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BLACKTALE: A new poem by Tshiamo Malatji


Blacktale, a new poem by UFS Poetry Club founder and IRAWA editor Tshiamo Malatji, was first performed at the Vryfees LitFest Poetry Slam. Malatji, the three-time champion of the slam, claimed retirement from slamming and took on the role of judge for the 2019 edition. ART STATE is honoured to be the first to publish this gem.


Black fairytales are tragedies
Reminding us to burn
Memories of massacres
Tales of tearing flesh
Stories of stuffing death into villages
And being stripped
Forced to climb aboard townships
To sail
To be sold
To wear necklaces of rubber tyres
Lotions of oil
And be burned
In 1955, they buried libraries in Sophiatown
‘68, they rewrote 60 000 stories in District Six
Made them white
With gunpowder and chalk
Each black body just letters in a sentence
To death
In film, they call it whitewashing
Because we have dirty skin

We’re born, but we’re not free
When we breathe on farms
They call it white genocide
Women are still on their knees
In fields praying to a white lord
They call master or pastor
Men are underground in a mine
Which is theirs
As long as it’s above the ground
Our homes are beneath in the graves
2012, 34 miners moved in

I remember
There’s a story about the tail of a lion
Or the hunting of the history
We cannot say it correctly
Because our lions have twisted tongues
They cut them off
To sound like us when they wear our blackfaces
At least now we have names.
Zwarte Piet. Othello. Mama Jack.

My father doesn’t have a registered birthday
He was just born
In the middle of this long plot
Because we all have the same pain
My grandmother holds it in the wrinkles of her flesh
To be black is to be night
To be looked at with fear
To be falling trees in forests
For no one to hear us scream
Our lives are prewritten plays
And we are married to this act
Until death gives us a part

And these nightmares are real
They’re our stories
They are writing themselves into our skin
The white man told us a fairytale which says
“Once upon a time, the world was without form
and void and blackness was upon the face of the deep.
And the Spirit of God moved within ships upon the face of the waters.
And God said,
‘Let this be white and it was white.’”

© Tshiamo Malatji, 2019.

  1. Christopher Marumo

    l Loved the poem.
    Pure history.
    Never to be repeated.
    I’m black and I love it.
    Black. Strong. Hard.
    The Son is my Lord, my friend also. The sun is friendly to me. I love me.

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