I moved to Johannesburg, South Africa when I was 24. There I was catapulted right into the belly of a country that was still grappling with its traumatic racial history. It was fascinating to be inside history itself, to be confronted by questions of what it meant to heal a whole nation; of what reconciliation looked like when people were still highly reactive to the pain that seemed to live right under the surface of the skin; questions around what it meant to be a second class human being.
As a student, I enjoyed untangling these questions in the safety of a classroom but I remember the day it stopped being about theory for me. I was in my international relations class where we were discussing the Truth and Reconciliation process that South Africa had undergone when an altercation between my black South African and White South African classmates erupted. It drew a line right in the centre of the room separating class into Us versus Them. Aside from the racism I experienced at the grocery store, on street-corners and in public spaces I had not witnessed such raw anger and pain. That day, my relationship to the country, its politics and social history changed forever.
When I was 27 I moved to Australia. That began a hard and interesting journey of trying to find my place and significance in a world where I, for the most part, felt invisible. Being black and female overshadowed my beauty, my skills and my contribution. I had to learn how to see myself; to become visible. Something I realised I had never been taught before, not in the way that it mattered.
Australia is a beautiful country, just like South Africa. But we have this misconception about beautiful countries – that somehow their beauty is synonymous with perfection, acceptance and belonging. In fact, the treacherous journey of trying to belong to countries is what has taught me how to belong to myself first and foremost; and perhaps most importantly, how to belong to the human race; how to be human.
I used to believe in and fight for a kind of justice that was mainly focused on changing our external environments. This is what I was taught. This is a very rational, academic and masculine approach. I tried to make it work, I really did but something always felt like it was falling through the cracks. After many years of personal development; a PhD in cultural studies and working with people in their day to day mess and magic, I have come to see that true and sustainable justice is only possible if it is embodied. This is to say, to create a just world we have to be just ourselves. This is what I now advocate. And this is what I love with every part of my whole being.
I live in Melbourne with my lovely plants, Molly, Bella and Oz.