Lifestyle

Clement Gama08/30/2019
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5min681

The reason folk are saddened by death is because they are directly affected by the upshot of someone’s demise. But others are what I call fundamental sympathisers, so much that they’re able to put themselves in the shoes of the deceased or loved ones of the late. Regardless of how much they knew the dead person.

They’ll be those whose stomachs flipped and were overcome by a dark heaviness at the news of BOSASA boss Gavin Watson dying in a car accident this week. While others couldn’t give a rat’s ass about his passing because of the alleged corruption he was involved in while alive. And then there’s the rest of us who think Mr. Watson isn’t dead, but somewhere on an island sipping Piña Coladas after staging his timely passing.

The fact is, death affects us in different ways and people have their varied methods of grieving. Take for instance how some people would choose to only speak about the good side of a person at the funeral, despite how despicable that person probably was.

But it’s also not a good look bashing a someone who can’t defend themselves, despite overwhelming evidence that they were a vile human being who deserve to rot in hell. It’s better to rather not say anything about the deceased, in public at least. Like former President Thabo Mbeki’s unfavourable comments about Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in the wake of her passing, to which Madikizela-Mandela clearly couldn’t defend.

Forcing yourself into other people’s shoes, especially at the passing of a celebrity or a popular individual only because it’s the latest craze to hashtag RIP XYZ and replace your DP with a photo of the dead person is simply faking the funk. We saw it a few months ago after Nipsey Hussle’s murder, where timelines were littered with condolence messages from individuals whose knowledge of Nipsey is cringe-worthier than a Hlaudi Motsoeneng interview. Posing as a genuine sympathiser defeats the point of it all.

Lacking the societal emotional response seems to make one look like a bad person. It would obviously be wicked to rejoice at someone’s death, but the passing of a person you didn’t particularly get along with often leaves you questioning whether you’re an evil person or not.

A fella I went to Primary and High School with died in a horrific car crash a few years ago. He was the rambunctious, conceited typa dude. I didn’t like the guy. But learning of his accident had me interrogating myself. I thought ‘gee, what an awful way to go…but it is what it is.’ I didn’t have much remorse really, mainly because his death doesn’t erase the douchebag he was and for the mere fact that his passing has no impact on me. But I can’t imagine the pain it left on his loved ones, and sadly am not allowing myself to step in their shoes.

The psychological reaction that occurs in response to perceived attack or threat to our survival is ‘the fight or flight’ response. But when death occurs in our lives, there are a myriad emotional responses and ways of grieving, it seems.


Idara Udom08/23/2019
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9min320

The brainchild of founder Zain Nyabvure’s dream to be a masseur with his own parlour, Hands of Zain is tucked away in the leafy suburb of Parkhurst. A former ambulance technician, Zain quit his job and moved to Johannesburg in 2014, in search of an internationally accredited massage institute. He explains “It was not easy to leave my paying job and sell all I had for some cash to start a life. But with the help of well-wishers I managed to graduate in 2017, while studying part-time and working crazy hours.”

Now a licensed massage therapist with a degree from the International Therapist Examination Council, Zain admits with a chuckle “I am expensive to hire! Most spas can’t afford me.” A glass ceiling hovers over his dream however, negative stereotypes and cultural norms have created a definite bias towards female masseuses. “It gave me motivation to open my own practise because I was not much on request (sic) since I was a male therapist.” Hands of Zain started out as a mobile parlour, and in May this year Zain took the leap and found a permanent home for his massage parlour. The result is an unusual spa with a homey feel and eclectic touch. My favourite feature was the outdoor patio and lounge pool, which includes an outdoor massage table for soaking in the sun during summer.

As we chat over a glass of wine, African artworks like djembe drums and masks jostle for the gaze alongside colourful modern artworks. One in particular catches my eye; a large moody abstract painting reminiscent of Robert Hodgins’ abstracts, and Zain reveals he painted it. The décor in his home is a testament to his travels with quirky details like African snail shells in flowerpots hinting at his childhood memories. He’s bright, animated and clearly passionate about massage therapy.

