The Invisible Man

Yesterday a man died in my hometown. Cause of death: Suicide. Suicide rates have shot up in recent years and are highest among men. I want to believe the true cause of suicide death is lack of mental health services and social support because with the right support anyone can get through anything.

Accessing mental health practitioners should be as common place as consulting a GP to treat a headache or flu. Yet this is not possible in Zimbabwe and in many African countries. We should be concerned.

The deceased was a well known local, a family man, distinguished in his trade as a photographer. He was the first to take polaroid pictures in our town and was seen as a bit of an innovator for it. He was a serial entrepreneur, always hustling, always cheerful. He also happened to have been born with a physical impairment that necessitated use of a wheelchair. Many loved him, his disability was never inability as the saying goes.

Then last week one of his children drowned while playing with friends at a nearby stream. Soon after the funeral he discovered his wife had been cheating on him with a neighbor. The love birds eloped together leaving him heartbroken and grieving as a father and husband. So he drank poison and ended it all.

Now that’s a tough week for anyone! It’s a lot to take and would feel like the world is crushing down all around you. But it did not have to end in suicide.

Death and betrayal are perhaps two of the hardest feelings to deal with. Both leave you asking “Why?”. Why did this have to happen to me? You wonder what you did to deserve this tragedy. You wonder what you could have done differently to stop it. Anger follows not far behind and so many other feelings and thoughts we cannot even begin to imagine. It’s a really dark space to be in.

Here’s the thing, it is possible to walk through these phases of life. With the right support we can deal with the most painful experiences and not only survive but heal and maybe even emerge stronger. There are a wide range of mental health services available in the world now to help with this yet they remain inaccessible to many.

Counsellors, therapists, psychologists and a plethora of others mental health professionals are specifically trained to help us navigate the turbulent parts of our lives. They have the language to help us process the things we go through and the tools to help us heal.

The mental health professionals that are in practice tend to be expensive and based in the capital city. As a result many turn to social support to help manage stressful life events. They talk to a trusted friend or family or they talk to their pastor. Talking in any form helps release the worst of our emotions and the advices we share with each other can help with ideas on how to handle things. But not everyone has a community of people of who care, though, and often people are left feeling isolated and desperate trying to get through their storms alone.

When you are in your feelings it’s easy to think ending your life is the only option. But it should never come to that. I dream of an Africa where therapy is common place and carries zero stigma. I long for universal access to affordable, quality mental health care for all.

The silver lining in all of this is men are starting to normal acknowledging, sharing and managing stress. Albeit at the pub with half joking advices on how to deal with the issues they are struggling with but it’s a start. And while we wait for governments to take mental health seriously and invest in universal access, lets be there for one another. There is nothing that can happen in this life which you can’t get through. Absolutely nothing. We are strong enough to handle anything that can come our way. We get stronger as we break.

Creative muses: Upile Chisala

Yet another creative muse of mine is Upile Chisala, a poet and published author this time. Her pen spits beautiful words that speak to my soul of healing, power, love and other languages I can understand. I also love how visually creative she is. I won’t say much but just feast on these, please.

Creative muses: Nneka Julia

Nneka J – creative muse #2

One of my main creative muses is Nneka Julia. Though she is actually a photographer it’s her evolution that drew me in and continues to have me in awe.

I came across Nneka when I was struggling with my own authenticity, felt out of touch with my voice and was increasingly tempted to create what I thought would get the most likes and shares. Everybody likes a big following, right? Then there was Nneka with her 65,5k followers on Instagram yet she was raw, original, candid, deep, everything I am and wanted to bring to the TL.

Something about how deeply sitted and comfortable in her talent felt just right and I wanted to know how she got there. So I read up on her, scrolled all the way back to when she joined IG. I found something intriguing and learnt an important lesson about evolution.

Back when Nneka joined IG she was barely getting 10 likes on a post. Her feed was full of visuals completely different from now and nothing much was happening for her back then. Her presence didn’t carry the force of her personality and charisma- not in the way it does now.

