This has been a hard year and happiness has been in short supply. Here I’ve compiled a bibliography of all the content I’ve consumed this year that made me happier. My gift to you: meet the collaborators in my joy.
I’ve always preferred joy, as a concept. Happiness is the weather, musicians at a concert; joy is the sky, it’s what lingers in the room when the music has stopped, what stays with you on your way home. As a year end wrap, this is an amalgamation of #ArtistSpotlight, #QuestForBeauty #NerdsHaveMoreFun, and #WomenIveNeverMetWhoMoveMe/ #WCW. Take notes, share notes, I’m interested in what brings you joy.
The word “muse” can refer in general to anyone or anything which inspires an artist, musician, or writer. These are mine. Also #WomenIveNeverMetWhoMoveMe.1. Nneka Julia: Nneka is a storyteller, photographer, podcaster and all around gorgeous, stylish, gifted, well-traveled, wise beyond her years artist. Check her out for visual inspiration. I was introduced to her simultaneously via 2 friends. One was obsessed with her #WasteHisTimeWednesdays series and another was obsessed with her rich and beautiful podcast Passing Through which documents where she’s travelled and where’s she’s been (physically, emotionally and spiritually) She’s currently doing a 100 post project on her Instagram account (@nnekaj), answering insightful questions and responding to said questions with handwritten letters and stunning personal photos, all while sparking exceptional conversation in the comments section.2. Maya Washington (insta: @mayasworld): I discovered Maya as Shameless Maya when she was a YouTuber (I think she still is but she’s more than that now). Maya is a photographer/visual content creator who challenged herself to live shamelessly for a year and changed her life as a result. It’s been a decade and she hasn’t slowed down. Triumphs, fears and failures we’ve been there for it all. There’s no easy way to say this: Maya is currently living the life of my dreams. Long time readers, check this out (newbies, see #7) :
This girl has been questioning the status quo and the state of the world out loud for a while now. She met her, now husband, on a solo vacation birthday gift trip to herself. Proceeded to move houses (for the umpteenth time) and uprooted her life, mid-pandemic, to be with the love her life in Sweden. She bought a house, literally pressed pause on the rat race that is capitalism, roadtripped cross country, saw loved ones and spent the best part of the past 4 months being a farmer. She literally furnished her new home, made compost, built a porch, grew her own food and lived adjacent to nature in relative obsucrtiy. All of this whilst positively inhaling several books. I always say Kopano Matlwa stole my life (but that was 16 year old me’s version anyway) but this woman is actually living it. I’m so proud of and happy for her! Her stories during this pandemic have been positively life-giving.3. Sharleen Joynt: is probably most famous for her stint as That Opera Singer from Juan Pablo’s season of a The Bachelor. That’s certainly how I met her (which is short for: I’ve been following her for a long time). She’s an opera singer who moonlights as a writer (now podcaster with her Silver Fox husband Andy called: @DearShandy). She’s a stone cold stunner with wit, strong and thoughtful opinions and an incredible offbeat but classy sense of style (all showcased on her blog All The Pretty Pandas) and a gift. My fellow Ennegram Four. Check her out @sharleenjoynt.4. Freddie Harrel: this French game changer has been so many things, to the world and to me. Initially a fasshion blogger, influencer and stylist (who started off in corporate!). Just a cool girl following her whimsy who made me feel OK wearing bright blue eye makeup and gold in the corners of my eyes just as I was comfortably embracing my afro. Now she’s an incredible wife, mother and business owner who aims to revolutionise the beauty game through ethical black hair extensions via @RadSwan and its just the beginning. When I’m sad I scroll through Freddie’s Instagram (@freddieharrel). It’s like watching a butterfly get its wings.5. Kelis is the the truth. I like young wild artist Kelis. I love grown farmer chef Kelis. I love the Kelis she was in between when she found the strength to leave an abusive relationship and label it as such despite the man in question being one of the most revered hip hop figures in recent history. I love the Kelis that took a break and pursued her other passions and I adore the fact that you can see its the same girl at every single stage. The candy coloured hair, the raspy voice and honest smile. A woman who speaks my language: the truth.
