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No Rules – Available on Amazon

This is a cross-cultural love story of two millennials set in Johannesburg, South Africa. It is available on Amazon under Women’s Fiction. To read a sample and purchase, go to https://www.amazon.com/kindle/dp/B071NY9YXC/ref=rdr_kindle_ext_eos_detail

You can check out my other posts on this blog and visit my FaceBook Page at https://www.facebook.com/lamourafricaine/

This is my first self-published novel, under the my nom de plume Pearl Deyi. Deyi is one of the family names of our clan, oManzini aba kwaZungu and also has letters from my surname.

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The Learned People Shall Govern

My favourite poem Nikki Giovanni called Hot Chocolate starts with the words: ‘This is not a Poem…’ So to speak of the Abantu Book Festival one would say:

This is not a Book Fair
It’s an experience.
Not just a meeting place
For writers and buyers
But an intersection
Of ideas, values and perspectives
Of what it means
To be a man, a woman,
Or in-between

Every second and every inch of space
Ours to express ourselves
Unapologetically African
No fucks given
No offence taken
Consciously intellectual
No ‘woke woke’rhetoric here
Only honest conversations
Agree or disagree
We sit at the feet of experience
Yet learn from youth

A happy place
Where colleagues and contemporaries
Become friends
And friends reconnect with the joy
Of long-lost siblings
A safe space
where everyone acknowledges,
understands and accepts
Your particular brand of madness.
And realises its genius.

A place of reflection
Of introspection
A place of power
A place of resistance
The legendary township of Soweto,
Where Apartheid received
Its most deadly wounds
In this place
Babylon’s whiteness
Must Fall.

A stone’s throw from
That sacred place called Kliptown
In this place
We declare that:
The People Shall Write
The People Shall Read
The People Shall Learn and
The Learned People Shall Govern

Long Live the People’s Book Festival
Long Live!
Long Live the Spirit of Ubuntu!
Long Live!
Amandla!
Awethu!
Imfundo!
Eyethu!
Inkululeko yaBantu!
Mayibuye!

Say No

Peace in the heart, peace in the home, peace in the world.

Indulgent Gifts

Say no

To those who

Demean

Dismiss and

Disrespect you.

Say no

To those who decide

That your being different

Makes you less than the least of them

And therefore underserving of

Courtesy

Consideration and

Contentment.

Say no

To those who deny

Your right to occupy

The same space

Enjoy the latitude

To express

The essence of you.

To those who

Use and abuse you

Sacrificing your fragile wellbeing

on the altar of

Their self-centred desires

Say no.

To those

Whose good intentions pave the way

to your personal hell

Saying you must,

you should

you had better

Do whatever

hurts your body and sickens your soul

Say no.

To your ego

Which sides with the enemies outside

Refusing to honour the truth

Of who you are.

Say no.

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Book Review: The Polygamist by Sue Nyathi

Heh leh Jonasi

Heh yeh Jonasi

Loving you has taught me

To never let go of a good thing

Loving you has taught me never to lie

I hate telling a lie…

This is the beginning of Stimela’s hit song I Hate Telling A Lie with Ray Phiri as lead vocalist and on lead guitar. This song played in my head when I started reading The Polygamist, Sue Nyathi’s debut novel, centered around a rich powerful man named Jonasi. However the protagonist is nothing like the serenading lover portrayed in the song. Jonasi in the novel, lies without compunction and never stops, lying even to himself.

The story begins with the account of Jonasi’s funeral with all the women in his life gathered to bid him farewell. Jonasi in death is far from the handsome virile lover, husband and father they experienced in life. Set in Harare, Zimbabwe, the city that never sleeps, there is a grim contrast in the lives of the have-nots living in the township and the fabulously well-heeled living in the Northern suburbs. Then as the economy tanks, even the wealthy feel the pinch as everyone tries to make a living, hustling in whatever way they know how.

The story is told from the point of view of each of the women as they experience the sorrows and fleeting joys of loving a selfish man who never really belongs to any of them. In his own words, he loves each of them for very different reasons. Each of the women’s stories is different. What motivated them to get into this relationship, to stay or in some cases to leave, albeit in different ways?

