Essays, issue 7: apr 2016
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The Restorative Power of Black Sisterhood by Owethu Makhathini

Personal reflection

The Restorative Power of Black Sisterhood

Being a black 22 year old womxn in post-apartheid South Africa is demanding. Between smashing the cisheteronormativecapitalistpatriarchy and navigating love, career and everything in between something has gotta give. Enter sisterhood. Discovering the transformative power of sisterhood has been an affirmation, a relief and a lifelong commitment to balance. In black womxn, I have found soulmates.

Healing from black girlhood by sharing commonalities with others is amazing. Having a safe space to share slayage, doubts and fears is one of the best benefits of sisterhood, for me. Our sisterhood is a space where we feel seen and our experiences completely validated. For a black girl living in a world that either ignores us or makes us hypervisible, sisterhood as a physical manifestation of space is invaluable.

Representation

My sisterhood extends past my inner circle which means seeing black womxn slaying in their respective fields is just as empowering. I have found myself yaaaaaaas’ing and church-handsing in awe and appreciation at black womxn living their truths and snatching our edges with reckless abandon. Non-binary, gender non-confirming, bisexual and transgender individuals who are honest to their existence are also included in everything that informs my practice of sisterhood.  Womxn like Rihanna, the late Lebo Mathosa and Cardi B are just as inspirational to me as Khanyi Dhlomo and Michelle Obama. My politics and existence are a resistance of respectability and a full embrace of fluidity.

Sisterhood and Relationships

Our relationships with each other and in relation to black men is a murky space that challenges me every day. It is then unavoidable to speak on black men. The irrefutable truth is that black men play a major role in the violence/s perpetuated within our community. In an effort to protect and coddle them, we have often been treated like playthings and viewed as an extension of any male figure. Hearing the violent sentiments black men hold towards us often has me looking into an imaginary camera much like in The Office. There is nothing more validating than catching and matching the side eye of a black womxn when black men are being men. To have any value, we are often thought of as daughters, sisters and cousins, seldom as individuals. It has become a reflex for me to protect, advise and respect black womxn for their individuality in the absence of a genuine appreciation from our brothers.

Work bih

My journey of sisterhood with black womxn is a liberating love. Being able to share the burden of being a militant young womanist ting while wading through race and hashtag white privilege in a casually racist industry is a comfort. Purging of stereotypes that inform office politics with sisters who as driven and ‘woke’ as I am makes it all a little bit easier.

Privilege

Unpacking the complexities between black womxn has been both heart-breaking and restorative. Acknowledging my own privileges and biases have led to a deeper more enriching relationship with womxn who are violently affected by societal conventions that directly benefit me. I am privileged to be a part of a sisterhood based on the core tenets of my existence that affirm my refusal to hyphenating my existence.  

Black womxn feel like home. There is a familiarity, a trust and a recognition of self that I would not trade for anything. My practice of sisterhood does not mean we are all besties but rather me having an inherent respect and commitment to the betterment of the lives of black people.

Black womxn, you are my connection to the universe. I have your back, your feelings are valid and I believe in you.


 

Owethu Makhathini is a 22 year old womxn living in Johannesburg, South Africa. You can find her on twitter and instagram.

Illustration by Raz. Raz is a part of Sula Collective’s staff and is a genderfluid chinese-slavic cookery hoe who loves… fashion… dim sum…. and is perpetually covered in cat hair. You can find Raz on twitter and instagram.

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