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Christine Matyavira, On Learning To Overcome The Stigma, and Embracing Her Vitiligo

I managed to get through primary school by doing whatever I was told by other kids, in fear of being rejected… questioning or going against them would result in me being lonely and friendless.

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Christine Matyavira, On Learning To Overcome The Stigma, and Embracing Her Vitiligo Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Christine Matyavira. Cover Image Photography by IG @laycluse_creations
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In 2007, when she was just 7 years old, Christine Tafadzwanashe Matyavira made a startling discovery, and little did the young girl know that this discovery would change her life forever. Read on to find out how Christine first discovered she had vitiligo, and how she finally coerced herself towards a path of self-acceptance.

“When I was in primary school, we had to sweep and clean the classroom after school. One afternoon during our usual clean-up routine, a boy who was in my class pointed at my knees and asked me why they were white. He said to me, “Christine, you have floor polish on your knees”, and he started laughing at me. I looked at my knees and he was right, they were white. I tried rubbing off the white colour, but it just wouldn’t come off. He called all the other kids to see, and they joined in the laughter. I just stood there, confused, and frantically continued trying to rub off the white colour.”

Christine Matyavira, On Learning To Overcome The Stigma, and Embracing Her Vitiligo Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Christine Matyavira

That was the very first time Christine discovered her vitiligo patches. Of course she says she had no idea what it was at the time. From 2009 and over the years, her parents travelled the length and breadth of the country looking for a cure. They took her to numerous doctors, who were just as perplexed. The very first doctor they went to told the family was that it was a skin condition, but he had no idea what it was called, let alone knowing how to treat it.

Vitiligo is a condition in which the skin loses its pigment cells (melanocytes). This can result in discolored patches in different areas of the body, including the skin, hair and mucous membranes. Vitiligo (vit-ih-LIE-go) is a disease that causes loss of skin color in patches. Treatment may improve the appearance of the skin, but doesn’t cure the disease.

www.mayoclinic.org

Children can be very cruel, but Christine managed to brave it out and get through primary school, despite being mocked and laughed at because of her condition. Says Christine, “I managed to get through primary school by doing whatever I was told to do by other kids, in fear of being rejected… questioning or going against them would result in me being lonely and friendless. For example, some kids would command me to fetch water for them, carry their backpacks, or even give them my lunch, just so I could earn a seat at the table. Others would go as far as commanding me to jump, and I would simply ask, how high?”

Christine Matyavira, On Learning To Overcome The Stigma, and Embracing Her Vitiligo Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Christine Matyavira

As she got older and went to high school, the treatment from her peers improved in the sense that people at school became busy and they would often mind their own business, and the wider population never judged her.

“Losing my pigmentation is not painful, and it has not caused any side-effects like dry skin or itching,” she says. Christine says the only painful thing about her skin condition is the sunburn which develops into blisters, and so to avoid getting sunburnt, she uses sunscreen.

Christine has grown accustomed to receiving stares and snide comments from children and adults alike. “It is not easy”, she says, “and most times I ignore the unwanted attention, but sometimes I will answer back and stand my ground. At times I’ll tell myself that I’m a ‘badass’, and maintain a very serious and scary face. That usually keeps the haters at bay”.

Christine Matyavira, On Learning To Overcome The Stigma, and Embracing Her Vitiligo Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Christine Matyavira

Two years ago, Christine and her parents finally gave up searching for a cure when she decided to accept her condition and embrace living with vitiligo. According to Christine, what brought about this mindset shift was the fact that she saw other people who had more serious conditions than hers making it in life and living happily, so she also chose to adopt that mentality of self-acceptance. She also became scared of taking any more medication, because the last one she had used had given her skin a third shade which just made her skin all ugly, she says.

Christine doesn’t know of any vitiligo support groups in Zimbabwe, but she was once part of a Whatsapp group of people living with vitiligo. “Just having people who looked like me made me so happy,” she says.

