Thursday, October 20, 2011

Emerging out of hibernation....with a LOT to say!

It has been quite a while since I blogged on this site  One could say that I was hibernating if one thinks of it as a time of stepping back and re-creating, and re-connecting because that is what happens during winter, when animals hibernate.  One the surface it looks as if nothing is happening, but deep inside lots of things are happening.  So what have I been doing?

In February, I started a conversation with Birgitte Davy and Margaret Laubser, and this gave birth to 'The Stream Initiative'.  We bring our skills and experience together, with a commitment to facilitating change, creative engagement around issues, and supporting growth.  Birgitte has a wealth of experience in facilitating leadership development and change in the corporate and civil society sectors - globally; Margaret has  experience as a process art facilitator and storyteller working with individuals, groups and organisations, and I have years of experience of facilitating change and leadership development in the civil society and corporate sector in Africa and the UK, using story and song as part of my tool kit.  We have a particular heart for the African continent - our home. 

We have worked slowly - meeting once a week for 6 months, using TheoryU ( as the basis to explore ways of bringing our work together.  It has been a process of building a working relationship, testing ideas together, and creating.  Our first offering was 'Sculpting Change' which we facilitated in August to a small group of diverse individuals.  We have since facilitated a bespoke programme for the 'Kamers vol geskenke' team- an amazing organisation that supports crafters all over South Africa, and holds two big craft fairs every year (  We will continue to explore ways to use creative process in our work collectively and individually.

I also spent quite a bit of time this year working with Argo Marketing - a small, dynamic media company with big dreams, that focuses on youth and education.  The owner, Sue Fontanaz, is a passionate entreperneur with a heart for education (  They have been running the Star Awards for teachers for about 4 years, in partnership with ViaAfrika.  This is the only teachers award in South Africa that recognises teachers who go the extra mile, giving non-curricula support to their learners and community.  Anyone connected with schools knows that teaching is such a challenging job, and teachers do a lot more than teach in the classroom!

This year Argo launched the Education Roundtable - an initiative aimed at bringing roleplayers in education together to explore possibility, and to build on what they were each doing for education.  I had the honour of being one of the co-facilitators.  It was a fabulous event in Johannesburg, in June, and there is an intention to keep this going.  One of the intended outcomes is to create a website that highlights top innovative projects in Education in South Africa.  This website is

I have also worked with storytelling.  Two highlights - One was facilitating 300 women through a reflective storytelling process at the University of Cape Town's Graduate School of Business's Womens conference called 'Celebrating Women through Stories!'  The participants had listened to many wonderful stories, from a range of inspiring women, and my role was to get them to connect the story that most stirred them, with their own life story, and for them to realise they too have wonderful amazing stories to tell.  And I got them to each write a short poem!  Another highlight was being invited to be a storyteller in a workshop for the Global Peace Alliance.  There I put my facilitator hat aside, and just narrated stories.

Wordpaintings in the Gallery
I have had two poetry readings - both at the Rust-en-Vrede Gallery and Clay Mueseum, in Durbanville (  The one in February it was "Broken open and beautiful: an evening of poetry and song about life, love, emigration and the Resilience of the human spirit" with a dear friend from Romania, Madalina Florea.  She has just published a bilingual anthology called "Poems with Survivor" - a beautiful piece of work.  We found parallel themes in our lives as women living on two different continents but who share common themes of teaching, being insiders and outsiders, having lived in countries undergoing political turmoil...  It was wonderful.  Then in July I performed again at the Rust-en-Vrede.  This time it was 'Portraits of my Heart - a window into my life'. This was a set of poems that were autobiographical - and reminded again of the statement "When you make it personal, everyone says, that is my story too!"  My audience was mostly white, Afrikaans speaking people, yet so many related to parts of the story - even though they were aware of how different we were.  When all is said and done, we are all human beings. 

Voicing Bodaciously...!
I started singing lessons (and have continued to sing with the Cape Town Gospel Choir) - to get back into voice, and to explore ideas that I can use in the processes that I facilitate.  That has been lots of fun.  The human voice is an amazing instrument!  When I sing, I become incredibly present and mindful.  I have to be aware of my whole body, to relax, to breath right down to the bottom of my tummy, to listen, to imagine and hear the sound, to think about the words I am communicating, to connect with the piece, myself, the accompaniment, the audience - and yet to let go and let the music work.  Singing in a group creates a great sense of community.  It requires one to pay attention to ones own part, and yet to listen carefully to the rest, and to see how one fits in with the rest.  I recently had the priveledge of singing with a group of 7 other singers, and a wonderful team of musicians - an amazing saxophonist, keyboard players, strings, guitarists drummers - with mics and monitors...  Hard work, lots of fun, and what a blessing!

The voice work will lead to new work, I believe that because in challenging times like this we need to be fully present adn mindful.. - But for now, I am just enjoying singing, and listening, and am feeling really centered and present.

Audio blogging
My most recent escapade is to build up an audio bank of talks and ideas that will go out into the world.  This is still very much in its pilot phase, but I am loving every minute of it... watch this space1

Monday, November 22, 2010

Bodacious Breakfast!!!

