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Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category

Farah Ahamed and Sarah Waiswa joint winners of Gerald Kraak 2017 Award

Gerald Kraak

 

Sarah Waiswa and Farah Ahamed

 
The Other Foundation and the Jacana Literary Foundation recently hosted the presentation of the inaugural Gerald Kraak Prize and the launch of Pride and Prejudice: the Gerald Kraak Anthology of African Perspectives on Gender, Social Justice, and Sexuality, at Hyde Park’s Exclusive Books’ Social Kitchen and Bar.

The MC for the evening, Kojo Baffoe, proclaimed that “tonight is about celebrating Gerald Kraak’s legacy.”

Pride and Prejudice is a collection of the short-listed entries to the inaugural award, named after Gerald Kraak (1956–2014), who was a passionate champion of social justice and an anti-apartheid activist.

“This book is a shelter, a place where slums are not art, they are simply where we live. It’s a place where albinos are not unicorns, they are only beautiful and ordinary. And it’s a place where gays are pained and also completely conventional. In this book, strange choppers fly and Africa is a landscape not simply for the past but for projections of the future,” says Sisonke Msimang, Editor in Chief and Head Judge.

The Gerald Kraak Award is a joint initiative between The Other Foundation and the Jacana Literary Foundation.

A judging panel made up of distinguished gender activist Sisonke Msimang, prominent social and political analyst Eusebius McKaiser and leading African feminist Sylvia Tamale selected thirteen finalists.

“The stories in the anthology fight for what is just and right,” Baffoe asserted.

Research co-coordinator for The Other Foundation, Samuel Shapiro, announced that Pride and Prejudice is the first of five anthologies to come about celebrating the LGBTQI community in Africa.

After the attendees were treated to a performance by Danielle Bowler, Msimang delivered a televised message to all the entrants, lauding them for their creativity and “bad-ass” approach to discussing gender and sexuality in Africa.

Matele announced the joint winners for the anthology: Farah Ahamed (Fiction, Kenya) for her short story “Poached Eggs” and Sarah Waisman (Photography, Kenya) for her photo series “Stranger in a Familiar Land.”

“Poached Eggs” is described as a subtle, slow and careful rendering of the everyday rhythms of domestic terror that pays homage to the long history of women’s resistance; yet with wit and humour and grit, the story also sings of freedom, of resistance and the desire to be unbound.

“Stranger in a Familiar Land” showcases the best of African storytelling. The images take risks, and speak to danger and subversion. At the same time they are deeply rooted in places that are familiar to urban Africans. The woman in this collection is a stand-in for all of us.

All 13 entries which were shortlisted will be published in the anthology. The overall winner will receive a cash prize of R25 000.


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Thabiso Mofokeng’s The Last Stop combines the gritty realism of the taxi industry with the magical

Set in the taxi industry, the story’s main characters are a poor taxi driver, a wealthy taxi owner and the taxi driver’s girlfriend.

Crime fiction featuring paranormal elements, The Last Stop combines gritty realism with the magical.

It shows what happens between people in times of taxi violence and deals with themes of lust, betrayal and revenge.

The Last Stop is an engaging, clever, interesting and darkly enjoyable read with an incredible plot twist at the end.

Thabiso Mofokeng was born in the Free State. He appears in various anthologies and journals in Sesotho and English. He completed his master’s in Creative Writing with distinctions at Rhodes University in 2015 and he has a PhD in English from the University of the Western Cape.

He has facilitated various workshops in poetry and prose, he is currently the chairperson of Metjodi Writers and he is the founder of Thabiso Mofokeng Writing Foundation. His magic realism novel is shortlisted for the Dinaane Debut Fiction Award 2016.

His poetry appeared in the Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award in 2013, 2015 and 2016. Some of his books are prescribed by the South African Department of Education for grade 8 and grade 10.

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Cape Town launch: Son by Neil Sonnekus

Melinda Ferguson Books invites you to the launch of Son by Neil Sonnekus. Sonnekus will be in conversation with Jonathan Ancer, the best-selling author of Spy – Uncovering Craig Williamson.