The children react in different ways as each child’s dream of the perfect family is shattered by the drama in the making, unmaking and remaking of the relationships between their father and each of their mothers. The extended family have their own view of the situation and treat it with delicacy to avoid upsetting Jonasi and losing out on the benefits

The novel is a gripping read. Sue has a wicked sense of humour and the ability to get you to laugh at what are dire situations in the book. There are such gems as ‘ my wife had more game than a soccer team’ and when the youngest of the women describes the older men she slept with saying: ‘ Their asses are so wrinkled sometimes I have to ask myself if it’s flesh I’m holding onto or a mohair throw.’ If you want to see more gems, follow her on @SueNyathi on Twitter.

The Polygamist takes a brutally honest look at marriages and love affairs. It is an unforgettable read that will make you rethink relationships and people’s motivations for entering and staying in them.

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Book Review: Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi

The totally unexpected beginning of this story had me thinking ‘Who starts a novel like that?’ The closest to come to that would be how Margaret Atwood, in an ad for an online masterclass, when she says she would have rewritten the beginning of Little Red Riding Hood to say: ‘It was dark inside the wolf.’ Taiye Selasi’s technique kept me riveted for the next 318 pages.

The story draws you in to the chronicles of three generations of a family. Starting with an interracial marriage between Maud a Scotswoman and John Nwaneri, in Nigeria, their daughter Somayina, who dies young leaving her husband Olukayode Savage and their young daughter Folasade. After the tragic death of her father in an outbreak of violence in the Muslim North, Folasade emigrates to the United States of America, where she meets Kweku, a Ghanaian medical student. They get married and raise a family: Olu, who follows in his father’s’ footsteps, the twins: Taiwo, a girl and Kehinde a boy, who share that sacred bond and then Folasade, nicknamed Sadie, the last-born daughter who nearly didn’t make it.

The family’s American Dream, however, morphs into a nightmare when he fails to save the life of a millionaire’s mother, who happens to be a benefactor of the hospital. To appease the family, the hospital unjustly fires the good doctor, one of their finest surgeons and thus begins the family’s downward spiral into tragedy.

The novel, much like a movie, pans, zooms in and fades out, with flashbacks into the family’s lives as they deal with the disappearance and attempted reappearance of the husband and father from their lives after he loses his job. Folasade calls on her native Nigerian hustling instincts to pick up the pieces and keep going. Each child is affected differently and finds their own way of dealing with the separation of their parents and the impact of the decisions their mother had to make to support them.

The family reunites in Ghana many years later to bury Kweku, now a successful surgeon in a local hospital. He has remarried and built his dream home with an achingly beautiful garden, planted and tended by a geriatric yogi called Mr Lamptey, the eccentric carpenter who built the house. They all react differently on arrival in this country. It’s home, yet not home, this strange land that their father came from.

In the run-up to the funeral, the children get to know their father’s family, come to understand their father better and what drove him. They each find their own connection to this place, to begin to understand and resolve some of their personal issues, including the retelling of painful and deeply-buried secrets. In this land they begin to understand their gifts and find their place in the world. This unfolding of events gives credence to the belief that only when you know where you come from, will you know where you’re going. It partly explains Africans’ obsession with ‘going home’, especially for immigrants and their children born on foreign soil.

The most poignant part of the story is how Folasade, having moved back to Africa, mourns her estranged husband and makes peace with his new wife Ama. In one of those stories of female solidarity that is so often not told, the two women, understanding they have both lost him, mourn him together and support each other.

Ghana Must Go, makes reference to the xenophobic sentiment in Nigeria which led to the mass expulsion of Ghanaians living in the country. It is a story of personal struggle and sacrifice against the backdrop of war, poverty and making a life in a foreign land. It reveals the beauty and cruelty that comes with being part of a family as well as a personal search for belonging and a spiritual place of rest. It is an altogether unforgettable read.