I’m a book worm who has fallen off the wagon in an embarrassing and identity altering way (if a bookworm doesn’t read is she still a book worm?). It’s ironic because I finally have the money to buy all the books I ever wanted (and I own a great deal of all the books I ever wanted). Poetry is how I keep my romance with words alive, it has literally sustained me. It’s an undemanding lover happy to be of assistance when I need a gentle love in the brief moments before falling sleep or while doing something sweet that’s just for me like a picnic or bubble bath. It doesn’t demand my undivided time or attention and is the definition of quality time. Poetry is how I decorate my inner world. It’s like adorning my soul with beautiful words hanging like flowers, letting the breeze in and enjoying the view. I squeal and sip wine and gasp. I sit on picnic blankets and slosh in the bath. And it makes my mind feel beautiful.
TOP 5 POETS
Remember Tumblr? Before there was Rupi Kaur, there was Naayirah Waheed and before there was Naayirah, there was Warsan.
This next generation of poets owe her her flowers but it doesn’t make their gardens any less sweet.
I’ll never forget the day I heard “To the women who are difficult to love”. Im not exaggerating when I say I have never been the same. There was a) the pain at being addressed so precisely b) a sorrow that I am that woman, that is difficult to love and however I sugar coat it (“the right one will find me”, “I don’t want the man who finds me difficult anyway” etc.) it’s a fixed unchangeable thing. I am ‘difficult to love’. That is not to say that love does not know my address. I am loved, have been loved deeply and I will be loved again. It doesn’t make me any less difficult and that is a strange sorrow in a world that validates women on things like agreability, likeability and marriageability. I’ve made my choice.
1. Warsan Shire: Teaching My Mother to Give Birth.
2. Naayirah Waheed: Salt
3. Upile Chisala: Soft Magic, Sweet Nectar
4. Ijeoma Umebinyuo: Questions for Ada (this women writes for all the women in me)
5. Yrsa Daley-Ward: Bone
TOP 5 Poems
Note: the top 2 is neither new nor specific to this particular year.1. Desiderata by Max Erhmann
2. Go to the limits of your longing by Rainer Maria Rilke
3. There are flowers in my chest again, the kind that do not lose their bloom. By J. D Soul
4. “In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.” – Albert Camus
5. Warsan Shire: For Women Who Are Difficult To Love BABIESMy friend Zininzi has been terrorising my uterus all year with a constant barrage of adorable little humans (testing my IUD and resolve). These two, are my contenders for the title of The Cutest Babies on Shuri’s internet.1. Bayethe: the daughter of artists Yoza Mnyanda and Kuthalakwe-Nkosi Sebotho. She is so cute it should be illegal. Her face on her parents’ insta stories (@sheisyoza and @kwadarkie) is like a shot of sunshine on a cloudy day. You’re welcome.2. Uzi of the @chocolatebabies. He is the 4th of Glen and Yvette Henry’s children. This family has a heart for God and believe that Family is Foundation. Through their various accounts (Instagram, YouTube and their How Married Are You podcast) they share their journey with us. It’s a gift to watch these black children be loved so earnestly and intentionally. Uzi is special (and growing way too quickly!) but each of the chocolate babies (Theo, Uriah, Anaya and Uzi) is unique, complex and lovely. It’s black love, black family and black joy. Please check them out @beleafinfatherhood. Thank you for sharing your family us.
Podcasts & Blogs :
Everyone is a blogger and everyone else has a podcast. So? Pick the ones you like and move on, everyone has something to offer even if they don’t have something to offer YOU. Allow people to enjoy things. Re: podcasts, Spotify has podcasts now. I, of House Android, use Castbox. I think Apple has its own podcast vehicle.
1. Passing Through by Nneka J. See: Personal Muses.
2. Small doses: Amanda Seales is a. Lot. But she’s also funny and fearless, smart as a whip, intense, passionate and disagreeable. She is equal parts introspective and either unwilling or unable to reel it in at times. I don’t think we’d be friends if we met but she’s fucking brilliant. Perish the idea that you have to like someone or want to be friends with them to find their value.
3. Revisionist History with Malcolm. Gladwell. Malcolm Gladwell is kind of a dick and he kinda doesn’t care because he’s brilliant and he knows it. Actually, copy and paste everything I said about Amanda Seales and note how much easier it was to digest Malcolm’s “quirk”. (Examine. personal. biases). His podcast is a showcase of his brain and his ability to draw interesting lines between seemingly unrelated phenomena and come to interesting conclusions. History isn’t as fixed as we all imagine it to be. It’s well worth your time.
