"Malika Ndlovu writes the way she lives. 'Invisible Earthquake - a woman's journal through stillbirth' is filled with abundance - from terrible grief and sorrow to healing and the joy of her son's words 'I have a sister' as he draws her - bigger than the page.You feel Iman Bongiwe's presence in Malika's life and poetry. You hear the pain of a mother who rocked her baby in her womb and felt her baby's heartbeat echo her own. As she gently lowers her white daisy onto the waves of the ocean Malika honours Iman's journey through life and death. Her poetry and song hold you, her reader as she holds herself. As you hold this book, as you read her words, you feel the pulse and rhythm of your own heart...and of the children who come 'through you but not from you'
Pregs Govender, SA Human Rights Commissioner & Author of Love & Courage – A Story of Insubordination
Whenever I have witnessed the dread in a mother’s eyes suddenly turning cold, on hearing that their baby has died, I have had to curb the urge to run away. This intensely personal and powerful journal that Malika has brought to us should become an essential adjunct to any journey that begins with that moment of sharing a baby’s death. Not only does her writing elicit the full range of human emotion, but the additional resource section makes this book extremely relevant, especially to South African women.
Dr Carol Thomas, Specialist Obstetrician Gynaecologist at theWomanSpace
In the 7 years since my own loss and subsequent ongoing counselling for other bereaved parents, I have never read more explicit and perfect words that describe the gut wrenching feeling that all mothers suffer. This is a must read for all family and friends who want to begin to try and understand the enormity of our desperateness.
Kim Palmer, The Compassionate Friends: Support Organisation for Grieving Parents
Praise is due to Malika Ndlovu for having narrated such a powerful story that takes a reader through one of the most painful and profoundly life-changing experience.
Inspired by baby Bongiwe’s passing within her, Malika uses the delicate language of poetry and journaling to invite her audience to bear witness to her deep pain, grief and sorrow.
As I read this manuscript and felt moved by its honesty and immediacy, I couldn’t resist thinking that this is the first time a woman has managed to get to the core of what “inimba” really means without mentioning the word. Inimba represents the seat of our soul that connects us to our ancestors, and at the same time provides a link to future generations. It represents that which makes us truly respond to each other’s pain and suffering and most importantly that which gives us the ability to ‘feel for‘.
This is indeed a treasure from a generous heart and soul. Malika not only invites us to bear witness to her journey, but offers all those who have travelled her path a resource to soothe their souls and aide their healing processes. Her offering is both a balm and a well of wisdom that invites fellow sisters, and their supporters to use which will inspire and replenish their weary and flagging souls.
Abaphantsi bathi Camagu sis’wam! The Ancestors Salute you, my dear sister!
Nomfundo Walaza, Clinical Psychologist & CEO of Desmond Tutu Peace Centre
Stillbirths, which are not included in worldwide infant mortality statistics, could account for 3.2 million or more additional deaths each year, international researchers have found. Stillbirths are also uncommon in wealthy nations and in less-affluent countries with good basic health care systems. The incidence of stillbirths is highest in South Asia and in Sub-Saharan Africa. "Our estimates suggest that more than 3.2 million babies are born dead every year, and the true figure is probably higher given the limitations of the available data and the fact that stillbirths are under-reported," wrote Joy E. Lawn, M.D., of the Medical Research Council of South Africa here, and colleagues. - Neil Osterweil, Senior Associate Editor, MedPage Today , May 02, 2006
I am a writer, performance poet, theatre-maker and probably most important of all – a mother of three sons. I am also the mother of a baby girl who was stillborn on 3rd January 2003. During this life –transforming period of grieving and healing I have “written my way” through the hardest parts …for my own relief and sanity and to try to capture as much of her and her impact, for remembering as time passes. From this phase of the journey I have compiled a collection of poetry and narrative that covers a 3 years period from January 2003 to January 2006.
Much of my work as an artist is driven by the principle of “healing through creativity.” Over the years I have come to recognize the power of writing from the experience, then sharing this with others who can identify with – find comfort in what you have to tell, possibly even catalysing their own healing processes. In private workshops spaces and my own network, I have shared extracts with many other women who have either had stillbirths or know of someone who has. I have offered these texts to them, knowing that dearth of reading material on this subject available in South Africa and even worldwide, written from a mother’s perspective. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and affirmed the need for me to publish this personal account of a mother still finding her way to live with such loss, to integrate and appreciate the gifts that come through the grieving. This book represents a memorial site where healing through creative expression has taken place…a beacon for mothers and fathers who have been there, for those who know others who have been there and as a tribute to my daughter Iman (Faith) Bongiwe(Gratitude) Ndlovu.
