Poetic Autobiography

From birth to Pensive heart-on-sleeve Dynamite

I am! I am laying it bare!

I was born in Kenya on the 4th December 1980.
I was given royalty names: Mathe Kuena Victoria.
It wasn’t to declare me a commoner princess;
It was simply and primarily to capture a story.
A story privileged by vantage point;
Thus for me, a story about statistics.
The statistical impossibility of another egg and sperm
Fusing together to produce another Mathe,
By whatever name you may call her,
But still with her sweet smell and dear (im)perfections.

Shortly after birth I stayed in Zimbabwe.
I acquired yet another name: Sethabile.
A happy declaration by the Nzima family:
They were delighted to have me,
I was a welcomed guest in their home.

Around the age of 4, I was Mathe again,
Finally in Lesotho but still a welcomed guest.

At 5, I experienced a sense of having a home.
My mother was at last done with her studies.
Through her, I felt I had found my sanctuary.
So I reserved my tears for her.
I became the perfect chameleon:
Putting on a brave face in her absence,
And an unmasked one in her presence.

For a while, home had a normative meaning to me.
Until age 8, when I was to become a Maema
And no longer a Ntšekhe.
Again, I was a welcomed guest.
Aware of the internally brewing anxieties,
Yet too young to articulate them.
For indeed, I was still a child–
To be seen, but never to be heard.

At school, I excelled;
Yet I never appreciated all my teachers.
With some, I was an intelligent rebellion;
While with others, I was a joy to teach.
Whatever I did or persona I assumed,
I was absolutely free to express myself.
School in this sense became my home.
Home itself was a foreign refuge
That was also unforeign, for I had my sisters
And the love of many other relatives.

At 20, I had the stomach for the truth.
I was ready to hunt for “the man”:
My own flesh and blood father.
Cossie was designated to be my ally.
But she became more than that!
She became my anchor and bridge
Across a journey of great uncertainty—
And, dare I say, great personal insecurity.
But undeterred, I did meet with my father,
Along with the rest of the family.
It wasn’t as scripted in my head.
Still, the pieces of a puzzle were coming together.
And choice itself was making an entry into my life,
Beckoning me to ask the ‘to be or not to be’ questions:
Questions that forge my identity and path in life.

At 21, I could legally change my surname.
But despite my desire for a truthful start to adulthood,
I didn’t and couldn’t.
Deep down I knew an alternative remedy was needed:
To cure my melancholic existence.

I spent my 20s in search of this cure.
Soul searching, I became the ultimate traveler.
I travelled to lands of blissful ignorance,
And Crossed paths with the happily married bachelors.
I sailed cautiously around politics of my identity:
As the waters were often very muddied
Or rather, clouded by emotions—
Strong emotions of feeling unloved and rejected.
On shore, when I walked,
I walked with great company—
The kind that makes any journey unforgettable.
Swim … I never did.
At work, I did fly.
Academic freedom became my escape.
I could spread my wings and soar,
As I worked to embrace my inner self
And deal with some of my contradictions.
It wasn’t at all easy.
But I wasn’t alone; I had a mentor:
Tjontjo, the wind beneath my wings!

As it was for many Africans,
2010 was a memorable year for me.
I celebrated three decades of living.
And spent my first ever birthday to memory
With my father and the family—
Alas, minus Rory, my other beloved brother.
I realised then that my relationship with my father
Was what it was,
But most importantly, it was as it should be.
What this means to the likes of Sigmund Freud,
I have no clue!
The Oedipus attitude or Electra complex
Remain outside the realm of my understanding.

In 2013, I had yet another memorable year.
A very bitter-sweet year.
I was yet again faced with the Shakespearean question:
What’s in a name?
My answer was: everything!
So I changed back my surname to Ntšekhe.
And through a timely ailment,
I was granted an opportunity to be pensive—
Pensive about the past, the present and the future.
I put my childhood demons to rest.
Like the 13 fibroids yanked out of my body,
The demons were purged from my soul.
But I cannot claim from the mind or the memory.
For indeed I agree:
To forgive is not to suffer amnesia—
To forgive is merely a choice to move forward,
Accepting that some things will, upon reflection,
Always be painful to an extend.

Solid in my 30s, I remain work in progress;
And realise I will forever remain work in progress.
Still, I am content with this realisation.
My compass lies in my sense of purpose and being.
Those I hold dear, friends and family who root for me,
All dwell in my heart—my thriving living home.
Hence, I can gladly and boldly say:
Love, acceptance and respect have a new meaning to me!

As I forge forward on this journey called life,
I accept I may die without romantic love,
But I won’t doubt that love lived through and around me.
I mean…How can I ever really doubt?!
Women, in particular, have been a rare gift.
A testament of love, strength and vulnerability.
A beautiful reminder that my life matters as is
And cannot be diminished for lack of romantic love.
So, in death, partnered or not,
For a fact, I would have known and experienced love.
As a sister, (grand)daughter, niece, friend, colleague,
Aunt or mother to the beloveds, I may or may not have birthed,
Love would have nourished my existence.
And hopefully, I would have advanced love itself:
To be remembered as one who believed in the “Malala pipe” message
(By an awe-inspiring musician philosopher, Frank Leepa)
And worked hard so that others are “Malala pipe no more”!