4. Broken Record with Rick Rubin. A long time music lover and producer (Rick) holds fantastic conversations with artists and producers about their careers, passions and current position in Culture. His conversation with Andre 3000 was fascinating. I haven’t forgiven him for not interrogating The Black Keys about the circumstances surrounding Turn Blue (the album that made me sit up and notice them. And then some. The album that kept me up at night wondering about the pain of divorce).
5. Therapy for Black Girls: My Insecure HBO Support group put me onto this when we were getting each other though the Pandemic through the shared experience of Issa Rae’s modern classic. It’s wonderful and warm and necessary. Enjoy!6. Thrist Aid Kit: the podcast premise is simple enough. 2 girls pick a man to shamelessly thirst over. In delicious detail. And it helps that the women in question are the hilarious and wildly talented Bim Adewumni (remember #BimsFavouriteThings?) and Nichole Perkins. What ensues is practically intellectual as they make the case for thirsting. The episodes end in fan fiction written by and starring our favourite ladies and the man of the week. It’s a giggly hour of fun and validation. Trust me. I advise you to start with the Chris Evans episode (he may or may not actually make an appearance).
7. All The Pretty Pandas: Sharleen Joynt’s blog. See: Personal Muses.
8. Hello Thembekile: it’s not exactly a blog but following them on Instagram is a joy. I discovered them when they were leading a reflective guided journaling experience in their stories for a week. Check them out and support local if you like what you see.
9. On Being with Krista Tippet. She has fascinating detailed conversations with interesting people. She’s reflective, thoughtful and an excellent listener. My personal favourites are any and all conversations she has with Alain de Botton. Close second is her conversation with Wangari Maathai.
10: Bonus: add your own podcast. Find a TV show you’re obsessed with and find the highest rated podcast about it (it’s usually the official podcast and they get the actors from the show and behind the scenes intel that enriches the experience etc). It’s really fun to watch with people who love something the way you do. Especially in these isolated times where watch parties are unwise.
TOP 5 SA FAVS
1. Yoliswa Mqoco @yoliswa_mqoco: I’ve been following her for a while and we don’t deserve her. She is a stunner with a visual gift: an impeccable eye for fashion, composition and curated luxury. She elevates every experience and its such a joy to watch (and its has been an even greater pleasure to know that she is being loved so dearly and is willing to share her joy with us so freely). Give this woman her flowers.
2. Neema Nouse @neemanouse: is an OG. She is easy breezy elegance whether she’s sashaying around a gorgeous and secluded outdoorsy locale or sharing fabulous drinks with friends while looking radiant. She imbues all that she captures with her trademark effortless natural beauty.
3. Kutlwano Motla is @the_boujee_traveller: a girl after my own heart. A working girl who enjoys traveling and seems to actually enjoy it. In the overcurated Travel Influencer Space, Kutlwano caught (and held) my attention by going to Bali and sharing the Indonesia I used to read about and not the Bali Checklist (from what I’ve gathered,, the checklist includes that swing, that cocoon looking thing and that Temple that looks like it’s on water but isn’t). She also didn’t lie about being boujie. Lol, know your budget: we love a well-traveled self aware queen.
4. Siyamthanda Ndube @siya_weloveher : Siya is a stunning working designer, stylist and content creator. Her style tip videos are always cute, high quality and helpful. They’re also just short enough to leave you wanting more.
5. Khanyisa Patricia @iam_khanyi95: is hilarious! Self deprecating, observant and relatable. It’s been lovely watching her confidence grow. I don’t need to tell you about Wendy Gumede (@TheBlackWendy) because she’s well on her way to becoming a household name but if you enjoy her work, I have no doubt you’ll enjoy Khanyi (even though they’re completely different performers).Thank you dear readers, this has been as much a gift for myself (by way of therapeutic reflection) as it has been for you (the original intended recipient).
Please share your lists of Pandemic Joy Collaborators. We all need to remember (and, hopefully, share) what held us together this one-of-a-kind year. See you again next week for Part 2.0!