From last year, Christine has braved the Twitter streets, which can be extremely brutal, and put herself out there as a means of raising awareness about vitiligo. The response from the public has been an outpouring of love and support, though Christine says sometimes a few people will get into her DMs and criticise her for sharing her pictures, labelling her an attention seeker who is looking for sympathy. Says Christine, “Famous Zimbabwean vlogger, Kimberley Nyoni, introduced me to Twitter and encouraged me to be more confident. Despite having gained lots of confidence, sometimes I do get distraught when I receive negative comments and messages. At the end of the day though I’m just like… whatever!”

Christine Matyavira, On Learning To Overcome The Stigma, and Embracing Her Vitiligo Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Christine Matyavira

Born and raised in Kwekwe, a small mining city in Zimbabwe, Christine attended Kwekwe Primary and Chiedza Primary schools. She completed her high school at Kwekwe High School, and is now a first year student at the University of Zimbabwe. The soft-spoken and composed young lady is studying Film, Radio and Television Production, and she says she chose this particular course because it allows her to build her self-confidence. The 21 year old says she would love to be a Content Producer after graduating, and maybe even become a writer.

Christine Matyavira, On Learning To Overcome The Stigma, and Embracing Her Vitiligo Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Christine Matyavira

Christine comes from a large family of 15 which comprises of her dad, two mums, and 11 siblings. She describes her family as a close-knit, happy, crazy, and loud bunch. Christine is the 10th of the 12 children, and being the only child with vitiligo in the family, she is loved and supported by her whole family. “They protect me from all the nasty comments and from the bullies, and I’ve never had a day where I was sidelined or pushed away by my family members”, she says.

In parting, Christine would like to say to someone who has just discovered that they have vitiligo that, “Being unique is beautiful, and you must embrace the different shades of beauty.”

Connect with Christine via Twitter on her handle, @twoshadee.

Interviewed by Gugu Mpofu



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Unprepared and Offended

We’ve begun to raise daughters more like sons… but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters. ~ Gloria Steinem

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Unprepared and Offended Asante Afrika Magazine
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Hazel Lifa

For years tension has been building between the sexes, a battle line has been drawn, and if we are being honest, noone knows when this happened. It is evident in movements like the Men’s Rights Movement and the christened ‘Third Wave of Feminism’. Somehow it has become a ‘Men vs. Women’ world in a reality where we honestly need each other to evolve and survive.

“It is time that we all see gender as a spectrum instead of two sets of opposing ideals”.

emma watson

In a past article I spoke about how of late we tend to make everything about gender; a man behaves badly, it’s because he is a man. If a woman abuses her spouse, it is because she is a woman and privileged. In our bid to simplify the issues each sex meets in life and figuring out who’s to blame, we have cultivated so much contempt and mistrust. According to actress, Emma Watson, “It is time that we all see gender as a spectrum, instead of two sets of opposing ideals”.

Unprepared and Offended Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Emma Watson 

I recently had a conversation with an educated lady who pointed out a huge factor in the case of the modern woman and man. Men and boys were never prepared for the empowered, educated and powerful woman point-blank. Think about it; when you are born into societies where two parties hold such suspicion and resentment towards each other, what happens when we try to evolve and grow? Further misunderstanding and skepticism, and the game of broken telephone continues.

“…I will go as far as to say the modern woman is seen as less than.”

Whether it be in the African setting or European household, women have generally played the subservient role; treed away from major roles in powerful spaces like politics or law enforcement, asked only to entertain with their feminine appealing looks, and valued for procreation.

With the rise of feminism, women were encouraged to be just as daring as men, confident, and commanding. Women started entering the workforce, voting, started businesses… oh what a time it was! However, no one thought to prepare boys and men for this evolution of the woman, and unfortunately, it has ended in a stand-off.

The modern-day educated and working woman is often persecuted and made to feel guilty for having aspirations beyond a household and a spouse. Speaking from an African perspective, I will go as far as to say the modern woman is seen as less than. I have been genuinely warned to not get ‘too educated’, as I will be hard to marry off.

