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As Nelson Mandela says succinctly yet eloquently, “Give a child love, laughter and peace, not AIDS”. HIV/AIDS is one of the worst diseases someone can have; the tremendous emotional toll it takes on the individual, and their family members has lifelong lasting effects. In South Africa, “People living with HIV estimated to be sitting at 7.52 million persons, with one-fifth of women in South Africa in their reproductive ages [15 to 49] being HIV positive, and total deaths are sitting at 115,167 in 2018” (Maromo).
Looking at statics from 2015, “9 out of 10 poor people in South Africa (93%) were black” (Wilkinson). Faced with severe detrimental hardships, both physically and mentally, Mvelo has endured more than most others have in their whole lives. To demonstrate the extent of mental strength someone can possess and the endearing determination for life that can remain in the face of adversity, Mvelo’s character was introduced by Futhi Ntshingila as a symbol of hope and perseverance. As seen in Futhi’s We Kiss Them With Rain, Mvelo is meant to represent the unstoppable force of unwavering perseverance battling against the immovable object of debilitating obstacles like poverty, disease, and psychological despair. In this lifelong battle between these forces, the ending of peaceful resolution gives an optimistic message that with the power of perseverance and hope, any obstacle in life no matter how difficult, can be overcome.
Mvelo was intended to be the strongest character in We Kiss Them With Rain and it was Futhi Ntshingila’s full intent to make it known. We are introduced to Mvelo as a young girl who has many parallel and mirrored qualities to her mother Zola. Both had to overcome a great number of obstacles in their lives. Despite the similarities, Futhi Ntshingila intended for Mvelo to be her unstoppable force. This is foreshadowed in “Chapter 2” when Futhi Ntshingila wrote, “She dreamed she was being chased by a monster. She was terrified, until she remembered a torch in her pocket. She stopped and faced the creature, beaming the light onto it. Her actions were calm and deliberate. She told herself that she would shine the light onto the beast until she robbed it of its power. It was caught off guard. Now she was no longer the hunted. She was the hunter”. No matter what Mvelo encountered, she was to show that she could overcome any obstacle and continuing living. She was to be the light that kept on burning the brightest no matter how dark the world around her became.
Throughout Mvelo’s story, she learns that perseverance is the strongest, and most resilient quality someone can have in overcoming poverty and psychological despair. “Mvelo’s downward spiral began” with her feelings of abandonment when Nonceba had to return to the States upon the news that her “grandmother had died of old age” (Ntshingila 98). As illustrated in “Chapter 8”, “Mvelo had adjusted to living in the shacks”, which caused her to have to transcend the feelings of abandonment (Ntshingila 83). In another tragedy, Mvelo is faced with Sipho’s death after losing his battle with HIV/AIDS. As Futhi Ntshingila stated, “She was at least able to count Sipho as a father”. In what might be considered her most emotionally traumatic ordeal, Mvelo had to overcome the psychological despair that came from her rape at the hands of Reverend Nhlengethwa.
As Futhi Ntshingila described in this horrifying event, “What came after was like a bad dream to her. His hands worked fast, finding what he wanted. He plunged hurriedly and brutally, tearing her world and her illusions to pieces. The eye, her innocence, was gone. Deflowered and destroyed”. Emotionally weakened and pregnant, Mvelo had to compete against the greatest tragic event that was the closest to her heart. She had to face the loss of her mother Zola. When informed about Zola’s death, Mvelo learned what she had already expected: “The doctors said she died of malnutrition and full-blown AIDS” (Ntshingila). Despite everything life had thrown at her, this still didn’t seem to break her as described during Zola’s funeral: “Her voice came back at Zola’s send off. She sang away her fear about the life that was growing inside her belly, she sang away the dread about digging Zola out of the grave, she sang away the hard road ahead of her as a lonely orphan. She sang until she felt warm inside, like the color orange” (Ntshingila).
The constant turn of debilitating events would break most people; but not Mvelo. With all the weight of the world piled upon her, she continued to show a strong will when it would have been easy to just give up. Mvelo needed to experience the hardships that came her way as they were the only obstacles that could successfully teach her to persevere over growing up poor and avoiding contracting HIV/AIDS. Living in poverty and having to deal with her environment around her didn’t stop her from pushing forward. It shaped Mvelo and made her more knowledgeable by witnessing everyone else’s downfall. In the MIND Guest Blog post “Sometimes Embracing Emotional Distress Is the Best Medicine,” Joanna Creek outlines the insightful thoughts on hope by author and researcher Brene Brown.
In the article, Brene “praises vulnerability, struggle and adversity. She describes hope as something learned from struggle. She speaks not only of learning to live wholeheartedly despite adversity, but living wholeheartedly because of coping with adversity. If we don’t experience anything threatening, we can’t learn that we actually can cope.” We see this thought brought to life by Mvelo. Futhi Ntshingila makes it known to us that, “Mvelo had grown very wise in her twenty years, and she knew that whatever happened, she would have the strength to deal with it” (193). By witnessing everyone else’s struggle, it helped to shape Mvelo and give her the courage as well as the experience to overcome life’s obstacles. Mvelo learned how to use her wits and avoid making the mistakes of others she observed throughout her life.As Maya Angelou says, “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” Mvelo’s story is a tale of hope against all tragic odds. It’s finding the light in the dark and the sunshine after the storm. Through the power of perseverance, Mvelo doesn’t just survive, she truly lives.
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