- Malika Ndlovu 2007 -
“ This work speaks for itself: it whispers, cries, weeps, sings, reaches far for consolation. It invokes and even delicately touches at times the great wings spread over us if we but bother to look. It was a joy (and a sorrow) to read this manuscript with an editorial eye. It is joy alone to watch the formidable talent of Malika Ndlovu unfold. This is a voice our healing nation needs to hear.” Shauna Wescott (Editor and Writer)
“Malika has created a piece of work that gives grief a voice. I know this will bring solace to all those who read it, anyone who has lost any loved one will see themselves in her words.” Joy Mc Pherson (Founder Midwives Inc.)
On the 3rd January 2006 my mother, five other close friends and I gathered on a beach at dawn and sat silent in the disappearing dark, listening to the whispering shore. Witnessing the silhouetted mountain and horizon gradually birthed into the light, we finally broke the hush with a few soft, heart-spoken words. I offered each one a white daisy to cast into the waves and we each in our own time approached the icy waters edge and made our offerings to the sea and waking sky. Joy carried me at that point in time, that moment, filling me with a deep gratitude for each precious one that had supported me through this journey of recovery and for the five who had chosen to share this sacred ritual with me.
When I stepped into the water I walked tilled washed up to my knees. As it swirled around me tugging at my feet in its retreat, I felt the same sudden powerlessness and aloneness of the moment of that single push that finally flushed her from my womb. Suddenly the tears came, then unexpectedly a gust of wind caught my daisy, took it from my hand, helping me let it go. It floated away from me quietly. My heart, a fragile lotus, bravely peeled back another circle of petals. I felt myself open instead of close, felt the glow of her, my daughter, being proud of me. As the darkness faded my companions and I walked along the shore, collecting smooth stones nestled in the white sand. I took some home to sit on her spot in our garden under the loquat tree, where already a giant wishbone stands, a forked branch I had found on another walk, on another day. Its still leans against that tree, not alive and green but bleached into a new beauty by the sun.
Recently I drove over a familiar railway bridge in a Cape Town suburb and as I got over the incline and approached the traffic light at a busy intersection ahead, I was suddenly choked up at the sight of a building on the corner being torn down. A large metal ball pounded at its crumbling walls and several identical cranes like cold yellow vultures circled, waiting to collect the debris. This was not just any building. This was the hospital where my life like in an earthquake’s aftermath, had split in two. 6 years ago on New Year’s Day I had sat in my obstetrician’s cubicle on the 4th floor of this hospital with my husband clasping one of my hands in both of his, our eyes fixed on the small foetal monitoring screen while the doctor gently described the signs we should see and hear, to prove that our baby girl, after almost seven months in-utero, was no longer alive. Later that Wednesday evening we checked into a private room in the same building where she eventually, after two surreal days and several labour induction attempts, Iman Bongiwe was stillborn at 3:35am on Friday 3rd January 2003. That building has now transformed into a corporate block with exclusive apartments in the top floor. Joy Mc Pherson, the phenomenal midwife who supported me throughout this and two other pregnancies, died of a brain tumour in 2007, after more than twenty years in midwifery. Except for the few birth photographs she was wise and loving enough to take for me, the birth and death certificates we have locked in our safe, the small grave on a hill near our home, there is little physical evidence that our daughter ever existed. Yet like that reconstructed building the entire landscape of all our lives has fundamentally changed. Nothing can be as it was before. Time has relentlessly brought on this change and I am still taken by surprise some days, when I realise how much time has passed since that turning point, how I have ached and cried less and less, how I have found and developed ways to live with what I thought I couldn’t and didn’t want to bear in the beginning.
