Tag Archives: Beauty

#351 ~ Miscellaneous.2: I Had Forgotten

(Written during my month-long absence – during a slightly sentimental time it seems)

I had forgotten how beautiful I was. I had forgotten how joyful my life was, how my smile was a mega-watt lightbulb that lit up rooms, how my voice, when it stopped contorting and trying to be an acrobat, was so rich, beautiful, soft and tender, that it had a laugh that slipped through like a river.

I had forgotten how my greatest desire was to be in a band and to sing, and let my heart float through the notes and touch you. How I wanted it to escape my chest and burn in the atmosphere, my voice as a song, the song as my heart, my heart as a voice that sings straight into the dark and brings the filaments of the mega-watt bulb out, divides the parts and still shines.

My goodness, I had forgotten how incredible I was. I had let somebody walk off with my stuff and he didn’t know he had it because I didn’t tell him I had placed my soul in a plastic bag and sent it to him in a Facebook message – how foolish. To look without glasses at my picture and forget – who I was.

I had forgotten how powerful I was, how stunning, how I was changing the world by just being. I had forgotten that I was a joy bringer of power, that I had a desire and I could run and sing and shout and change the world

I had forgotten ME in that plastic bag and it came back in a song by people who chanted Freedom and I had Forgotten

I had forgotten

My God I had forgotten how Incredible IAM



I had


I didn’t need idols

I needed you

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#320 ~ Abimaro & The Free


Very rarely does one hear a piece of music that isn’t just a beautiful concoction of perfectly placed chords, mellifluous vocals with just enough air to make the notes sigh through your speakers, and a subtle but groovy bass line to make you smile, that, on top of all that, also has exquisitely worded and humorously constructed lyrics as Abimaro & the Free. Using conceits such as tea making, in the refreshingly honest and sincerely poignant track Ginger Tea, the three-piece band manage to take the Christian faith and present it in an accessible and stripped down recounting of the heart. The mundane is the simple basis of their lyrics. Tear drenched eyes are described as being like earl grey tea, the process of being refined and purified synonymous to frying lemon till it’s just the right gold to add a zesty flavour to the ultimate brewing of the human spirit. Abimaro & the Free have a solemnity in their compilation of four tracks, Books, which echoes within one’s heart long after the haunting trill of Matthew’s ‘Jerusalem’ hook has faded. The temptations of life are uncompromisingly placed as idols which decorate our rooms reflecting our faces, a reality which most of us can attest to, but can’t quite express. Words don’t quite capture the essence of their music which deserves to be aired on the air waves, or played in cafe’s. There is an intimacy in their music which the pop charts have reduced to sexual antics, and which religious music hasn’t quite been able to express. Instead of lifting lines from the Word, Abimaro & the Free have delicately reinterpreted and represented the Word as a living, breathing and evocative presence in the lives of very real, very normal humans and how they relate to the mystery of God in today’s world. Whether you believe in a benign creator, or just want to hear something fresh, humorous and which makes the grey tinge of the world, if only for a second, flicker into Technicolor, listen to Abimaro & the Free (check out the video below and follow the link to band camp for a free download of their album Books) and remind yourself that honesty and vulnerability can be beautifully captured in today’s music, and wait for the echo of the music speaking back to you.

Abimaro and the Free: Website


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#263 ~ Ithemba Projects: Day 28

Why do you have Zulu hair?

When I first travelled to South Africa to work with Ithemba Projects, a young girl asked me that question. She had assumed, that if I came from the UK, I could afford weave, extensions, hair accessories, and was perplexed when I chose to wear my hair short and natural. Having Zulu hair obviously had negative, or financial connotations in her still-forming mind. I explained that I loved my hair the way it was, and she nodded in a non-committed fashion. Ok crazy westerner.

Walking into a Mega-Store in downtown Pietermaritzburg last week,  I was driven to a spontaneous bark of laughter, when I saw the sign ‘ethnic hair care’ over black hair products. In my experience the term ethnic often implies ethnic minorities, something, whether it is art, fashion or jewelry that is not indigenous to the land it is being sold in. As much as the term irritates me; in my opinion all produce is ethnic, even the dominant white culture is itself ethnic, it is a term I must accept in the context of the UK. Hair oil, cow-bone earrings, printed cloth are all ethnic items to the UK, and those who wear or utilize such produce are either part of or sympathetic to that ethnic minority.

Yet in South Africa where blacks are the majority, to use the term ethnic in relation to their, for example hair produce, seems highly incongruous to me. What should be seen as ethnic are the white, or indian produce, clothing, art and hair care. Why do I make this point?

