Tattoos, Soca and Roots. 2021 May Have Been One of My Happiest Years Yet

2021 was an incredible year. 

Now, I am willing to concede that any block of time sparkles – blindingly – in comparison to the hellscape that was 2020, however in real and quantifiable terms I can confidently say that this year was one of the most amazing of my life. 

Let’s acknowledge the givens: There is a raging pandemic culling humanity, the wealth gap is now an impassable gorge, and the Taliban – like NSYNC – have made a miraculous 90s comeback. As difficult as these things are to stomach, there is hope that they can be managed, if not overcome and brought to heel. On that note, a woman much wiser than me once told me that it dishonors God not to profess the blessings He bestowed on you even in the midst of bad times. Especially in the midst of difficult times. Your good news can inspire someone else in their time of waiting for a breakthrough. 

Here’s a review of my year in pictures.

I started the year with ink…Lots of it.

2021 was the year I set aside fear and superstition of tattoos. I told y’all about how my husband told me early in our marriage that if I ever got a tattoo that he’d “never touch” me again because he thought they were trashy. Add to that years of religious indoctrination about inking (i.e. tattooing releases/invites demons, depending on your spiritual predisposition) and cultural stigma (only criminals and gutter women get ink) and I had every reason not to get a tattoo. 

Instead I got two: One spans the nape of my neck to the crack of my nethers.

I FINALLY met my friend and intellectual whet stone, Akin, in person.
Akin is an outspoken activist and OG in the blogosphere. He and I agree on most things, but on one issue we have (and always will) cross swords. I am tempted to allow him to sway me on my position, but what is any relationship without the spark of opposing opinions and thought?

We share a love of fans. His is bigger and mine is broken, but it’s function that matters!

The theater opened back up!
South African creatives had it ROUGH in 2020. Many people found themselves destitute and pleading for charity. The general sense of helplessness was palpable, both for the needy and for those (like me) who consider the arts just as essential as retail and hospital workers. I was elated when our local theater was able to re-open its doors and begin earning again, starting with this stunning jazz concert.

I went of foodie adventures with my other soulmate and sister…sometimes with great success and other times not so much.

I went to Puerto Rico with my sister

I got my baby back!
As many of you know, my baby-lass got stuck in the US during the hard global lockdown in March 2020. She was in her grandmother’s good care from January 2020 when she went to bury her grandfather until she came back to SA in August this year. We made up for lost time and did ALL the things. It reminded me how important it is to carve out one-on-one time for each of the kids, even if we are cooped up in the house 22/24 hours of the day, every day.

Finding solace in Soca Music
I was introduced to soca music in 2017 when I was undergoing brain surgery and my sister returned from Trinidad & Tobago having been under the influence of many drinks. I’ve been in love with soca ever since…Well, specifically with Kes the Band. It doesn’t matter what the situation is, there is a soca reference for the occasion. In 2021, I had the privilege of attending the most pleasurable soca event (apt named Soca Events) in my life. The DJ was incredible. The weather was impeccable. The vibe was immaculate. The air was saturated with pure joy. I don’t think I have been that happy before, nor will I be again. And that’s ok.

I found my roots
My long curiosity about my genetic make up and ancestral origins was finally satiated when I took a 23&Me test and bought an subscription. I know I’m 50% Ghanaian, but even though I can point to my hometown in the Akuapem mountains and take you to the house where my grandmother was born and died, I can’t tell you much about the lives of my ancestors. Mine is not a family that talks about the elders – on either side. This year I had the once in a lifetime opportunity to discover my African-American roots; roots which begin in Virginia, spread from Georgia to Louisiana and anchor in Kentucky. I started my search with one hope: to find my grandfather’s grandmother. The ancestors revealed themselves to me with astonishing speed and for that I’m grateful.
And talk about a bonus? I found another soul friend in the incomparable Kathy H* who grew up a stone’s throw away from Davistown where my ancestors once lived.

I made a Victorian era ball gown from scratch.
This is not something I ever considered to be in the realm of my abilities, but we were in a bind and I DID it. I can do anything. So can you!

I launched my baking brand
Baking has been a passion of mine for many years. “I found my liberation in the kitchen,” I once said during an interview with a feminist publication. I wanted to feel ashamed for leaning into this trope women have been fighting for decades, but I couldn’t. I am happiest when I am baking. So when I finally launched iNibble this year, I was the happiest (and most afraid, and most satisfied) I’d felt in a while. (This was before the soca party, mind you.) We are already stocked in small shops regionally. I can’t explain how it feels to see your label on shelves!

Creating new memories with family
We have no family in South Africa. Zero. None. Zilch. 2021 gave me the opportunity to reconnect with my aunts, uncles, cousins and chosen family in the US. The vaccine allowed us to hug each other tightly (this was before COVID came out with its latest remix), reminisce and share hopes for the future.
When Liya and I returned to South Africa, we were finally a complete set of 6. The kids are getting older and ever closer to flying the coop, so I’ve been very intentional about creating moments that will hopefully translate into fond memories they’ll share with their own kids. We’ve stayed at many amazing accommodations in the Western Cape, but my favorite this year has definitely been Teniqua Treetops.

It’s impossible to capture all of the moments that delighted me this year, instances for which I am eternally grateful. Thank you for stopping by to join me in remembering my highlights of 2021. I encourage you to do the same. Rehearse the good things that happen in your life, no matter how minuscule they may seem. Record your wins. And in 365, you’ll be astonished by how much good God has placed in your life.

Here’s to a blessed and happy 2022!