Faith, Hope, & Fighting Covid: Iman Rappetti’s epic journey of change & discovery
Her name, in Arabic, means “faith”, a testament to her life-changing decision to embrace a culture and religion different to her own, in a land far away from the comforts of home.
Her name, in Arabic, means “faith”, a testament to her life-changing decision to embrace a culture and religion different to her own, in a land far away from the comforts of home.
Iman Rappetti, born Vanessa in Phoenix, Durban, was in her early 20s, fresh out of journalism school, when she made the momentous move with her husband to the little village of Qom, outside the Iranian capital of Tehran.
There, after devoting herself to the study of Islam, she put her journalistic skills to the test as a radio and television broadcaster for an English-language service. But change has been the single greatest constant in Iman’s life and career, and as a divorced single mother, back home in South Africa, she embarked on a fresh journey into what she calls her “becoming”.
As a presenter, senior anchor, and talk show host, on eNCA, e.tv, 702, and Power FM, Iman won legions of fans for her sassy, forthright persona, her deep insights into politics, society, and spirituality, and her calming, honey-warm voice, unmistakably South African in its lexicon and inflections.
Now also the author of two books, her candid and fascinating autobiography, Becoming Iman, and Sermons of Soul, a compilation of her much-loved opening reflections from her Power Talk radio show, Iman embodies the essence of personal and professional change as a life-force, a calling, and a destiny.
In this frank and enlightening chat with Ruda, Iman opens up about the shifting nature of identity and belonging, the joys and challenges of motherhood, her gruelling battle against COVID-19, and the many milestones on her restless journey of self-discovery and becoming.
Transcription of Ruda Talks Change with Iman Rappetti
Ruda: Hello, welcome to another session of my chats on The Change Exchange, uh, where we, we talk about change. We talk about moments of change in life about, about moments when our life paths suddenly take a different direction. Sometimes it’s choice, sometimes it’s a decision, after long and hard thought. Sometimes life forces it on you. And today my guest is Iman Rappetti. We know her as a journalist, um, but she says she’s moved on and we’ll talk about that. Um, Iman welcome, thank you for giving, giving time.
Iman: Ruda, it’s always a pleasure to talk to you. You and I haven’t spoken directly, I think in a long time, if ever. So, this is a real privilege for me, and it’s my absolute pleasure being with you and your audience today.
Ruda: Thank you. You know, we, we usually start with the professional side of one’s life under the heading ‘landing that job’. But, um, if I think of change in your life, I have to start with religion, because it’s also interwoven with your professional journey. You grew up as a charismatic Christian, to the extent that you would go after people on the streets and convert people, and then … change to Islam. How come?
Iman: Yeah, I mean, when I, when I look back and I always hear people ask me that question in hindsight, I realise at the time, at that age I was, how revolutionary that would have been in my own life. Um, and a lot about that time was really facing myself. We face ourselves at various junctures in our lives. We ask really hard questions, um, at epiphanic moments. And that was one of mine, we transitioned between two major monotheistic faiths, very … similar and starkly different in many ways. And it took a lot of courage to follow where my faith led, at the time. It was a brilliant journey – it was a bruising journey.
Ruda: How old were you? You were, you were quite young.
Iman: I was 22, 23 – around there.
Ruda: So, what, what started it off?
Iman: I think… A lot of us go through life where… You kind of follow a path that’s been mapped out for you. You follow the programming of your environment and, you know, your journey is set. I tried always to question my context. Um, and so I, as much as I loved Christianity, and as you may have, you know, read in my book, or heard elsewhere, it was a really deeply personal and sincere journey for me. But there were questions inside the house of that religion that I had to ask myself. And it’s that series of questions that created the platform of transition for me into Islam, which is also a very difficult faith to follow because, you know, you pray all day long. You’re fasting, you’re depriving yourself. You’re in civic duty all the time, not unlike Christianity in many ways, but it was tough … I followed my own conscience, is the simple answer.
Ruda: And then you decided to go and live in Iran, at least for a while. Um, why and how?
