2015 Nov. 25: My words are the ink in my blood

by Phila Mbanjwa

I have found peace through these words from my heart. They are not only inspired by life and love experiences, but form part of what society lives through everyday.

I have seen lives ended and dreams shattered. Promising futures wasted by wrong decisions that felt right but were in fact wrong decisions. While some stories remain untold. Words shattered because we think the world is not listening.
How can you listen to silence?

My love for words…

I discovered that I could write when I started listening to hip-hop with my older brother Skhumbuzo. There was a cd with all the old school hip hop legends, but the one song I loved the most was track 16, Eminem singing, ‘Cleanin’ out my closet.’ Even though the language was explicit, he told his story. I wanted to tell mine. But what was it?

It took me about 2 weeks to know the lyrics and when I rapped alongside him, I felt such great power coming from within my chest; people were dancing to the beat of a crazed drummer.

Growing up I had this crazy mean streak and hip-hop lit up the fire and the words would just spill. I usually wrote about AIDS, as it was a relative topic to write at that time.


Thobe & Phila (2012) Photo by Zanele Muholi, to appear as a cover photo in Queer Africa Reader edited by Sokari Ekine & Hakima Abbas

Thobe & Phila (2012)
Photo by Zanele Muholi,
to appear as a cover photo in Queer Africa Reader edited by Sokari Ekine & Hakima Abbas

My love for writing grew a step further when I got into township theatre with my cousins. We formed a group called Silwanakho, which was raising awareness about AIDS, TB and rape. No topic was off limits when I started writing the scripts for our performances. We performed at a Sunday School Rally, with my 4 cousins, Ziyanda Mhlongo, Bongeka Kunene and Amanda Mdletshe.

Our group grew from there. The boys in our hood were keen to join us. I had to broaden my writing by including male characters. My family was very supportive of our drama group; we rehearsed at home because our lounge was very big. We were approached by my former Primary School to perform at an event they were hosting. The scripts were already in place. I played lead, but because I was also directing I decided to give my older cousin, Nomfundo Dlamini the lead role. Everybody was involved, even my 6-month-old cousin had a part, she cried in all the right cues. The performance was out of this world, with great improvisation by the other actresses and actors. We received a standing ovation and an advance invitation to the Heritage Day Event hosted on September every year.

Weeks passed, we went back to our old schedule of rehearsals, and we became a family rather than a drama group. As much as I was directing and writing, my sister took charge of the group. We were young but we were growing up, and fast. The choices we then made became a repelling force to the group. Relationships started in and outside of the group, Priorities changed and changed fast. We no longer saw each other as sisters and brothers, but we saw romantic compatibilities. Soon the group dissolved. One by one we fell off.

The ink in my blood found comfort in love. I lived and breathed my partner’s words. I became a love poet, because of the woman who completed and inspired me. I was fired by her passion and my success. We kept going; just as dust fizzles carried by the wind go back to the soil. We had our flaws and we fell out, and the anger could only be expressed by the ink on the paper. I saw and painted demons with my words. I murdered, burnt and raged on every paper exposed to me at any moment. As dust returns to the soil, waiting for the perfect gust of wind. The year was 2011 and I had stopped writing. My last piece was ‘’I see demons.” I still remember it because my heart just kept on thinking of murdering her.

I see demons

The knives lay there sharpened
Fires blaze, from the wood
Fired up by the demons lurking me
Eating out my flesh, snapping my veins
I die with you.
Whispering words of blood
The thought of your name, filled my nose with
The pungent smell of your stale blood,
The rope lays there waiting to embrace your body
While my demons devour you by cut burning flesh
As I see you scream
I see my demons in you,
And I carry yours in me,
Tearing up my flesh,
Gunning for my heart
Inviting death to make love to me.
The screams of anger and rage from my mouth.
The blood I still smell. I can also smell your rotting body
I hear the worms feasting on my monster in a cold dark place,
As your demons devour me,
Creating an immortal soul in me,
A hardened heart of cold stone grows within me.
The knives are sharpened
The fire blazes
I smell your blood and rotting skin

In 2012 I was shattered, I could not write, the fire was gone, I moved to Durban, worked on healing from the tough breakup. I was a mess but I needed to be strong. I cried myself to sleep some nights, while smoking became a habit. I lost weight, I tried writing with no luck, and my mouth just couldn’t utter the words to be put on paper. I had made myself a poet of love; all my creativity had placed it in the hands of someone else.  I stopped writing, even my Facebook posts changed from anger to just a daily status update of a clueless girl.