Just over a year after Iman Bongiwe’s passing I gave birth to her brother Kwezi Michio – now almost 5 years old. His was an unplanned-far-too-soon-but-then-again-perhaps-perfectly-timed pregnancy which doctors and family alike held great fears and doubts about. But he was born at home emerging safely from the very same womb in which she did not survive. His physical presence is for me inextricably connected to her physical absence. His growth and daily milestones never pass without my thoughts lingering, even for a second, on how it would be if she were here or remembering the depths of sorrow that he lifted me from, when he entered our lives. Still, with time and the many forms of healing I have chosen, the harsh strokes on this canvas of my heart have begun merging, blending, blurring so that I rarely ever think of what my eyes saw in those few hours of holding her tiny body or those few precious photographs. I don’t choose to re-member her that way. I am able to see her now, in my own inexplicable way, everywhere and in everything. She is an inner compass for me, a reminder of what matters in this life, how fleeting it is, how fragile we are. She is also fully present in our family memories, our occasional verbal recollections and in the lives of those who carried my family and I through the initial shock and heartbreak. For each of us in our individual experience of her, the cycles of grieving continue, ebbing with time. She lives through us and through all those whom her story, our story has made an impact on. Through this book that circle widens and the overwhelming silence and invisibility around her life and death and hopefully many others like hers, is penetrated.
Malika Ndlovu January 2009
African Woman Playwrights - in which A Coloured Place is published.
This anthology consists of nine plays by a diverse group of women from throughout the African continent. The plays focus on a wide range of issues, such as cultural differences, AIDS, female circumcision, women’s rights to higher education, racial and skin color identity, prostitution as a form of survival for young girls, and nonconformist women resisting old traditions. In addition to the plays themselves, this collection includes commentaries by the playwrights on their own plays, and editor Kathy A. Perkins provides additional commentary and a bibliography of published and unpublished plays by African women.
The playwrights featured are Ama Ata Aidoo, Violet R. Barungi, Tsitsi Dangarembga, Nathalie Etoke, Dania Gurira, Andiah Kisia, Sindiwe Magona, Malika Ndlovu (Lueen Conning), Juliana Okoh, and Nikkole Salter.
“I have long wished there were a collection of the work of African women playwrights. This unique and valuable volume makes a truly significant contribution to the field of both African theatre and black women’s writing. The plays are stimulating and very interesting, dealing with a range of pertinent issues.” —Jane Plastow, coeditor of Theatre and Empowerment: Community Drama on the World Stage
“These plays are fascinating; the plots and characters are varied, interesting, and well developed. Moreover, as the only collection of plays written exclusively by African women, this collection will be immensely appealing to students and scholars of theatre, literature, cultural studies, African studies, and women’s studies, as well as general readers who are interested in learning about contemporary African plays and playwrights.” —Judith Stephens-Lorenz, editor of The Plays of Georgia Douglas Johnson: From the New Negro Renaissance to the Civil Rights Movement.
Feminist Theory Reader: Local and Global Perspectives, Second Edition by Carole R. McCann and Seung-Kyung Kim (Routledge, 2009)
We Are…A poetry Anthology compiled and edited by Natalia Molebatsi, (Penguin Books SA, 2008)
African Women Playwrights – A Coloured Place script & interviews , edited by Prof. Kathy. A. Perkins (University of Illinois Press, 2008)
“Authentic, mesmerising, cathartic, funny and profound, Malika’s words thread and dart like soft jazz through the vast tapestry that is life. Birth, death, the transformation of self or even everyday occurrences - a drunk man singing in a parking lot, a man collapsed at a bus stop or the colour of dawn – are embraced and celebrated by her all-seeing poet’s eye and heart. Malika’s ability to express the inexpressible and go where most of us can only blindly feel, is life affirming and remarkable. Hers is a unique and vital South African voice. ”Marianne Thamm, South African writer and columnist
“I write to free the language of my heart”, says Malika… and her heart beats to the rhythm of the universe, with the cycles of planets, with the tides of the oceans. Her eyes see with the secret wisdom of sages, with the courage and determination of Amazons. This very rich anthology is a treasure chest of life. There are diamonds in it for you too. Go on this treasure hunt. Read on.” Dr. Laszlo D. Zsory, Obstetrician and Life Energy Therapist
