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Collage by Ta'Ron Joyner.

A Wild Goose Chase Named Orgasm

'I had always assumed that my sexual abuse trauma was to blame for my lost orgasms', writes Christy Chilimigras. 'But is it just the trauma?'

This essay is part of OkayAfrica's SA Reframed series, featuring personal writing from some of South Africa's best young writers edited by Verashni Pillay.

We rely on Netflix's algorithm to tell us what to watch next. We'd sooner check an app than open our curtains to know what the weather outside is looking like. We want sex, companionship and attention on tap. Thank you Tinder, thank you Grindr, thank you to the perfectly timed and tactfully worded Instagram DM. We are horses who want to be led to the water, and we'd prefer it if you'd spoon it into our mouths once we get there. We don't want to have to search for the things in life that make us feel good. We'd like them right there, beneath our fingertips at all times.


We especially don't want to have to wade through our trauma – to work our way slowly through it. We want to blow it up, and then bury every last piece of it.

As a sexual abuse survivor, I didn't want to have to chase something that the movies would have me believe flows more freely than unsolicited dick pics I didn't want to have to run a race I felt I'd been entered into against my will.

That something was the semi-mythical feat: the female orgasm.

My lone orgasm happened unexpectedly one day in my teen years. I'd spent years faking both my orgasms and my history with my first boyfriend – I thought my silence would starve my trauma to death.

As we settled into a lazy, spooned, Sunday sex session, I didn't think much of the occasion.

And then his finger settled on me in just the right way, at the perfectly wrong moment.

Perfectly wrong because, while it was the moment my first orgasm erupted into reality, it happened with thoughts of my childhood abuse at the hands of my father peering out of an unhinged door at the back of my mind.

And I will tell you this: the orgasm was everything the articles and movies had told me it would be. It was fireworks and a waterfall and a million zinging and ringing sparks going off in my every cell.

It was the most delicious thing I'd ever felt, and it was utterly awful. Because of the unhinged door. Because of the face that came to the forefront of my mind as I came.

I haven't cum since.

I remember being 13 years old and sitting with my four best friends under a Johannesburg tree. The kind that would spit liquid on your heads while you sat eating sandwiches and samosas. I asked them when they first started masturbating. Growing up in a home which was drenched in the inappropriate, with an abuser who masqueraded as a dad, I didn't know how much was 'too much'. I didn't know that in other South African homes, these things were never discussed.

They didn't answer me then, nor for the next ten years. At 23, I often still felt like that 13-year-old girl with butter lettuce in her braces, asking her friends against their will for confirmation that she's not alone.

I had always assumed that my trauma was to blame for my lost orgasms, and I was desperate for someone to confirm or deny. Please sex therapist, please big sister, please Carrie Bradshaw.

And so, my years dedicated to manic masturbation began, somewhat begrudgingly, as I entered the workforce. I was an editorial intern at Cosmopolitan South Africa, who would later become, of all things, a sex writer. Vulva beneath fingertips, most times. Vulva beneath a gold vibrator shaped like a diamond, sometimes.

I called that vibrator, the gold one, Beyoncé. Because, of all the sex toys I'd been given to review while working as COSMO's sex writer, it was the most beautiful of all. It was all straight lines and sharp edges, and if a man or a wearer of Paco Rabanne Lady Million had to spy it on my bedside table, they'd mistake it for something else altogether.

As I walked along those grown-up hallways lined by framed magazine covers, I felt like a complete and utter fake – like the poster child of imposter syndrome. I wondered if they could tell I'd only ever had one orgasm before; that I didn't know where my abuse ended and my genuine love of sex began. I am the sex writer who can't cum, I'd think. I'd wonder if they could smell it on me.

Whether alone or with a partner, when the wave swells and begs to crash, and then when I reabsorb it into my belly.

When I am the sex writer who still can't cum.

Is it just the trauma? Because here's the thing about the female orgasm; for every woman who can graze her clitoris along her favourite pillow and achieve climax, there's a woman next door, ankles raised to the heavens, trying some new method she read about and praying to Mother Nature that she's not one of the 'broken' ones.