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A Black Girl’s Song

Colour Me Yellow: Searching For My Family Truth, the autobiography by Thuli Nhlapo is a compelling read. For me, an autobiography is someone else’s story. Thuli’s book is more than that. It touched me deeply because it is as much my story as it is that of many other people. The themes of Thuli’s story resonates with the story of my own family: of family secrets; the pain of being an outsider; of being different; the liberation of discovery and the realization that you have always known deep down, that which everyone around you is determined to deny. The issue of her complexion dominates the story, a reverse form of the colourism that we experience today, which glorifies light skin as a form of proximity to whiteness. There’s also the refusal by her family to acknowledge the distant past, which causes a painful prolonged and unnecessary struggle for her to integrate her intense spiritual gifts into her life.

This is a story of an African family, like many others, that keep a secret to keep them together. For the secret is like the one ring that binds them all* . It keeps the family whole, forcing everyone to maintain the façade of normalcy. What is a ‘normal’ family? Well for a start, a family must have a head. A father. The biological relationship is not a prerequisite, however, that masculine presence and influence is considered to be essential. In a generation where it was inconceivable for a woman to be independent, or to be alone by choice, a woman had to keep a man in her life, at all costs, at no matter how badly he behaved. The secret binds her to him.

Thuli’s mother is strong, yet weak, vulnerable yet invincible, at the same time. This contradiction in character is a necessity. An African mother is not only the neck that must support the head; she is the spine, the back and broad shoulders that must bear the burdens of raising a family; and take the lead in keeping that family’s place in the community. So she must be feminine and flexible enough to accept the patriarchal dictates of the husband and father of the house, yet in his absence: physically, emotionally and financially, she must be strong enough to fend for herself and her children. He like many men, comes strolling in and out of her life at his own convenience, imposing his own opinion of what should happen, regardless of the fact that he is not there to stay. It makes me exceedingly angry: that a man always has a choice and can escape responsibility without facing any consequences; while a woman is stuck with dealing with the effects of his choices for the rest of her life.

It is easy to judge Thuli’s mother for her failings and inadequacies, but as Maya Angelou put it, she did what she knew best, at that time. I believe as a mother herself, Thuli is able to write her mother’s part in the story with tenderness and compassion that comes with wisdom and the understanding that as a parent you don’t have all the answers. The story has excruciating painful episodes of abuse and cruelty that make you want to weep and hold the child that was her. Yet there are moments of tenderness, hope and joy that have you cheering for her, and for those people that, as Tyler Perry puts it, are the points of light in her life . I especially love her portrayal of rural Swati people, their simplicity, peaceful attitude and joy, something many people from more militant and aggressive societies would not understand.

You come to understand why her life turned out in the manner that it did: with her choices and the reactions of the people in her life. There are moments of divine intervention when she receives help at a time when she needs it most. She gets an education, attains professional success and acquires the car, the townhouse and the trappings of the Johannesburg yuppie lifestyle. Finally there is the journey that leads her to the truth, the unfolding of and her acceptance of who she is. It is a story much like the clumsy emergence of a butterfly from its cocoon, a painful but necessary process for it to strengthen its wings so it can fly.

Ntozake Shange, in her choreopoem For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow is Enuf writes:

‘Somebody/anybody

sing a black girl’s song

bring her out

to know herself

to know you

but sing her rhythms

carin/ struggle/ hard times

sing her song of life

she’s been dead so long

closed in silence so long

she doesn’t know the sound

of her own voice

her infinite beauty’

For herself, her mother, our mothers and all the women in her family and other families caught in the matrix of African traditionalist patriarchy and toxic family secrecy, Thuli Nhlapo has done just that. She has sung our song.

* A line of dialogue from Lord Of The Rings, a film adaptation of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.

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Once A Year, Go Somewhere You have Never Been Before.

Akriti and Jennifer from the Primus Super-Speciality Hospital.

For me it was India. I always had a secret fantasy about going there. It is after all the land of Gandhi, the Taj Mahal, curry and the Kama Sutra. I’ve travelled to a number of countries for work and on holiday but quite honestly, I have never seen any country like India.

I would probably not have consciously chosen to go, had it not been for my brother needing urgent medical attention. He had Conn’s Disease, a rare condition with a growth on the adrenal gland that causes the loss of potassium in the blood, the secretion of excess aldosterone and results in asymptomatic high blood pressure. With rates as high as 200/120, high blood pressure is a silent killer that destroys organs, particularly the heart and kidneys.

