By Melissa Nefdt
Calling for a New African Masculinity
Ntsikelelo Mzibomvu’s story is one we’re familiar with. Growing up in a household where there wasn’t much income, he developed his entrepreneurial talents early on. After a failed business venture, launched unfortunately during a global recession, that he asked himself: ‘What is the one product that costs nothing, that I will always have, even when I’m broke?’ He knew he could write, research and facilitate, and so decided to turn himself into the product. He is now a published author, runs training and teambuilding for a list of corporate clients, and coaches individuals on a journey to personal achievement.
His story is one of relationship-building and collaboration, of talents coming together to make something greater than yourself. And it is just such a collaboration, with a Zimbabwean artist, Greatjoy Ndlovu, which resulted in Ntsikelelo’s third book, The Path To Great Joy — a beautiful hardback of portrait paintings and inspirational words. Written by Ntsikelelo, it speaks of the artist’s journey, but also the experience of being a man in a patriarchal society.
Nstikelelo is passionate about women and child abuse, but comes at it from a different angle. “We wanted to look at the abuser, the pain that the abuser goes through.” While this may seem a controversial statement at first, he goes on to explain: “We need to pay more attention to what men are going through, and why they do what they do, and how society pressures them and in response, they either fail or they succeed. That’s what the book focuses on, trying to create the path to great joy.” It’s about looking at the root causes of the problem of toxic masculinity on an individual but also societal level.
The problem, says Ntsikelelo, starts at an early age. “As a boy, you’re taught, “Don’t cry, don’t let your feelings out, hold them in,” and that repression of emotion can lead to depression, can lead to suicidal tendencies, it leads to abuse. By trying to be a man, they actually become something that is not men, and become the enemy of society.” He believes that the other side of the same coin — of being a healthy man who is able to express his emotions, forgive himself and others, and can create a vision for himself — that such a man has no need to express their power in abusive ways. Such self-actualisation is what he aims to achieve through his life’s work.
Ntsikelelo believes that although this is a worldwide problem, it is particularly bad in African culture. “We are rooted in patriarchal ways. It becomes more problematic because it’s not just a behavioural thing, it becomes something that men want to protect. People want to protect their customs, and because our customs are patriarchal, we are trying to protect wrongdoing.”
He sees the solution as twofold: to have a culture that is always adapting to the environment and evolves over time, and in embracing education as a path to innovation. “A lot of men think that they don’t have to educate themselves because they have a cultural way of living. They look at education as the Western way…This is a particular problem in Third World Countries. If people have a proper education, they can build their own buildings, they can build their own trains and planes and cars.” He references the movie Black Panther as a fictional example of what African nations could be capable of through education and innovation.
His message to his fellow Activators is simple: “Every Activator is a vessel for impact. The impact that every vessel can have, depends on how much development it goes through. So you have to continue developing yourself, as you’re trying to have an impact. Keep growing, keep evolving.”
The Path to Great Joy can be bought on Amazon or directly through Ntsikelelo, who can be contacted on 0749537092 or firstname.lastname@example.org.