Poetic Collective Amnesia

Poetic Collective Amnesia

by Mamello Sejake                              Posted: 2017/05/23

Koleka Putuma doing the damn things from the pulpit we have been thirsting for.

I would like us to be clear that this is not a literary critic. It is me sharing my (a) creed.

In the last two months I slid back into depression. It gave me a break for a few years or at least it hasn’t anchored me into darkness for a few years. I relapsed though.

I now have a rich collection of medication. Weekly talk sessions, I cannot afford and, a new bible. Collective Amnesia by Koleka Putuma.

Collective Amnesia is a bounded body of poems. At 24 she has birthed healing, in the form of written words, which have made breathing easier for me.

It’s a bible for black bodies. One for queer bodies. One for the bodies we’ve lost. One for the ones whose loved ones are helplessly searching for them. One for the forgotten ones. One for those who sacrificially paved the road for us. One for those who unknowingly and unwillingly paved the way for us. One for those who fed and bathed us. One for those who had to and still forcefully wrap their tongues around a language that came by ship and tells us every day that we will not make it without speaking it. One for black women. One for our dear black mothers. One for every parent. One for those of us who have questioned and have had to validate our blackness. One for anyone gasping for a breath of air – in whichever way it comes. One for those who need to cope.

I am unclear as to whether it is what she says or how she words it that lessens the load.


In her first poem Black Joy she feeds us with nostalgia. She takes us back to the days of eating bread buttered with iRama. Back to the days when one mattress laid out on the floor was enough space for us all, irrespective of the number. Back to a time when we were filled and content with what many would call “nothing”. It is a Post-it of its own that illuminates the reality that when many white people want to discuss black childhoods it is often the stories of pain and poverty that interest them.

Growing Up Black And Christian pulled at my heart strings. In the first stanza she writes “The first man you are taught to revere is a white man”. And, forever after that I (some of us) was somewhat programmed to serve him. We (some of us) watch(ed) our mothers, fathers and relatives do the same. Knocking on heaven’s door. A door I am yet to see open. If indeed it does habitually open, as they profess, then why are black bodies still the bridges over which the world walks over?

Poems like Water and Mountain reminded me of Christianity. A white patriarchal man whose laws and ways always made me feel excluded. Inadequate. Misplaced. And, wrong.

This man or thing or power was (is) supposedly more special than our black mothers and fathers. The people who hold up our skies. In between the lines I kept thinking of everyone whose praises we should have sung and should be singing in place of (before) his.

But, we all need to believe in something and for some it is him.

Then like a powerful master of ceremonies embodied in the physique of a Queen renegade she spills her tears, frustration and curiosity into No Easter Sunday For Queers, Memories Of A Slave And Queer Person and On Black Solidarity she outlines the truth that right now and in the years that have passed queer bodies have been getting killed. In these parts rape culture; killing, burning and ditching queer bodies along with abducting women is not something that makes headlines. She need not mention, well you would assume that it is common knowledge, that these are our people and other people’s people whose lives are being discarded like chicken bones after supper.


She touches on love… how it can save us, undo us at the seams, leave a lump in our throats, confuse us and fill our hearts with stories.

For me; at best Collective Amnesia has been a healer. Yes, it is just poetry but even water is just water and you would not dare argue its power!

Koleka has done the things that make the pots to be done. Her honesty has been an abundant offering to (me) us.

Kgaitsedi, you have done the damn thing!

Thank you. Ke a leboga.

Ho bokete ho ba motho ya motsho, ho bokete ho e ba mosadi wa mothomotsho, empa mantswe a tswhanang le a hao a re fa bophelo. Lesedi le ne le wena!

There is so much that I haven’t touched on. Luckily, she will be in Newtown this Saturday at Plat4orm, at 19:00, for the launch and selling the book for R100. R50 gets you in.


Koleka Putuma doing the damn things from the pulpit we have been thirsting for.



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