Sunday Times Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to Sunday Times Books LIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Sunday Times Books LIVE


@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

‘I have many names …’ – Read an excerpt from Nwelezelanga: The Star Child by Unathi Magubeni

Nwelezelanga: The Star Child: The debut novel from writer, sangoma and trainee herbalist Unathi Magubeni

NwelezelangaNwelezelanga: The Star Child, the debut novel by writer, sangoma and trainee herbalist Unathi Magubeni, has recently been published by Jacana Media.

The story begins with Nokwakha giving birth at her village home, and when it is discovered that the child is an albino the midwife convinces her that it is a curse and she should snuff the life out of it before it takes another breath. The dreadful deed is done by the river, but the “all-knowing one” has other plans …

The novel has earned high praise from Thando Mgqolozana, author of A Man Who is Not a Man, Unimportance and Hear Me Alone:

Magubeni handles the sacred subject in a way that neither slants nor meddles. For this reason, when African traditionalists learn of Magubeni’s book they will be nervously curious but will discover that they needn’t have been. It will be a rare gift for the scholars, and we ordinary readers will not remember our lives before Magubeni happened.

Read an excerpt from the book:

I have many names; my mother calls me “Nwelezelanga” because of my golden hair. Some call me “Mhlophe” because of my fair, almost-ginger skin. One wise old woman of the tribe calls me “Mehlomadala” because of my big, round eyes that reflect oceans of untold stories, and the village girls who like to taunt me just calls me “That Albino Girl”.

I’m thirteen years old; however that’s a distortion on its own. I’m young yet old; I’ve experienced the cycle of birth and death many times than I care to count. I’ve donned and shredded many skin colours in my lifetime.

I’ve lived the lives of many; the lives of the poor and the healers of aBantu and served the divine purpose in countless ways. I have also visited this world before as a baobab tree and stood tall for over hundred years exuding all the wisdom in the known world. I’ve made short visits, sometimes as a carefree butterfly, showing off the innocence from beyond. One of my favourite incarnations is when I was a bird and would cross the oceans with my own kid reflecting the endurance of the immortals. On occasions, I have visited this world in less glamorous roles in the form of a worker bee and worked all my waking life giving the world the sweet honey of our hard labour.

I spend most of my time suspended in the hills of my humble village. I watch the clouds all day looking for messages from beyond. I watch them form into morphing countless symbols speaking the language of the Gods. I struggle to decode some of the messages at times. I have to be patient; there are hidden secretes in the knot of existence. Many think I’m crazy and find my favourite pastime as an excuse for being lazy.

Book details


Please register or log in to comment