Zain Nyabvure inside his Hands of Zain. Photo supplied
Zain Nyabvure inside his Hands of Zain. Photo supplied

His idea of an excellent masseur? “People got to massage [therapy] to get relief from their daily stress (sic) and frustrations. So a good therapist needs to be able to create a nurturing and healing experience, not just a massage. Empathy is one of the most important qualities of a massage therapist.”

When hunting for a massage parlour he had some simple tips. “Know what your goals. Each of us are all looking for a something different from a massage…Are you looking for pain relief in a particular region of your body…treatment for a medical condition or are you just looking for stress relief or just want to enjoy the simple yumminess of getting a massage?”

“Figure out what your preferences are. Where do you want the treatment to be? Close to your home at a [massage parlour] or at your home as a house call? Once you know your preferences, don’t forget to look for these details on their website or you can just call or email them to ask. You will get to know a little bit more about the therapist simply by asking those questions. Focusing on how eager they are to accommodate you, will let you know if your experience with them will be a positive one.”

While Zain’s career highlights have included massaging high-profile celebrities in the Saxon Hotel Villas and Spa, the journey has not been without its mishaps. “[LOL] one day I received a text message from an unknown number saying ‘Can you come up here to Westcliff and give me a massage with a happy ending. I texted them back and the text reads ‘No, but here’s the phone number of someone who can help you with that. 071 675 6072’. … they texted back and said they were looking for someone hot like me. I texted them saying call and find out. Few hours later I got a text from the same number saying that, the number I had sent them was for Parkview Police station. I love to always have good responses in my back pocket like this one.”

Man with the magic hands, Zain Nyabvure. Photo supplied
Man with the magic hands, Zain Nyabvure. Photo supplied

Qualified to deliver classic European massages like the Swedish massage, Zain’s passion however lies in unusual African massage therapies such as the Rungu massage. His go-to massage oil remains the simple coconut oil and he is current working on his own massage techniques manual which will include the African styles and tips he has mastered thus far. His final tip to an aspiring masseur? A simple quote and heads up about the journey. Maya Angelou’s “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” and an admonition to always do your research.

To experience Hands of Zain, contact Zain at +27 81 413 8786 or email handsofzain@gmail.com.


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21min1192

On 13 February 2014, Facebook’s collaboration with Press for Change and Gender Intelligence culminated in the drop down autocomplete menu of genders for users to choose from. The initial list constituted 58 genders but Facebook ultimately settled on 3 options; female, male and other (please specify.) The addition of the ‘other’ category was necessitated by the recognition of people who do not fit neatly into the gender binary. The ‘T’ in LGBTIQ represents the portion of the population which has an expressed gender identity which is incongruent with their natal sex. In America, this group represents 0.6% of the population which translates to 1.4 million people. Transgender people demonstrate the fluidity of gender as a social construct. After all, sex is determined by what is between one’s legs and gender reflects what lies between one’s ears.

The previous sentence is politically correct and it insinuates that gender and natal sex are independent of each other. Natal sex is said to be assigned by midwives and society at birth. Natal sex is not arbitrarily assigned by society, it is a biological reality which solidified by the 23rd  pair of XX and XY chromosomes imprinted in the nucleus of every single one of the 10 trillion cells that make up the human body.  The XX and XY chromosomes are functional outside the reproductive tract as discovered by MIT Professor, David Page.  The genetic differences between one male and one female are 15 times the differences between two males and two females. To deny the significant biological differences between the two sexes is to deny Darwinian evolution theory, genetic science and the common sense logic that human beings are sexually dimorphic. Nature loves variety and so there are outliers such as people with intersex conditions who, in the past have had their most pronounced features decide which of the sexes they will be assigned. The claim that sex is assigned is a pseudoscientific statement used by ill-informed ideologues and belongs in the same category as phrenology.

