The hidden ‘family’ truths – Part I

By Lindiwe Dhlamini

*Trigger warning: Sexual assault, rape

In my last article “My biggest fears are…I wrote about mine and mother’s estranged relationship, reason being it is directly linked to the ‘Still I Rise’ journey. The link may be good or bad, but the truth is; what lies on the other side of all the fears I wrote about; it is emotionally and psychologically emancipating. Speaking to my mother and getting things off my chest really helped. I even got a chance to ask about my names, particularly, Pamela and Lindokuhle which have been one of the most unsettling conversations due to the violence that is attached to both these names.

Let me explain; I am sure there was a bit of confusion in the first article “What’s in the name? – #PamMustFall”.

Lindokuhle was the name my mother gave to me, and because of our estranged relationship when I went to apply for an identity document (ID) when I was 18, I requested home affairs to change it to Lindiwe. The reason being I was angry at my mother for giving me that name. Mostly because of the problems we have been having for all these years. Changing my name to Lindiwe officially in my ID, I did so before I even found out that my father wanted me to be named Lindiwe but because at the time of my birth my parents were fighting about something, I don’t know what, and frankly it does not matter. Bottom line is that my mother won and managed to get Lindokuhle on my birth certificate. I just found out about the name politics between mom and dad while on the ‘Still I Rise’ journey when I was talking to my mother and trying to fix things so we can move on from the past and build a relationship as mother and daughter.

In essence, being named Lindiwe by my father and me deciding to start using the ‘Still I Rise journey is no coincidence. I say this is because, this journey started happening in my father’s birth month, and one of the milestones of this journey fell a day before his birthday which falls on the 25 April. One of the reasons I was angry at my mother for all these years was because, I blamed her for the multiple instances of Rape[1] and sexual harassment I suffered as a child. I blamed her while I protected a family secret that led my father to commit suicide when I was 18 years old. All I know is that when I was 16 I started having nightmares about the Rapes I suffered as a child from the time when I was six until I was eight years old at the hands of my ‘cousins/uncles’. By the time I turned 18 the nightmares about the Rapes became unbearable and I had to tell someone. I did not know at the time that opening up to my paternal family about the trauma I suffered at the hands of my maternal family suffered as a child from would lead to my father’s suicide.

Despite the fact that I was already blaming myself for the Rapes and justifying them whilst being silent about them for about 10 years, losing my father to suicide pushed me back to the corner of silence.

Now at 26 years old I found myself ready to speak out and breaking this silence meant having to embark on this journey. To be honest I was ready to take this secret to the grave, but reading, activism and triggers that led to intense anxiety attacks on campus, compelled me to stop being complacent. Being a Fallist[2] came with a lot of introspection. Decolonising my mind is the hardest part about Fallism[3] but a process I embrace fully as I continue to call myself a Fallist for life.

Decolonisation is possible

In my first article I wrote about how Fallism saved my life and I promised to explain that as the journey unfolds, here it goes:

Being a Fallist has helped me to understand that I am not alone in my silence about rape. That is because victims are often blamed and shamed for being raped/sexually violated that has pushed me to silence for all these years.

Being a Fallist has taught me that my silence will/can no longer protect, nor has it protected me in the past, because nine suicidal attempts are not protection of my psyche, my body, and the archival part of my brain whereby I can never erase these memories.

Being a Fallist has taught me that speaking up about my oppressions is liberating and readings that I have done and conversations I have engaged in have taught me that the ‘Personal is political’. I have also seen that learning and unlearning is possible.

Being a Fallist has taught me a lot of things which cannot be listed in one article, but more than anything Fallism has taught that DECOLONISATION IS POSSIBLE and it starts with me decolonising my mind and past.

[1] Rape: capital letter emphasis by author

[2] Fallist – a person who is determined to make ALL OPPRESSIONS FALL!

[3]Fallism – conceptualised thought that is located at the intersections of the ideologies of Black feminism, Black consciousness and Pan-Africanism.

This is just part of a series on a journey Lindiwe is embarking.

Lindiwe Dhlamini is a Fallist, social justice activist and a student at the University of Cape Town currently studying towards a postgraduate degree in Gender and Transformation at the African Gender Institute (AGI). Lindiwe is the Founder and Director of Injabulo Projects an NPO that conducts an Anti-Bullying project in high schools, an Incest survivor project and LGBTIAQ+ support project.

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We learn through sharing and you have just added to my growth as a woman, as a black feminist and as an activist. ALL FREEDOMS FOR ALL PEOPLE! I got nothing but love for you Lindiwe.

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