A mechatronics engineer by profession who aspires to be an artificial intelligence researcher or professor, Tlamelo Makati from Botswana, is also a writer whose works are featured in Sauti blog, a digital collection of 25 stories by young African women on the impact of COVID-19.
The publication, launched by the African Union Office of the Youth Envoy, aims to amplify young African women on the frontline of COVID-19 and showcase their creative talents.
In this short interview with Africa Renewal, Tlamelo talks about her poem, “Healing: An Endless Maze.” She explains how difficult it is for a gender-based violence survivor to recover from trauma.
Your poem “Healing: An Endless Maze.” What does it mean?
The poem was trying to portray healing as an everyday struggle. One day you think you are okay. You think you have reached the other side, only to find you have reached a dead end. Then you have to retrace your steps, sometimes even getting lost on your way back. And you never actually reach the light at the end because it leads you into yet another maze.
The text seems very personal. Is it a true, fictional or composite story?
It is a true story and very personal.
Why did you choose this format? Couldn’t it have been an essay or a simple narrated story?
I felt it just made more sense. A series of poems tell a story from different perspectives and points of view. The parts can be connected but each has its own setting. An essay or a narrated story would have required me to be the same person throughout.
The word “maze” from the title makes me think of “haze” and I am just wondering if the title could also have been “Healing: An Endless Haze”?
Looking from outside, it could appear that way, however, the character is aware of everything. She just has no control, in some instances, of her situation.
Although it appears there’s only one narrator, that narrator alternates between first and third-person accounts. Why that choice?
The narrator alternates between the different selves, so sometimes she speaks as the one who is in control and sometimes speaks on behalf of the others.
Was there a message you were trying to get through?
I wanted to tell those who have been traumatized, or those who have gone through a soul-altering experience that they are not alone. And to do that I needed to give them a glimpse of what goes through the mind of a survivor; to say: we understand and you are not crazy or delusional. It’s okay to feel like being in a maze.
You’re among the 25 winners of the Sauti blog competition. Did you specifically write the piece for the competition or is this a repurposed story?
It is a repurposed story. It was in my drafts and when I saw the competition, I thought it fitted well. And I didn’t think I had anything to lose by sharing my story with strangers.
Was there a specific experience that prompted it?
It was a culmination of experiences, but one that happened last year on my birthday weekend was just the breaking point for me.
And how easy is it for other young women to relate?
I think it is very easy for them to relate. Most women go through traumatic experiences and often blame themselves, or feel they are not entitled to feel a certain way.