Then she started to show face more, bought a real camera, started gaining skills and the photography definitely improved. Nneka has a love for travel, food, family and people watching just like me and she started to capture that with her camera. That’s when the following started to grow and 10 likes turned to 500 then a 1000 and shot into the tens of thousands.

But Nneka only really exploded when she brought her voice onto the platform. You see, the woman has an amazing gift with words and an angels voice! And somewhere along this creative journey she began writing and finding these wonderful captions, wordsmithing and telling the most beautiful stories about all her many passions. Her podcast, Passing Through, is a gem too and another milestone in the evolution of Nneka

The lesson I take from all of this is we must evolve if we are to tap into the true potential of our creative talents. Nnekas is at the top of her game as a story teller and shows how evolution can take through many stages into something different from what we started out. Nneka’s creative evolution shows we can master more than one medium too, if we like. The channel does not matter.

You can see your own evolution, or lack of, clear as day when you scroll through your feed. Go look through yours. Are you bringing your all as a creative? Are you growing?

Winter blogging challenge: Let’s go

It’s time again for the Afrobloggers Winter blogging challenge – a month long digital story telling festival. It’s easily the highlight of the year for bloggers on the continent and definitely takes the boring out of winter.

I hadn’t realised until now just how much the Afrobloggers platform has given me a sense of community and introduced me to so many creatives on the continent. It’s not so lonely out here anymore! And seeing as this week is themed Creatives Week, it’s for us fam. It’s all about us!

As a tribute to my fellow creatives my very first post for this challenge shares some tips for keeping the creative juices flowing this June.

1. Let the big magic find you: You see the universe is full of ideas looking for a home, for a kind soul to bring them to life. Ideas can be unruly and come to you at the weirdest times, they can arise from the most banal moments and they come in all sorts of forms. Allowing the magic to find you involves welcoming ideas when they come knocking, even the not so big ones. It means sometimes acting on them even if it’s not your best work. Because ideas are like visitors, if you are nice to them they come back and they give more. So play nice. Be a good host otherwise they will go off and find someone else to inhabit.

2. Schedule posts in advance: We all know it’s not everyday that the ink from our pens flows non-stop, not everyday photoshoots yield art for that vlog – get the drift? Prepare content in advance, write and proof or shoot and edit ahead of time, schedule your blog posts to publish when you need them to. That’s how you get to “post daily” and still live your life. Befriend Hootsuite or whatever autoscheduler you prefer for sharing to social media. Pick 1-2 days a week when you do content creation, let the beauty lose and then spend your days engaging with your followers not worrying about what to write/photograph/video/podcast.

3. Rinse and repeat: Find the kind of content that really gets people going, that draws people into your circle, the stuff you create that goes viral – do it again and again and again. I mean the point is to put good stuff out into the world, to create masterpieces! Check your statistics on the regular and do more of what’s resonating with people. Don’t be boring 😜

4. Have fun: The idea of all of this is to have fun creating. Do you best, do it well. The rest is up to the algorithm!

Here’s to a great winter challenge. Remember to like, comment and share each other’s content. Let’s go comrades!

Drinks with Chimamanda

If I could meet one notable African personality it would be Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie – Nigerian author and feminist icon as they say. If I was to be honest I would also love to meet Dambisa Moyo – Zambian writer and economist. Wouldn’t it be awesome if I could just meet with both, over sundowners somewhere on this beloved continent?! But if I had to choose then it would be Chimamanda, hands down.

Chimamanda feels to me like a kindred spirit. Her love for words, her talent for putting them together just right on paper and in speech, her love for beautiful feminine things, her admiration and support for black talent. It all mirrors my own and I imagine meeting her would like a reunion, a comfortable and familiar coming together only we would be meeting for the first time.

