Why we should write our own stories

I am celebrating my 100th post.

Thank you for being here with me
In that celebration I thought I’d write about story, my story.

In this changing world our traditional knowledge seems to not be accommodated anymore. There is a wave of change, the African body is still behind, what it needs is access to knowledge. Our issue is simple, we are still trying to recover from past events, however while in recovery those who have recovered are pillaging. The African body is a sea of untapped intellect, it contains so much, including traditional history (natural knowledge passed down from generation to generation); it is the tools to access it for ourselves that we need, that we must fight for together.

In the lifetime that I have lived, my journey of discovery always leads me back to one thing; I want to have the ability to give access to knowledge to my people. I will be fully satisfied with life if all I am able to gain from it, is the fulfilment of my African people knowing more about the things of the world, and beyond. I use to listen to Les Brown and one of my favourite quotes from him are when you have to imagine yourself in your death bed and surrounding your bed are your dreams, your abilities and your talents that you were given by life and you never got to use them.

I want to live without regret. I hope to live long enough to make choices that will use all that is given to me.

So, my start begins at home.
If you read the many talks by Africans that are available online, including ones on Tedtalk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; all keep making the statement we need to tell our own stories. Why do we need to tell our own stories? Well fact 1: It seems like no one will write our stories, sometimes no one will review the stories we write, so we need to do it ourselves. Fact 2: When people write our stories they dilute them with their perspectives, that the stories no longer have the essence of us.

In this writing I want to talk about my story, I want us to have a look at where I grew up, my hometown. Inspired by an episode on Billions I too want to travel down memory lane and ask myself a series of very important questions such as: Have I escaped the hood? If I am not the one to amend (fix) the hood who will be responsible? Am I willing to go back to my home? Am I? Who am I in this hood of mine? And the blackest hood question of all which is better said in my own language (If I go back home, what would it be for?) (Ngizothi ngiyaphi mangiya ekhaya? Ngiyokwenzani)

These questions are layered with other questions that perhaps will be answered as I write so without further ado…let me start with these words

                                       "Welcome to Willowfountain"
       “A small town (location) in the city of Pietermaritzburg, South Africa”

In the year 2015, I collaborated with my friend Fiddy Ngcobo to write a play titled Welcome to Gomora, the work as I consummated the idea is based on my hometown ‘Willowfountain’

It is Andrew Stanton who said “When you write, start from what you know”, and I know my community. I spend my time like my favourite writer Kgebetli Moele watching my location like a reality TV show, it unfolds and I take it all in silence, and shakeable laughter.

It’s very strange that I am having trouble right now deciding which point of view should I describe the play from. The play is based on mob/community justice, which when I grew up became an act that the community engaged in after realizing the government didn’t really much care. As Michael Jackson once said

“They don’t care about us” #WeMatter

The work, follows a priest, Pastor Nsimbi who leads the community in routing out the evil (criminals) of the town through mob justice; on the opposite side is one young man, Thabo, who is against the act of mob justice and fights for a better way to be found.

There exists a strong battle of morality within the play.

As I mentioned the work was based on my own community, and experiences in the community thus I unconsciously wrote myself in as Thabo. Which takes me back to the question, who am I in my community? To be honest, I feel like I never fitted in. I felt like an alien in the hood, I am pretty sure I made myself one through the things I did. I didn’t want to be a sheep, neither did I want to be the wolf. While everyone seemed comfortable with the life around the hood, I was visioning an international escape, I wanted out.

I told myself from a young age that if I have kids they won’t grow up in my hometown. Is my hometown really that bad? I can’t answer that clearly; it can’t be clear because some of the events and acts that happened there made me who I am today; the mentality/psyche I have was built because I grew up there. So, I wrote myself in the play as an outcast, a young man who has a certain vision but when you’re young anyone hardly listens.

Then again there was the pastor, it’s tricky because the pastor was also based on me, but let’s not be psychological, the pastor is based on pastors/ the leaders of the community; the individuals that are vicariously feeding off people’s weak mentalities.

If you’ve learned to trust everything in “God” some of us deem themselves as impenetrable and can never do no wrong; as long as what you are doing is in the name of the lord. Right?

I’ve grown up watching adult commit inhumane acts in my community but forgiven once they declared themselves to have found God/Jesus.

That’s not fair

It has never been a secret that I am not a religious person within personal reasons such as the things I have seen, the lies, the deceit and the dark side religion poses. It’s not all the people but people tend to use the idea of God/Jesus as an escape; in the work Gomora that is exactly what Pastor Nsimbi does, for his own personal revenge he uses the idea of religion to justify all his ‘evil’ acts and the community blindly follows (as most people do).

Let me be clear however, when mob justice occurred in my community it did good, it really did. For the first time I felt that my community was working together, not living in fear; however, my own morality crept in, and posed an argument.

This guides me to the next question: who is responsible in rescuing our hometowns? I certainly feel that I have a responsibility to rescue my hometown. Every time I walk in the hood I can see everything I did in it, and I envision it being better. My community knows only the surface of the world, just like the Titanic iceberg, my community is unable to see the deepness of the iceberg; they are comfortable with the surface of it and I hate it. I have however realized why it is so, its access to knowledge that blinds them, thus I feel it a responsibility of mine to pave the way forward, to open their eyes to the iceberg.