Iman: I am such a believer in things unfolding. I’m not a huge planner into the future, Ruda. So, when I became Muslim, I didn’t know where that journey was going to lead. I just knew that wherever my heart was beating the hardest, that’s the direction I would follow – that would be my compass point. Um, and so I wanted to learn more about Islam, obviously. Um, I wanted to learn it in another country and the opportunity presented itself to go and learn in Qom, which is a village about 250 kilometres outside the capital, Tehran. And it was such a change, Ruda. Different language, different culture, a different religion – everything in my life had changed, but it was beautiful.
Ruda: If you say the opportunity presented itself, how did that happen?
Iman: So, let me tell you a funny story. I think we all remember Felicia Mabuza Suttle. She was like the Dorian of talk back in the nineties and I happened to be on her show about Islam. And I was defending the faith and talking about women’s place in Islam and so on. And the next day I happened to phone an institution. There was a Shia institution, so there are two schisms or two sorts of major houses in Islam: the Shia, and the Sunni school of thought. And I was very fascinated by what was happening, what had happened in Iran, vis-a-vis their religious revolution in ‘79. I happened to just phone this institution and … the guy who answered was the head of the institution who was Iranian, um, and had seen me on the programme the previous night, and was fired up by my own story. Short … Long story short, he came to my house with a carpet under his arms and a box of Islamic tapes under the other and said, “Would you like to go to Iran?” I was newly married, and the answer was yes.
Ruda: And your husband?
Iman: He was … similar to me, uh, Ruda, my husband at the time, because I’ve been divorced for about 10 years now. Um … uh, he was Catholic then had Adventist, um, influences in his Christian faith, also in a very similar parallel journey to me. And, that’s how our planets aligned, our paths converged and we both ended up in this holy city called Qom, in Iran.
Ruda: And you worked there as a journalist. You, um, had to take a step back, you started working at Capitol radio, but you, you wanted to study law actually, but there was no money. So, you got a job at a radio station, right?
Iman: No. So, how it happened was one day, well, I tried to go to university, but my father had passed away, not long before I’d made that decision. We couldn’t afford it. Found my mother on her knees polishing the floor one morning. I said, “Mom, I want to study, got to do something”. She says, “Well, go. We don’t have the money”. So, we made a plan and that was obviously in those days a much cheaper option. Um, and then I ended up enrolling in journalism and, and getting my half-finished, uh, journalism diploma. But then I put everything on hold for this journey, right? This journey of discovery to Iran. And when I got there, there was a need for a producer at the, um, uh, IRIB, which is their outside broadcast. It’s the broadcasting central in Iran, but they have an outside broadcast in English. And so, I did radio and television there. I didn’t … it’s so weird how it happens because I go from Qom, studying religion, you know, um, to the Capitol, uh, working, um, in broadcast.
Ruda: How did you experience that? In a Muslim country, um, with the, the, the, the position of women, you know, now you were at least a little boss, how did the men respond?
Iman: It was interesting because I … so, so in order to answer that question, you have to understand the context of Iran at that time. After the revolution and eight-year war with Iraq breaks out, a lot of men go to war. Women are running the home; they are literally keeping the fibre of that society together. So, their power is already scaffolded during those important years. And at the end of that conflict, women in Iran, I mean, a lot of people would say, you know, are the matriarchs. They were the heads of the family in many ways, contrary to some Middle Eastern countries and the experience of women there. Judging by the news we hear today about a lot of the freedoms that women, especially young women, are seeking in Iran. The battle for a kind of living inside this country defined by the younger generation is still being waged and it’s still on. At that time, I was not barred from, from any gatherings. Um, in fact, just the other day, I was showing someone a picture of me reading my poetry to the supreme leader of Iran, uh, Ali Khamenei.
Ruda: But did you have to, having grown up, um, quite a sassy young girl, a little girl, I would imagine. Did you have to adapt the way you present yourself? Yes?