I have been a huge fan of Chimamanda since Purple Hibiscus and have read pretty much every thing she has ever written. Since I am confessing to a near obsessive fanship here let me also say I have listened to every Ted Talk, many interviews and commencement speeches. And yes, I follow her on the Gram. Thing is, when I am not giving 110% to my current grind I dream of living in a little cottage up in the mountains writing books. She is living my life, the one I only dream about and if we meet I would love to hear every detail of what’s it’s really like. Is it anything I dream it will be? Rave reviews, awards and all.

Her feminist politics, her very simple way of putting her beliefs across, her absolute lack of fear of being judged – I love. One time she called out Hillary Clinton over why herwher Twitter bio began with “wife”. It was done with such conviction and love I said to myself, “The movement needs this. Scratch that -the world needs this!”. If we met I would want to talk feminism and disruption naturally, especially how we can speed up the evolution of African cultures to value and respect women and girls.

And who wouldn’t want some time together with someone who says things like this randomly? To be so sure in yourself, you don’t show up for the people pleasing that seems so natural in our society. That’s some feat and I am so here for it. If we meet I want to talk some about her journey to this place

.

I gave a talk once at a university and someone came up to me afterwards and said I reminded them of Chimamanda and they hoped I too would put pen to paper and share my beautiful mind with the world. I still dream of someday actually being worthy of this comparison. Meeting Chimamanda herself would be such an honor. She makes our continent so proud. I know, I am.

Wisdom in my mother tongue

My peoples proverbs are heavy laden with wisdom. Passed on from generation to generation they are like an MoL, Masters on Life – full of life lessons, tradition and lyrical expertise. If you care to, you will learn anything you ever need to know about life through these. My favorite five proverbs would be:

  1. Chakanaka chakanaka mukaka haurugwe munyu. Shona is notorious for refusing to translate well into English but this proverb means something like “Do not spoil a good thing. Milk doesn’t need salting.” It’s an exhortation to keep things simple. Don’t complicate them.

2. Kamoto kamberevere kakapisa matanda mberi. This proverb roughly translates to “A small fire can burn big logs”. The lesson being that small efforts can have a big impact. Though often used to warn against the destructive effects of gossip on relationships I have always applied it to empower people to take small every anyday steps that can change their lives or impact their community. Want to end climate change, don’t litter. Start small and gather momentum.

3. Chembere yekwaChivi yakabika matombo ikanwa muto. Rough translation is “The old woman from Chivi cooked stones and drank the soup”. I take it as encouragement to try the seemingly impossible because if you fail you will at least be better off for having tried.

4. Kandiro kanoenda kunobva kamwe. Meaning – if you give you will get. Growing up this was literally how we lived. When we ran out of salt mom would send me over to the neighbors to ask for some and without fail they gave a little to cover our need. When we took the plate back mom would put something in it just so we don’t take it empty. She sent back a little of whatever she had as a way to say thank you. That’s Ubuntu 101, you-give-you-get-you-get-you-give. This cycle of giving creates the most sustainable system of collective caring that’s so basic in it’s logic but super powerful. The world today could benefit from an ecosystem such as this. Looking out for one another.

5. Mwana waMambo muranda kumwe. This one is a powerful one and gave birth to my understanding of intersectionality. It says even a prince can be a slave elsewhere. We may enjoy power and privilege in one setting but not in another. The lesson at the heart of this proverb is to treat anyone well as we may find ourselves at their mercy in a different context. In short it says, Stay Humble”. You can’t argue with that!

And there we have it. 5 proverbs from my homeland, Zimbabwe.

Instagram accounts I follow in 2020

Instagram is the only place were I intentionally only follow accounts that are creating content which truly inspires me. My top 4 most inspirational accounts at the moment are:

Her First 100k: This account is all about personal finance and equipping women to smash the patriarchy through financial freedom. I love it so much because she says things like;

Nyakim Gatwech

The melanin goddess, herself! Nyakim is a black model with pitch black skin like mine and beautiful as they come. She speaks to the younger me who got teased mercilessly for being dark until she started to doubt herself. Seeing her black beauty taking the world by storm reminds me that black is beautiful. That my black too is beautiful.

