I remember reading an article by Milisuthando Bongela in the May 2017 issue of Destiny Magazine titled “In Praise of Feminism”. I admit that just like the author, I once had a misguided understanding of what feminism really is. Growing up I somehow related feminism with images of male-bashing, angry women who very seldom experienced vulnerability and who most certainly did not find much joy in being in intimate relationships with the opposite sex in the same manner that many “normal” women in society did. That was of course until I truly started to experience and engage with the world, reflecting on where and who I was as an individual in a society that already had a script of who I ought to be as a young black South African female.
Perhaps one of the most important realisations that I made was how many women have internalised this script, believing it to be true and natural and not really understanding how it impacts how we show up in the world, how we show up for others and most importantly how we show up for ourselves. I am reminded of Karl Marx’s theory of Alienation which expresses how the features of society, even though they seem natural and self-regulating, were created by past human actions. In as much as we are shaped by society, we have the ability and power to in turn also shape society.
As women we need to first truly start seeing and thinking of ourselves outside the confines of societal expectations and allow this thinking to effect positive and purposeful change. Yes, it is a fact that women are socially, politically and economically underrepresented and this is largely due to a long history of patriarchy and devaluation of women. But in today’s 21st century where we see women taking on leadership roles in various industries and others becoming successful entrepreneurs, many women still see themselves through the lenses which devalues their abilities and contribution to society. Nelson Mandela, in The Long Walk to Freedom, wrote “blacks must first liberate themselves from the sense of psychological inferiority”. Women in general and black women in particular need to liberate themselves from a sense of psychological inferiority. An inferiority that relates to our capabilities, value and overall existence. Yes, you can be a mother, wife and run an empire at the same. These things do not need to be mutually exclusive. Yes, you can choose to have a family later in life or choose not to have children at all. Your value and contribution to society does not diminish.
I urge us as women to not only recognise our power but also learn to stand in it. Feminism, I believe, starts with knowing and believing that we as women are valuable, powerful, talented and have a purpose. And then in truly knowing and believing this, creating platforms through which to fight for and establish equal opportunities of active engagement in an unequal society. In the words of Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie…We Should All Be Feminists!
Zamakhoza Khoza is a Human Resource specialist with a background in Psychology and Branding. She currently resides in Durban. One of her greatest passions, along with writing, is helping people reach their true potential through creation of a positive self-concept. She regards herself as an open-minded student of life.
I have been so excited about penning this article because I had the opportunity to interview one of the most phenomenal women I know, and I am so humbled that I get to do life with her.
Ladies and Gentlemen please allow me to introduce Dr Siphokazi Joy Ntetha (Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership – Pepperdine University).
So yesterday I had the great privilege of doing an unconventional interview in a Jacuzzi in California Los Angeles with Dr Ntetha. The unconventional nature of the interview is synonymous with Dr Ntetha as she is an unconventional scholar-practitioner who lives life outside the borders of normality. She embodies the true definition of ‘Black Excellence’. As its Africa Month we continuing to commemorate great stories and her life and work gives hope to the global village. This is her first interview since she received her doctorate this past Saturday and it is a great privilege and honour that PenTheVision was first in line for the interview and below we share highlights of the conversation.
Bongeka: Firstly, you’re looking very beautiful, *share laughs* I’m just so honoured that you gave us this time for us to get into your heart and mind. I think your life is real especially to those of us who are close to you. But to other people, they may look at the glamorous pictures on social media and think, ‘Wow, Joy is living it up in L.A’, which you are, I mean we in a Jacuzzi in LA- *share laughs* but I also know that you’ve gone through lows in your incredible journey. So my first question is, having gone through this journey, what is the one thing you know for sure?
Siphokazi: This is going to sound pretty hectic and I don’t know how to say this without sounding very gospel but I think for me the greatest truth is that this was a consecrated journey about divinity, purpose and daring to dream. What I know for sure is that God is real. And that he is everywhere. I know God is real because I’ve had the honour to experience His powerful and fearless spirit alive within me. There’s no way that I could have done this without that divine spirit in me. It’s so phenomenal to actually see the presence of God around the world. I’ve also experienced God through different representations of people that have come into my life. While I am not sure what it will look like exactly, I know in my gut that with this journey I am moving towards my calling.
Bongeka: That is powerful my friend and I was just thinking that you are the epitome of this whole movement around “wokeness” black excellence. But is there a difference between excellence and black excellence? Excellence is excellence right, should we put the word black in front of excellence?