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Joburg launch: Son by Neil Sonnekus

Son is a stunning achievement in post-apartheid writing.

The debut novel by South African writer, Neil Sonnekus, Son brims with brio, verve and swagger. Though laugh-out-loud funny at times, it is also achingly poignant and deeply moving.

In Son, Sonnekus brilliantly captures the so-called Noughties with his tragi-comic creation Len Bezuidenhout, a recent divorcee whose quest for sex is as funny as his attempts to tease a hungover narrative fromhis father, a puritanical old curmudgeon. The two couldn’t be more different – or similar. They are both storytellers, but when the tale Len starts extracting from his old man is slowly revealed, it is everything but funny.

Through scalding humour, caustic wit and brutally frank interrogation into the country’s ‘post Rainbow Nation’ pathology, this stylistically imposing work is one of hilarity, bitter warmth and eventual grace.

Son is at times uproarious and unremittingly frank as it exposes politics as a tragic farce. It is both self-deprecating and sensual as it traverses the dark arts of sexual conquest and desire while it simultaneously unearths brutal anxieties around crime, alienation and aging.

As the author carves out an archaeological excavation of trauma, the fallout of war, masculinity, inter-generational memory and grief is unloaded. Central to Son is the brutal mirror of what it means to be a white man in South Africa, confronting a rapid loss of power while struggling to come to terms with stark socio-political change and the possibilities of living an unfulfilled and alienated life.

While it hums and whirs with sound, movement and humour, Son seamlessly takes the reader on a profound journey of compassion and self-understanding. In a dark and disturbing turn, it argues that the dominant colour of the rainbow has become not white nor black, but red. Blood red.

Son ultimately triumphs in laying to rest its personal and political ghosts.

Event Details

  • Date: Thursday, 04 May 2017
  • Time: 5:30 PM for 6:00 PM
  • Venue: Love Books, The Bamboo Lifestyle Centre, 53 Rustenburg Road, Melville, Johannesburg | Map
  • Guest Speaker: Bridget Hilton Barber
  • RSVP: Savannah Lucas, rsvp@jacana.co.za, 011 628 3200

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“I wanted to understand my being a black person from a positive point of view” – Mongane Wally Serote on why he writes

Acclaimed South African author Mongane Wally Serote was recently awarded an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Johannesburg in recognition of his contributions to poetry, literature and philosophy in South Africa.

The following extract on Serote’s reasons for writing was published by Michelle Bao for City Press.

As a young boy, Mongane Wally Serote read a lot.

From novels to newspapers, he read everything he could get hold of while attending school in Alexandra in the 1950s.

But his favourite was always poetry. Reading the likes of William Wordsworth, DH Lawrence and John Keats, Serote was inspired.

“There was something about the manner in which they wrote and the content about which they wrote that inspired me to write,” Serote said.

“It made me want to write poetry for me.”

And so, at the age of 14, Serote started to write his own poetry.

Little did he know it would mark the start of a long and celebrated career as a poet, a writer and an activist both in the Black Consciousness Movement and in the South African struggle for liberation.

“I was inspired by English poetry, but then I discovered that I could write about our own situation and that’s what I set out to do: to write about South Africa and to write about the life that we live,” Serote said.

His critically acclaimed novel To Every Birth Its Blood (1981) deals with the 1976 Soweto uprising and its aftermath, and his celebrated poems, including City Johannesburg and Alexandra, explore the nuances of life under apartheid.

Serote’s vast body of work is often credited with introducing the voice of Black Consciousness to South African literature and advancing principles of social activism and resistance.

Serote was awarded The Order of Ikhamanga in Silver in 2007 for his “excellent contribution to literature, with emphasis on poetry, and for putting his artistic talents at the service of democracy in South Africa”.

And on Monday Serote received an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Johannesburg in recognition of his contributions to poetry, literature and philosophy in South Africa.

“Mongane Serote is a true African intellectual in the tradition of the African philosophic sage: a profoundly wise person.

“He is the embodiment of philosophy as the love of wisdom, in the context of both traditional and modern Africa,” said Alex Broadbent, a professor of philosophy and the executive dean of the faculty of humanities at the University of Johannesburg.