Iman: It’s a no-brainer, of course, you’re living in a Muslim country and I go from wearing what I like to, you know, covering up in a certain way. But at that point, I think I was at the height of my, my spiritual concentration. So how to dress, where to go, didn’t really bother me as much as wanting to understand the philosophy. So, that accoutrement of religion was really secondary for me. However, I remember in our flat, in Qom, we had a philosophy lecturer and all the men would come and we’d have one of these lectures at my home. And I was like, “Where do you expect me to sit?” They were like, “Well, you can’t necessarily be with us”. I’m like, “Well, this is my house, I’m not going anywhere”. So that’s how it happened that I ended up being one of the only women there. Then one of my other friends as well, another lady, managed to, to also squeeze in and we sat in on that class. So, you know, in whichever ways we could, you know, we decided what our fate was going to be.
Ruda: And you uh… You had your first baby there. Uh, how did, how does a pregnant woman, um, how does society interact with pregnancy? If I can ask it that way?
Iman: Of course! Listen, the reason I’m giggling, Ruda, is because, you know, I’m realising how difficult your task must be, interviewing another journalist who has a lot to say, and we’ve both been in environments where, you know, you have to curb the person that you’re interviewing, with so much enthusiasm for the topic. So, pardon my enthusiasm.
Ruda: Of course!
Iman: Obviously at that stage, I couldn’t speak much of the language, so I would get things wrong and it would be a source of, of great hilarity, you know, to the people taking care of me. Um, but the society itself, the people are so warm, especially in the place that I lived. So helpful, so caring and family is really the centre of the home.
Ruda: And then… You decided to come back. Why? how?
Iman So…Uh, you know, this is where the story sort of gets a little bit difficult. Um, you know, right from the beginning of my marriage, there was, there was talk of, you know, whether, you know, polygamy would be part of our reality or not. And I was very definitely, uh, you know, not going to be a sister-wife, so to speak. Um, and so when my second child … and that conversation had started, uh, just after the birth or even before the birth of my first child. So, by the time the second one was going to come around, I was like, I need to change my context here. I need to go back to where I feel I can be in more control of my environment. And so, the journey back to South Africa, um, you know, was initiated and we moved back in, um, I think it was … January of 2000.
Ruda: Sorry, I’m not quite understanding. So, did your husband say that he wanted to take a second wife and in Iran, you wouldn’t have a choice about that?
Iman: No, no, no, you do. Well, you definitely have a choice in Iran about co-wives and things like that. In fact, there’s a great deal of strictness around that engagement and securing the first wives’ permission. However, it’s not, it’s not, it’s a discretionary theme if you know what I’m saying, it’s not. In different countries, you may not have a choice about that. For me personally, um, it was a discussion that we were having that, that greatly discomforted me and distressed me, um, from the very beginning. Um, and so, you know, when I, when I thought it might actually become more real in those early years, I decided, I need to change my context and move. Not that it’s ever, I mean, it’s not imposed on you in that country, no.
Ruda: And you came back to South Africa and you thought you would just easily walk into a job and it didn’t happen. Tell me what happened.
Iman: You know, I had a radio show. I had a, an English language television show that was broadcast in Iran. I think it was every Friday or something. I came back. I remember, and this is in the old days hey Ruda. You send an email to, and I remember mailing e.tv. Um, and in hindsight, you know, have a bit of [inaudible] and say, they could’ve had me years ago. Now they had me like 10 years later, seven years later or something. It wasn’t easy. That year was not easy.
Ruda: And so … but how did you get your first job back in South Africa?
Iman: So, it took me about, probably about six or seven months and money was running out. And, you know, the mood was, was kind of, you know, really low because a lot,…
Ruda: Where were you? Johannesburg? Cape Town? Durban?
Iman: I was in KZN, in Durban where I’m from. Yeah. Living with my mother-in-law at the time, you know. Small space with her dogs and we’re Muslim and you can’t have dog hair on you when you’re praying. And, it was, there was a lot of tension in the air, so to speak, but she was lovely. I mean, she opened up a door to us. So, it took about six months. I don’t know if you remember Steven Lang. Um, I think he’s now, uh, editor of a newspaper down in Grahamstown. He was the guy who hired me. Um, I’d heard that there were vacancies. SABC was launching a new online platform. With stitches in my body after having delivered my child, I board a Greyhound, come up to Johannesburg. Steven with these red socks, very graciously says, “You have all the skills and we think that’s fantastic. Love your story. Can you start next week?” And I did.