India had many hospitals and specialists with the best state of the art and affordable medical care. The same surgery was going to cost us four times as much in Johannesburg and he’s not on medical aid. He lives in Zimbabwe and with the economic meltdown and lack of expertise, having the surgery done there was not an option. India however, has a booming medical tourism sector with a value chain that includes: medical professionals, hospitals, concierge services, hotels and transport companies. We were looked after from the day we arrived by two lovely young ladies called Akriti and Jennifer, from Primus Super-Speciality Hospital. Both were absolute angels. Akriti picked us up from the airport in a taxi and we went straight to the hospital.

On arrival, Jennifer, also from the International Patients Department took over, escorting us to the various departments for checkups and consultations. I knew my way around the hospital by the time we were done. They need that department because from what I saw to my shock, about 1 in 10 Indians speak English. The British left India a long time ago. There was no way we were going to get around the Hospital on our own. My brother and I saw 4 specialists that day, a urologist, an endocrinologist, a cardiologist all men, over 40 and then the anesthetist. I had to set aside my gender and ageist prejudice as I watched this ‘mere slip of a girl’ rigorously interview my brother and make notes on a massive chart. I was ready to give her a standing ovation when she was done, about 10 minutes later.

My brother was admitted that evening for observation two days before surgery. I left the hospital in the early evening and the driver dropped me off at the hotel. I checked in with minimal fuss. I paid the bill upfront for our stay, changing money at the bank branch on the premises. Exhausted, I just had enough energy to unpack, have a cup of tea and collapse into bed.

Anxiety had me up early the next day. A friend of hours died in India after coming for treatment but in all honesty, they had left it too late. After a light breakfast, the driver took me back to the hospital. There the specialist announced that my brother’s vital signs were good and he was ready for surgery. We prayed together. I waited until they prepped him and took him to the Operating Theatre.

After that I went to get two local prepaid mobile SIM packs. Our driver runs a mobile shop as a side hustle. Lesson learned. 1. Have a side hustle. 2. Indians can sell ice to Eskimoes. He then dropped me off at the mall to pass the time. I walked all four floors of the Ambience Mall in Nelson Mandela Drive in 2 hours, bought a few items then had a great gluten-free pasta with lamb bolognese sauce at Jamie’s Italian with Thuli Nhlapho’s Colour Me Yellow for company. At 4:00 I went back to the hospital.

When I arrived at 4:30, he was recovering in ICU. I had to put on gauzy covers on my shoes and leave my personal effects behind. He was awake, still groggy from the anesthetic, in some discomfort but fine. The surgery was successful. He was back in the ward an hour later. I changed the SIM card so he could watch YouTube Videos, because the local tv channel in the hospital had no English programming. I left in the evening again for the hotel. Still Thuli Nhlapo’s riveting story kept me company.

My brother spent the next day in hospital and was discharged on Thursday. We collected his prescription medication at the pharmacy downstairs. Medicine is ridiculously cheap in India. Then it was back to the hotel for bed rest. By Saturday we were able to visit Agra to see the Taj Mahal, do some shopping and exploring and he had the staples taken out on Wednesday, a full week later. We flew back to SA that evening.

India’s medical and tech expertise are unparalleled. If we can replicate that kind of depth at such a low cost in our own countries, we will have done something amazing. Forget Johannesburg or Singapore. If you need specialist treatment of any kind, cancer, orthopedic or cosmetic surgery, go to India.

Note: I did not receive any incentive, inducement or compensation for this article. If you want to know more, let me know in the comments below.

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Why Does God Not Hear Our Prayers For Our Country?

When I read about the recent incident at St John’s College, in Harare, Zimbabwe, I was saddened and appalled. Sad because this is a Christian school where ostensibly Christian parents, in blind ignorance and prejudice not only chose to end a man’s career, but put the critical preparation of A-Level exam students in jeopardy.

