Podcast: Mmatshilo Motsei on Writing, Healing and Activism
I recently met with Mmatshilo Motsei in her Pretoria home – with its beautiful, lush gardens – to talk to her about her book, The Kanga and the Kangaroo Court – and to hear about how some men still suggest that when a woman is raped the clothes she was wearing can be used to tell whether she “asked for it” or not. The setting and the subject matter could not have made for a starker contrast in that moment.
Mmatshilo wears her many roles with charming elegance. She is at once a poet, a public speaker, a creative strategist, a gender and peace activist, a trainer, a healer, a rural development practitioner and a writer.
In her work, she fosters the understanding that art can bring individuals nearer to healing – especially when it comes to the healing of mental wounds. A deeply spiritual person, Mmatshilo trained as a nurse, practicing in the role of healer for a long time before responding fully to a deeper call – the call to embrace and research the regenerative powers of specifically African healing conventions.
Mmatshilo was involved in the development of the play Komeng, which was staged at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg to promote dialogue on gender relations between men and women. One of the outcomes of this play was the highly significant publication edited by Mmatshilo, Name the Pain, Face the Shame: South African Men Speak Out against Sexual Violence.
In addition to The Kanga and the Kangaroo Court, (published this year, comprising her reflections on the rape trial of Jacob Zuma), she is the author of Hearing Visions, Seeing Voices (Jacana, 2004). In her writing Mmatshilo never fails to stir the heart. She speaks her mind – often in the gentlest of tones, but such is the power of her words that they leave a lasting impression on those who hear them.
Mmatshilo has worked tirelessly and selflessly to curb violence, especialy sexual violence, and to assist the victims of abuse to recover and regain their health and well being. Over more than fifteen years, she has deepened our understanding of the damage caused by violence, and alerted us to the many hidden assumptions that often disguise gender violence as nothing more than a fulfillment of traditional roles.
Mmatshilo has worked with the Agisanang Domestic Abuse Prevention and Training (ADAPT) NGO based in Alexandra, in northern Johannesburg; and has received many awards for her work, including the United Nations Habitat Scroll of Honour Award for 2000.
During our conversation, I persuaded Mmatshilo to delve into the wellspring of her art, and read a poem. She read “In the Bosom of the Goddess”. Please join myself and Mmatshilo Motsei for this moving edition of The Victor Dlamini Literary Podcast:
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