Nicholle Kobi

I follow this Afro-French artist because Black Art. She is a master illustrator and says the most random empowering and affirming things with each caption. I am hooked!

Upile Chisala

A recent discovery I am obsessed with this account. Her poetry is lit and her photos on point. Always. I find myself going back to her poetry time and again to learn and relearn something or the other. Because she has words that give life, words that spark a revolution. She says things like this and all the women in me scream “Yeeeees!”;

There are more, many more accounts I follow and every day I am discovering new voices speaking truths my soul thirsts for. So the list keeps growing. What a time to be alive!

Dear African content creator

This is a difficult one. In a world were knowledge, creativity and excellence wear a white face being African and a creator is a brave thing in itself. Being a woman, and/or young on top of all this makes you a veritable s/hero! So who am I to say what you should stop doing?! But all good things can be improved so here goes.

  1. Content creation is a whole business. It’s a million dollar industry and you, my dear, deserve to eat of that pie. If you are putting out words into the universe, blogging and all that jazz then play the game to win it. Too many of us are half-assing this thing. Writing as a social outlet, just venting. Writing without a particular niche focus. Writing without consistency. Not amplifying our work beyond our small circles. Not upping our game to play the big leagues.Get a domain name. Create and edit your own photos. Learn complimentary skills such as SEO optimization, basic graphic design, branding. Bring your all and the kitchen sink, get the following, get paid.

2. Focus on the social media platform were your audience spends their most time. I know I am guilty of this one. Many African content creators don’t have a clear idea who the audience for their kind of content is and which platforms they access most. So we are out here shooting our shots in the dark hoping to hit target by some miracle.

After many years of blogging I realised that my blog/s got the most traffic off of Twitter and Pinterest. Meanwhile I was spending most of my time over on Facebook. Go figure! Writing is art. Wordsmithing is a talent we are born with but there is a science to going viral and influencing people. We need to stop wishing for a miracle and actively master this other side of things.

3. The last thing, and perhaps the most important is to acknowledge that most of our readers are visiting us from their mobile phones and just want to connect with people who get what they are going though and can add value to their lives somehow. It doesn’t matter what you write about, readers expect to connect with you and come away better, even if it’s just having a good laugh or learning a skill. Stop taking your self so seriously with the lofty ideas and big English. Come down to earth and write like we are in conversation. Readers definitely come back for more of that personal touch.

Five (women) bloggers from my country

This one is a tribute to the five women bloggers that fed my passion, hyped me and helped me set down roots as a blogger. Some of them do not blog anymore but I am in awe of their massive talent still.