The deputy headmaster was under threat of having his sexuality revealed to the whole world by the reporter of the biggest daily newspaper in the country. This is in a homophobic nation where homosexual acts are punishable with a jail sentence. When he revealed his sexual orientation to the students and teachers at assembly, there was an uproar by elements of the staunchly conservative professedly Christian parent body. He was forced to resign after receiving death threats.

The school badge has a sheep and the motto is Dominus Pastor, meaning the Lord is my Shepherd. Symbols are powerful. They are tell the world that this is a school with Christian values. The Good Shepherd is Jesus Christ in Psalm 23. Jesus preached and modeled love, service and above all compassion. Parents agree to uphold these Christian values when they apply for admission of their children to the school. It is appalling that in 2018, in an technologically advanced global society, learned and wealthy people, who should know better, behave like this in a professedly Christian country.

Why was he forced to resign? The parents were aghast that they had a homosexual teacher at the school all this time. Out of ignorance many people associate homosexuality with paedophilia. There have been no reports of sexual abuse at the school. This is unlike the case of Parktown Boys High in Johannesburg, South Africa where a waterpolo coach was convicted of over a hundred counts of sexual abuse of students. The reaction suggests a collective fear that he would influence their sons into becoming cross-dressing, make-up wearing, heavily perfumed Nancy-boys. This is totally irrational, he had been there for years and there was no problem. However, Zimbabwe is a patriarchal society, so there is zero tolerance of views or activities that fall outside the heterosexual masculine supremacist norm.

Surely the parents had a right to object? Yes by all means. But was their objection based on facts and evidence of abuse? Or was it based on an unfounded fear based on the collective ignorance about and suspicion of homosexuality as an orientation and a lifestyle choice. My view is that their objection was based on the latter.

In terms of individual responsibility, was it necessary for the reporter to even ‘out’ the man? After all he had been living what appears to have been a respectable life, exercising his personal relationship choice without bothering anyone? One would think that corruption, the cholera outbreak, the cash crunch, the deteriorating economic conditions and post-election political shenanigans are more news-worthy stories of public interest. The fact that the teacher in question is white, teaching at an expensive elite private school made this an opportunity too good to pass up. What about the other more high profile black politicians and business people who are rumored to be closet homosexuals or those who engage in homosexual transactional sex for business deals? What about those that are bi-sexual, yet engage their proclivity for the forbidden on the down low? Ironically some of these men and their wives may well have been among the vociferous mob that forced the man to resign.

We pray daily for God to deliver our nation from bloodshed, injustice, oppression and poverty. We have worn ourselves out praying and claiming the promises of Chronicles:

“if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

‭‭2 Chronicles‬ ‭7:14‬ ‭.

We have fasted, cried and prayed, begging God saying

“Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?”

Psalm‬ ‭10:1‬ ‭

And what is God’s answer?

““Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭58:6-10‬ ‭

This is God’s Word to the prophet Isaiah in Chapter 58 says what he requires of true fasting. True fasting that brings the answer to our prayers for a better world. That true fasting begins with you and me. What are the choices that we make daily between what is wrong and what is right that make this world what it is today? You may wonder what impact your choices have as an individual. A society is made up of individuals whose character and actions collectively influence the behavior of the group. So the world we live in today is a result of the sum of choices made by many individuals today.

We as Christians cannot pray to a loving and just God to deliver our nation from injustice when we ourselves are unjust and oppressive to one another. We steal from the public purse; murder our enemies; do not pay our bills; deprive workers of their just wages; commit adultery; sexually abuse children; beat our wives; rob our employers and bribe public officials. We gossip, slander and malign people’s characters for sport. Then on a Sunday, we praise God with the same tongue that tells lies and give the church as offerings, money that has been swindled or stolen from others, while denying help to our families when they need it. We still visit traditional healers in the dead of night seeking charms for success and curses for our enemies. We go to the graves of our loved ones to cast spells of doom on our families. We follow the heretic teachings of false prophets who tell us what we want to hear, but do not preach salvation, love or mercy. What kind of people are we? Do we deserve this mercy that we cry out for? Why should the Lord as our Shepherd come to our rescue when we behave like wolves preying on the innocent and vulnerable in our society?

