I repeat, All Hail The Honey.

The Comfort Series is an exploration of moments that have gathered me and made me feel at home. This is a snapshot of moments that ground and reinforce existing as myself. It's all so comforting.

The people's president
Chronologically, this story should start with a black girl's deity and president; her solace. But I want to start more recently on the timeline, to my own first president. The first person to teach me that if I want it, "all the universe will conspire in [my] favour". Be it a first restaurant experience or an entire home. Before I was 16 or 17 years old with an almost dead mother and reading an icon-turned-tabloid and woman after woman asserting that my first president was not a good man to them, that he was downright abusive.
There was an edgy Twitter joke about a couple years ago making fun of the time poor black people "seriously wanted a Kwaito star to be president." In "Zola 7", Bonginkosi Dlamini not only marked his guests as his equals by giving them replicas of his "7" chain, but he was also touching on healing work and sometimes tough love we'd not seen before on that scale. My president no more, all I could think seeing those jokes was a lyric from his song "Stars" which goes "If I was president, I'd make you prominent but ngicula ikwaito ngicela ukukunika uthando."
Make me numb, Nelson.
Sarafina's Mandela is an anchor. In an upside down world where children are tortured and a whole race of people is oppressed and it's "lawful", a black girl meditates on the framed photograph of a black man none in her generation have seen alive. That picture knows all her secrets and watches her pretending to be a star in the mirror; he is both colossal and small enuf to be just hers.
Two consecutive years after the passing of Mandela, I would post to my private Instagram on 5 December. Both times, along with a rapper's lyric that says "still light a candle for Dibs", I would use the only reference of him that made sense for me, a black girl that loves pop culture, and that's pictures of him with the ineffable Brenda Fassie. I may have no connection to him, both man and myth, but he was her black president and no connection matters more. In the first photo I used, a young Brenda Fassie, wearing a pink halter top with a green, gold and black bandana tied to her right arm, tearfully hugs Mandela.

 
We are our own presidents
A few months ago, the young artist Natalie Paneng, my favourite person on the internet, immortalised a candid and special moment from that week in February when our attention was rapt, still unsure if President Zuma would step down. In a project called "Hello Nice For President"  wherein Paneng made election posters for her alter ego, "Hello Nice" she plucked a black girl from news clips and memes and placed her at the centre. This girl's drawl and annoyance still rings in my ears. In the clip Paneng references, a young woman speaks into a news organisation’s microphone and you can tell she’s tired of the political dramas. Dressed in a black coat, black hat and yellow figure belt with her gaze cast downward and to the side, Paneng used another a black girl's words to summarise the political situation up to that point: Kungcono bafake mina once! Honestly, who better than a black girl.

Illustrator and art director Rendani Nemakhavhani, along with Kgomotso Neto Tleane (and Khotso Bantu Mahlangu for a while), has spent the past three years creating a photographic series that feels part-film, part-comic book, part-lokshin bioscope whose hero is a woman named Honey. My resonance with it was magnetic from the first chapter and I was glued to my various screens whether looking at Tumblr or the pair's website when the new chapters were announced, even going to a live event, away from my screens, once to experience the magic irl.
 
"The crop shall be shared amongst those who work it" reads one of the images, featuring Aus' Honey in one of my favourite iterations, the one I call Babes weMvubu. In an email, I ask Nemakhavhani what President Honey's manifesto is. In one line: Women are the world's saving grace she writes back. President Honey is an ode to the woman who saved her world. Kokwani Francina Mashadi Siwela was Nemakhavhani's maternal grandmother who raised her and President Honey is for her.
 

"In making this part of the series I really wanted to explore more of how I’ve felt about losing my president and also what her life meant to me. I guess it’s more of the values that I personally stand for, as well as lessons I’ve learnt from my grandmother and her daughter. As I’ve gotten older I’ve been more aware of how I was raised in a matriarchal system (mostly maternal), the men were there, but also not."
Another portion of what she writes back to me reminds me of the Baldwin quote about love and accountability. "She was the only person who didn't let me get away with bad behaviour," reads one part of the email. "She was the most supportive person in my life, even though there were times when she didn’t comprehend what I was doing or why [I was doing it], she did her utmost best to support and cheer me on." To honour this duality of how her grandmother loved her, Chapter Eight of All Hail The Honey features two looks, even the soft one is strong. As a day-one follower of All Hail The Honey, I needed to know what the significance of the creators bringing back a look and mood from the beginning of the series was or if I was reading to much into it. "This sounds corny, but remembering where you come from and acknowledging and seeing one’s growth has been very important to me,” she writes back to me. “So we did a remake of chapter one with a little extra spice.”

Nemakhavhani mentions watching the mourning period for the late Nomzamo Madikizela-Mandela in April as a catalyst that made her want to confront her grief. For most people in the world, Madikizela- Mandela had been a 27-year proxy for her husband who had been thrown away in the middle of the ocean to be forgotten. But to most black women she, Nomzamo Madikizela-Mandela, was it. She was the president. So almost a year after the passing of Kokwani Francina, Nemakhavhane felt and watched another loss that felt too personal.

"The biggest trigger this year was watching the "Winnie" documentary. I’d seen and read a few things about her life before, but the documentary, in particular, was the thing that opened the void I felt/thought was closed." She'd go on to watch the documentary a few more times even though it was triggering her pain. "I honestly felt like I was watching my grandmother. She wasn’t a struggle hero on a national scale, but she might as well have been."
In her poem "Self-portrait With no Flag," the Sudanese poet Safia Elhillo writes,
i come from two failed countries
& i give them back   i pledge
allegiance to no land no border
cut by force to draw blood i pledge
allegiance to no government no
collection of white men carving up
the map with their pens
And in that vein of disappointing lands and histories and men who fall short, I pick my presidents anew. My mother's daughter who makes me laugh and is compassionate. The girl in the crowded taxi rank who smiles first. Our dead mothers and the dreams they leave in our names and the ways we remember them. And the black girl who stands up in a time of chaos and anoints herself the president we need.
We are led.

All Hail The Honey Credits:
Creative Director and Starring: Rendani Nemakhavhani
Photographer: Kgomotso Neto Tleane PS: A primer on the All Hail The Honey & We Live Forever