by Lerato Dumse
Photos by Collen Mfazwe/ Inkanyiso
Where: Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria
In what: Graduated with a BTech in Journalism
While walking off stage at Gencor Hall after graduating from the Tshwane University of Technology on April 20 2015, I found myself thinking about how the graduation process is no different from a ride at an amusement park.
You must first wait for your turn to come, when it does it lasts for a short time before the “ride” is over and you walk off the stage, back to reality. However I had to look on the other hand how knowing that the process takes a short time forces you to stop, think, observe, appreciate, heal from and honour those moments, knowing they will never come again.
Before walking on stage I tried to reflect on years of hard work and suffering while pursuing an education, I did this so I could say to myself “it was all worth it.”
I must admit that when I saw my mother shout something I could not make out from her seat, beaming with pride, filled with happiness and appreciation on her face, it made me realized that I had done something right. I believe at that moment she was also saying “it was all worth it”. So I took a deep breath and prepared myself after I had passed my name card, waiting for my name to be called so I could walk across that stage and hopefully drop the load on my shoulder.
For some, graduating announces the end of the day in academic pursuit, with the next focus being the reality of now trying to get this paper to work for you, and give you that comfortable life you have dreamt of. While for thrill seekers, the end of the ride means getting right back on another more adventurous ride chasing a higher level or thrill. The first time I ever attended a graduation ceremony was when I received National Diploma in Journalism and that was in 2012. By then I had already registered for a Baccalaureus Technologiae in Journalism (B-Tech Journalism), so on the day of the 2012 graduation I was fascinated by candidates receiving their B-Tech certificates.
Two days before graduation I returned to South Africa from London. I travelled there to attend Zanele Muholi’s exhibition at The Photographers’ Gallery. The day before graduation I went shopping with my mother. Knowing my lack of fashion sense and interest, she was worried that I would not dress up for the special occasion on Monday.
Seeing as though I was playing it cool, not wanting to show my excitement, mom took full advantage at the opportunity to be excited for the both of us. She was very pleased with the outfit we put together, and unlike our previous shopping experiences, we kept the disagreements at a minimal (doubt they will ever be non-existent).
My biggest anxiety about the day was a result of thoughts about being late and delays such as accidents and broken down taxis, or my name not appearing on the list. So when I finally walked inside the hall and took my seat, I was at peace. I tried very hard not to cry, even though I was overwhelmed by what I suspect to be tears of joy. My mind was flooded by thoughts of all the special people I wished could have attended. My late great-grandmother Ma Ndlovu raised me and laid my foundation to be strong. She always boosted my determination, confidence and the will to succeed. When good things happen in my life I think of her and what she would be saying.
I was supposed to have graduated last year (2014) but couldn’t because of outstanding fees. So when Muholi paid the outstanding amount as part of my 26th birthday, it meant I could be part of this graduation service. I also hoped she would be at the graduation ceremony, so she could witness how the contribution she made helped to make this day happen.
I don’t see myself differently since graduating; I have just been reminded of the mammoth task that lies ahead, in which we try to change the status quo that still controls our African country and continent.
Graduation ceremonies alone, remind you of just how much our country and education system remain untransformed. After buying your books from Van Schaik, who is celebrating 100 years of publishing, you buy or hire your graduation attire at Dippenaar & Reinecke which according to their website have been around for the past 77 years. It is the oldest supplier of academic attire in South Africa. They also boast about having supplied robes to Dr Nelson Mandela, Dr Thabo Mbeki, Tito Mboweni, Mathews Phosa and Cyril Ramaphosa.
Only Gordon Harris captures our photos, this rule is enforced to the point that the camera we had, with fellow Faces and Phases participant Collen Mfazwe, was confiscated at the gate. These companies have smaller BEE companies as sub contractors, and sadly these BEE companies seem to be happy with being sub-contractors.
My mind kept thinking, “three days after graduation I will be attending a documentary screening which covers the story of the brutal murder of Noxolo Nogwaza in my community in 2011.” I can’t help but remember how in 2011 I was doing my final year attempting to obtain a Diploma in Journalism. How that 2011 murder made fresh the wounds of Eudy Simelane’s 2008 murder which happened less than 10 kilometres from Noxolo’s, in the same month. I want to celebrate but I think about how all this excitement in my family could be turned into tears, simply because someone does not agree with my sexuality.
Before the ceremony ended we were reminded that it is now up to us, to share the skills we have learned with others. It made me think of the career path that I have chosen, and I realised that I feel content with the direction I have chosen. Today is one of those days that I get to write about something that really gives me joy, and I appreciate it, writing about hate crimes is really not enjoyable.
About Lerato Dumse
Lerato Dumse is a writer, journalist, copy editor and activist, who is passionate about documenting LGBTI’s lives in and outside her hometown of Kwa-Thema. She studied Journalism at Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), obtaining a BTech degree.
Her work experience includes reporting for Ekurhuleni News, The Springs and Brakpan Advertiser, African Reporter, and also assisted in producing for a radio programme called Power Life, which is aired weekdays on Power FM. Some of her work is also available from different gender and sexuality based organisations she has written for on a freelance basis, such as Free Gender and Gender Links.
Lerato currently works as a publicist for the on going Faces and Phases project, and is also a participant, featured in the recently published, Faces and Phases 2006-14 photo book.
She joined Inkanyiso (www.inkanyiso.org) in 2013 working as a journalist and editor. The organisation is a queer & visual (activism) based media, founded in 2009 by photographer, Zanele Muholi. Lerato will report daily on activities taking place at the FORMAT International Photography Festival, and articles will posted on Inkanyiso.
The number of likes and comments she received on her facebook page…