The book of James, chapter 3:11 the writer asks : “Can salt water and fresh water flow from the same spring? ” The answer is no. Enough of the self-deception. Let us stop pretending that our souls are wells of living water when in reality they are contaminated and salty to an extent that, the people drinking from them become sick and are thirstier than ever. We must stop praising God with our mouths when our hearts are far from him. If we really want God to deliver us, we have to stop: being selfish; repent of our evil deeds; and we must show love and compassion to other people. Only then will God hear from heaven and turn and heal our land.

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These (Twitter) Streets Are Watching

Central Business District, Johannesburg, South Africa. Original image by Nomathemba Pearl Dzinotyiwei

Welcome to Twitter

The virtual global city.

Many neighborhoods,

But no love for neighbours.

A colossal marketplace from everything

From Avocados to Zulu language texts

The bane of governments, companies and media everywhere.

News so fast,

It’s now made on the streets,

Not just broken anymore.

Thanks to the unmatched spirit of

Ingenuity, improvisation and inventiveness*

You will only find here.

With fake reports

Creating PR nightmares

Of melodramatic proportions.

In these streets,

Celebrities and citizens are equally famous.

You can go from zero to hero and back

In minutes, 24/7, 365.

Butterflies cause hurricanes here.

Let’s drive by #InnerCityTwitter

Where the streets are

Mean, grimy & rough.

Crawling with racists, misogynists,

Dissemblers, liars, psychopaths,

Abusive mean-spirited bullies and trolls

Whose dragging and burning

Are the scourge of many.

Its unruly inhabitants

Like to barge in, unwelcome,

As we sit and weigh in on the

Sage and cultured debates

Of politics, the economy,

Social issues and literature by

#IntellectualTwitter

Of all genders, races and creeds.

Where the language is refined,

The vocabulary on point.

Defeated by the elegance of the argument

The intellectually stunted morons’ best shot is to

default to base insults or

Worse, profanity (sh*t this, f*ck that)

To make their point or lack of thereof.

Come and sit by the fireside of

#EthnicTwitter, those

Vibrant close knit networks

Of people with common origins

Where native language tweets

Share the latest news,

Dispense wisdom and bring tears to ones with laughter

With the best inside jokes.

Home away from home

For the lonely dwellers of the diaspora,

Longing for the sights and sounds of home.

My favourite neighborhood which,

Just like the village, there are

Aunties and uncles at the corners

Calling to order rude boys and mean girls

With the temerity to bring

their inner city savagery

To these quiet civilized streets.

Live, love, laugh and lead

Share your mountain top moments:

Your innovations and successes;

Your opinions, informed or otherwise;

Your woes in the valley: your worst struggles and

Your deepest griefs.

Inspire others with your greatest joys.

Hashtag # your stories

To reach like-minded souls

Find what you’re looking for:

Whether it’s lasting love;

Or the cheap thrill of mindless, meaningless sex;

Validation- ‘am I the crazy one here’;

Professional respect; or

An opportunity to vent,

When it all gets too much.

Like, Retweet, Quote and repeat.

Watch your language.

Pick your battles.

Choose carefully who to watch because,

You are who you follow.

A place of permanent memory,

More immutable than the #Blockchain.

Careers are made and broken here.

Even if you’re not a #Twitterzen.

These streets are watching

Start safe out there

Coz it’s all good in the hood.

*Evelyn of the Internets

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walking on eggshells

Try.

Try walking.

Walking on eggshells

In high heels

Heel toe, heel toe.

Tread softly

To avoid injury

To that ego,

Ego so big there’s not enough room

in the office

Even in the basement,

A reminder

Of the pecking order.

A prized parking spot

for his wheels

Bavarian Motor Works’ finest

Luxury SUV

While you squeeze

Your plebian set of wheels,

A Volkswagen between

The pillar and the dusty pipes.

Yes all animals are equal*,

Only some are more equal

Than others.

You would do well

To remember that little fact.

Smiling through gritted teeth

At the backhanded compliments

On your efforts

to hold onto

That bottom rung

Of the corporate ladder.

*From George Orwell, Animal Farm

*Picture courtesy of Pinterest

©️ Nomathemba Pearl Dzinotyiwei 2018