“We’ve begun to raise daughters more like sons… but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters.”

Gloria Steinem

On a social level, boys and men have and are still being taught that to be a ‘man’, a woman or several have to be at their mercy, inferior, and often in a position of humiliation. A woman being intelligent and insightful is equated to a man being less than. One would think that logically, having a working and educated wife would add to the quality of an ideal spouse and life partner. Many households are plagued with violence of all kinds created by insecurities which young boys are taught and carry into adulthood.

The tension has gotten to a point where women are either taking too long to marry, or forgoing the experience altogether. Such actions will have ramifications on society, but the biggest question is whether they will be positive or negative? One asks, “Ok, we have identified the issue, now how do we correct it?” The truth is that the fix is tedious, and it requires dedication from parents and adults around young boys. In the famous words of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “Culture does not make people. People make culture.”

Unprepared and Offended Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 

The perception of the opposite sex and the dynamics of man and woman are topics taught from the tender stage of infancy, hence the nuclear family unit is where the work should start. Boys should be taught that it’s ok if a girl is better than you in a sport or at a job, her capabilities shouldn’t translate to your self-worth. “We’ve begun to raise daughters more like sons… but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters,” says Gloria Steinem. 

Let us be brave enough to teach boys to not see girls as the benchmark of weakness and inadequacy. Teach boys to not to be sore losers who rather than be motivated to do better next time, lash out at girls and women who excel. Let us make phrases like ‘throws like a girl‘, ‘fights like a girl’, a positive thing; if I am a girl, how else am I to throw, fight, etc.?

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#BlackGirlMagic

Zambian professional soccer star, Barbara Banda made history at the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo by becoming the first woman to achieve multiple hat tricks in a single Olympic event.

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Image: Zambian professional football star, Barbara Banda
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Hazel Lifa

They say it’s better late than never. The month of August’s significance is one that originated in South Africa after more than 20 000 women from all walks of life united in a mass demonstration walking towards the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

#BlackGirlMagic Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Women’s March for Human Rights 1956

The strength and audacity exercised by women like Helen Joseph and Albertina Sisulu on August 9th 1956 are virtues that young African and black women alike can look up to in today’s world. For this year’s just ended National Women’s Month, I would like to shine a bright light on the black girl magic that has been going around in Africa and around the globe lately.

It is the time of the black woman to shine, not to say she couldn’t before, but the world right now is giving black women, as they say these days, ‘their roses while they’re alive to smell them’.

I will kick off this magical show with a feat I am sure many will agree is a game-changer. Kamala Devi Harris, the 49th Vice President of U.S.A. This biracial black woman of South Asian descent is moving in circles which women with any trace of melanin complexion couldn’t even dream of being included in for centuries. Harris’ position as Vice President of the most powerful nation on the planet gives women of colour, old and young, a sense of pride.

#BlackGirlMagic Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Vice President Kamala Harris

Her success also gives us another platform to discuss and grow; Harris’ sex and race are not all she is but they play a large role in the world she lives in. With time we can only hope the novelty wears off.

Zambian professional football star, Barbara Banda made history at the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo. She has become the first woman to achieve multiple hat tricks in a single Olympic event. The Zambian Women’s soccer squad’s captain is the first African woman to achieve a hat trick in Olympic history ever. Furthermore, she now holds the women’s record for most Olympic goals scored by an African. The 21-year-old is a striker who began her professional career in 2018 playing with Logrono in Spain; she scored 16 goals in 28 games. Banda came to the Olympics an unknown, but has left a name for the history books.

#BlackGirlMagic Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Barbara Banda in a Zambia vs. China Olympics match

Earlier this year we were impressed and elated to learn that the Miss South Africa pageant would be opening its doors to Transgender participants. Lehlogonolo Machaba took this invitation and ran with it, becoming the first openly transgender participant to make the top 30 of the competition.