No one will tell me, and few people will talk. And so I devour podcasts and books and articles and audio porn and porn porn. I masturbate sitting up and lying down and if I could do it while standing on my head, it's safe to assume that I would have by now. But my body just doesn't balance that way.

And yes, now 26-years-old, I still ask my friends, 'Are you cumming?'

I can't be silenced by conservative homes and what they've taught these women for much longer.

They are doctors and project managers and teachers and writers, just like me.

'Are you cumming?' I ask them.

Half of them are, it turns out. Half of them aren't.

The latter tell me this like they've been holding their breath, like they can finally breathe.

And so I begin to pull at a thread of the story I've been telling myself for years; that I am a broken thing.

I consider that I may be normal, whatever that means.

A normal result of a girl's abnormal upbringing.

I consider that many women may be touched by a lingering hurt of some kind, in some way – a delicate splinter you don't know is buried in the sole of your foot.

Maybe she ran and played in the mud as a child; maybe her father told her not to get dirty and behave.

Maybe she got caught one night, introducing herself to her body; maybe her mother told her that's not how wives are made.

Maybe her friends were all told the same. Ladies who lunch on sandwiches and samosas and then as grown-ups, steaks and mimosas. Maybe there are many girls who grew into women who had never heard that lessons can be unlearned.

It took me years to realise that even the shiniest vibrator isn't a substitute for honesty. And so I started over, at the beginning. I waded in by asking my sister if she remembered. I went in deeper, I became braver, I blew it up by speaking out. And instead of burying the pieces, I picked them up, turned them over in my fingers, and allowed myself to look at them. And my reeducation began.

Love, none of it was your fault.

Love, you don't need to look sexy during self-love.

Love, it's okay to sound more like a wounded animal than a porn star.

Love, it's okay if you don't make a peep.

Love, you never have to perform your pleasure again.

Love, it's not the journey you asked for, but it's yours to enjoy.

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Photo Credit: David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Woolmark International Pty Ltd

Mmuso Maxwell Designers on Winning the Karl Lagerfeld Award for Innovation

We met up with Mmuso Potsane and Maxwell Boko, the duo behind South African brand Mmuso Maxwell. We spoke about their upbringing, winning the Karl Lagerfeld Award for Innovation, and more.

After a two year internship with veteran South African designer David Tlale, Mmuso Maxwell was born. The brand, founded by the young duo Mmuso Potsane and Maxwell Boko, has since established a name for themselves in the African fashion industry. With successful works with A-list artists like Beyoncé — on her Black is King album — they continue to set the bar on what it means to be a successful emerging designer brand.

The duo first started to make noise in 2017, when they won the South Africa’s Fashion Week’s Sunglass Hut New Talent Search. Two years later, they came second at the 30 Under 30: The New Stars Arise Fashion Show competition held in Lagos, Nigeria. The duo walked home with $50,000, helping them establish their presence on a global landscape.

Last month, Potsane and Boko won the biggest award of their career: beating out 200 designers throughout the world, they took home the The Karl Lagerfeld Award for Innovation, after presenting a Merino wool collection for their Autumn/Winter 2022 line.

After their big win, OkayAfrica was able to meet up with the duo and chat about their upbringing, winning the Lagerfeld Award, and more.

How would you describe your Mmuso Maxwell brand?

Maxwell Boko: I think that the perfect description of our brand is that it is inspired by African heritage, but, the most important part is that it is mixed with contemporary culture. It’s basically our point of view of our heritage. We’re modern young people who are living with technology and science, and are influenced by those things. So even if it’s still our African heritage, it’s still our own interpretation.

Mmuso Potsane: Our brand is a modern interpretation of who an African woman is. Our brand sees itself as a global brand, and we do not want to limit it to look like an ordinary African brand, but it is positioned to be like a global brand, while maintaining our African roots, interpretations and experiences.

How did the collaboration between the both of you start?

Potsane: We met during the internship from 2015-2017. At the end of the internship, we decided to bring our pieces together to make one collection because we had similar aesthetics. From there, we just decided to continue onwards as a brand.

