass, don’t forget the kinky hair and fuller lips. Black woman?

In a world where ‘No!’ is a more common word, you tend to live your life apologetic and in fear.

‘A woman should not be in the presence of men talking. A woman should learn how to cook and take care of her husband. A woman cannot drive as well as a man. A woman should be in the kitchen. A woman should stay home and take care of the house. A woman should give birth before she is old wood. A woman should get married before she is old wood. A woman cannot be a photographer, a pilot, a tout. A woman should not... A woman should...’

God forbid you went contrary to what is expected! Relax you won’t die. No! You will just be excluded from society. Seen as an omen. Not that it’s paradise this society. No. But there is a need for acceptance we human beings have. Need to belong. I wonder who taught us that in order for you to belong you have to lose yourself. Humanity has a new meaning now. ‘Same is good.’

Everywhere you go some female wants to be like another. We forget that difference makes whole. I blame myself for not having a cock size self esteem. I mean I give myself the permission to doubt.

I speak of women because I am one. How can I let someone else speak of a story that only I can tell. We let men put out stereotypes of how we should be, what figure we should have, what age we should be. Until we ourselves give the limitation of how we should be.

I have not come here to hate on men. That in itself would be foolish and unintelligent. I have come here to demolish stereotypes. To tell my story. As a woman. And to seek a different perspective of how to speak of the world. The world is not just a place to survive, it’s a place to put your mark on, a place to live.

As a child of the universe, I now seek a new world