“Serote’s commitment to ‘intervene and disrupt racism in all fields of human agency’ is evident in his widely-celebrated contribution to the literature and poetry of black identity and resistance.”

But according to Serote, the purpose behind his prose is much more personal.

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To Every Birth Its Blood

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Neil Sonnekus’ Son unremittingly frank as it exposes politics as a tragic farce

Son is a stunning achievement in post-apartheid writing.

The debut novel by South African writer, Neil Sonnekus, Son brims with brio, verve and swagger. Though laugh-out-loud funny at times, it is also achingly poignant and deeply moving.

In Son, Sonnekus brilliantly captures the so-called Noughties with his tragi-comic creation Len Bezuidenhout, a recent divorcee whose quest for sex is as funny as his attempts to tease a hungover narrative fromhis father, a puritanical old curmudgeon. The two couldn’t be more different – or similar. They are both storytellers, but when the tale Len starts extracting from his old man is slowly revealed, it is everything but funny.

Through scalding humour, caustic wit and brutally frank interrogation into the country’s ‘post Rainbow Nation’ pathology, this stylistically imposing work is one of hilarity, bitter warmth and eventual grace.

Son is at times uproarious and unremittingly frank as it exposes politics as a tragic farce. It is both self-deprecating and sensual as it traverses the dark arts of sexual conquest and desire while it simultaneously unearths brutal anxieties around crime, alienation and aging.

As the author carves out an archaeological excavation of trauma, the fallout of war, masculinity, inter-generational memory and grief is unloaded. Central to Son is the brutal mirror of what it means to be a white man in South Africa, confronting a rapid loss of power while struggling to come to terms with stark socio-political change and the possibilities of living an unfulfilled and alienated life.

While it hums and whirs with sound, movement and humour, Son seamlessly takes the reader on a profound journey of compassion and self-understanding. In a dark and disturbing turn, it argues that the dominant colour of the rainbow has become not white nor black, but red. Blood red.

Son ultimately triumphs in laying to rest its personal and political ghosts.

Son

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“I had to trust that I was able to hear his voice clearly” – Alison Lowry on posthumously completing Gerald Kraak’s Shadow Play

In the early evening I pulled up outside The Eyrie. The gate was open. I stepped through the space in the creeper-covered fence, expecting to find everything as usual, the kitchen door open, the scent of curry coming from inside and a strain of Coltrane drifting down to the pear orchard. Except that the house was gutted. The smoke I had smelled on the road, that I had put down to sundown cooking in the township, was suddenly and pungent. This was a different kind of smoke. I stood and stared. My feet would not move, forward or back.

When confronted with his call-up papers for the apartheid army, with his fellow student activists either scattered or in jail, Matthew chooses exile in Europe.

In Amsterdam, he reconnects with his friend Oliver, who is studying music there. As he falls into a different rhythm of life, as contended as he is in a loving relationship and a job in a music store, the pull of his homeland never leaves him.

When he receives an unexpected call from a former activist comrade, he makes a decision that will put at risk everything he has built in his new life. And when he meets Mandla for the first time, he knows there will be no going back.

Mandla went into exile long before ’76. After undergoing military training for the movement in Russia, and working as an operative in different African countries, he is infiltrated back into SA through Swaziland in order to fulfil and important mission.

His comrade and cover is a white graduate student, Rachel, who is simultaneously conducting research for her studies in a rural area where local communities are being systematically removed from their ancestral land and forced into poverty and degradation.

Theirs becomes a rare and precious friendship, tender and intimate. An unwelcome visitor disrupts their lives, however, and threatens their mission, causing damage and uncertainty in an already fragile relationship.

Editor’s note:

Gerald Kraak’s intention was that Shadow Play would be the middle volume in a trilogy, but his untimely death while he was writing the book meant that this would not be realised. As I understood it from those who were close to him, especially friends in an informal writing group where their various works in progress would be discussed and chapters shared, his intention was to bring the stories of Matthew, Oliver, Mandla and Pru to conclusion in present-day South Africa. It was also his intention that each novel would be a free-standing work.