That’s interesting. You know, the fashion industry can most times be more competition than collaboration. How are you navigating the times you might have contrasting ideas?

Boko: I think that the reason why we joined forces together is because we had similar tastes in general. What has worked for us over the five years is that we’re not dramatic about our approach to things. It’s not “this or nothing." We’re always open to each other's critiques. We also do not question our individual strengths at all.

Potsane: Yeah, we’ve sort of found a way to agree to disagree. We have somehow found a way to come together to have one vision and objection. So for us, if any of us feels strongly about something, we just give it a chance to see how it plays out. If it doesn’t, we find a way to navigate it.

Mmuso Maxwell designers with Saul Nash

Saul Nash, winner of the International Woolmark Prize, and Mmuso Potsane and Maxwell Boko of Mmuso Maxwell, winners of the Karl Lagerfeld Award for Innovation, celebrate with models wearing their designs.

Photo Credit: David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Woolmark International Pty Ltd

How about winning the Woolmark Karl Lagerfeld Innovation Award? How did that happen?

Boko: I mean, we applied, even though I said to Mmuso that Woolmark is something that’ll happen to us, maybe two, three years down the line, and that’s because it’s generally for established designers. I always figured that it’ll happen at a later date for us. So when they reached us to inform us that we were finalists, I thought, “that’s crazy.”

When I saw the other finalists, I thought that there was no chance to win; But as we progressed in the program, I saw why it was the right time for us. It helped us as a brand in terms of making our products. The eight months were very challenging, but the thing that I enjoyed the most was working with local artisans. I think that it’s even one of the reasons we won.

And just on the side, I think it’s very hard for us to see from inside how much of a big deal winning the award is. It’s always our loyal people who help us see and understand it.

How has winning this prize influenced your brand? I mean, how important do you think platforms like this are?

Potsane: I think it’s important because it allows you access to spaces in the industry that are very out of reach for a lot of African brands. It influences and helps us to think more/differently, and just on that level, play by the rules. You’re no longer thinking locally, but internationally. It’s made us more serious about our business and how to run it. People take your work more seriously, so that makes you take it more seriously too.

In terms of funding, it’s something that’s been a struggle. I mean, as a designer, you have to showcase your work and that requires a lot of money for stuff like shows, showrooms, and so on. With the help that we’re getting from the people like Birimian — some sort of investment group for African brands — it helps you ease the stress this induces.

And what are some of the challenges you’ve faced during this? Are there ways you’re now navigating it?

Boko: When we started our brand, there was no initial capital for us to start our brand. But we got a little support, and that made our next challenge be sustaining our coming collections; but recently, our major challenge has been fabric sourcing and production. There are no facilities to produce the quality we aspire to.

Potsane: To navigate these challenges, we really just go with it one step at a time, and also speak with those who can assist with things like this, such as Birimian. In terms of production, we have to come to a compromise to ensure getting the quality we want.

You're a sustainable brand. What are some of the practices you’re doing that makes it sustainable?

Potsane: We utilize local crafts and local artisans. It’s something we’ve always been passionate about since we started our brand. We use homegrown yarns for production, and working with artisans makes us follow the route of slow fashion.

Boko: We’ve always had an affinity for natural fibers since we started. As an African creative, you’re inherently sustainable because we’re not prone to waste. It’s not something we can afford. When we buy fabrics, we buy exactly what we need, and all the things we’ve done so far have been in pre-orders. We do not produce with hopes that someone will buy what we’ve made. All pieces go to our clients.

Are there creatives that inspire the work that you do?

Potsane: The people that inspire our brand, we already currently work with. So people like Tatenda Chidora, a photographer. We also love Tony Gum. She’s an amazing artist. Same as Chloe Andrea and Daniel Obasi. We totally love these people, and are highly inspired by them.

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Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for MRC)

Watch Burna Boy Close Out the Billboard Music Awards

The Nigerian star played a medley of "Last Last" and "Kilometre."

