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The most honest TV depiction of South African love is not pretty

Mina Nawe House explicitly depicts the failures of various relationships where physical, emotion and verbal abuse has taken place, and the behaviour in the house is uncomfortable
Thu, Feb 04, 2021

One of the most interesting things about life is our ability as people to observe others and sometimes locate ourselves in the things that we see around us.

Of my favourite things to observe, a special nod must go to romantic relationships. I am obsessed. Anyone who knows me knows it too. I do not think I am alone in that obsession either – some of us are a bit more than others but obsessed, nonetheless.

Our obsession is informed by different things. Mine was formed by the hideous amount of time glued to Hollywood romcoms and reading Mills & Boon in my youth. As a single woman in her late thirties, through my own entanglements, my friends' and those that have mothered me, I know differently from the promises of the romantic indulgences of my younger years.

A few weeks ago, a friend, knowing my keen interest in romantic relationships, alerted me to Mina Nawe House, a show on Moja Love.

The show sees five couples enter a house for what is to be a relationship bootcamp/ marriage counselling. You are going to need a lot of wine if you are going to binge watch it. I have yet to see love and relationships discussed in the most South African authenticity as they are on this show. Only one of the couples is a homosexual relationship with two women, with very strong heteronormative tendencies displayed by both.

A common thread in the stories of these relationships coming into the house is seeking forgiveness. The couples have hurt each other in various ways and now need to work on forgiveness so that they may once again return to a place of harmony.

These are some of the things that have emerged as the actions for which forgiveness is now sought:

  • Cheating (present in all couples).
  • Physical abuse (absent in only one of the couples).
  • Verbal abuse (present in all couples).

Forgiveness by definition is "the action or process of forgiving or being forgiven". An act that one simply cannot wake up and decide is done. It requires that one finds themselves at ease with the transgression that they are forgiving and to make peace with it. A difficult task seeing as forgiveness does not necessarily mean that one forgets.

The show's hosts

In one of the episodes Mpumi asks her lover when she will go back to being normal and the response is: "You want me to go back to being the person I was before you damaged me?" And still, Mpumi cannot reconcile with how her lover simply won't forgive and move on.

Livhu wants to blame his cheating on being poor but gets upset when his partner Zwido calls him poor. Yet he too wants to be forgiven, for breaking the doors to her mother's house, beating her and threatening her with a hammer.

Bheki demands to be respected, because he is a man but also be forgiven for cheating – it was a mistake. The beatings? He didn't mean to.

Sido wants Manana to disregard the fact that his genitals have been in another's and for her to still be excited by pleasing him with oral sex.

Mmakgabo seems like a woman finally able to speak freely and truthfully about her husband for. He is allegedly seeing for the first time how much he has hurt her, as though it were not by his fists that she woke up in hospital.

Watching this show reminds one why we say South African men are trash. But even more painfully, it reminds us that it is the women whose backs must break while carrying the trash cans, so the men can deposit into them as they wish.

These women have their bodies beaten, their souls bludgeoned and still the weight and burden to forgive and forget rests on them for the relationships to move forward.

I am in no way saying that the women in this house have not done things to hurt their partners, although it does look like most of their transgressions were retaliation for the hurt they'd already been put through.

What caught my eye was how entitled men are to being forgiven and how oblivious they are of the emotional labour that comes with it.

  • Mina Nawe House is on DStv Catch Up