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'Miss Behave' By Malebo Sephodi Is A Bright Light In A Deep And Lonesome Night

The life of a black woman in SA is a world of 'hidden anxiety, maltreatment and nervousness.'

09/06/2017 03:56 SAST | Updated 09/06/2017 09:41 SAST
Miss Behave

In the coming revolution, it seems to me, that it will be women who shall lead us. Or rather it shall be a black radical feminist. For it is them, who not only have a true sense of reality but honestly seek to fight oppressions of all kind, having been subjected to it all. And it is in the work of debut writer Malebo Sephodi that one has a glimpse of what that liberated future might look like. In her insightful and deeply personal book "Miss Bahave", Malebo presents a world of the black woman in South Africa.

A world of hidden anxiety, maltreatment and nervousness, not to mention the inner turmoil of being silenced. Bearing society's burden on a body that does not belong to itself. It is the world hidden from view but existing nonetheless. And as a society, we refuse to see this body, let alone hear it. It's absence and silence confirms to us our sense of normal; it hides our moral depravity. But then appears in this deep and lonesome night, a bright light.

Sephodi, much like a skilful director of a play, breaks the fourth wall. The audience is shocked, realising it is actually participants in this play called life. Shocked not out of horror but out of the responsibility they must accept. One is moved from passive observer, to face up to one's role in the continued subjugation of black women. Though Sephodi seeks to write about how 'to navigate life as a woman', she does more. Miss behave is about women refusing to 'know their place and stay there', refusing to behave, to be docile and submissive.

Society is put on trial and has been found wanting. But all hope is not lost. To enjoy the democracy and freedom of our ideas, black women cannot be ignored any longer. Here is a brave voice to speak on the issues that matter. O ye mighty, polymath and intelligentsia, look upon her work and be in awe. This is not, as you might expect, musings of an armchair critic; one who speaks from their prejudice and misconceptions, far removed from the practice of the principles they confess. Sephodi has and continues to be a community activist and organiser, a public speaker and counsellor.

Her encounters with abused, broken and strong women have both shattered and inspired her.

The author carefully weaves her personal experiences from childhood with the influential philosophy that drives her today. With her brilliant style of writing, she reflects on the people who have shaped her thinking. From her politically active mother, to close friends and bad work experiences. She traces her consciousness and evolution to become what she is. She invites us to see also her personal struggles, her fears and soon after, the Lioness rising. Furthermore, she accepts her imperfections and willingness to grow, to learn and to unlearn.

This might be best described as a manifesto for South African black women, or rather the black race. Because black men need to hear her voice, learn from it and do their part to change society. It is black feminists who are in the best position to blaze a trail for this country, for Africa. It is Patriarchy that must be demolished. In this book women are encouraged to resist, they are affirmed of their pain, their struggles and their anger. And others are admonished simply to recognise the oppression, it's insidious and harmful social conditioning.

A new voice has just entered the South African literary scene. Her work shall challenge all those who think themselves to be writers. Here is a benchmark of what writing is all about. This work shall in its due course inspire women to resist, to demand more, it will influence a revolution.