By Nobuntu Mqulwana

I had a both interesting and strange dream in 2012.  I dreamt I was living in a society, within a community whereby we were all free to be who we each were made to be.  We were thriving, blooming, happy and life truly was worth living.  Suddenly, it was decreed by some unknown authority that we would all have to get one of our fingers pricked as a mark of allegiance and alignment with the emerging view of homogeneity whether one fit within the confines thereof or not. Many acquiesced (complied without protest) but there was a minority group, myself included, that rejected the intention of this notion.  So, facing persecution, by default (because of absence of an acceptable option), we were ostracised.  We ran to the pumpkin looking mountains where we lived as a nomadic community as we were before the decree.  Free but now in danger of losing our lives because we were being hunted by the new regime. It was not enough that we fled to the mountains; they wanted to get rid of our existence because we valued freedom to be who and what each one of us was cut out to be.

Songstress, Nobuntu, at the August 2011, Afropolitan Explosiv, at Gallery MoMo

When I woke up, the dream lingered, like many.  I mulled on the notion of not conforming.  I was reminded of my younger self, pouring much effort and energy into the notion of appearing as or presenting myself as extra- ordinary, artistic and creative until I awoke to the fact that I did not have to “act” the part. It was and still is basically and simply how I am made.  I never had to try or act.  Everyone saw that in me and experienced me that way.  And as much as I doubted whether I would appear the same when I stopped acting, when I tried it, the result was still the same.  I remained extra- ordinary, artistic and creative without trying this time.

In the same vein as described above, I am reminded that being a person who does not conform, is least a matter of conscious striving but rather a matter of confident, natural being. It has become clear overtime that one does not chose to not conform and that the stance of non-conformism does not necessarily apply on all levels, with all perspectives, opinions and stances of those more this way inclined. So how, then, can one be referred to as “non-conformist” if not everything about them is non-conformist? To answer that question for myself I go to the life and spirit of the term itself, believing that not being a conformist is not merely about finding anything and everything to not conform to.  I find that it is rather more about knowing one’s self so well, mostly if not fully, so much that one cannot be swayed one way or another that leads outside of who one understands themselves to be and what they align themselves with regarding  values, morals and beliefs.  It is more, I have found about an assertiveness to be able to hold ones position without being moved by pervasive pressures or threats to go against what is a natural and personal temperament.  Not conforming therefore cannot be for the sake of not conforming to seem interesting and eccentric. It is an important stance of advocating for and insisting on ones voice, one’s natural self, one’s freedom to be and what it seeks most to establish is the courage to not compromise  and less the message of taking an opposing or unpopular stance  just to be different and for the immature sake of it. I have found it is most about refusing to be pressured to fit into shapes that are not the individual’s shape and least about choosing difference for the sake of drawing attention to one’s self. It is more about freedom and less about vanity, a lot about refusing to betray one’s uniqueness for the sake of avoiding persecution.

So how does one draw lines and begin to discern and associate certain beings with the term of “non-conformist” because surely all of us are to some degree? It’s true, but the operative words here are ‘some degree.’  It depends on the degree. Yes there is a vast spectrum of non- conformism, one direction (compliant, unquestioning, conformist), the opposite direction (incompliant, questioning, non-conformist) on either side of a neutral centre. Based on this former outlined spectrum, I believe it is  therefore clear and safe to deduce non-conformism is then where one’s views and stand seems to gravitate more often than not towards the opposite direction from the neutral centre.   Gravitating to what is less popularly accepted and complied with is when we can begin talking of non- conformism.

To me it is, however, always important to keep in mind the intention and level of maturity of this gravitation.  The simple question we can all ask is: is one acting or naturally being.  It is stress that this is not an awakening that seeks to create an exclusivist even elitist culture where we deem ourselves special because we are this way inclined. It is more interesting to see and remember it as a way of being we can all awaken to and sign up for that is calling us to be our most authentic selves more often than not and fight the good fight for such a cause.

Welcome to non-conformism and you welcome yourself to you.

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