Last Saturday - 20th November - I hosted my first real Bodaciously me...! event - a breakfast the women called a Kaleidescope of Stories.  The restaurant Eat@Alltydgedacht is at a wine estate on your way to Durbanville (Cape Town).  Its a small place that has indoor and outdoor seating.  The beauty of the place is both its informality, and the care with which customers are treated - perfect for the day!  We had booked to be seated in the tent, adjoining the barrel room, however Sharon, the owner checked out the weather (on - a website which tells you the weather - even by the hour, in any part of the world!!!!) and it was going to be rainy.  So she gave us the barrel room.  This is a large room with huge wooden wine barrels lined up on either side of the room, leaving a not too narrow passage in the middle for the tables.  It has warm lighting interspersed with twinkly lights - like stars twinkling above.  It is a beautifully intimate space - and was perfect for the morning.  The food was divine!!

I started off 14 women, many who did not know each other, and did not know quite what to expect, but willing to take the plunge.  They were seated in 3's or 4's at a table with people they did not know.  The intention was to get them to meet new people.  I began with a welcome, and reading my poem - The Blaze of herself - and then spoke about the danger of the single stories (thanks to Chimamanda Adichie) we tell about ourselves and others.  The purpose of the day was to find the kaleidescope of stories that is each one of us.

Participants told stories about the times in their lives when their 'breast were erect, and they shook as I walked' (song of lawino - okot p'bitek).  There was a lot of laughter as people remembered the power of youth and sensuality.  We had powerful memories of childhood and deep reflection when I read my poem 'Velvety skies'

I stare at the velvety skies
through the frosted glass window
light blue... deeper blue ... purply blue
It is dusk
God made this time specially

Memories of fathers, and of grandparents , of special moments came back.  We reflected on moments of power - when we felt so absolutely in our own power.  Memories of childbirth and defiance, of pain and joy, of facing fear and going on anyway - of living flooded our minds!!!  As each woman made time to slow down, and reflect 

                her soul crackled and popped
like dry wood ready for burning
        and she saw
her reflection in the skies again
                   deep red,
       moon orange
sun gold
setting pink…
 ... ...
for she had rekindled
   the blaze of HERself  

We played with kaleidescopes, shared stories and poetry, wrote poetry, and drew with jik and ink - to create images of what had been revealed to us, of ourselves.  There was a lot of laughter, and lot of love, and a lot of support.  Each person left having connected with parts of themselves that they had forgotten and with at least 2 or 3 other women.

Friday, October 8, 2010

We don't talk no more - poetic musings

Last night I was on a panel at the Pan African Space Station in their poetry sessions called Dreaming Wide Awake.  The title of the programme was 'We don't talk no more - Poetic Musings'.  It was a conversation between young and older women writers. Nonkululeko Godana hosted it.  The other writers were Sindiwe Magona, Yewande Omotoso, Diana Ferrus and I.  We spoke and read writings about life, love, writing and the mundane in between..  It was so much fun.  I love the concept of the 'Space Station' which is a virtual radio station - you can access it through the internet.  so you are communicating with people from all over the world, and you have a live audience in front of you.  There are lots of intersting people - old and young, who just want to share their ideas, to hear, to witness, to support and to challenge. 

I enjoyed sharing my poetry, and my thoughts, and I really enjoyed being in the company of other writers and creative people, in a space that just invited you to be and to share!  Will let you know when the podcast of the evening is out!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Voysing Bodaciously...

Today I have created the word Voysing -It is the name of the workshop series I am starting in November.  They will be writing workshops working with the concept of Voice.  The indegenous Oceanic peoples say 'If I can sing, I can speak my truth.'   Indegenous Africans say, 'If I do not sing, I do not have the breath to do the work'.  Song then gives one the energy to both speak one's truth, and to do the work.  In the workshops I will explore, with participants, the idea of

Voy –aging – journeys through our lives and our
       world using words and sound (think of the poem Ithaca);
Sing-ing – using our voices to be present and connect
       to our truths, creating the energy to do the work
Voy-Sing  - speaking and writing our truths and those
       of the characters and places we story about on our

Hence the name of the workshop Voysing Bodaciously...!  We start on the 2nd, and will work for 5 weeks around the theme of Creation.  Many Creation stories speak about the world coming into being through sound, song, the word and so I feel it is appropriate that the first VoySing workshop is about Creation.

If you are interested email me at 

Bodaciously me... Philippa

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Poem

Uya Thetha?Bua? Kuluma? Hai bo!!