The 2022 Billboard Music Awards returned last night, Sunday May 15, broadcasting live from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

In the big slot of the night, closing out the award ceremonies, was none-other-than the African Giant himself Burna Boy.

The Nigerian superstar, who's coming off a headline-grabbing sold out show at Madison Square Garden, jumped onstage to perform a medley of his brand new single "Last Last" (which just dropped last Friday) and the high-energy "Kilometre" backed by a full band and a drum line.

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Photo courtesy of the artist

Spotlight: Mozambican Lizette Chirrime On Stumbling Into Artistry

Chirrime's latest exhibition, Rituals for Soul Search embodies the artist's desire to bring audience members closer to nature, the Universe, and their souls.

In our 'Spotlight' series, we highlight the work of photographers, visual artists, multimedia artists, and more who are producing vibrant, original work.

In our latest piece, we spotlight Mozambican textile artist, Lizette Chirrime. The self-taught multidisciplinary artist channels her trauma and longing to be whole through her artwork. "These abstract forms evoke the human body and my identity-responsive practice where I refashion my self-image and transcend a painful upbringing that left me shattered and broken. I literally ‘re-stitched’ myself together. These liberated ‘souls’ are depicted ‘dancing’ on the canvas, bringing to mind, well-dressed African women celebrating", Chirrime says in her own words. The artist uses her creations to communicate the beauty in simplicity, and the divinity of being African.

We spoke with the Chirrime about accidentally finding her medium of choice, using color to express emotions, and focusing your energy on being awesome.

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.


Describe your background as an artist and the journey you've taken to get it to where it is today.

When I started, I had no idea that I was an artist. I loved to create beautiful environments wherever I went, and when people noticed, they began giving me that title. I was using techniques that deviated from what was common at the time, particularly working with recycled materials, which I think situated me as a creative within my communities.

What are the central themes in your work?

Womanhood, Mother Earth, love, awesomeness, and spirituality.

How did you decide on using textiles to express your art?

It all started when I began working with hessian fabric, mainly, deciding to change the way it was treated in many houses. I gave it more life and a better look, and when the healing was done, I moved on to colorful fabrics in search of joy and life.

In the early 2000s, I began working with scrap materials, having been compelled to create a doll from textiles one evening. I fell in love with the medium and haven’t stopped creating since, though the way in which I utilize textiles continues to evolve.

Can you talk about your use of colors and symbolism in your art?

I use the colors I do — shades of red, blue, and green — because they remind me of beauty. They’re the vehicles I use to both express my feelings and describe certain narratives behind my expression. Symbolically, I look to nature for inspiration and translate the environment around me into symbols within my pieces. Looking to nature helps to find one’s place within the universe, and I want to help people see the value in slowness and simplicity. I hope that my work helps people appreciate how miraculous our planet is and inspires them to heal the earth from destruction.

How has the pandemic affected you creatively?

I relocated to Mozambique during the pandemic, after living in South Africa for many years, and have felt an incredible shift in my capacity to be present. Being removed from a city and with a slower pace of life, I’ve been able to reconnect with myself and have a direct conversation with my spirit and soul, which directly feeds into my work and the current ideas which I’m exploring.

Luckily, I didn’t feel very affected by the pandemic because I’ve had a few sponsors and continued to sell my artwork through that time. Though I didn’t sell as much as I did prior, I still managed to pay my bills, eat and create — I’m thankful to have met my needs as an artist.

Image courtesy of the artist

African Single Mother, 2021

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Film poster courtesy of EGM NY Management

You Can Now Watch the Documentary 'Bigger Than Africa' on Netflix

Award-winning Nigerian Director Toyin Ibrahim Adekeye's first feature film is out this Friday, the 13th exclusively on the global streaming platform.

Netflix's investment in original African stories has seen a hoard of brilliant minds and their creations gain access to global audiences. The latest creative to share their narrative on the global streaming platform is award-winning Nigerian director Toyin Ibrahim Adekeye and his first feature film 'Bigger Than Africa'. The film, produced by Los Angeles-based Motherland Productions is available on the streaming platform this Friday, May 13th.


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