I have a recurring memory around this time of year. I’m not sure why. It could be because the academic year is coming to an end or because it’s my grandmother’s birthday month.
Bear with me, though; I can’t remember the details in full. It’s like a strip of film worn over time. I went to visit my grandmother, Koko. It was something I did regularly on Sundays. We were having a conversation in her room. She sat in her chair and 18-year-old me across from her. Her hair was covered in the same white head wrap as usual. I remember that because of how it framed her full face and showed off her copper-like brown skin.
Again, no other details come to mind when I try to remember the nature of the conversation. I only remember one thing — the words “fetsa ka skolo” in Koko’s voice persistently ring in my head. These words carried me through my years of university. I had to finish school. I had to complete my degree to honour my grandmother’s sacrifice.
For the past four years those words have carried me through uninspiring courses, meeting multiple school deadlines while working on a few side hustles and defending my art in colonial academic spaces and at home where no one understood what I was doing.— Multidisciplinary artist and honours student Oratile Papi Konopi (22) as told to Zaza Hlalethwa