Saturday, 17 May 2014

Thee Feature

Hey all... :)

So it started with a simple inbox message from a loving soul by the name of Gaby, it read: 

"Hi Oyama,
...I write to you to ask for a chance to converse with you with regards to some work I have to do for my course. I think you are very relevant. My Media course has had us create blogs that discuss issues about of course, the media. Mine in particular addresses the constructions of the Self and how much they have to do with the Media's influence. In my blog I have explored the issues of race, gender, self-knowledge etc.. What feels right for me to do next is explore the physical performances of who we are in the mediated world. Particularly, I seek to glimpse into the world of what Jill Scott would call "the thickness": the worlds of women who are not skinny and what the world perceives to be big and therefore, not "it". How they feel about their bodies, and how they go about not giving a damn about it and moving forward despite the images of skinny girls that pervade the magazines and haunt out self-esteems... Every time I've seen you on campus I have been struck and straight up confronted with your strong sense of self. It envelopes you. I would like to know how you do it. How do you literally wear your Self in a world, South Africa, UCT that sees you as "too much"? You rock your shorts, and the tight tops. The media says "no!" because apparently your body does not look good in what is meant for size 26 girls. I also just went through your timeline. The word that has come to me to describe you is "jampacked". I saw the Chimamanda quotes, your quotes on RADICAL self love and that you have a blog that i'd love to have a look through before we meet... I'm honestly quite thrilled and hoping you'll get this soon and reply to me as your earliest convenience. Really sorry about the late notice. School is too hectic for me. But i'm so passionate about this that I know its all going to work out. Thanks in advance, "Gaby"

Before I knew it, she dag deep into my soul; and allowed me to reveal a lot of the things that I was not aware of myself and we ended up with a beautiful piece that she wrote and of course I have to share it, as I believe that what I am doing will hopefully touch a lot of people who have issues with their appearance, this then to me means allowing you to reach into my soul as well as allowing you to see the vulnerable Oyama here it goes:


Of course, she is a Scorpio woman:  a law unto her own Self. Only this dense late-October brawd could own her Self in the midst of the world’s (superficial) judgemental glare. Much to UCT’s chagrin, she is unapologetic. She fractures “society’s “rules” on what should be perceived as the normative yardstick of a beautiful woman”.
Jill Scott's The Thickness themes our interaction: “she a big chick! Big ol’ legs, big ol’ thighs, big’ ol hips, big ol’ ass, big ol’ tits”. Young South African girl, twenty-years young, old time hater of self, “saturated with self-hatred”.
Only a day old, Oyama Unathi Botha left behind her “Queen” mother, in the “beautiful strong” town of Fort Beaufort in the Eastern Cape (“fort”, French for “strong”. “Beau”, French for “beautiful”), with her maternal grandmother. The Queen’s priority was to finish school. Off to De Aar in the Northern Cape, to be raised alongside cousin Ziyanda, her mirror. Oyama was a happy child. A happy,chubby child. Distinguished and set apart. “U Oyama no Ziyanda ka makhulu, omnye utyebile omnye ubhityile”: grandmother’s Oyama and Ziyanda. The one is fat, the other is thin”. A note for Oyama: your physical build defines you. Thus marking the beginning of the journey to self-denigration. Unknown destination. Until after the matric dance, perhaps. The mother city is shall be.
The University of Cape Town, hippies and cool kids’ headquarters. No space for a self-assured, voluptuous one point five metre black girl. In fact, not another Strong Black Woman. Please. But you cannot miss her. You will not miss her. It is one point six metres of oversupply. Confidence and pride 101. Triple majoring in International Relations, Public Policy and Administration as well as Organisational Psychology, a blogger and admirer and advocate for Nigerian author and feminist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Oyama is well within her own Self. But It wasn’t always like this.
I would have to be “very careful” if I was going to engage a big girl, inquire on how she navigates her Self in this mediated UCT. That is what they said. “Be very careful. Don’t make them feel bad. Weight is a sensitive issue”. They don’t know this girl. They clearly haven’t seen her! But I was right, as usual.
As expected, Oyama is real. No time for evasiveness. Her blog, Yammie Hearts & Curves, presents her in a turban bra, tummy bare, gazing into the space. Luxe et volupt√©.
Oyama did not like her corporal Self. Why, I ask. “The media. It all goes back to that”. She physically gestures “it’s obvious!” The answer is indeed obvious. But not a thorn in the flesh if you are unaffected by the media’s hate-yourself-because-you-are-not-enough images and messages. It is only obvious to the victim, who knows that she is the victimizer’s object of (injurious) affection, a quadruple threat: young, woman, black, full of potential. The media is what broke her down, divided her into two, subtracted self-esteem, added self-hate, and multiplied notions of double-mindedness, internally brawling with God and “the other voice”. The former avowing that she is “fearfully and wonderfully made”, the latter declaring that she needs to “shake it all off”. Oh really?
The Thickness sustains our conversation. The words ring truer: “she’s so big, ain’t nobody even tryin’ to reach her mind”. She would know, she is (unconsciously) on the receiving end of our judgements. Turns out, Oyama exercises. She recalls of a brief encounter with a girl who was inspired her boldness, her way of dress, who confessed that she “could never” wear shorts the way Oyama does. This girl was half her own size. “At that moment, it occurred to Ms.Botha that “perhaps it’s not a matter of the exterior. It’s a matter of how you feel inside”.
Surprisingly, Oyama is not able to pin-point the day she shook off her feelings of insecurity. High-school did play a preponderant role, however. Kimberley Girls’ High’s self-conscious teacher’s pet “got it all” one particular morning and the rest was history.
The antidote to shame is pride. Oyama’s subversion of shame is illustrative of the healing properties of what she advocates: Radical Self Love. The absence of fear transforms feelings of disgrace into the embracing of all that is different. Oyama found refuge in Akhona, another full-figured school-mate who shaped her desire for redemption from the world’s judgement of her.
At one stage, Oyama recounts that she “went as far as entering plus size competitions, wearing what I wanted to wear and feeling comfortable in my own skin thus, not conforming to other peoples beauty standards”. She seems to illustrate the determination needed to escape the clutches of the media in order to become the standard, not part of it.
She shares the following with me: “NOW, I am here and, for some reason along the line, all the “issues” that caused me to be cruel to myself are now contributing towards my story telling and radical self-love journey.A story that is provoked through contributions of receiving kind messages of how I inspire girls to love themselves and stop conforming and always remembering that loving yourself radically starts from within”.
Oyama Botha is a survivor. She disturbs convention. That simultaneously makes her an icon and a marginalized member of society even after having made the decision to go against all odds in order to own and authentically define her own Self.
Jill Scott’s words will carry her through the next leg of her journey…“Lift her. Lift her. Let her be elevated. Let her be elevated”.




  1. I once listen to that "Thickness" Jill Scott song before I get to hear your story, Its amazing how a song can inspire you to go as far catch emotions

    you good, I like you.