Unlike chromosomes and hormones, gender identity is not empirically measurable. The extent to which societal conditioning impacts gender identity cannot be denied as gender is performed.  It is absolutely disingenuous to assume that societal conditioning nullifies the biological differences between the sexes. Methods designed by child psychiatrist, Trond Diseth to determine the most appropriate sex for intersex infants  demonstrate the limitated influence of social norms on gender identity. An experiment on male and female monkeys on their preferences for typical male and female toys also proves it. Infants and primates cannot be indoctrinated to prefer one toy over another. How did we come to believe that biological sex and gender develop independently of each other? The distinction between sex and gender has its origins at Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s and 1960s.

Clinical psychologist, John Money repurposed the word ‘gender’ to make it specific to human beings and pioneered gender fluidity theory. He believed that humans are born gender neutral and indoctrinated into assuming one of the two genders. To prove his hypothesis, he performed an experiment on identical twin boys, Brian and Bruce Reimer. Johns Hopkins was the mecca of clinical studies and treatment of people with intersex conditions, people exhibit delayed and precautious puberty as well as those with ambiguous genitalia. The Reimers sought help from Johns Hopkins because their sons had phimosis which is a condition that prevents the penis from retracting fully to facilitate urination. A circumcision was the simplest solution and was performed at seven months old. The physician used cauterization (burning) to remove the foreskin and ablated Bruce’s penis beyond surgical repair. Brian’s phimosis resolved itself naturally.

John Money advised the parents to raise Bruce as a female and so they renamed him Rebecca. Money convinced the parents that through conditioning, Bruce would assume the identity of a heterosexual female. Bruce was surgically castrated at 17 months and underwent genital reconstructive procedures at 21 months. A rudimentary vagina was created and an opening was made in the abdomen to enable him to pass urine. Oestrogen was administered during adolescence to promote the development of secondary sex traits like breasts. The twins offered the perfect sample for Money because they had identical DNA, were reared in the same environment and Brian was a control subject.

Money documented his annual psychological tests with the twins as part of his research on childhood sexual development and gender. The twins reported that Money would instruct them to perform genital inspections on each other, watch pornographic material and rehearse sexual positions. Money said these exercises were necessary for healthy childhood sexual exploration and would help Rebecca assume the identity of a heterosexual adult. After threatening to commit suicide in protest against attending another session with Money, Bruce’s father told him of his botched circumcision and subsequent procedures. Bruce immediately assumed the male identity at 14 years and opted for a double mastectomy and reconstruction surgery for a penis. He then changed his name to David. He married a woman and attempted suicide twice before he succeeded at age 38. Prior to his death, he participated in a follow up study by Milton Diamond and publicly disclosed his ordeal in the December 1997 issue of Rolling Stone magazine. Brian struggled with schizophrenia and died of an antidepressant overdose in June 2002.

The legacy of Money’s unethical and unscientific methods persists today in the sphere of transgender medicine. Children are increasingly being subjected to these experimental methods of treatment to address the dysphoria brought about by the incongruence of their sex and gender identity. There is no scientific consensus on the standardised diagnostic tools and treatment of transgender people. The cause of the gender dysphoria transgender people suffer with is a mystery and is a contentious issue in the medical community. Some experts believe that it is a neurological condition that places the wrong brain in the wrong body and thus the wrong hormones interact with the opposite gendered brain. Other experts believe that it is a mental illness characterised by a person’s persistent and consistent delusions. They believe that psychotherapy alone is necessary to treat it. Gender dysphoria was called ‘Gender Identity Disorder’ in the DSMIV and a technique called ‘watchful waiting’ was used to treat transgender children. Dr Paul McHugh closed Money’s operation in 1979, has over 125 peer reviewed articles and he is a proponent of watchful waiting. Dr Kenneth Zucker boasts a success rate of 80% for female patients and 98% for males using his methods. His study on this method of treating gender dysphoria is not peer-reviewed and thus does not loyally follow the scientific method of discovery. Proponents of altering the body to match the mind have no evidence to prove that cross gender hormones and sex reassignment surgery truly alleviate gender dysphoria. The suicide rate of transgender people is 20 times that of their comparable peers even after surgical interventions.