‘Molo Ma’, he says.
‘Molo buthi’ I reply with a smile. ‘Full tank, 95’
He opens the gas tank, puts in the ‘thingy’ and
fires a question to which I respond
‘Andi theth’isiXhosa.  Ndi ya thetha ka ncinci.’
‘I do not speak isiXhosa.  I speak very little.’
‘Hau,’ he says.  ‘U ya bua? … kuluma? … Shangaan? … Afrikaans?’
I shake my head with a half smile.
Here we go again, playing this game of
Who are you? Where do you fit? Do you really belong?
I am transported to another place and time –  

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 1979 
A father and daughter drive up to a bakery 
There is a long line of light skinned people 
Who look like them 
Waiting for bread.  
They  get out of the car 
Walk past the line of people 
Straight to the till 
And ask for bread. 
They people in the line start to murmur. 
The lady at the counter speaks to them abruptly in Amharic.  
The father  takes out his red id document. 
Foreigners it says. 
‘Baria.’ – ‘Slave’ we hear someone in the line say 
They get their bread and walk away 
Relieved ut unable to look them in the eyes

‘Sisi, are you Nigerian?’
I am rudely awakened from my reverie
Nigerian?  Words flash through my mind 
Here this means Pimp Drug dealer Hustler 
Corrupt Makwerekwere – or does it?

‘No, I come from Uganda.’
To my releif
He makes no quick references to Idi Amin
Only a blank stare!
(Surely we contribute more to the world than mad men and disease!)
His blank stare takes me back to another place in time

Oshakati, Namibia, 1990
A young woman is standing in line 
At the Motor Car licensing office 
To apply for a drivers license 
He insists on filling in the forms 
Asking questions in his stumbling’ English 
‘Where you born?’ 
‘Kampala, Uganda’ 
He looks puzzled. 
She spells it, and he writes it all down 
She reads it upside down 
‘Place of Birth - Town: Kampala,   District: Uganda, 
Country:  Namibia.’ 
‘Excuse me,’ she says 
‘Kampala is both the city and the district, 
Uganda is the country.  It is not part of Namibia.’ 
He looks at her very puzzled. 
‘No,’ She says.  ‘Uganda.  Near Tanzania.’ 
He puts his pen down and shakes his head 
In utter confusion. 
‘Difficult case,’ he says. 
‘Go to Ondangwa.’ 
And moves on to the next person in the line.

‘It is near Tanzania and DRC’ I say.
‘Oh,’ says the guy, who has finished filling up my car.  ‘Okay.  300 Rand.’
I hand him the money, and drive off

namutebi - september 2010

Monday, September 20, 2010

Answering the call..

My first bodacious act (after deciding to step out of K&S) has been to pay attention to the call to be creative. I intend to develop a programme called ‘Bodaciously me …’.  At the core of this work will be the use of creative arts processes to explore personal and collective leadership and transformation.  I have been working with an artist friend, Anne Wells, and couple of other women in our experimental Thursday morning Bodaciously me …! Workshop.  We have been testing various activities that we intend to use in a Women’s Leadership workshop and as a Personal and Team Coaching process.  We have worked with story and archetypes, creative writing and video interviews.  We have worked with chalk pastels, done weaving with unusual materials and made ‘dolls’ using found objects as a means of exploring strengths, reframing challenges, articulating our aspirations.  The intention is not to make Art, but to use the arts as a language that enables the involvement of the whole human being – head, heart, body, spirit and imagination – in the process of personal leadership and development.  The results have been surprising and powerful.  For further information about these services please contact me @ or on +2782 894 1718.

Poetry has been an important language for my own personal reflection and over the past few years I have shared some of my poems in coaching sessions, and workshops as a reflective tool, or to stimulate discussion.  In response to the feedback I have been given I am now putting them together into an anthology of poetry which I intend to publish as a CD and later as a book.  I am working with Dorian Haarhoff as a writing mentor.

On a more personal note
I am struck by conversations about identity, displacement and about how easy it is to belong or not – both in our work place and in our social spaces.  I am also fascinated about the things that draw us towards them, and or the struggle to stay true to one’s own dreams and aspirations in the face of life’s challenges.  As I have become more intrigued by other people’s stories and the resilience of the human spirit, I have also become fascinated by my own story of growing up in Uganda during Idi Amin’s regime, and about leaving Uganda and living in Ethiopia, Kenya , Lesotho and Namibia and finally South Africa; of living with siblings who had cerebral palsy, and understanding the legacy of my parents.  This has prompted me to begin writing my story which I am sure will take some time.  The process has given me a deeper insight into my own life, and a greater respect for my parents and siblings, and the broad shoulders on which I stand.  It has also made me realize that so many in this fast-changing world are dealing with similar issues.  This is giving me material that I can use in talks about diversity, about migration, about being an African woman, a ‘foreigner’ in my own continent and the challenges of integration, and about the struggle of pursing my passions.    

On a lighter note
All this has been very intense – the reflection, the family and the writing.  For my sanity I have started singing again, as part of the Cape Town Gospel Choir, and am loving the experience of working again in a community of seriously committed singers!  We have our first concert on the 11th of December, in the City Hall, and I can’t wait.                                                                                          

Thursday, August 26, 2010


For years I have been an avid journaller.  There is nothing better than writing your thoughts out on smooth blank paper, and suddenly realising that all these thoughts rattling through your brain do have a core thread and make a lot of sense.  Writing in a nice book, on nice paper makes it all worth it.  Blank paper, as opposed to lined is so much more versatile - you can draw, you can write from any angle...!  So I have made a few Bodaciously Me journals which I am selling to all the Bodacious women of this world.  If you are interested please email me at