I started writing again in 2013, but I was not writing for me. I had told my partner that I can write, ‘’I’m a calligrapher’’, I said.

I wrote:

May the dust not carry my name to leave it in the dust,
As I become the soil, but let me live.
Carrying your name, for I know that my love is
And you are forever mine

Typical, isn’t?
I was writing about love after all my years of drying up, was the piece appreciated?
Was it approved?
Did it make me happy?
The overall answer to all the questions was no.

I rested, resorted to living a normal life in the countryside, Ladysmith. I wish I could say I miss that place, but I don’t.
Yes, I appreciate the growth maturity and responsibility it brought to my life, because I was a loose cannon at times. One needs to slow down, but there my life came to a halt.
No writings for 2 years, I was just breezing through life, with the pain and unfinished business of my past. For my growth I needed to face my demons, and there is only one way I fought my demons and defeated them. It is through a pen and paper.

I ignored the adrenaline of grabbing a pen and murdering souls and facing my own demons.
Just as my favorite rapper said, ‘’I’m cleaning out my closet.” All the skeletons and pots of black blood had to be thrown out. It was not until May 2015, when I was invited to the first ever Yithi Laba Intergenerational Conference in Johannesburg, by Zanele Muholi, Lerato Dumse and the rest of Inkanyiso group; when I got the invite I kept saying, I don’t want to talk about my job, I just work to shop. I went back to an old piece I wrote for Inkanyiso in 2012 for Zanele Muholi. As I read through it, I found myself; I could feel something I had not felt for years. I felt the thunder in my chest.

I owed it to myself to release the pain because it was no longer anger. I had to share to lift the burden of pain off my heart, I questioned my strong character and personality, was it a coping mechanism?
I found myself writing

“Where I died”

Bottles were always popped
we club hoped all night
I was always high
High on weed
Drunk in love
Your love my weakness
the night was always young and we were

I spent my youth falling in love
with u.
With u I lived a thousand words
Ngakubiza nkondlo yami ebhalwe emzimbeni wami.
I lived a thousand years whether ngingaphezulu or ngingaphansi kwakho
I thought my loving u was my life but now when I am gone from this
I now know where I died
I remember.

You sang for me and took my breath away.
I gave up life to live at your side
your side made me alive until the day
I looked in the eyes of the monster.
The monster I loved.

“A lovers quarrel will strengthen a relationship”
U will say we are stronger today than we were yesterday.
Because yesterday I saw your weakness I saw the vulnerability in your eyes.
With each fist I got.
Evoked a fire that rekindle a love so deep that I fell in love
I lived a thousand years whether ngingaphezulu or ngingaphansi kwakho.
I thought I lived but what the love I thought was.
Was my grave.
I lived in my grave when I thought I lived a thousand years. Ngingaphezu or ngingaphansi kwakho.
I chose to stay decorated with black and blue because a part of me believed.
I lived everytime I was the punches were delivered.
I remember when I died
I died when I chose to love my abuser.”

I felt my heart pounding, A warmth caressed my face, warmth of my tears, I thought of what I did not only to myself, but to my family, it took one piece to find me, I found myself crying, emotional, not even thinking about the bruises, the kicks and punches. I wanted to pray but the pain in my chest wouldn’t let me. I reflected on the things I had done, all the anger and wrath that I held in my heart.

Praying seemed hard, so I thought let me tell Him through a gift He gave me, how I really feel.