The common shortcomings of the studies that embolden people on both sides of the argument are major. They often have small sample sizes so assessment tools are not always validated. Secondly, there is considerable loss to follow up which compromises the studies. Thirdly, they lack concurrent control subjects or testing before and after surgery. Their tendency to be hypothesis generating instead of hypothesis testing is also worrisome. There is no standardized testing for gender dysphoria, all that is required is for an individual to self-diagnose. Part of the reason for this can be found in a study of 1400 brains through autopsy at Tel-Aviv University.

The researchers at Tel-Aviv analysed three features that correlate with sex. The features are patterns of brain activity, grey and white matter. The research showed that it is rare for a single brain to exhibit either masculine or feminine features exclusively. The male brain is larger than the female brain but the female brain has thicker cortexes which are associated with cognitive ability.

The main physical difference between male and female brains is the ration of grey to white mater. Women have 10 times more white matter than men and men have 6.5 times more grey matter than women. The grey and white matter studied is related to intelligence.  Another study used MRI techniques to examine the brains of 18 FtoM (Female to Male) transsexuals and 19 heterosexual female controls and 24 heterosexual male control subjects.  They discovered that the transsexual subjects (born female) had the same grey to white matter ratio as the gender they identified with (males.) This study was done on people who experienced gender dysphoria but opted not to transition using cross sex hormones and surgical interventions. The amount of testosterone in the bloodstream is also linked to how microstructures form in the brain. As a layman, it is incredibly difficult to reconcile the fact that there is no such thing as a gendered brain and that transgender people have the “wrong” gendered brain interacting with the wrong body’s hormones. Researchers also state that one cannot infer anything about innate skills, behaviours and the extent to which social engineering can be discounted when observing the brains of the sexes.

Behaviour alters the brain so there may be some credibility to the notion that gender dysphoric children tend to desist from transitioning if allowed to go through puberty naturally. Due to the loss to follow up in older transgender studies, desisters and detransitioners are not accounted for. Websites like sexchangeregret.com and organisations such as The Heritage Foundations do the work to assist detransitioners who believe that surgical interventions did more harm than good. The assumption that gender identity is innate is also challenged by twin studies which show that identical twins with identical DNA do not share a gender identity 72% of the time.

The use of puberty blockers was restricted to help those experiencing precautious puberty. Now, they are used to assist children with gender dysphoria even though they are not FDA approved for this use. Puberty blockers, when used in physiologically normal children, have negative effects. They reduce the growth rate in height, lead to low bone density, abnormal glucose tolerance, breast cancer and in some cases lead to more self-harming tendencies. They permanently sterilize children because they force the reproductive organs to atrophy. They are used to stop the sexual development at the onset of puberty and are followed up by cross-sex hormones. Gender reassignment surgery also does not alter the genetics of a transgender person’s natal sex.

The ethical issue of experimenting on children has not been addressed adequately. Puberty is a natural development state. It is stage three in Piaget’s model of cognitive development. Puberty’s main function is not only to make humans reproductively viable but also involves changes in the brain and psyche. Although the human brain reaches 95% of its full size by age six, it doesn’t stop developing until adulthood.

