The right way to ‘stay’

I like going back to projects years after their release. I never stop recollecting all the wisdom I need from them, and we all know the meaning of art changes according to time and personal context. I get to really decipher my truth in and about them when there is less noise and opinions.

Albums like Lemonade are one of those, and before you roll your eyes and click elsewhere, please note that this piece is neither about the album nor personal indulgence of Bey.

But, let’s admit it, in pop-culture, Beyonce has become the poster woman for “staying,” especially after her hubby Jay Z released an album that speaks to his cheating (if it’s true), which also sees him manning up to his faults and almost opening up to healing. Confronting himself, in Kill Jay Z, Jigger says;

“You almost went Eric Benet, let the baddest girl in the world get away. I don’t even know what else to say. Nigger never go Eric Benet.”

Since Beyonce and Jay Z are an international couple, their projects have shown many that they can work it out as a couple. The song that cements this idea the most is Bey’s “All night,” and my favorite line from it is in the poetry before the song;

“So, we’re gonna heal. We’re gonna start again. You’ve brought the orchestra. Synchronized swimmers. You’re the magician. Pull me back together again the way you cut me in half. Make the woman in doubt dissapear.”


As a fanatic of pop-culture, I like to be critical and before I glorify international stars as pioneers for certain ideas, which results to latching on to associating things with those outside of us, I spend a lot of time on You-tube, google, books, Twitter and in my memory, wondering if these things have been said before to us, by us and for us. Most of the time, the answer is yes. Gender bender? Brenda Fassie. #CoupleGoals? Letta Mbulu and Caiphus Semenya. Romance? Ringo. The list goes on and on and on, trust me.


Now, for the right way to ‘stay,’ I found Zeb Matabane and Agnes Matabane – Isidingo’s power couple, believe it or not.

You will remember that Isidingo hit our TV screens in 1998 as a Soapie set in a small mining town, Horizon Deep. I was only seven years old back then, and probably started watching it in 2002 and was instantly captivated. Zeb represented my father and Agnes, my mother.

Their 16 years journey as a couple with success, love, hardships, infidelity and a love child shifted the paradigm of what black love could look like for me, because Agnes did both what my mother did and did not do.

One, she stayed. My mother did that. Two, she started being empowered in every aspect of what that word means. My mother never lived long enough to do that. Nonetheless, I held them on a pedestal as a mirror of what could have been my parents had my mother still been alive. To say I loved their story-line is an understatement; feel free to use the comment section to call out any biasness I have here.

When they left Isidingo in 2014, they made headlines; Destiny Magazine wrote “over the past 16 years they’ve made us laugh and cry, but this month marks the end of the journey for Isidingo’s much-loved couple Zeb and Agnes Matabane.”

It’s true, theirs was an inspiring journey from rural Thaba ‘Nchu in the Free State to Horizon Deep. They were our kind of power couple because they started out with nothing – initially Zeb worked as a miner, while Agnes sold chicken feet.

With hard work they managed to rise against all odds until Agnes was able to buy shares and own a percentage of the local pub known as The Rec. She was now a business woman. But, sadly, this was also when we saw the effects of how much a woman being a go-getter chops off manhood of traditional patriarchy. Zeb’s poor little fragile masculinity suffered a lot. He was forced to rediscover himself as times were drastically changing; empowerment fixated on black women, benefiting his wife’s career more than his.

What was his role now? Who was he in relation to her? And, what could possibly be the way forward, especially when he injured himself and landed in a wheelchair, unable to be the bread winner?

That, “a relationship is where two people meet, detect and heal their past traumas,” as Jada Smith puts it, was true for this couple. Agnes had to still see her king in the Zeb who was no longer a provider, and Zeb had to see his queen in the Agnes who was doing what would be considered “a man’s job.”

Agnes wasn’t going to leave Zeb; he was the love of her life. But, she was also not going to drown trying to save him. She was not going to let him abuse her. She was going to lay down the law about the kind of marriage she wanted, and give him an ultimatum. And, being a woman from a different generation, she was patient; it was going to take her husband years to unlearn his ways, and it was going to take her years to unlearn the expected role she should play as a wife. So, within that harsh turbulence of transition, they still held on to each other.

I want to make it clear that I am saying that staying should be with a person who is willing to do whatever it takes to save the relationship, as was in this case, you cannot possibly work alone in it.

For me, this was and still is a vital message for black couples, particularly. When two people come together, we give each other everything we have been given. If your parents gave you violence and patriarchy, that’s exactly what you are going to give your partner; and a relationship is your mirror to see your shit unfold.

Abandonment. Black depression. Depression. Violence. Doormatry (I made this word up). [Insert more shit here]. 

I believe that if the love is still there, and there is no threat to any partner’s life, it can still be healed, just as Agnes and Zeb were constantly under construction, to become the best version of themselves individually and as a couple. In that, Agnes didn’t only empower married women to put their foot down, but also validated single women when she separated from Zeb and was still doing the damn thing!

I think the journey to being a ‘power couple’ (as Millennials valorize it) is not a smooth one, and it requires love for that person as broken as they are. It also doesn’t require you to fix them, but to fix yourself and trust them to do their own work.

Men and women who stay are not always stupid, the same way that women who leave are not always brave.

There are many ways to love yourself, and sometimes, we are not gonna leave; we are here to stay. We like it here. Together; we will alternate the needle and thread among each other to stitch our scars, until we’re both alright. No lumps in our throats, no melancholy, no songs about being left or leaving, and definitely no pain anymore.

Yep, we are all in conversation; whether it’s Zeb and Agnes, Jay and Bey or you and your lover, the truth remains, “we’re gonna heal,” and “if we’re gonna heal, let it be glorious.”

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