#BlackGirlMagic Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Miss SA Finalist Letlogonolo Machaba

“Everything I do as a dark-skinned, transgender woman is a statement. My mere existence in society is threatening, and there’s a lot of closet transgender women who are afraid to come out in fear of receiving hate and even worse, being killed. By doing this I am helping all those women to know that there’s still hope and the world is changing for good, slowly but surely,” Machaba said.

Machaba works as a model booker at Invade Models, and is also the founder of the DeMollies fashion brand. She has a Diploma in Fashion Design technology from the Tshwane University of Technology.

Hailing from the western African nation of Nigeria is innovator and businesswoman, Oluwayimika Angel Adelaja. Adelaja’s two businesses Fresh Direct Produce and We Farm Africa are innovating farming technology, a feat that couldn’t come at a better time considering global warming and all. Adelaja is leading the crowd with her revolutionary stackable container farms that ease the strain on land use and opens up the world of fresh quality food to urban populations.

#BlackGirlMagic Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Oluwayimika Angel Adelaja
#BlackGirlMagic Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Oluwayimika Angel Adelaja at one of her container farms

Adelaja’s organic urban farms require way less land and water in comparison with traditional farming methods, and all while producing a yield 15times higher. Adelaja’s food shortage solutions and farming techniques all work towards creating a cohesive agricultural chain of production and creates opportunities for Africans. Adelaja also works towards the empowerment of women and developmental economics, and still holds positions like Special Assistant to the Senior Special Adviser to the President on Poverty Alleviation and National Coordinator and Consultant to the Senior Special Adviser to the President on Wealth Creation.

In the world of poetry, Dasha Kelly Hamilton is the first black woman to be named the Wisconsin Poet Laureate in its 20years of existence. Her primary objective as the award holder is to be an ambassador who encourages poetry throughout her tenure of 2years. Hamilton will be receiving a stipend of US$2,500 and a residency at Shake Rag Alley Centre for Arts in Mineral Point.

#BlackGirlMagic Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Dasha Kelly Hamilton

Brenda Katwesigye saw something broken in a system and set out to correct it; the result is Wazi Vision. The Ugandan native became concerned with the high cost of eyecare back in 2015 during a personal visit and launched Wazi Vision in 2016. Wazi Vision provides free eyes tests at schools and rural areas; the startup has even developed an app that incorporates virtual reality in visual tests.

#BlackGirlMagic Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Brenda Katwesigye

The company also uses recycled materials in manufacturing their glasses which cuts the cost of glasses. In 2018, Wazi Vision was named in the Forbes Top 60 Woman-led Startups that are shaking up Africa, and Katwesigye was named as one of Quartz Africa’s top 30 Innovators. I could go on and on, black girl magic is upon us, and backwards never my melanin beauties.

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The Strength Of A Woman – Celebrating National Women’s Month

To be a woman is to reject being known as a strong woman, because our value goes beyond our expectation to be confronted by pain.

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Image: @remyshoots Photography
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Reflections By Rorisang Moyo

Kumkanikazi. Mofumahadi. Mfumukazi. Queen.

You are most of the time overlooked, undermined,
stifled, frustrated. Scorched by fire, dipped in water;
yet pressure does not end you, it elevates you to
your fullest potential.

This does not mean that to be a woman means
pain is romanticised. To be a woman is to reject
being known as a strong woman, because our value
goes beyond our expectation to be confronted by
pain.

The Strength Of A Woman - Celebrating National Women's Month Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: @remyshoots Photography

To be a woman means to feel things deeply in
their entirety, to be at one with the earth and how it
works. After all, it is through us that great men and
women continue to be born, and to take their place
on this earth.

Woman means beauty, strength, community,
trendsetter, lover, and fighter. To be a girl child and
a daughter, means potential and endless possibilities.

The privilege of standing on the shoulders of
giants, a community of other women; women who
have paved the way for you to live without any barriers – ever-changing, limitless and fluid.

The Strength Of A Woman - Celebrating National Women's Month Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: @remyshoots Photography

No person alive can put a lid on the power of woman.

Photography by Jeremy Kupfuwa, IG @remyshoots

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