“I didn’t grow up in a place where white supremacy and white people were around to tell me my hair means one thing or my blackness means one thing. My language and my culture were my first points of call. I was fully embodied in myself,” she says.
When her family moved in 1993, she found herself swallowed up by a world shaped by white supremacy. Journal in hand, her first outlets were writing, movies, and the encyclopedias her parents brought home for her. As she grew into herself, she reached a juncture at the age of 29.
“I would say I truly became politically conscious of who I am, the world I live in, and my blackness which really confronted me, at 29 years old. I was very ashamed of that for a very long time,” she says.
This political awakening was soon followed by what she calls a “delayed anger”. “Things were still the same in South Africa. White people were still living with impunity. Black people were still poor and I was just one of the privileged few.”
Her frustration led her back to her Transkei, where she asked more questions: “Who am I outside of my womanness? Who am I outside of my blackness?” Bongela resolved to tell her own story—a story in which she recognizes her past and decides to choose liberation.
“Personally, justice is being known. We know everyone else's language and culture but they don’t know ours. So how else will they get to know me? I feel like that’s how liberation can be acquired,” she adds. “Equality says, ‘We must get space at the table that was badly designed in the first place.’ Liberation says, ‘Let me create my own table, just don’t stand in my way while I’m doing it.’”