Essay: A calling by Dr Thandokuhle Mngqibisa

Thandokuhle Mngqibisa | December 29th, 2017 | essays | No Comments

A friend once told me that someone will tell me I will need to thwasa. I should not believe them. They will misinterpret a different kind of calling for ubizo. I held that under my tongue, always. And then someone DID say it to me. Five years later. And I was ready for it. There is something about art that is shaped like a spiritual calling. This thing that weighs heavy on your tongue and feet. No matter how often you try to divorce it, it always comes back looking for you—like a lost, hurt soulmate. A tugging of the intangible part of yourself. We can hardly be surprised that it is experienced as a calling by outsiders who know spirit.

What happens when one is called to science, too, then? Do we respect the balance? How do we make room for two such “conflicting” places in our humxnity? All too often I see artists forced to choose—like a mother forced to choose a child to save and one to starve of nourishment. It’s as if love is finite and one has to allow only a certain amount out. The whispers at the doors of poetry sessions and the secret huddled at museums and art exhibitions seem to condemn duality. Or even plurality. The world wants you to know that you are not allowed to have it all. How dare you even try. The discussion inevitably leads to “full-time artist” vs “hobby artist”. Often we peg part-time artists as being unwilling to commit. And full-time artists as the real deal. The binary isn’t reflective of true humxn experience.

Once, while trawling YouTube, I found a math poem. Love and prime numbers. I was so excited by the combination of two seemingly opposing entities. They worked so beautifully. Played so beautifully off of each other. The right word next to the right number created a word experience that I had never had before. That’s the point, right? Let people feel and find something new in you. At least a new way to experience the same old thing that they’ve been experiencing for decades now. It’s really fun.

This is maybe how we need to exploit our dualities and pluralities. We need to recognise the unique-adjacent-to-each-other images that only our specific set of experiences can produce. I mean how many mathematicians are also poets? Therefore, how many people can write that poem with honesty? Few, I would guess.

Part-time artists are forced to house two passions in one heart. All the while being ostracized by both sometimes. Art and science are jealous lovers and the polyamorous are holding it all together. Sometimes gracefully. Sometimes with difficulty. But it is always worth it. Unique experiences and juxtapositions have always thrilled the emotionally open. The world should never make you choose. Both are callings in and of themselves. Bask in your amazing access. The goal may seem further away for those with dual callings. But who said there’s a deadline, anyway? Others may not value the frustrations. Produce anyway. The world is not so small and so narrow that you should ever have to choose. Have it all! Feed yourself the things that will grow both your loves and flourish!

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