I was afraid to seek my God

I am afraid to seek my God
I was and I still am afraid to seek my Saviour
My God,
When my heart is so heavy with hatred
How would He look at me?
For I am dirty and heavy hearted

 They say His arms are the resting place for those in despair
But my head defies defeat
I know He walks with me
Even in the shadow of death
He walks with me,
He holds my hands
Even when I walk with the stains, scars and tears the world can’t see,
He sees my bare soul
A soul that longs for Him, but still holds the pain and heavy heart
That breathes fire at the sight of possible hurt
I am still afraid to seek my God

 I remember when He got me
He held me so close, so tight
Even when I screamed and cried
Akazange angidedele,
(He didn’t let go of me)
He held me so tight so close

 The warmth of His love
I felt it
Stroke by stroke
I felt and was touched by the heavens

Yet today I am still afraid to seek him
Find him, be one with Him

With this heavy heart take me and cleanse me
I have felt His love
All the way through but with the demons I carry on purpose
They take me away from His love
They drag me into this deepest dark turmoil of hatred
I am afraid to seek my God
Though I have felt his love before, my heavy heart takes me away from it
With all this pain I carry I am afraid to seek my God

After writing this piece, I felt at ease, a better person than I was.

I had gone through turmoil, self-inflicted and a part of growing up, yet I still have a whole lot of growing up to do.

I continued writing for the Yithi Laba Intergenerational Conference. I felt that it was the platform to share my journey of abuse through my words.

We find ourselves in crowds where we have to shout for attention, The Yithi Laba members just listened, I was me, uMaMbanjwa, once again I had a piece written from the heart and personal experience. Through all I have been through, never even now do I wish it on another human being. I was ready to talk and be listened to. I was read to share about:

 The Price of False love

 Sinikeza abantu ubuthina
Sizinikele all in the sake of being loved
We sell ourselves short
Just to belong

 Ukuze silale sibanjiwe
Kodwa sikhala izinyembezi
Sizenza izigqila zothando siphenduke izigqila zocansi
Ukuze kujabule lo esizitshela ukuthi uyasithanda

 For the sake of forged happiness we carry the most hurt and pain inside
Insecurities of not being good enough,
You second guess yourself
Because wena impilo yakho usuyinikele komunye umuntu
You need the opinion of your master
To dress, live and eat.

 Usuzidayisile ngenxa yokufuna ukuthandwa
Wathandwa uzelwe usathandwa namanje,
EmaZulwini nasemhlabeni
Stop looking for love where there is none,
Yeka ukuzenza isigqila socansi
Just because you want to keep the farce of a relationship going.

Ubani owathi bekezelela ubuhlungu ozizwisa wena?
It’s not going to end well,
Because wena usuthathe umuntu ophila emhlabeni
And you made them your everything,
When they leave what happens?
Uhamba nobuwena bonke,
Somebody is taking you away piece by piece
Uyamnikeza uyamvumela ngoba uthi

At the end of it all uzothi udlale ngawe
Uwena odlale ngawe.

Indeed siyadlala ngathi, I had let another person dictate what I wrote, I had laid myself on the bed of nails as my blood, and my ink was dripping from my body. During that time I felt alive. “Oh well, Love makes us do crazy things,” or so we say. While fooling ourselves, so we may sleep better at night after hours of weeping.

After my pieces and presentation, sharing for the Yithi laba conference, I was home. I felt lighter, I started writing without the need of approval, and I wrote for me, I wrote what came to mind.

I started a blog on Tumblr; called “Words from the heart”
It has been 2 months and 36 posts.

I am writing for me, it may seem crazy, but I think if I hadn’t listened and fell in love with Eminem’s cleaning out my closet, would my closet be clean and the demons hanged on the wall of my blog?

Writing is my gift, to fight or speak, but not to be silent; this is the only silence I will ask for


I plead for silence for every 300 women raped
In our country every hour.
Give me silence and let us mourn the
Deafening screams and silence moans of agony
Numbness and pain

 While waiting for him to finish planting
His seed deep between the legs that
Fought, kicked and screamed not to open for him”

 My words will not stand for only me, but will fight for you too!


Yithi Laba conference delegates on Day 1 at Con Hill before the tour.

Yithi Laba conference delegates on Day 1 at Con Hill before the tour.


Previous by Phila


2013 March 10:  “I love women and they love me”


This entry was posted in Another Approach Is Possible, Archived memories, Creating awareness, Power of the Voice, South Africa, We Are You, We Care, We Still Can with/out Resources and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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