Ruda: And your baby? How did you handle that?
Iman: You know, and so I suppose this is where it all connects, hey Ruda? All of these simultaneous changes that are happening in your body, in your life, um, in your journey as a human being, what do you do in a time of simultaneous change? And my default is always to become incredibly calm. Um, to defer to sensibility and pragmatism, um, and to really avoid any kind of panic. And so that’s what I did at that time. The first job was to find a place to stay, which we were graciously gifted with by someone in our community, in the Muslim community, very giving community, Shia community here in Johannesburg. Um, and then just got on with doing it, you know, starting my life again in our country, um, changing everything and making long-term decisions about both my faith and my marriage.
Ruda: Um, there was a point when you were working so hard that you were burning out … A morning show on radio and an evening show on television. And it just all got too much. That’s a very difficult decision to make. To say, “I must dial down. I must give up some of, of, of my, what I’m achieving”. Actually, it’s, it’s almost a contradictory thing.
Iman: When we exist, we exist with the echo of our parents’ expectation ringing in our ears and then our heartbeats with our own expectation of ourselves. And there’s sometimes a tension between those two things. And especially when you grow up in an apartheid society like we did, where the only way out of any sort of poverty or ill circumstance was education and being successful in your, in your job. And always being defined by that. Quietly thinking about the standards and expectations of my mom and my dad and my community. So, being so driven by that to the point where I was and reaching what I thought was a real pinnacle in my career, a sense of accomplishment, people where I didn’t have to apply for jobs anymore. People would phone me up and say, “Can you, can you do this or that?” Um, feeling really accomplished in myself. And then at the same time, realising that all those dead bodies that I’d seen, all those protests that I’d covered, or the machinations that were happening in our country were taking its own kind of toll on my mental, on my mental health and on my emotional wellbeing. And then deciding what is it do I want from my life really? You know, I’ve, I’ve ticked as many of the boxes as I can. It’s time to let go and see in a journey of not knowing what the destination was going to be, how things might unfold.
Ruda: How did you do it in practice? Did you have a little bit of money saved and you just gave yourself X months that you could look after yourself, or… what did you do?
Iman: Oh, I relate so much to the practical question that you’re raising. Cause I know in reading about your own, you know, having off to Carte Blanche, how you have you figured out how are we going to pay for things. I had made up my mind, Ruda. To, to break that mould where the money would decide how free I would or wouldn’t be. So, I just decided, okay, that is the life of my design and my desire. And that’s what I’m going to pursue, everything else must fall into place. And I know some people might say, oh, that’s such a privileged perspective because actually if you don’t get a check, how are you going to pay the electricity? How are you going to send your kids to school? And I’d put my kids to private school, and you know, really trying to be a good mom, give them a good, beautiful home. But it’s strange that when you decide that that’s going to be your design … things really do fall into place. I was, I was calmer, able to be more creative, to think more, to tap into other creativities that had ossified over time. I was starting to water that garden again. And I’m still in my home, nothing’s been repossessed, the kids were still at school. So, I think there’s something here in that, in that release.
Ruda: So how do you pay the bills? What do you do?
Iman: So right now, I, um, okay, so I just left. I had, uh, you know, uh, um, another radio stint at Power station that I really loved. And I joined in because Bob Mabena passed, I thought I just helped him over the hump, so to speak and the grief. And then they offered me a more longer-term thing, which I really didn’t really want at this point. So, I run my own agency and it’s wonderful because we decide the kinds of things we want to do. So, we say, okay, we want to make a film. What’s the film going to be about? Okay, cool. We’re going to devote some time to that. Then we’re going to help people, um, you know, do better in the public presentation. We’re going to help people who owe the public information, give that information in a far more effective way. So, it’s one of those things and I’m having a great deal of fun. And hopefully, Ruda, I’m going to write my third book, a book that I truly, truly want to write. Um, you know, that, that is about deep meaning.
Ruda: Tell me about writing ‘Becoming Iman’. Um, how did you experience the writing? It’s very open, it’s very personal. Were you, when you were writing, did it start out as a journal and then become something more public or what was the approach?