Siphokazi: Yes, because unfortunately we live in a society where race dynamics are still a big social ill. But it’s not just a black and non black thing for me. At the core you know my thoughts around humanity. Yes colour is real, and colour is important, but as a humanity I feel like at the core we are all the same highly dignified human beings. We are vessels of divinity. Am I a representation of black excellence? Absolutely yes! Although, I do get a bit uncomfortable with the ‘hashtag black excellence’ because I feel it can be limiting and alienating, I understand why it’s important. I came in this form, in this beautiful, melanin radiant African butter for a reason (Bongeka- Halleluya sister) *share laughs*. I suppose I haven’t answered the question in a very straightforward way because I think it is a bit of a complex dynamic but it does boil down to a yes, excellence is excellence as you have said for sure, because that’s what I hope we strive for as a humanity. But black excellence is a very important thing for black people as we come into our rise at this point in time particularly.
Bongeka: There’s this book I’m reading titled “Advocates for Change- How to Overcome Africa’s Challenges” which notes amongst other books the crisis of leadership in Africa. This book highlights that Leadership requires at least three capabilities: 1.Capacity to innovate, 2. Ability to implement by mobilising the required resources; and 3. Capability to create followers. Looking at the work that you’re doing with the Connecting Greatness Organisation, would you agree that that’s what we probably need in Africa? And how does your work fit into that definition? if it does fit.
Siphokazi: Your points makes sense and they make me think of what Fred Swaniker of the African Leadership University is doing. The Connecting Greatness leadership definition is about a collective, holistic and inclusive leadership practice. And that is very different from what we have understood leadership to be. In my practice and research, I’ve found that the most important question when it comes to leadership is: What is leadership in service of? Let’s say in this case it’s in service of innovating for African Renaissance. Usually we expect to have that one main and stable leader, e.g. the president or CEO who is the visionary or transformational leader who then delegates to people to execute. But the emerging definition which Connecting Greatness hopes to foster includes a mindset shift from an individual leadership base to a collective leadership base where many people are able to influence the leadership process rather then participate through following commands. It’s about demonopolising leadership outside of formal positions and empowering individuals to participate in social influence.
Bongeka: I hear you and that sounds really good and its relevant, but how do we do that practically, especially in Africa?
Siphokazi: It’s already happening. It’s just that we’re not seeing it in that light and because we not seeing it in that light, we not evolving and growing to the highest potential of collective leadership. It begins with each individual seeing themselves as a leader with innate greatness and power to influence beyond your job title. And if a problem arises and I already see myself as a leader, I know that I’ve been given rights to do something about it, and not wait for commands. This means to some extent dismantling the expectation that someone else is going to do it. I mentioned ALU, because I love the work that they are already doing in this area. Its a developmental space for African Leaders. As students enrol, they’re not being asked what major they want to do, but ‘What’s your life mission? What’s the problem you want to solve in Africa? What’s your innovative idea that you want to implement in Africa? That becomes the major and everything else is in service to that, which encapsulates this collective and situated view of leadership.
This emerging understanding of leadership is referred to as post-heroic leadership, and powerful conversations are beginning to happen around the world about how the individual to collective shift in our understanding of leadership can work together as social influence. But in summary, all three points , innovation, implementation and follower-ship are key parts of creating a systemic view of leadership.
Bongeka: So I had this great privilege of attending the Pepperdine University graduation ceremony. The view of the ocean was magnificent and I so wish South African Graduation ceremonies were like that, * share laughs* Malibu is absolutely stunning…But for me what stood out the most (besides your Winnie Mandela moment with you on stage) was the Key Note speech by Dr Betty Uribe. I loved the simplicity yet powerfulness of Dr Betty’s speech. As a word of wisdom to the graduates she said, ‘You need to surround yourself with people who are kinder, people who are smarter and people who are more knowledgeable so that they challenge you to grow.’Who are the people in your village who challenge you to grow?
Siphokazi: Where do I begin? I love that question because at the core of my dissertation was the finding that I am because we are, ‘Ubuntu’. There are so many people who play such diverse roles in my life. And I love how Dr Betty said that its not only about only being around smartness but also kindness because that is something I learnt through my doctoral process. There are so many smart people around me because I’m such a sucker for smartness. But I’ve realised that the power of kindness is at the core of my village. Its the energy I’m drawn to, and it includes honesty, integrity, and courage.