I don’t want to leave it to anyone else.

Sometimes the mistake people make is they hope that someone else will be the hero, like naah it’s not my responsibility, it’s not necessarily mine either, but I want to.

There continues to be layers that are explored in Gomora. People will follow those who lead, but it’s not always blind following, everyone is hurting differently, the hood is filled with so many devastating stories, full of untapped hope. That as Les Brown said, I wonder how many people lie in their death beds and are being yelled at by their dreams, abilities and talents for not living a worthy life.

I write myself in my stories because I am part of the story.

There are many scenes that I loved in this work that explore the human social mentality; again based on experiences I have had in reality. For example, the opening scene sees a young man Mfundo who is about to be burned by the community have his mother rush in to save him. She pleads for her son not to be killed; she pleads he rather be sent to jail. In an outburst of revolt, the community yells ‘No to that act’, speaking about the uselessness of the system; that he will be released in no time. In this scene it’s two things that I hoped we could highlight 1). The lack of trust people has for the police/government, 2). It is admirable, and motherly love but I have always wondered how is it that parents defend their criminal kids? I hated it in the hood seeing a parent crying for their child not to be killed after they have been murdering innocent people and stealing from them for years, but she kept silence. Isn’t that really messed up?

I could break down the script to its basic foundation, what I am highlighting are the elements and the intellect that make up the script; It wasn’t perfect but it was showing human interaction, questioning morality and most importantly trying to heal broken ideas.

It comes back full circle to, is it really possible for one person to change the views of many? It seems it is possible; we are seeing it right now throughout the world, but we know that it is only that way after a huge sacrifice has been made, either loss of life or loss of self. For people to change their minds and open their eyes in the play an innocent person had to die. Again, everything is by design, in that death it was me stating that I will choose death rather than watch my people suffer in a loop that makes them inhumane and not grow. That in my death I hope my people can see the vision I had for them

The work (play) tends to also deal with choices; the choices we make, and how those choice can define what happens to us later. We are human, we sometimes make terrible choices. I have made some terribly decisions in my life, I have those I regret and honestly those that I don’t, however in both circumstance those decisions made me better.

One such scene in the play is Thabo and Marabi (a location gangster); these young men are so far apart yet so similar at the same time. Their lives are separated by circumstances and choices. We can argue that there are certain circumstances that lead you to be a certain way, but ultimately it is a choice, a decision that you make to choose which path is your salvation. Thabo and Marabi both went to school together, both ended up with no parents in their lives.


Thabo chose education to be his salvation, while Marabi chooses crime.
In the work Thabo saves Marabi from death by mob, later on Marabi tries to kill him/Thembile, indirectly he succeeds. There was an unscripted dialogue that occurred in the work that spoke so much in how choice made these two characters different.

Marabi: “Thabo, you went to school, you are intelligent, you have means to live; I only know means to survive, and this is how I do it” again the dialogue was in vernack.

You have to appreciate it when actors can blend reality and performance.

In the time line that I am in right now, I don’t necessarily believe that education is the key to everything better, that’s a messed-up mentality to have, and my people have been brain washed into that belief, and we are dying because of it, and we don’t even see it.
Access to knowledge is the key, yes, education has taken me quite far I admit that, I am in a foreign country as I type this because I have a degree, but access to knowledge rains above it.

Without trying to overwrite which I clearly have .There is an important element in the play that I was giggling when it was implemented. I believe we, as people have an understanding of what is right and what is wrong; there is this thing called conscious that tells us when we are fucking up. Clearly in this day and age some people need to speak to their conscious.

In Welcome to Gomora, we had this character Spikili who could only be seen by Pastor Nsimbi, I mean it’s a play between him being the only person who can see spirits (God), a man who has lost his mind, and/or a man who is battling with his conscious. You see, a lot of unconscious thought went into writing the work that no one will ever realise, except us the writers.
As Pastor Nsimbi does the deeds of killing evil, his conscious, a former friend of his Spikili tells him that it is wrong, that what he is doing is not written in any religious verse. Do view a clip of this scene on my YouTube channel JC Zondi. It is only at the end when it is useless that Nsimbi finally listens to his conscious.

What does this say? Although emotionally and psychologically scarred; We are thinkers, we know exactly what acts will cause what reactions, we are not fools; we have the ability to understand what the results of our actions will be.

This writing is mashed up into a lot of things, my thoughts perhaps ended up going wild, I know, however it is simply me trying to make you the reader understand that change sometimes needs to start singular before it goes plural, and it maybe not in your life that the effect of change will occur, maybe in your death. Your ideas are important, if not to anyone they are important to you, so if you can, write them down.

We need to start writing our own stories, we need to start telling our stories, not just the bad ones, but the good ones too, the memories that build us. I am on a long journey, I am yet to see the end; I got an idea of how my end will be and like the man in the film Big Fish, I am excited for it. So you, whoever you may be, look at the world, if it is too big look closer; you have the capability to change what’s not right around you and the responsibility to praise that which is going great.

Take your pen and begin to write.

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