The prefrontal cortex which is responsible for higher order cognition, planning and decision making stops growing in the mid-twenties. The limbic system which is responsible for hormone regulation also develops during puberty. From a psychological perspective, teenagers try to balance their need to stand out with their need to belong to a social group. I would not trust many of the decisions I made as a teenager in as much as the government did not trust me to vote, drive or enter a legal contract. Teenage offenders are not expected to be sanctioned as severely as adult offenders for the same antisocial behaviours and crimes. This is because it is common knowledge that children do not have the ability to control their impulses as well as adults. Yet, through experimental science, children are expected to make life-long decisions on their fertility and gender-identity. There is nothing as transphobic as a society that has higher standards for weight loss products than for drugs that relate to the treatment of a group of people who are so marginalized.  Banned drugs like DES (DiEthylStilbestrol) are possibly linked to gender dysphoria and demonstrate the disastrous effects of shoddy medical research on human lives. The latest studies on puberty blockers for pubescent children indicate that instead of resolving the dysphoria, they increase mental health issues in children. It is abusive to tamper with a child’s natural biological development when there is no conclusive evidence that it is beneficial in the long term and where the full extent of the medical effects is unknown.

The transgender agenda should extend beyond discussing the unfair advantage transgender females have over cis-gender women and the issue of legislating the use of preferred gender pronouns at the expense of free speech.


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10min1091

“Well in many ways Sharpa was my heart you know… from as long as I can remember… we had a really special bond. Given the age difference between us, he often joked that he knew me before I knew me… and he was right … yeah our bond was special… I mean this is the same kat who gave me the chicken pox as a five months old baby because he simply couldn’t leave me alone. Ha! … in retrospect, I’d say that was one of the greatest acts of love because I never had to experience it as a child, when one is more conscious of what itch, irritation and pain is etcetera,” says Teboho Semela, Ben Sharpa’s younger sister.

Such is their connection as siblings, that Teboho tightly grips at every memory that ties her to her older brother. Today marks a year since the iconic figure died from complications with diabetes. “As a family, his passing has definitely left an unfathomable void, but you know, we’re pushing on.”

We often think that a person’s public persona, or what they choose to show us, is all that they are. When one looks at Sharpa’s life from the exterior, it’s easy to make assumptions about who he was- a nocturnal hard-ass emcee, which only listens to Jak Progresso, in a dungeon somewhere on the outskirts. But Kgotso ‘Ben Sharpa’ Semela was a multifaceted dude, who had passion for humanity.  “Sharpa may have come across as “hard” at times, especially in his music, but that guy was one the most loving guys you could ever know. It was just as he said ‘… imagine if you mix one-part hip hop, one-part love, one-part quantum mechanics and one-part God… then you’ll probably get close to what Ben Sharpa is about’…”

“I’ll let you in on a secret, that so called “hard” guy that brought us one of the most relevant records of our time Hegemony I will tell you that, before every single show we ever did together, no matter what or where, we would find a space, tune out the noise and hype, hold hands and pray together. Kgotso prayed, yo! … like a preacher … that man prayed. Through and through.

A SIBLING THANG: Teboho on the left with Sharpa on the right. Photo by Teboho
A SIBLING THANG: Teboho on the left with Sharpa on the right. Photo by Teboho

“… he was a true believer, in others, the raising of consciousness and quite simply, he was concerned for the human condition… he just believed… heck, he believed in me at times when I struggled to believe in myself… so to not have that… to not have that one person who truly got it, who got you… well… it’s the kind of hurt I really would not wish on anyone,” Teboho tells me.

That social side of Sharpa was evident last year after his passing, at his memorial service- a service which would be the envy of any Hip Hop show, in how Sharpa’s life was celebrated vicariously through Hip Hop. “Honestly, I always knew Kgotso was beloved but seeing it all in action was truly beautiful. Folk from all over the world reached out, stood in the gap, and quite simply showed up for Sharpa; and for this I could not be more grateful. On the whole, the Hip Hop community displayed such a sense of camaraderie in the wake of his passing that it is something that shall be forever etched in my mind.”

