The Study of WoMan

In celebration of Women’s History Month, I’m revisiting WoMan. Given the current state of affairs, it’s clear her work is not done. WoMan is a poem I wrote years ago and appears in my chapbook, From the Depths of Darkness. The poem employs magical realism elements to explore the poet’s role as a healer.

About the Featured Image

Even after publishing WoMan, I knew it’s a character I wanted to learn more about. So, I reached to my fellow poet and artist, Kerry O’Connor, for a visual depiction. She interpreted the healer in the poem in a South African context and as a sangoma. The painting, she titled Study of WoMan, further inspired the poem below. I guess this is the essence of art’s ability to inspire further artistic expression.

I admit my writing tends to be autobiographical. However, the following poem is not an “I Am” poem, a personal poem in which the author describes themselves, even though it slightly adopts the format. It’s a poem that honours and appreciates all women for their roles in our communities and society.

Throughout history, Black South African women have been writing, and expressing themselves through various poetic styles. This includes women in my life, though not writers themselves, who celebrated poetry through oral traditions and also encouraged reading.

The Poem

I am WoMan
I am both gentle and fierce
A healer with ever-changing abilities
Still, I am a resolute mender of hearts

I am one with the natural world
Rooted in love, goodness blooms
A symphony of compassion
But do not confuse or conflate

Gentleness is not weakness
My spine is a steel beam ready
To support and defend what matters
Even if I risk being misunderstood

But do not call me angry
For I will burn the house down
I am a seeker of justice
I am WoMan

About Black Women Writers

It is clear that very little research has targeted Black women writers as knowledge and content producers, through the medium of books, let alone poets.”

—Makhosazana Xaba; Our Words, Our Worlds

I’m also taking this opportunity to acknowledge the contributions of Black South African women poets to the world of poetry. Why? Because, and as the quote above suggests, they rarely get the spotlight.

This is not about playing up to the accepted divisions of how we differ from one another: not African enough, not Black enough, not Woman enough and whatever else we are told to believe. It’s a simple fact that when I mention Audre Lorde, most people know who she is. But when I mention Sindiwe Magona, most (non-South African) people reach out for their smartphones to look her up. Why is that? Maybe we are not curious enough to learn about one another. In any case, I hope this provides food for thought.

So, with all that said, Happy Women’s History Month and a belated World Poetry Day to all poetry lovers!

PS. Wikipedia is calling for volunteers to join their efforts in addressing gender knowledge gaps. Read more on their site, if you’re looking for ways to donate your time and efforts!

Khaya Ronkainen
Khaya Ronkainen is a writer, poet and creative professional. Her blog focuses on all things poetry and creative nonfiction.


  1. Khaya, a wonderful and powerful poem celebrating the strength of women, reminding us that what many consider weaker emotions are indeed the force behind us. The image is striking and incredible to be inspired thus by your work. As for the two poets you mention, to my shame I’ve heard of neither, but always looking out to learn more every day!

  2. The poem is powerful. You’re absolutely right about Black women writers needing more recognition. Sindiwe Magona sounds like someone I should definitely check out.

  3. You know how much I love your poetry – and this one having inspired such an equally inspiring piece of art is no exception. Your essay is spot-on…”Given the current state of affairs, it’s clear her work is not done.” And even the work that was ‘hard-won’ is being dismantled as we speak – but I digress.
    Thank you for introducing me to Sindiwe Magona – what a magnificent woman! I am delving into her life & works all because of you – yes, you make a difference, Khaya.

  4. It was an honor to read your empowering poem, Khaya and to learn that you have a chapbook. 👏🏻

  5. Strength can originate from qualities that are often considered weak, and it’s important for us women to acknowledge and appreciate ourselves. And yes, Kerry’s artwork is a gift and continues to inspire new writings. As for the two poets, don’t feel any shame, please! 🙂 There are so many writers I’ve never heard of myself or classic books one (as a writer) is supposed to have read. My intention is to encourage reading wide and stories about different worlds. I appreciate you reading Annika, Thank You!

  6. Hi Ritish, thank you for your visit and encouraging comment. Much appreciated! And if you do check Sindiwe Magona’s work, I suggest you start with “I Write the Yawning Void” her latest collection of selected essays.

  7. Thank you for this poem, an introduction to a South African poet that is new to me, and this sentiment “the essence of art’s ability to inspire further artistic expression,” which I firmly believe. Our art is not ours alone. Once we release it into the world, then it is intended to inspire others in however they see fit.

  8. Laura, I’m very fortunate to have you as a reader and supporter of my work. Thank you so much! Regarding the current state of affairs…Sometimes, I think our world could experience fewer issues if women had a final say in policy-making and governance, especially in certain countries. I’m biased, of course, I know. 🙂 Anyway, it’s my pleasure to introduce, Sindiwe Magona. She is an extraordinary woman; her life and writing trajectory is an inspiration for many back home.

  9. It’s a mutual honour, Michele. I find your poetry empowering, too. And yes, I have more than one chapbook. When you have time, you’re welcome to peruse my “books” page. 🙂

  10. It’s my pleasure, Kathy. I’m glad you like the poem. True that, our art is not ours alone. That’s the beauty of it all. 🙂 As for South African poet/poets, there are contemporary writers who produce outstanding work. What is frustrating though, is the difficult of finding and buying these books online. It’s as if SA publishers are not interested in the global market, which is a great pity.

  11. Thank you for the lovely response, Khaya. Wonderful. I clicked on the link and look forward to learning more. 🙏🏻

  12. Thank you for your kind words and understanding. I’m always looking to expand my reading and have noted these down. The past few years my reading has gravitated to include a lot more of books from South East Asia which has been interesting – apart from the different cultures I’m enjoy absorbing a the unique style of writing.

  13. Khaya, this is more than awesome and thank you so much for this wonderful, long overdue tribute. I adore this post. 👏🏼🙌🏼👏🏼 I learned a new word from you…sangoma! That is pure healing in itself, and of course your poem is a priceless honor sistah girlfriend. Cheers to you my South African queen and poetess. 👑 Continue with the awesome things that you are doing that resonates globally. Sending you lots of hugs and smooches! 🤗💖😘🥂🥰

  14. “But do not call me angry
    For I will burn the house down
    I am a seeker of justice
    I am WoMan”

    YES! I love everything about this post.

  15. South East Asian books? Kudos to you! Except for the cuisine, I admit I could increase my intake of these stories too. They surely provide an intriguing and eye-opening reading experience. Enjoy the Easter weekend, my friend! xx

  16. Many thanks to you, my fellow queen and poetess.<3 Reading opens up our worlds. How fortunate we are to have the opportunity to read, learn, think, and write together! Are you participating in NaPoWriMo?

  17. Right back at ya Khaya. Continue sharing such profound and wise words of sheer empowerment. You rock sistah queen! 👑 Hugs and smooches to you! 😍💖😘

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