By Shameelah Khan
2020 is over.
How did we get here?
Where are we going?
When I think about migration, I think about the moon and the stories from the women before me. The women who harvested the land and the ocean all at once, sewing through their hands, a sky of pain as they built new homes from unsettled dust. I don’t know them, but I hear them as they visit me to teach me about memory, dreams and pain. I don’t carry their names, because it was not the names they carried here to this country, South Africa when they had arrived under slavery and apartheid. They tell me of their lineage when I slip into a deep consciousness, rooted in hands covered in soils from parts of the world they once called home. One spoke of India and the famous ‘ship’. Motion sickness and cabin fever for months on end as they sailed across the Indian Ocean settling in KwaZulu Natal, where they worked as slaves on the sugar cane farms. I listen to the story of a woman half Xhosa and half Zulu, who had the hands of a healer, an eye for the sky above and a seer of great-struggle. A seer of death. I hear the ancient stories of China and a man who braved the war but fell in love with a woman from Indonesia. They had eloped to this country made of raw iron and rotting meat, laid bare in the mouths of white- soldiers. I hear of a woman, as young as the birth of morning, taken to clean the homes in the Cape paid by the ‘dop’ system, she travelled by sea too- made her way to a ruthless man, a man who loved whiteness, women and his whiskey. I hear about a woman who was born into Sotho Royalty and then disregarded from her family, who knows what had happened with the white man and her. I hear whispers of Poland, Portugal, Spain and Germany and then I taste the stories of my grandparents. Forced out of their homes, when the Group Areas Act swallowed their insides, spitting them out into new places, new neighbours, new forms of otherness. My parents and then me. Me. A product of love, lust and longing for homes that were not this home- my home- South Africa. How do I locate where I hold my pain in these lands? Where does my history hurt and how do I digest memory as though it were not that far away? I sometimes catch myself thinking about all the Urdu poetry my grandfather never taught me to recite by heart, or the impepho that spoke through my great grandmother’s heart, or the light from the lighthouse in Saint Helena Bay. I wander about the sandy slums in a rural Jakarta village or what Chinese foods my great grandfather loved to eat when he was sad. I know not their mother tongues and I know not my own.
But we speak,
In a world far,
Where lives are
As near as the moon
That carries the sun
From one day
To the next
From my ancestors
In their homes.
In this issue:
Odd Interview with Boity – Amir Bagheri
Missing in Action: The Meaning Behind Paper Planes – Ibtisaam Ahmed
15 Films on Migration you should see – Shameelah Khan
Scattered seeds of hiraeth – Rachel Brhanu
Things to be Thankful For – Haafizah Bhamjee
Desert Soil – Karak Mufti
after eucharist, two bodies – Martins Deep
I pray that the heaven still exists – Akash Ali
Flight – Jane Lamb
Minor Migration Anthology – Alun Robert
Center Console – Jason Peters
The mythology of things – Tanya Akrofi