Wanelisa Xaba imagines what life in a deeply divided South Africa would have been like for 16-year-old Matlhomola “Faki: Moshoeu, had he not lost his life on a sunflower field in Coligny.
I am trying to imagine your face. I am trying to build the contours of your face, the shape of your eyes and the deepness of your melanin. I am slightly obsessing about your hands. I have a 16-year-old nephew. I know the hands of a 16-year-old.
I try to imagine how you left home that day. Did you have a fight with your mom and slam the door on your way out? Did you sneak out quickly while she was having tea with her best friend? Where were you going, baby boy?
I imagine you on your way to the house of a girl you liked. I imagine you making plans to ask her to be your girlfriend. I imagine you walking past sunflowers and stopping abruptly to pick them to give to her, hopefully to persuade her to be your girl, right? Or maybe you like sunflowers and wanted to smell them? Or maybe you needed them for a project at school? Besides, sunflowers are nature’s gift to brighten our days. How can someone own an expression of God?
Either way, you are gone. Even the hearts of people who have never known you are broken. I hope you know that the nation is mourning you, mostly because we are also mourning hundreds of years that 16-year-old Black boys have fallen at the hands of a community of people who don’t see us as human, who think we don’t deserve to be alive – let alone enjoy nature. You see, Faki? Again, I can’t help but see the sunflowers in your hands.
I want to say sorry, my baby. I am sorry that we have allowed you to grow up in a country like South Africa. I am sorry that every day we risk the lives of all our children by letting them exist in a country of men who relish the sight of Black blood flowing. I am sorry that we sacrificed you and other little Black boys and girls to cover up a big dirty secret in South Africa. We lie to you when we know that even if you had survived, by 21 your soul would have died because of the big dirty secret. The secret is that we do not own our country. We live like foreigners in the land of our forefathers. We are trapped inside an ugly beast 500 years old and the men that killed you live in the belly of that beast. The truth is that you were born in chains and freedom is not so free. And we as your parents would have lied and asked you to breathe harder even though your head is held firmly underwater. We lie because we are also the walking dead.
I am sorry that this country is still governable after your life has been taken. I am sorry that the only thing I can do is write you a stupid love letter. We are to blame for letting evil fester in South Africa, for protecting unremorseful predators. We are to blame.
I am sorry about everything.
May you find rest. May your family know peace. May we as a nation never forget our sins…