Iman: So, it was so interesting. Um, I was speaking to the MD of Pan Macmillan and I’d done justice, um, Deputy Chief Justice, Mogoeng, um not Mogoeng, um, Dikgang Moseneke’s book launch. And I was, I said to her, I said to Terry Morris, you know, I’ve been writing these sermons in the morning to my listeners. I think, you know, you might like them. So, we sat down, we had a meeting and then she was like, “Sermons are great, but Iman? I really want, we want to know about your life story, you know, what’s it, what’s it been like?” And that’s how ‘Becoming Iman’ was born. It was never meant to be the first book.
Ruda: So, did you then have to start, start writing that story? You, you didn’t have that on paper yet or on screen.
Iman: To tell you the truth I had, I didn’t even have a clue about how it was going to begin. I, I’ve always been a good writer, I’ve always written over time, but writing a book is something, you know, it’s a different challenge. And what I decided to do was to follow my old formula, which is … when the spirits awaken you, write in that moment, because there is a texture and addressing that, that doesn’t exist. When you say, “I’m writing at 8:00 AM every morning?” So, I’m not a writer of discipline in a way I wake up in the morning and put something on paper. I let my heart be open and whatever chooses to come and take up a spot in the armchair, that’s what’s been written about that day.
Ruda: And the experience? Once the book was out there? The experience of being known so intimately?
Iman: Ruda, it is so amazing to write a book and to have book launches, because this is the stuff of a little girl’s fantasies. This is the stuff of imagination and dreams. Am I going to be an author? You know, when I was growing up, I remember some part of me would have this idea of, cause I wanted to be free in the world. So, I’d be smoking these sort of long French cigarettes. You know, um, it’s something … I have a very old soul in that when a little bit theatrics, as I’m sure you’ve gained from this interview. Um, but it was, it was magical. Having people come and people bought my book and they enjoyed it and the feedback was amazing and mostly appreciated the contrast that it’s not all this glitzy, glamorous TV life that, that we have led. There is life happening, divorces are happening, there are children with problems happening. There are, you know, pieces of this tapestry that you have to keep interwoven. You have to stay sane. You have to hold everything together. And that for me has been such a beautiful triumph in, in my own journey.
Ruda: And then you did finally manage to get your morning sermons out there in the ‘Sermons of the soul’. What has that experience been like? It’s recent, huh?
Iman: So, ‘Sermons’ was published, um, in, I think it was March or May of last year. And, um, obviously we couldn’t do the whole roadshow like we did with the first book and so on, but the feedback’s been so wonderful from people who liked it on the radio and are now able to engage in a little bit more. And funnily enough, even though I divorced her son 10 years ago, my former mother-in-law has made this journal based on the sermon saying which parts really resonated. But so many women said, you know, “These particular chapters just really spoke to my soul”. And that again, it’s just such a, such a beautiful gift, Ruda.
Ruda: That’s wonderful to get that kind of feedback that, that people not only read your stuff but that they respond from within. That’s really great.
Iman: And that’s wonderful because if we have the attitude that whatever we do is about sharing insights with other people. It’s not about giving people the answer, because the answer does not exist. It is your answer. But if we can provide keys for unlocking it creates a beautiful table for people to dine at, freely and, you know, to allow the thoughts to be [inaudible], that’s the triumph. I think, of, of any kind of work that we do – writing that we do, anything that we put out in the world – what is its spark in another human being and what do they put back in that space.
Ruda: Tell me about, um, your experience of COVID in December? It sounds as if it was really frightening.
Iman: Yeah, it really was awful. Um, and when I think about, you know, we’ve lost two colleagues recently: Karima Brown, who’s really well known, and Dr Sindi Van Zyl, also very well known. I worked with Karima at, um, eNCA and Sindi had interviewed me and I’d interviewed her, and she was just really a beautiful human being. So we got sick, you know, it’s, I mean, obviously if you get a sniffle in these times, you’re like, oh my gosh, it must be, you know, it must be, it must be COVID.
Ruda: I must get tested.
