Let us not make a mistake of thinking that jazz is separate from the personal lives of women in jazz. It is important to note that first and foremost, they are women and secondly, they are women in jazz. This order is crucial because often we overlook their personal needs and remain comfortable with just them as entertainers.
At some point they were a girl child whose growing pains were no different from yours and mine. On the other hand, there are stereotypes that see glamour and fail to appreciate that behind that façade there is just so much pain and emotional turmoil. I would like to share an article by Bokang Ramatlapeng who is an incredible and accomplished jazz composer and vocalist.
Her Own Skin
The impression of a young woman who is only in her early twenties decreeing that she is comfortable in her own skin is almost unheard of in a society that is built up on comparisons and certain standards of what she should be. Her Own Skin is an idea where no comparisons exist and ideals of perfection are not enforced upon her.
What made her come to the conclusion of being true to what woman she was becoming was not an easy journey. The career path that she chose consciously made her aware of the ills of the society she lives in. Her Own Skin is a very deep and profound expression and it is not to be taken lightly. In her case, it defines who she is and most importantly, that she is finally learning to be comfortable in her own skin. It takes a lot for a young woman who is only trying to take up her space in the real world to reach a level of self-worth.
It appears that her focus is on stopping violence against women. It is a good thing but there is a lot more to the problem because it has found its way into jazz. Imagine, for a minute, a young girl who would not bow to peer pressure and yet she is completely surrounded by peers whose interpretation of the arts is about belonging and doing what everyone else does. The culture of the arts seems to be characterised by heavy drinking, smoking and anything else that one can do to get ‘high’. The temptation to conform is high, yet she knows it is not going to be easy to hold onto her beliefs or shall we say principles without being mocked for it.
When she was in her early high school years, where naming-calling was the norm, like ‘’ Sister Christian ‘’, which she began to loathe because she could not find a safe space to be herself. Unfortunately it created many lonely days and uncertainty about the future.
She wanted to be seen too but at the same time not compromising her self-worth. There were days where she fell prey to the pressure, which is normal for a young person coming of age.
Finally, an opportunity arose and she had to go to university. She thought to herself that things would be better because she would meet like-minded people; which she did. With the scars from the past, she forged ahead and embraced all that she couldn’t control. Her past experiences had already compelled her to become an adult. All she had and held onto were her strong principles and values, something her peers did not understand but eventually learnt to respect.
Through Her Own Skin, she is sharing a knowledge of self-worth and the beginning of braving the stormy seas and confronting everything that is thrown at her with grace.
It is Her Own Skin and no one can live in it!
This is simply an extract from Bokang Ramatlapeng’s Diaries of Her Own Skin.
So, why did this article make the It Has To Be Jazz® project review? The plight of a girl child can never be left unattended. At some point the cycle has to be broken. Publishing this extract is a reminder that there is a lot that still needs to be achieved. We are not overlooking the fact that some strides have been made in this area but they are not enough.