I remember, when I was a primary school student, desperately wanting to be white. I believed a fairer  complexion automatically meant beauty. Wherever I went white models peered back at me, smiled from billboards, engaged in romantic relationship in films and shows, graced the stage and album covers. One had to struggle to see a black face in a positive light, and with the same quality of professional editing as mainstream media.

The image that was compounded into my mind stated, flowing locks that could be tied into a pony tail or swept into a fringe were not only normal, but a sign of beauty. Braids were an unfortunate hairstyle only utilized until a weave could be found. And that premise, is often one ‘ethnic minorities’ are still under. The black celebrities that now grace our television screens still, in my opinion, emphasize the image. That’s not to say they aren’t ‘black’ or proud of their ethnicity. Far from it, but it seems to me, that there is still a subtle allusion that there is something ugly, or unattractive to natural kinks.

To hear a young child in ‘deepest darkest Africa’ (though SA is one of if not the most westernised country), surprised to see a ‘wealthy westerner’ with natural hair is saddening. That one easily elides wealth with the necessity to transform natural beauty, to me has deeper connotations and implications.

So it has been encouraging and warming to see, over my five weeks here, the initial surprise and the final, perhaps pride, or gratitude even, in the young students i’ve been teaching in Sweetwaters. To hear whispers of ‘she’s pretty,’ ‘I love the way you do your hair,’ demonstrates to me, that if i’ve done nothing else here, i’ve worked at dispelling the lie that once someone has emigrated to the West, once someone has become wealthy, they must deny their natural beauty. Perhaps it has even empowered some of the young girls in Sweetwaters, to remind them that, just the way they are, with their shaved heads, or short afro’s, they are beautiful. And that having ‘Zulu hair’ categorically  does not mean you’r epoor, and has none of the negative connotations they might associate with it.

Prayer for Day 28: That young girls the world over, especially in Sweetwaters, would be empowered in their own natural beauty. They would understand that their own complexions, hair styles or body figures have no relation to social or financial positions, and they would be liberated in that understanding.

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#110 ~ One Hundred Words and a Photo : 10

It was an intertwining nexus of fragility and endurance. Each year they bloomed, bearing their frail faces to the atmosphere. Those frail faces that at times were crested with diamonds, coagulated dew drops that perched tentatively on the curve of a lonesome tear.  Fragile in their pale hues, yet stitched together in a patchwork bloom, they released an infusion of beauty into a twine nest of rustic brown. When they danced, transient petals crested on upturned lips, blessing them with a flowery kiss of frail incense. Yes, they were fragile, but preciously captured in an acute moment of pure bliss.


Victoria O, Copyrighted

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#46 ~ Coinneadh Cu Chulian

All that identified her was the sound of the penny whistle. It glided through the air,  tickling the tips of ears, pulling at the corner of mouths, but there was no source, no presence that helped us discern its point of origin. It was too beautiful a sound, too mischievous and playful to be the result of modern music. It was too pure a sound, too wholesome and fruitful to be the expression of electronic devices.

There was something incongruous about that lilting melody. As we trudged down the street, conversation flowing, fingers dipping into salted chips and vinegar ladened fish, the bright lights of shops created an artificial luminance to the winter evening. In the shadows of chain stores, on  a filthy worn mat, sat a beggar, warmed by the heaving sides of a black labrador. Her nose was pierced, her unwashed hair hung in mangled, tattered plaits under a worn hat.

You know bagpipes. Those irritating, annoying musical british heirlooms that encourage wincing, cursing and ill will when played. They whine like a petty child with a snot filled nose, they wheeze like an elderly asthmatic too stubborn to accept their lungs have reached their expiry date. You never expect anything beautiful to come out of it. They are just part of the grand picture of British History and Archaism. Once in a while they shimmer from the mundanity of their background position, at a royal parade, wedding, maybe even New Years Eve, before melting back into obscurity, shunned into silence.

It was an incongruous sight. Seeing mottled, chapped fingers flying over the holes of that pipe. Gaunt cheeks were sucked in, eye lids half closed as the penny whistle blew, sang, its melody soaring, limitless, unbound. To see so much beauty emerge from so much dirt. To  imagine that a human, because it was a human, like you  and I are, or claim to be, could produce such harmony effortlessly, was incongruous. But like that ill-fated bagpipe, its potential was often ignored, censored.

How many of you even noticed her sitting outside Sainsbury’s, caressing your hearts with her vagabond arts of music?

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