  1. The Diva Chronicles: This blog is written by a close friend, Norma. It was she who talked me into taking up blogging after years of hiding my words in notebooks. Her own blog is a beauty, raw and authentic. Tending towards long form pieces she will wrap you up in prose, hypnotise you with her imagery and take you away for hours. She doesn’t blog much there anymore. I wish she would.
  2. It’s Delta: I first came across Delta in the comments section of my then blog. “May your pen never run dry”, she said. I felt that! We got to talking on social media. She followed my blog, I followed hers. After I wrote an amateur piece on career feminism she contacted me and asked to publish it on her column in a local newspaper. Of course, I said yes and seeing my words in the paper was such a high! It affirmed me in so many ways, encouraged me to come out of my shell and write publicly as myself. I even harboured dreams of having my own column in a newspaper someday. Who knows? It may still happen.
  3. MaDube’s Brainpot: The voice behind the Brainpot is yet another amazing Zimbabwean blogger who became a dear friend. I discovered this blog when I was starting to dip my toes into the local bloggers community. We had been to school together, shared many passions including for human rights, Africa and good food! This blog was one of the most politically astute narratives by young women in this country at the time. Rumbis sharp analysis of issues, knack for stating complex legal and political things simply was a breath of fresh air. She also does not write the Brainpot any longer but let me share – for posterity. Lest we forget the pioneers.
  4. Fungai Neni: The history of blogging in Zimbabwe would be incomplete if it did not mention Fungai Machirori. I love her writing. Her heart is in her pen, you can see that the personal is clearly political with her. Her feminist politic mirrors mine, so often she speaks my mind. Her journey with Her Zimbabwe had me all shades of proud and the struggles that led to it’s closure still make me angry. Still, the project demonstrated the dizzying heights Zimbabwe’s women bloggers can reach and groomed so many young female bloggers. She is simply, legend!
  5. Zanakay: I was first blown away by Zana’s writing before I saw her. Then she blew me away with her beauty. As intellectual as she is beautiful, Zana is fire when she writes. Fiesty, bold and unapologetic. She was everything I wanted to be but wasn’t yet as a budding blogger back then. I was trying to find my voice and the guts to even speak. I was trying to convince myself someone cared to hear what I had to say and there she was doing it! I read her posts over and over like a holy book and fantasized about myself becoming half as bold. She gave me strength. She helped me dare. She doesn’t know this but I am eternally grateful.

And there we have it. The five women bloggers who blazed the trail and helped me (and many others, I am sure) begin this journey. These are the sheroes! For me, at least.

Things I have learnt from social media

Everyone has something to teach you. The beauty of social media is that it’s giving us opportunity to share our knowledge and creativity. While most are on these online streets for the swagg (and we love to watch them) many share value loaded content and I have learnt lots over the years.

Here are a few of the lessons I treasure.

  1. My biggest learning has been to romanticize my life. To view each moment as something special, something worthy of awe. Joining Instagram and seeing people fuss over their morning coffees, build a following for their chubby cheeked babies, make money from their yoga, dedicate accounts to sharing their cooking was an eye opener. I realised then that things I thought of as mundane are actually notable, every milestone worthy of celebration, our musings are wisdom to others. It’s an interesting journey.

2. I discovered black art online and fell hopelessly in love! I follow so many black artists on the Gram and almost exclusively use black art on this blog to honor and amplify their work. We are a talented people. Fantastically so.

3. Some things are just not a thing where I am from though they exist and affect many lives. They remain unspoken of. Unacknowledged. I am an empath and tend to gravitate towards the broken, absorb emotions, mess up electronics and all that. Just never had a name for it. Only online did I discover there was a name for this and came to understand that I was such an emotional wreck because of the plenty energy vampires I was gravitating towards at the time. I have come to understand what it means to be an empath, how to manage and control my energies etc. This leads me to my next learning around self care.

4. As women, African women we are socialised from childhood to be givers, nurturers, doers – everything really. We are taught strength, creativity, resilience, leadership and love for the greater good of the family. We are not taught self care though, for good reason. When women dare fill their own cup first. When we dare prioritise the self and establish bounderies. When we learn to say “No” to things that do not serve us and walk away from toxic relationships and people we upset the intricate structures of family, marriage, church, state etc. When we dare love ourselves as we are, we stop showing up for the media to set unrealistic standards for us, we stop showing up for the beauty industry to fix us and we stop showing up for men to pick us, despite our shortcomings.

When we dare to love and care for self and each other it’s a whole rebellion. On these streets, in conversation with fellow African queens I learnt to care for self and to embrace the politics of it. The world looks down upon and tramples on people like me in a million big and small ways daily – self care is how I recharge in order to fight for my existence another day. It’s how I rebel against patriachy and capitalism and every other system that says we need to be productive all the time, putting others first and ourselves last or never at all

And there we have it. Four of the big lessons I have mastered sitting with ordinary everyday folk on the world wide web. We still at it, still on this amazing journey of learning and exploration.