My village begins at home with my grandmother who bought me my first computer, my mother who is so free spirited and supports my wild visions. The rest of my family also keeps me grounded. I have my two friends who are refer to as my ‘wives’, you and Zama – we challenge each other with a lot of humour and love. I love to laugh. We enjoy music and we just love exploring new things, we’re sitting in the Jacuzzi right now in L.A having this beautiful, intense, and meaningful conversation with a glass of wine. I’m big on work life integration and my ‘wives’ help me integrate my life. Loyalty and authenticity are also important factors of my village. I have the most beautiful friendships stemming back many years of growing together who embody that- unfortunately if you are not growing and challenging yourself, my relationship with you usually won’t last. My newly developed friendships have also been very deep and real – it feels like everything is coming together, and those who are in my life are exactly where they should be, a part of my village.
It’s been an amazing exchange of ideas, cultures, and energies with points of connection and beautiful diversity. And I think at the core of my village is the integration of our greatness.
Bongeka: It’s been such an honour to have you for two hours, my last question is, What is your message to yourself and what is your message to the world?
Siphokazi: I think as weird as it might sound my main message it, ‘Get intimate with your truth and follow it’. This is what my wife, Zama likes to say. I have overcome many of the challenges I have gone through because I continue to choose my truth. I continue to choose my truth because I’ve given it room to be louder than all other voices. The world has many ideas of who and how you should be, but the moment I connect with my truth is when I truly step into my authentic power.
My message to the world is the same message to myself. We are all connected. When we do not move towards actualising our greatness because of fear (or for what ever reason), we halt the process for others who need to connect to our greatness. There is something interesting that one of my professors said to me at the end of my graduation, she said ‘Siphokazi, I know that you are very humble and I can see that the attention is getting too much for you, but this is your moment in time so receive it. Going forward you are a Doctor and a Fulbright Scholar, use that, and don’t try to lessen the power of who you are. This does not mean you are letting it get to your head but you say that because its the truth of who you are right now’. And I just loved that, which is why I am choosing to own fully that I am indeed Dr Siphokazi Joy Ntetha.
To connect with Dr Siphokazi Joy Ntetha and the Connecting Greatness Organisation:
Facebook: Siphokazi Joy Ntetha
If you have been reading the recent PenTheVision posts, you will realize that we have been sharing columns that centre around African awakening and excellence. Well, today’s piece is no different.
25 May is commemorated as Africa Day and what better month than May to pen my thoughts for this year’s Africa Day.
My thoughts were sparked by a conversation I was having with a dear friend and something a journalist said over the radio that led me down memory lane. I remember going for a University tour as part of our exam for that Semester to Isandlwana where the battle of Isandlwana, known as the Anglo–Zulu War between the British Empire and the Zulu Kingdom took place. It was also a great victory for the Zulu Kingdom.
The gentlemen narrating the history to us was so amazingly eloquent in unpacking the powerful Zulu history and touched on the broader unpenned African history which I had never heard taught at school. He even went on to say that the kind of information he was sharing with us, we would never find penned in any African history book because it has been years of recollections he has gathered from people in the different African communities.
That trip, being on those mountains were blood was shed, and engaging with the incredible stories that were shared, changed my life and most importantly changed my perspective on what it truly meant to be African. But you know what was both heart-breaking and heart-warming about this experience, was our guide, the gentlemen passionate about this history and sharing with us, was a white man.
Look, initially I was very happy that a white man in South Africa would choose to live in the very rural part of Kwa-Zulu Natal and learn the Zulu language so well, but I was saddened that we Africans didn’t know or worse, care to know about such vital parts of our history.
For too long most African history at school, always focused on how the British Empire “civilised” Africa. Even the word “civilised” still needs to be further opposed because those who define what civilisation is, wear a ‘western’ hat.
The conversation I had with my dear friend sparked a realisation in me that I need to do something about this concern for our African history.
So, I am making a public commitment and I would like the broader community of like minded people to hold me accountable. I want to do a proper research, study, teaching and documentation of African history using different methods of gathering information to make sure I do justice to this process. This is not some “woke” sensationalism stunt, but a serious conviction in my heart to ensure that the next generation of Africans are fully equipped with the right and relevant history.
The term “woke” has become a popular buzz word that speaks to awakening, enlightenment and the celebration of our African heritage, but the reality is our parents and those before us have always been ‘woke’ it’s just that they never had the platforms to fully express their “wokeness”. Now that we do have these platforms, let us be deliberate in playing our part.
