‘No one owns their stories and the telling of them like white male writers. They are given endless opportunities for it. They can write about anything. They can pen rants about white-men problems and white-men wealth. They can wax lyrical about cars and boats and spaceships. They can have reams and reams of motivational articles published about being ‘bosses’. Without, mind you, ever having to refer to sexual harassment, unequal opportunities, discrimination or unequal pay. But the cherry on the vanilla cake is that they also get to write about the soft, sensitive, soulful stuff. You know?’ – Haji Mohamed Dawjee
South Africa has been proliferated by conversation about race. We have heard the likes of Koleka Putuma tackle the issue of race through her spoken word and her debut collection of poetry Collective Amnesia.
The history of slavery, colonialism and apartheid has shaped the psyche of the nation of South Africa. In the early years of South Africa as a democracy, we were known as the Rainbow nation. Many have disputed this description and offered an account of the South Africa they have lived in. Haji Mohamed Dawjee adds to the choirs of voices in her collections of essays called ‘Sorry, not sorry: experiences of a brown woman in a white South Africa’. A timely book written by a brown womxn, speaking truth to power.
Haji was the first social media editor in a newsroom at the Mail & Guardian, where she went on to work as deputy digital editor and a disruptor of the peace through a weekly column. She recalls one of those articles that caused still waters to be unsettled in her book.
In this episode, we sat down with the gorgeous Haji to speak about her book. The conversation, held at our favourite bookstore ‘Bridgebook,’ was filled with a diverse audience who had travelled near and far to listen to Haji. Our conversation canvassed whiteness and literature and why she writes what she likes. Throughout the conversation we returned to one theme, which is interracial marriage, inquiring why she did not spend some time in her book sharing her thoughts about interracial dating and marriage, owing to the fact that she was married a white man and now is married to a white womxn. We spend some time talking about intersectional feminism and what it looks like for her. The conversation led us to talk about representation and the power of Serena Williams, who she greatly adores. We laughed a lot while revisiting her essay ‘Begging to be White’, this essay had some in stitches. We spoke about the value of whiteness and how costly and taxing it can become. The conversation covered so much more themes that emerged in her book. This conversation was challenging, necessary and ripe for the moment.
follow Haji on Twitter: @sage_of_absurd