The acclaimed first book, Ice in the Lungs, for which Kraak was joint winner of the European Union Literary Award, led the way. At the time of its publication in 2006 it was hailed as an important contribution to South African literature and the book flagged Kraak as a strong, new, reflective and challenging voice.

The themes he explored and would continue to explore in Shadow Play are universal ones – identity, belonging, difference, sexuality, acceptance, betrayal – ordinary in the naming but extraordinary from the pen of a writer as subtle and as sensitive as Kraak.

The political environment in South Africa during the period covered in Shadow Play – late 70s and early 80s – for anyone opposing the regime’s apartheid laws was one of repression, punishment, torture and death. The liberation struggle was largely fought underground and directed from countries abroad. If you were a young white male, conscription into the apartheid army was not a choice.

Many activists, like Kraak himself, chose exile rather than be called up to serve an illegitimate regime. His own years of exile were spent in Amsterdam and it is to this city that Matthew travels when he makes the same choice. It is where Shadow Play begins and where the book is largely set.

When Kraak’s literary executor approached me with the unusual request to complete his unfinished novel and to see it through to publication, I was intrigued, but I was hesitant.

As an editor, I spend much of my working day inside the heads and behind the words of writers. It is a sacred place, one in which I always try to tread lightly and with respect. Trust between writer and editor is key to a relationship that is perhaps more intimate than any other. The primary task of a fiction editor, in my view, is to listen. To listen to the words, to the voices who might speak them, to the author who has something to say but might not yet be saying it as effectively as he could. Then, preferably, to discuss in person, listen some more, read many drafts, make careful suggestions, and offer hopefully useful feedback throughout the process. It is a process that is animated by a continual two-way conversation between writer and editor.

It is not the editor’s footprints one wants to see on a novel in the end. The editor’s personal satisfaction lies elsewhere.

With Shadow Play, instead of those conversations, and the drafts that would usually take shape as a result of them, I had silence. This meant that I would have to listen extra carefully and pay a different kind of attention to my author.

Shadow Play was unfinished in many ways. I took from the executor a couple of hard copy volumes, a flashdrive, and early and later notes, some typed, some scribbled in pen, often not very legibly, and by different hands. It wasn’t easy to discern which of the hard copies was the latest version, and the versions on the flashdrive were different too. In addition, the hard copy had coloured stickers, notes to self, notes from other readers, admonitions, reminders, instructions to return to a sectionanother time, sections scored through with frustrated pencil lines, and much else.

In other words, a somewhat typical stage in a writer’s journey. There was a present-day storyline, which was clearly thought out, but also a back story, which needed to intersect with the present day but missed it on several marks – a timeline that was complicated and a trajectory that was in danger of disappearing or turning back on itself and getting tangled in unpickable knots.

I sensed that this back story had been the more troubling challenge for Kraak, because it had not been fully reconciled or imagined; it was the story that elicited most of the ‘notes to self’. It began but it did not end. It meandered in the middle. The voice was tentative but it was potentially the underlying strength and the pivotal protest song in the novel. It was the parallel stories of exile, subterfuge, ideology and shared by separate lives of Matthew and Mandla that were the key, I believed, to unlocking and presenting a powerful and compelling narrative.

In the absence of Kraak himself to guide or admonish me, in the end I had to trust that I was able to hear his voice clearly, to interpret his intentions, and that in crafting it to the best of my ability I have been true to the spirit of the novel and have done the author justice.

I have done my best to inhabit his world and to reflect it back to his readers in the way he wanted it to be seen. If there are footprints to be discerned, I hope they are not mine. I hope they are Mandla’s, making his way home by starlight through the treacherous elephant grass across the Swaziland border, and Matthew finding his own way back to his homeland via the cobbled streets of Amsterdam in the chill of an early spring. – Alison Lowry, Johannesburg, January 2017

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Ice in the Lungs


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Book launch: Sibanda and the Black Sparrowhawk by C.M. Elliott

C.M. Elliott will be in conversation with Jenny Crwys-Williams on the continued adventures of Detective Inspector Jabulani Sibanda.