Things Mama Never Said: The Love Edition


Some lessons you only learn by living. You make mistakes, live through pain, clean up your messes, or watch others go through stuff – and you take your lessons as you go.

I have often wished the women in our lives had shared with us more about how messy love and relationships are, not just the nice parts. That they had allowed us to learn from their failures, from their pain, from their disillusionment and their mistakes.


Most of what I share here is from the whispered conversations. The ones we dont have in public. The wisdoms we edit out at kitchen parties. It’s the sum of experiences from our grandmother’s and all the women that went before us.

  1. Life happens quickly and only once. Do not lose yourself in love. You do not have to blend into him and live his life. Be yourself boldly and loudly. The one meant to love you will stay.


2. Love is a beautiful thing but only when you are valued equally by those you value. Do not ever drag yourself on your good bones going after a bad love.


3. Having a man’s baby will not make him love you. You cannot cook, sex, wash or pray your way into a man’s heart either. If you are loved, he cannot get enough of you. That’s how you know.

4. A true love will always feel right. If ever you find yourself in doubt stop right there and leave.


5. Sometimes there is dignity in leaving; people, places, things.


6. You are pure magic, woman. But it is not your job to fix a broken man. Watch who you bring into your life so you do not end up broken too from trying to heal him. You deserve a lover that is whole and can give you his all.


7. Women cannot have sex like men, loveless and mindless; they scar. Even men do not have sex like we think they do. They bear scars for every recklessness connection they make. Most are just too busy performing manhood to notice.


8. Do not be sexy. Just don’t be there!!! Many men have no respect for you. Stay away from potentially risky situations. Stay safe.

9. Take the time to know him. What his opinions and thoughts on things are, what he believes, how he handles money, debt and people among other things. It will change the rest of your life after you let him into it. Any man afraid of you getting to know each other like this has demons or skeletons you are not meant to find. He is not for you.

10. Marriage is good and worth having but it is not your sole purpose. Get a life. A career. Some reasonable measure of wealth. And achievements all your own. Make really good friends. Pursue your interests and dreams. Finding a soulmate is just one part of your life.


11. You do not owe anyone beauty. Do not live for the male gaze. Their approval is not the point of your existence.


12. It is not possible for a man that loves you to be violent towards you. Violence and love cannot coexist. Leave the first time. No explanations needed.


13. There is danger in loving somebody too much. Like addiction it will consume and destroy you. Withdrawal can and will be brutal. Serve your love with care.


14. While marriage is “till death do us part”, it is not the one that is meant to kill you.


15. Respect people. Every. Single. One. Respect your man. But most of all, demand the same for yourself.



About Ankara & Lattes

I want to start a conversation at the intersection of blackness, womanhood and youth. About how magical it is to be black and beautiful and woman and young during this time – we have perhaps never been more awake to our own power and rising magestically to our potential. About how tiring it is to be black and beautiful and woman and young during this time – we have perhaps never been more hated, more discriminated, more violated, more silenced than we are now.

I want to start conversations about black love and womanhood. About how hard it is to grow up reading Mills and Boon and listening to Joe Thomas then date a Tawanda. About how woke husbands are not necessarily allies and how 21st century marriages prove patriarchy is no woman’s friend. I want to talk about the secrets of African sexuality, all of it from the waist beads and love portions to kitchen parties, feminist makotis and divorce.

I want to talk about bettering ourselves, achieving big dreams, making money, building wealth and legacies in economies designed to benefit older, males (preferably white). About breaking the cycle of poverty, beyond aid.

I want to talk about living the good life – good food, afro-fashion and style, elegant homes, travel goals, the whole shebang.

Bring all the whispered conversations here so we can burst the silence open and explore the contents of our full existence in the open. We have a lot to talk about. So, grab your coffee and tarry awhile.

Disclaimer: All the images used in this post are not mine. Their use is a homage to the talented creators of black art. May their pens never run dry.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

Create your website with WordPress.com
Get started