But enough with serious stuff – let’s take time to enjoy this Africa month in true African celebration style – whether you are doing the South African Vosho, or Nigerian Skelewu or Kenyan Isikuti or ZimbaweanJerusarema dance – just celebrate being an African – Viva Africa!
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A couple of weeks ago my friends and I went to watch a play titled SOPHIATOWN at the state theatre. Prior to watching the play, I didn’t have any expectations, but to just have fun. I had no idea that at the end of that play, it would unravel so much emotion in me.
Though it was an exceptional play, in fact top of the list in terms of plays I have watched. The cast, the music and the entire production were world class. But at the end of the play, I was so angry. I was angry that black South Africans have suffered so much in their native land at the hands of non-natives. I was angry that millions of our people lost their lives at the hands of an evil political system. I was even more angry that the history they taught us at school did not do justice to the intricacies of what really happened in the 1940s and 1950s.
To be honest, I don’t recall the history at school covering much about Sophiatown and other critical African history. In fact, we were always led to believe that Sophiatown was the epitome of the black enlightenment period due to the prime of Drum magazine and the Jazz culture.
My deeper knowledge of the history of Sophiatown was a few years ago when I was in University. It was only then, that I got to understand how the oppressive government of the time dismantled Sophiatown.
But I had to make peace with the anger I felt because when you realise that history can be forged to serve an agenda, you also feel empowered to influence public dialogues on how we can also own the ‘pen’ of history as this article seeks to achieve.
I assume also that maybe my emotions were sparked by the recent loss of Mama Winnine Madikizela -Mandela and the contradictory conversations that we have had post her passing. Also, the very critical and ever so important land conversation that we are having in South Africa now.
Reality is, those of us who are not in political or influential spaces can feel very overwhelmed and helpless about these conversations. We also want to contribute in making South Africa better and for me, one of the best ways to do that, is to influence in the space where you are.
Whether you actively or passively engage with what is happening in our society, one way or the other it will affect you. Let us not tire in wanting to redress past injustices, even if you don’t know what to do, don’t be too nonchalant about these things.
When I say Sophiatown Vuka, vuka meaning – “to awake”, all I am advocating for is that we will continue to remember the injustices of the past and dismantle “Economic Apartheid”. Watching the play rekindled a fire that reminded me that there are still important social ills to address in democratic South Africa.
If you wish to watch this amazing play, please visit the below website for more information:
In the past month we witnessed thousands of our young people graduating from Universities across our nation; South Africa. Most people who have worked towards achieving a degree will tell you how often we look forward to a graduation ceremony because it’s a great achievement that we get to share with our loved ones. We have always considered University graduation ceremonies to be very formal ceremonies whose proceedings are rooted in ancient Western culture. A few years ago, when we graduated, I would have never imagined anyone to do what was considered out of the “formal norm”; as I have witnessed our young graduates of the last two years do.
The only thing that we witnessed at our graduation ceremonies were, ululations and shouts of gratitude from our families and friends. I even remember telling my mom not to shout or ululate so as not to embarrass me, but of course mom didn’t listen, shout she did…hahaha.
Now that I look back I realise that it was wrong of me to define how she should celebrate her child’s achievement, after all she played a significant role in me accomplishing that degree and in our culture as Zulu’s and African’s our celebrations are always very expressive.
If you have been following the trends on social media, you know that graduation ceremonies in South Africa have taken a whole new meaning.
I was particularly intrigued by graduates of the University of KwaZulu Natal, seeing them proudly wearing their traditional Zulu attire and expressing their happiness through “ukusina” and “ukugiya” (traditional Zulu dance). This is an African way of celebrating, and in all social events in the African culture you are bound to see this kind of expressive behaviour. It is truly remarkable to witness!
Of course, some may feel that these displays of gratitude at University ceremonies may be a bit “disruptive” because everyone may want to do their own thing and reality is, somehow University graduation ceremonies should have a “formalised structure”.
However, I also believe that Universities are supposed to be hubs in which we constantly breeding new ideas and challenging the status quo. Young people are really redefining the status quo and if its disrupts the formalised proceedings, then so be it. No change or transformation comes without disruption. If indeed we are to rewrite the narrative of our higher academic institutions to serve the “woke” generation and contribute to our society then we welcome such “disruptions”.
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