"Malika is a wonderful poet and storyteller, gifted in her use of language. This is an impressive achievement and ambitious body of work. ”Professor Kathy A. Perkins, Editor of five play anthologies on African/African Diaspora women University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Our contemporary world is littered with the wreckage of idealism, sacrificed to expediency and negotiated moralities, where experience is currency for mortgaged futures. As a counterpoint, Malika Lueen Ndlovu’s offering celebrates our journey with authenticity and an urgent call for a return to essence. Truth is both Spirit and Flesh is nutrient in a time of emotional and cultural drought. Zenzile Khoisan, Editor Rootz Africa magazine
Author: Malika Lueen Ndlovu
O Mag, Feature Writer since 2008
Rootz Afrika - South African Music and Culture magazine Soul Food Feature Writer since 2007 (Uhuru Communications CC)
Carapace Vol 63. (Snail Press, 2007)
Drumvoices Revue Vol.15 ed. Poet Laureate Eugene Redmond (English Department of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, 2007)
The Living Tradition (revised edition) poem “Wrapped Up” (Maskew Miller Longman, 2007)
TOMÁS literary journal, edited by author Alfredo ‘Krip’ Yuson (University of Santo Tomas, Philippines, 2006)
Girl Child, a commissioned poem for the Art for Humanity’s Women for Children Project, published in Look at Me catalogue for this South African poet and visual artists collaborative project centred around children’s rights (AFH Press, 2006)
WEAVE’s Ink @ Boiling Point: A selection of 21st Century Black Women’s writing from the Southern Tip of Africa. Co-edited and published (WEAVE, 2000)
“ Born in Africa But” - first solo anthology (Educall Publishers 2000)
This is Malika Lueen Ndlovu’s first poetry collection, a body of work that spans over a 15 year period. Born in 1971 and living through what she describes as the RDP – Democracy – TRC – So now we are free – era. Her poetry stems from this context and yet consistently reaches beyond it. For Malika, the but in this title most aptly tells her story as a young South African woman of ‘mixed descent’ and an artist always confronting definitions of identity and engaging with their inherent contradictions.
The four phases of poetry represented in this anthology are works that strongly reflect her evolution as a writer and her exploration of storytelling through poetry. Malika has performed many of these works at local arts and culture events and international literary festivals.
Author: Malika Lueen Ndlovu
Slaves at the Cape: A guidebook for beginner researchers (The Slavery and Heritage Project, University of Cape Town, 2000)
Agenda’s (Women’s Empowerment Project) 50th Anniversary Issue (2001)
City in Words (David Philip publishers, 2001)
Womb To World: A Labour of Love, first performance poetry CD, with original soundscapes by Garth Erasmus, including illustrated anthology, (self-published, 2001)
Womb to world is a work rooted in the process of motherhood, in the experience of creation, in the celebration of the spiritual and emotional landscape that women inhabit from inception to birth. With her poetry Malika has honoured, what Alice Walker calls the “miracle that women perform” in giving birth. Children come through us, to teach us, to guide us, to amuse us, to stretch us as spiritual beings. Malika’s poetry resounds with the intensity of this life lesson, and reveals the complexity of emotions at work in every nook and cranny of the womb as it performs its alchemy.
Gail Smith, feminist writer & cultural critic
Author: Malika Lueen Ndlovu
Download Womb To World at:
The New Century of South African Poetry edited by Michael Chapman (AD Donker Publishers, 2002)
self-published Voices Of Nisaa, which included photography, original poetry and quotations from interviews with Muslim women from SA, UK, USA, Sudan and Ethiopia who were involved with the initial phase of The Nisaa Project, an ongoing international arts project focussed on and inspired by Muslim women, creating a public platform for their creative expression, which Malika and her team launched at the Cape WOW (Women of the World) Festival 2002 at the Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town
Rootz a new African Music and culture magazine (Uhuru Communications CC, 2003)
Feminist Studies Journal, Special Issue , Volume 23 on South African feminists and writers ( Univ. of Maryland, USA, 2003)
Voices of the Transition: Perspectives on the Politics, Poetics and Practices of Development in the new South Africa - Isandla Institute Commemorative Book Project 2002-2004 ( Edited by Edgar Pieterse & Frank Meintjies, published by Heinemann, 2004)
Poetry Salzburg Review: Imagination in a Troubled Space (Special South African Poetry Feature) published by University of Salzburg, Austria, 2004 with guest editors Dorothea Steiner and Michela Borzaga and editor Wolfgang Goertschacher
Inheriting the Flame : New Writing on Community Arts in South Africa , Edited by Graham Falken- a commissioned title poem for Dept. Arts & Culture, AMAC (ex- CAP & Media Works) publication documenting contribution of independent arts & culture institutions have made to the history and transformation of South Africa, looking back over a ten year period. (AMAC, 2004)