Artwork by Kenesha Sneed

A re-imagined self-care journey with Nwabisa

In light of recent atrocities in our country, we may have forgotten or not even known that September is self-care awareness month: a time to remind ourselves to rest and take deliberate steps, no matter how big, towards improving our quality of life. The theme of the month of September rings true; taking care of ourselves is something that requires some awareness and intent. Luxuries such as massages, mani-pedis or weekend getaways aren’t as easily available as indulging in self-destructive activity, in social spaces, under the guise of ‘treating yourself’. However, self-care comes in numerous forms, many of which are almost always readily available to us without spending a cent. There’s definitely room for refinement and inclusivity when it comes to the ways we package and perceive self-care. In the South African socio-economic climate, there needs to be more work put into extending self-care to something that isn’t overtly anti-poor or linear. I spoke to honours student, self-care activist and blogger, Nwabisa Mazana about how she’s transformed her social media platforms into instruments of advocating for holistic wellness.

“I have to be honest and say I hate how self-care has been made to seem like an act of luxurious spending on bath bombs and face masks. I don’t mean that these are not important, no.” Nwabisa goes on to explain that self-care is something that will probably look different on all of us and what’s most important is that it leads to the nourishment of the individual, be it emotional, physical, mental or otherwise. The 22-year-old UCT student opens up to us about her upbringing and its impact on her self-health. “I was always a very soft and independent child; always journaling and doing things that made me feel affirmed in myself. I think losing my mom made me lean into myself more. I realized that I was losing myself because of trauma and years of dealing with depression and anxiety.” For a very long time, Nwabisa stopped writing, reading and engaging in other activities that had previously brought her joy, which proved very destructive for her. This changed in her second year of university when she felt a tug to get back into writing, and this time round, her writing always included a pinch of sunshine. Nwabisa, more affectionately known as ‘Nwai’ by her online followers, began to share uplifting mantras to herself through her tweets. She uses the words ‘affirming’, ‘soft’ and ‘gentle’ a lot throughout the interview and she carries the same spirit in her writing. “It just always feels like my social media, especially my Twitter, has been a space for awareness about taking care of your soul, heart and mind.And I always tell people, when they ask, “how did you know I needed to see this right now?” that I am always firstly affirming myself.

‘Untitled: 13-11-16’ sourced from Nwabisa’s blog

The simplest acts of self-care begin in the very things you have around you at your disposal. It’s as simple as listening to your favourite music in a space that calms you down, performing breathing exercises or making a habit out of writing down actions to take to reach your goals and actually acting on them bit by bit. On a tight budget, we’re more than entitled to spoiling ourselves with a satisfying meal, spending money on a good book or anything that brings happiness in your life. Instagram accounts, Alex Elle, Holistically Grace and Cleo Wade come highly recommended for someone trying to catalyse their own reaction to the self-care movement. Nwabisa holds her collection of poetry books dear to her heart and considers them instrumental in her own writing process. She lists Bone by Yrsa-Daley Ward, Teaching my mother how to give birth by Warsan Shire, Collective amnesia by Koleka Putuma and Salt by Nayyirah Waheed as some of her favourite reads.

Nwabisa shares her views on black womanhood and how it engages with self-care given the intersectional disadvantage placed by the world around us. “I am sad and tired. My heart is heavy because Black Femmes are dying and no one cares. We are all collectively healing from generational traumas where we were told we aren’t small enough, big enough or just enough. We are healing from years and years of internalized euro-westernized beauty standards that look nothing like us. We are healing from years of broken self-esteems and we are showing up and saying, ‘We are here in this space in this time and we belong,’ and I think that is profound.” There’s a gap in equalizing the obligation placed on women to take care of others as we oblige them to take care of themselves. There’s more to be added into the conversation of self-care but speaking to Nwabisa was a good step. “I always think of this quote by Audre Lorde that says, ‘caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.’ And I carry that with me, always. Caring for yourself is not selfish and is a necessary act in this cruel capitalistic world.”

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