Iman: I must get tested. So sure enough, we’d gone. And I remember sitting in the drive-through through thinking, oh my God, I can’t believe I’m getting tested for COVID. Um, and getting the results the next day, a holiday had to be cancelled. We were about to leave the day we got our results. We had to cancel everything and then struggling that weekend ‘til the Sunday when I knew that I was in trouble. Couldn’t breathe and my daughter and sister said, let’s go to the hospital. So, you know, six-days’ stay there. You think you’re in hospital, you should be getting progressively better. And I just, I would get a little bit better, then my infection levels would spike and my temperature would spike, and everything was just crazy. It was really scary, it was really anxiety-inducing and I really considered whether or not I would make it back home to my, my children,
Ruda: Both my son and my nephew were in hospital also over December, January. And, my nephew said to me that it felt as if he was breathing through a wet cloth in a steamed-up shower.
Iman: Wow, it’s really, it’s really, your lungs! I mean, your fundamental mode of breathing and … I would get off the bed and walk, try to walk, just so that I could keep my lungs moving. ‘Cause I didn’t want to end up in ICU. And there was such a beautiful lady there, I don’t, I wish I had gotten her name, but we were also sick. And I remember going to the bathroom heaving, not being able to make it back onto my bed and I started crying and she said to me, you know, don’t worry, you’re going to make it out of here alive. Um, and that really, and she was praying. And I mean, even though I’m areligious right now, I don’t believe in, I don’t want to say God as such because you know, what is God? But I don’t believe that there’s something out there, but I take the energy from that prayer and, and I really received it. And I, you know, bless that lady who whomever she is.
Ruda: And it was also about your children, the worry for them. How old are they? Between 12 and 18? Right?
Iman: So, they’ve moved up a little bit. Um, my youngest bear is 14 and Mohammed’s 23 and Miriam is 21. So, the two older ones, uh, understood what was happening. And of course, I had a heart issue a couple of months ago as well, uh, really concerned. Um, but I’m so glad that our family is intact, and I know that there are so many South Africans and people around the world whose families are not in my heart is really goes out to them. Life has just changed for them.
Ruda: What do your children mean to you? How did they, how did they change you? Affect you?
Iman: Yeah, nou gaan die trane aankom. I don’t know if I said that correctly because Afrikaans, not my first language, Ruda. But, here’s a funny thing. You know, we often joke, and I say to him, you know, I’m not really the marrying kind, not really the mothering kind. And if you guys ever think about that, really think twice, it’s not easy. Having said that, they are the most incredible human beings because they keep me honest. They say, “But you said, so you need to do…” So, they really keep you honest. But also, they are just so beautiful. So, they keep me really young as well. I mean, you can ask me about hip-hop, Ruda, darling. You can ask me about, you know, the latest social media trends and the TikTok and whatever. I know it all because I have these fresh, connected young children, you know, and they are beautiful. They just, they make me appreciate that life is, it’s not all about the linear stuff. It’s not all about the practical stuff. There’s so much joy in between the margins.
Ruda: Um when I read that you also had … I had the same experience with my, I only have one child and…
Iman: It’s JP. JP is your husband, Johannes.
Ruda: JP Is my husband. My son has the same names, but we call him Johannes. And I, I also had an emergency caesarean. And then waking up with this baby. And I say to you, when Johannes turned 21, um, I said at that gathering, that my insides melted, and it’s never returned to normal. It’s just a, it’s completely an irrational and indescribable.
Iman: Totally. I mean, at least I have a waistline. Let me step back a little bit. So you can see, you know, I managed to, um, I’ve managed to maintain some semblance of sophistication and a body with curves, but that moment and you’re right, the very first delivery, the very first pregnancy. And of course, going back to Iran, that’s where mine happened. It was very traumatic. I was in this hospital in a strange place, but when Mohammad came, um, it was the most amazing thing, to know that I had a hand in creating this life. Um, and I remember all of his milestones and it does. I don’t know if you’re tearing up there, was it just the lights, but it makes me want to tear up also just to think about, you know, who, who he has become and he’s such a gentle heart, Ruda. He’s the most beautiful soul, and, um. The world is not created in a way that nurtures free-spiritedness, in a way that really nurtures, um, otherness, you know, and I’m, I’m really trying to teach my children that wherever they are, in whatever environment, is to have open arms and open minds to whomever they encounter in their encounter, whatever situation they face.
