the margin: time to scribble all over the lines

“As a radical standpoint, perspective, position, ‘the politics of location’ necessarily calls those of us who would participate in the formation of counter-hegemonic cultural practice to identify space where we begin to process if re-vision.”

been reading Choosing the Margin by bell hooks, in it she quotes from another one of her work feminist theory:from margin to centre about the train tracks that reminded her and the darkies of kentucky that they lived in the margins. across the tracks were the places they could only enter in order to be servants. and there were laws to ensure that at the end of the day they always went back over the tracks into the ‘margin’.

“To be in the margin is to be part of the whole but outside the main body. As black Americans living in a small Kentucky town, the railroad tracks were a daily reminder of our marginality… We could enter that world but we could not live there. We had always to return to the margin, to cross the tracks to shacks and abandoned houses on the edge of town.”

it made me think of Alexandra township wedged between affluent Lombardy East and opulent Sandton City. those in Alex can look over their “train tracks” – the jukskei river on one side and the n1 on the other – that keeps the margin boundaries very clear. they cross the “train tracks”. indeed as Alex has grown, it has spilt over the Jukskei River and climbed the hill creeping towards Lombardy East. i haven’t lived in Lombardy East since i was a kid but i would’t be surprised if it’s now more black than white.

Sandton on the other hand has survived the “post-apartheid black invasion” – i’m talking large numbers, like compare Yeoville in ’92 to 2012. Sandton sits on the other side if the N1 glittering like an obscene jewel in the face of poor Alex. the people of Alex work there, even shop there but they don’t sleep in Sandton unless it’s the night shift.

the higher and shinier Sandton has become in the past eighteen years, Alex has become shoddier and crampier…

but i’m not writing about not about the glitter.

i’m ruminating over the ‘margins’ that even legislated freedom can’t erase. if anything, this is the triumph if systematic oppression.

in the quote referred to above, bell hooks goes on to talk about how they learned to see reality from the outside and the inside. to understand both sides and most importantly to understand that they are an important part of a whole. this understanding leads to a “wholeness’ impressed upon [their] consciousness…” i think we, here in SA, haven’t gotten there yet. at least, most of us haven’t.

darkies are like the caged bird that will never fly the coop even when the door is left open. we stay in our confines, our spirits broken. leaving the margin is tough. we even carry some sort of warped pride about these cages we call home. leaving is like turning your back on your identity. and this identity – crafted through years of systematic capture says the margin is safe, outside of the margin is pain, betrayal and against the fold.

even as we now are meant to have free reign over this land of our ancestors, izwe lethu, we are afraid to fully occupy it.

we are stuck in the margin…

and we need to break out, break free. a time of reinvention is required. A time of rebelling against all the safe option that look like they are meant to be, decreed by sone divinity or the only way of being need to be subverted.

it’s time to stop toeing the line. time to scribble outside and all over the lines. curse the margin.

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