Yamkela: My journey of life and healing

2015-06-11 06:01

Brave Yamkela Nkinqa

Brave Yamkela Nkinqa

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At 17, Yamkela Nkinqa wrote a play that she performed at the Stellenbosch Arts Festival.

She tells us how performing helped her find peace from a childhood of abuse and abandonment.

Yamkela was born in Crossroads and she became the third born to an already shattered family.

Her father was employed but spent all his money on alcohol and left her mother to support the family with the earnings she made at a shebeen situated in front of their house.

“I remember my father got paid on a Friday and we wouldn’t see him until Sunday.

There were days that he came home over the weekend, but that was mainly in the middle of the night when he would stumble inside and fight with my mother when he wanted more money for alcohol...

I would be woken up by the arguments.”

Aged Five at the time, Yamkela would often find hiding places around the house so that she wouldn’t be found.

“I felt silenced as a child, I was beaten and told to shut up so much, that I believed that my voice didn’t matter.”

The violence in the home had a dreadful effect on the entire family, but Yamkela was often protected by her older brother,11, at the time, who would shield her from the beatings and often take the worst for himself.

“I really admired my brother for his strength as he really taught and showed me what courage was all about. He stood up to my dad and it showed me that there are good people in the world.”

The moment that would change the trajectory of Yamekela’s life was a Friday afternoon, this day her father beat her mother once again.

“Normally I would just play inside the house, but this day I decided to play outside – today I am very grateful that I did – I was kneeling and drawing on the dusty gravelled road with a stone when my sister shouted for me to come home. I remember my sister gripping my shoulder hard and telling me not to cry.”

When Yamkela walked inside the house, the normally clean home had broken glass on the floor, pillows and torn furniture covers, all surrounded by blood spattered on the ground and walls.

When she looked up, she saw her mom standing with a knife in her hand.

“My mom was covered in blood by the wounds caused by my dad, but in an act of rage she had stabbed him back. The neighbors called an ambulance and my dad was taken to the hospital.”

Her father survived, but threatened to kill them all on his return from hospital.

At that point, Yamkela’s aunt took her in to raise her as her own.

She was 12 and would never see her father again and stopped seeing her mom and sibblings for the next three years.

“I felt completely abandoned...those three years were terrible, no one would tell me where my mom was, I’d thought my dad had killed her and I even had nightmares about it.”

She would later find out that her mom had become a Sangoma, and had moved to live in the Eastern Cape after divorcing her father.

Her elder sister had fallen pregnant at the age of 16 and her brother became addicted to drugs and alcohol.

Miraculously, Yamkela says that out of all that darkness she has found peace and has learned more about herself.

“I use to think I was weak because I was always put down by others and I was told that what I have to say doesn’t matter – but through it all I have found out that I am a strong person.”

Yamkela says that her life came full circle when a story she wrote at the age of 16, about a girl facing abuse was rescripted into a stage play, and was performed at an arts festival in Stellenbosch in 2014.

“I was part of a drama group at school and gave my story to them. They adapted the story to a play and I played the main character. The girl I played was me, when I cried in the play those were real tears. It was me releasing my pain and opening the door to my future.”

Hearing the applause was the most cathartic moment of Yamekela’s life, as she called it a moment of closure.

“In that moment I breathed out every negative thought and experience I was holding on to and felt whole and free in my life for the first time.”

Yamkela says: “to share my story helped me heal. At first I was the main character of the story and I could feel all the emotions very strongly, but as the story unfolded, I started to feel I was no longer the story but the story teller. Each time I shared my story the negative emotions got weaker and weaker and I was empowered to face my future.

*Yamkela is a Leaders’ Quest participant

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