Ruda: Because you had to … come out of the [inaudible] box. You know, I think we are all. Our first families create, uh, a box in which you live, with people who are like you and like your parents. And so, your school friends are, have similar backgrounds, usually. These days, I think the kids have, actually have an advantage because often they are with schoolmates who are not like, from their cultural background. And I think that’s an enormous advantage, but I grew up with a very homogeneous, what’s the word? Homogenous background. And, I also had to come up to that box and for you to make that easy, make that the logical thing to do for your children. I think that’s wonderful.
Iman: Thank you for that, Ruda. Um, and the reason it is so is because we understand the pain that ignorance wreaks on the world. Um, you could love someone who the law will not allow you to love and how much unnecessary pain is that causing? You could love, you know, across the colour line or, or whatever, all these notions of separation that we have, whether it’s language, class, ethnicity, are so unnecessary when we should be here for the human experience, for creating a world in which all of our gifts are allowed to thrive. You know, some people say, “Oh, that’s so utopian” and it’s so, hmm, you know, it’s so naïve, but if we can’t believe in that and we continue to perpetuate the things that keep us divided and keep us ignorant, we will never have a world in which we can truly just live and experience the beauty of this planet that we live on.
Ruda: On a very practical level. How did you choose this lovely place where you’re living? What, what makes you choose your space? Do you look for light? Do you look for trees? Do you look for space? What is most important?
Iman: Let me take you on a little tour. Now, my room is a bit untidy because five minutes before our interview, we chucked everything on the bed, but I am not getting pictures. So, I have a four-poster bed with muslin because I like to sleep in comfort. The garden is just behind me. Um, and it’s lush and it’s green and it’s beautiful. There will always be candles in my home, there will always be flowers and there will always be some beautiful scent because I do think, and I know, I’m so aware that this is not possible for everyone. I know that, and I really appreciate my space because I believe that despite a lot of the hurdles, I’ve managed to accomplish this, you know, without, uh, an inheritance or anything like that. You know, I, I I’ve done it and I feel proud of myself for doing that. But it’s possible wherever we are to have a moment of peace and we should try to look, seek out those opportunities for peace because if we experience it, just in one cup full soon, we’ll have a reservoir around us.
Ruda: So, what is the best thing about getting home from a gig or a, or a big job, or I don’t know what these days is. What is the best thing about closing the computer?
Iman: Well, the best thing about our moment right now is that I can do it barefoot, and don’t worry I am fully clothed.
Ruda: Me too.
Iman: But I can, you know, I can, I can do it barefoot. But coming home gives me a way to separate and to enforce the boundary between, um, you know, being, being fully connected and charged and plugged in, to being able to just be still and to allow myself to understand what I feel about things, uh, not always caring. Sort of our national duty in our hands as the first thing, just to sit quietly and think about myself and whether I’m still doing the right thing and, you know, how’s my heart.
Ruda: So, you do carry the national duty? Do you think in those terms? I think the country needs people who do that.
Iman: I think so. I think whether you’re working as a journalist or whatever you’re doing inside South Africa, our fates are all intertwined. And if we’re not thinking about that, then what are we thinking about? Um, but obviously with people like ourselves who have access to a platform and thousands, or perhaps hundreds of thousands of people, it is a slightly different thing because we have the ability to hold people to account and to say, but why? Please explain, you know, I do feel it because I love this place and I don’t want to think about living anywhere else, Ruda. You know, this is, this is our home and it’s got to be a home for everyone who lives in it.
Ruda: Thank you so much. That’s a lovely note to end on. It was great talking to you and have a wonderful day.
Iman: Ruda, you’re such a darling. You know, if I could, I would just break off one of those roses and like hand it to you through this medium that we’re talking in today but thank you very much for having me. I appreciate it. Um, and I’m sending a lot of love into your space and to your family. Be safe, and to the entire team as well, and to everyone who listens to this interview, thank you so much. Um, and may your day be blessed and rich.
Ruda: Absolutely! I can only second that! Go well, hamba kahle, goodbye.