Ben Sharper’s sister, Teboho speaking at Sharpa’s memorial service. By Sip The Snapper

The tributes that came in were fully justified by the skill of the man and who he was, but the pity is that we gave him a floral garden when he couldn’t smell and appreciate it. “I wouldn’t be the upfront and reflective; chiselled by the sharpest knife in the drawer – Ben Sharpa – human I am if didn’t say that it is a damn shame that the magnitude of outright support for Kgotso in his passing, was not shown when he was alive to see it. Kgotso did not get the recognition he deserved, not fully. I genuinely believe that, but that said, it is done now and often the plight of many pioneers so more than anything else I perceive it as a call for us all to do better, be better. Look after our own, in life and in death.”

Sharpa was a classical violin player that was part of the youth orchestra, which is one of the things that connected her with Teboho who is also a violinist, singer and flautist- the two would often collaborate. So it makes sense that it’s his sister, making sure his name doesn’t wither with time. “So in line with what we consistently discussed – right up to the very last, I mean it was one of the various topics we touched on the last time I spoke to him before his passing – so in doing due diligence and honouring what I believe to be one the most eloquent rappers and beat makers of his time, this past year I’ve been quietly building the BSharpa Foundation.”

The genius emcee recorded a project before his premature passing, but Teboho is quite ambiguous about its release. “Chances are chances you know… so you all are just going to have to wait and see…  I will say this, it is phenomenal.”


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8min870

It was Greek philosopher Plato, who said necessity is the mother of invention. And it is Lebogang Motsagi, who finds himself corned to create something out of nothing in order to get what is necessary- an education.

The 23 year-old photographer and fashion designer has been accepted at the University of The Arts London, London College of Fashion as well as by the London College of Communication and another Photography School in Berlin. “I unfortunately had to defer the offer, then I eventually lost my place for the 2018/19 enrolment. However, I got contacted by a guy named Tom, who works for UAL and was also helping me with my application. He stated that me losing my place for 2018/19 does not mean anything bad. All I need to do is reapply for the same course whenever I have my funds sorted out.”

One of Lebo's bags. Photo by Lebogang Motsagi
One of Lebo’s bags. Photo by Lebogang Motsagi

“The process won’t be as complex as the initial one because the panel is already familiar with my application as well as my work. I basically have until January 2019 earliest, or either September 2020 latest to raise the funds,” says the maverick creative.

Black in a bag. Photo by Lebogang Motsagi
Black in a bag. Photo by Lebogang Motsagi

To raise the money, the designer took matters into his crafty hands and created unconventional chic bags. “I have been making and selling bags to help raise more funds as well as to pay for my food and rent due to the fact that my plans had completely changed. Everything went south. I was not planning to be here this long, so that too is a big problem. I also get booked for shoots every now and then. So that also helps a lot.”

Lebogang Motsagi on the right working on one of his garments. Photo by Lebogang Motsagi
Lebogang Motsagi on the right working on one of his garments. Photo by Lebogang Motsagi

The Kimberly born creative has a clothing brand, Elisa, named after his late mother. The bags compliment the clothes he also makes. “That is just one of the projects I am doing on the side to help get my work out there more. I am not ready to share any details regarding the brand so far. It’s still going through its early stages of development.”

The perfect fit. Photo by Lebogang Motsagi
The perfect fit. Photo by Lebogang Motsagi
The perfect fit. Photo by Lebogang Motsagi
The perfect fit. Photo by Lebogang Motsagi

The lanky young man has also opted for modern conventional ways to get out of the finance dilemma. He’s gone the fundraising route, setting up an account on Go Fund Me where he asks 500 000 people across the globe to donate R1 each, to help him reach his target.

Wearing Elisa. Photo by Lebogang Motsagi
Wearing Elisa. Photo by Lebogang Motsagi

“I have managed to raise about R10 000 so far, but I have spent some of the money on fabrics to make more items that would help me more money, as well as on my  IELTS test, and other expenses I faced while having to travel to and from Pretoria to write the test,” says Motsagi.

Er'body wants a piece of Elisa. Photo by Lebogang Motsagi
Er’body wants a piece of Elisa. Photo by Lebogang Motsagi

Should you wish to donate to the fundraiser, click here to support One Rand Project To London.



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