Updated: Aug 10, 2020

“As muted and marginal members of society how do they make their voices heard?”.

Isabel Hofmeyr (Opland, 2007)

Nontsizi Mgqwetho found and expressed her voice in an age when black women were marginalised, diminished and muted. Her writing is described by Opland (2007) as swaggering, urgent and confrontational. She challenged male dominance, ineffective leadership, black apathy, white malice and indifference, exploitation, territorial and cultural dispossession. As she wrote in her first poetic submission to Umteteli wa Bantu (a newspaper edited by Marshall Maxeke, Charlotte’s husband)

Kuba tina simadoda nje asizange

Siyibone kowetu imbongikazi

Yenkazana kuba imbongi inyuka

Nenkundla ituke inkosi”

“No female poet

Came from our house:

The poet who rouses the court

And censures the king’s always a male.”

From Chizama the Poet (Opland, 2007)

For too long our women’s voices have been muted, literally and figuratively, by force or by choice. By now you probably know that I do not buy into the notion that this is all the fault of men. I regularly participate in online meetings on the Zoom platform. The organizer has the power to mute everyone and each participant has the power to mute themselves. But each participant also has the power to UNMUTE themselves irrespective of who muted them.

Whilst men certainly do need to change in order to become more egalitarian and inclusive, we cannot make that choice for them. We can only engage with them in such a way that they willingly choose to be different. Unmuting is a good start.

In order to unmute you must first find your voice. You must discover your authenticity, who you are in your soul, your core beliefs, the need which most anguishes your heart, the meaning which inspires your deep fervent energy and the best impression you can make on the world. Get really clear on the message that you want to be and the community to which you wish to convey it.

By “voice” I mean the message that you are to the world; your presence and impact.

Once you have clarified the words which you wish to embody, you must ensure that you have a voice. You can either wait for someone to give you a voice or you must find where and how you can express yourself such that you will be heard by those whom you seek to impact. In an increasingly clamorous world, being heard requires intentionality, artistry, originality and deft accuracy. To be heard you must somehow arrest attention. To capture attention you must pay attention - to your audience and to your tone of voice.