Event Details

  • Date: Thursday, 20 April 2017
  • Time: 5:30 PM for 6:00 PM
  • Venue: Love Books, The Bamboo Lifestyle Centre, 53 Rustenburg Road, Melville, Johannesburg | Map
  • Guest Speaker: Jenny Crwys-Williams
  • RSVP: Savannah Lucas, rsvp@jacana.co.za, 011 628 3200

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Fiction Friday: read an extract from Rehana Rossouw’s award-winning novel What Will People Say?

Novelist Rehana Rossouw was the 2017 recipient of a Humanities and Social Sciences Award, hosted by the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences, in the category single-authored fiction for her debut novel What Will People Say?

Read an extract from Rossouw’s acclaimed novel about the Fouries – a family living in the heart of the Cape Flats at the height of the struggle era – here:

Kevin was waiting at the school gate when Nicky and Shirley strolled out arm in arm at the end of the school day. He stepped forward as they came near. “Greetings ladies, can I escort you today?”

Shirley giggled. “Of course you can, right Nicky?”

Nicky didn’t want Kevin walking with them. He was only after one thing. She hadn’t gone to the SRC meeting at second break; she was too busy sukkeling with Shirley’s problem. She still hadn’t found a solution. As she expected, it didn’t take long – two steps out of the gate and Kevin started on her.

“So Nicky, I was expecting to see you in the meeting this afternoon. There’s work to be done. We planning to bring the country to a stand still for the tenth anniversary of the ’76 uprising.”

Thick, dark irritation filled her face. What must she do to get Kevin to leave her alone? Nicky didn’t want him to escort her anywhere. She wanted to be alone with Shirley; she was planning on going home with her. Shirley shouldn’t be alone on a kak day like this. “I had other things on my mind, okay?”

“What can be more important than the struggle?”

Nicky stopped and planted her fists in her hips, staring daggers at Kevin. “A lot, you idiot. Shirley, for an example. She’s much more important than your blerrie struggle. She got a big problem. Her mother wants her to leave school and go work in the factory with her.”

Kevin turned to Shirley, his face squeezed up like a lemon. “You’ll be a semi-skilled worker fed to the machine to become another alienated unit of capitalist labour.”

Nicky felt like her head was about to burst open like a dropped watermelon, the irritation was so thick. No one could get to her like Kevin. “Speak English Kevin! This isn’t time for a political speech. Shirley needs help. She’s not an issue. She’s only sixteen and she must go work to feed her brothers. You such a blerrie fool!”

Kevin looked like a foster child on his way back to the orphanage.

“Of course I think that’s really kak, Nicky! There must be a way out. We must strategise, see what we can come up with.”

Shirley smiled at him. “You think you can see a way out of it?”

Kevin gave a couple of firm nods. “Let me think on it for a while. As Lenin would say: What is to be done? That’s what we must figure out.”

Nicky stared at their backs as Shirley and Kevin walked away without her. That boy had a nerve! Didn’t he see he wasn’t wanted?

She was going to come up with a solution for Shirley’s problem. They didn’t need him. Why was Shirley hanging onto his words like he was her saviour? She rushed to catch up with them.

The girls’ route home took them past the taxi rank at the Hanover Park Town Centre. The rank fed routes into town, Claremont, Wynberg and Mitchells Plain. Gaartjies shouted out destinations and ushered people into revving sixteen-seaters; pushing flesh and parcels inside as they slid the doors shut.

Nicky, Shirley and Kevin wove their way along the pavement between people streaming to the rank and the hawkers lining the sides. Most were selling vegetables, but there were also stalls with tinned goods, bags of bright orange chips and loose cigarettes. A bakkie blocked the pavement, its back piled high with snoek. A plump man covered with a red-stained, yellow plastic apron gutted and beheaded his silver, toothy catch while customers waited. The fish was wrapped in newspaper and exchanged for a five-rand note. Nicky could smell the sea on the bakkie as she walked past.

Continue reading at thisisaerodrome.com.
 

What Will People Say

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Reading and discussion of Nwelezelanga: The Star Child by Unathi Magubeni

Unathi Magubeni will be reading from his book, Nwelezelanga, The Star Child, and facilitating a discussion around the story.

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Nwelezelanga

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