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Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Announcing the shortlist for the 2016 Gerald Kraak Award for African writers and artists

 
The Jacana Literary Foundation and The Other Foundation have announced the African writers and artists shortlisted for the inaugural Gerald Kraak Award.

Drawn from a range of African countries, these written and photographic pieces on the topics of gender, human rights and sexuality on our continent represent a new wave of fresh storytelling.

The shortlist will comprise the resultant anthology, titled Pride and Prejudice, which will be published and distributed by Jacana Media and its project partners across Africa in May 2017.

Judges Sisonke Msimang (chair), Eusebius McKaiser and Sylvia Tamale reviewed close on 400 anonymous individual entries over the past four months in order to select the 14 pieces for the shortlist.

Msimang says:

In the current political environment, we are hopeful that expressions like the ones we have chosen – that do not shy away from pain but that are also deeply inventive – find their way into the public consciousness. We think Gerald Kraak would have smiled at a number of these entries, and above all, we have aimed to stay true to his love of fearless writing and support of courageous and grounded activism.

In alphabetical order by surname, here are the shortlisted authors and entries, and short judges’ notes:

  • Poached Eggs by Farah Ahamed (Fiction, Kenya)

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.

  • A Place of Greater Safety by Beyers de Vos (Journalism, South Africa)

Covers, with empathy and real curiosity and knowledge, underground issues that are seldom discussed in the South African LGBT+ movement – homelessness, poverty, as well as attraction and violence.

  • Midnight in Lusikisiki or The Ruin of the Gentlewomen by Sindiswa Busuku-Mathese (Poetry, South Africa)

This poem hums with sadness and sings with anger. It is full of the sort of melancholy that marks the passing of something very important. It provides an opportunity to connect the themes of gender this collection takes so seriously, with issues of poverty and political corruption.

  • Two Weddings for Amoit by Dilman Dila (Fiction, Uganda)

A fresh piece of sci-fi, written in a clear and bright way, that surprisingly draws on covert and subversive love.

  • Albus by Justin Dingwall (Photography, South Africa)

The choice of exquisitely beautiful high-fashion models to represent people with albinism – who are so often depicted as unattractive, as others – is just breath-taking. It makes its point and leaves you wanting more.

  • For Men Who Care by Amatesiro Dore (Fiction, Nigeria)

A complex and thoughtful insight into a part of elite Nigerian life, as well as the ways in which buying into certain brands of patriarchy can be so deeply damaging – and have direct and unavoidable consequences.

  • Resurrection by Tania Haberland (Poetry, Mauritius)

An erotic poem that is powerful in its simple celebration of the clit.

  • Intertwined Odyssey by Julia Hango (Photography, South Africa)

A solid and thought-provoking collection. The range of poses force questions about power. The photos make the lovers (or are they fighters?) equal in their nakedness and in their embodiment of discomfort.

  • Dean’s Bed by Dean Hutton (Photography, South Africa)

An important contribution to conversations about bisexuality, attraction, age and race.

  • On Coming Out by Lee Mokobe (Poetry, South Africa)

Literal and lyrical, this powerful poem draws one in through its style and accessibility.

  • You Sing of a Longing by Otosirieze Obi-Young (Fiction, Nigeria)

A thoroughly modern epic but with bones as old as time. This is a story of love and betrayal and madness and music that is all the more beautiful for its plainspoken poignancy. Yet there is prose in here that steals your breath away.

  • The Conversation by Olakunle Ologunro (Fiction, Nigeria)

Provides valuable insight into issues of intimate partner violence, family acceptance and the complexity of gender roles in many modern African contexts.

  • One More Nation Bound in Freedom by Ayodele Sogunro (Academic, Nigeria)

An informative piece that gives a crisp and “objective” voice to the many themes that cut across this anthology.

  • Stranger in a Familiar Land by Sarah Waiswa (Photography, Kenya)

This collection of photos 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.

The winner, who receives a cash prize, will be announced at an award ceremony in May 2017, hosted by The Other Foundation and attended by the authors of the top three submissions as well as the judging panel and project partners.

For more information visit www.jacana.co.za or email awards@jacana.co.za.

This project is made possible in partnership with The Other Foundation: www.theotherfoundation.org.

 

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Nakhane Toure’s Piggy Boy’s Blues to be taught at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee

Nakhane Toure

 
Piggy Boy's BluesBlackBird Books has announced that Piggy Boy’s Blues by Nakhane Touré will be taught at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, United States.

Piggy Boy’s Blues has been adopted for the spring 2017 course “The Contemporary African Novel”.

The news comes just a week after Touré was longlisted for the 2016 Etisalat Prize for Literature.

Known for his music, Sama award-winning musician Touré has changed tune with the release of his debut novel, Piggy Boy’s Blues. The novel, which has been described as reading fragments of a recurring dream, centres on the disastrous consequences of a man’s return to his Eastern Cape home town of Alice. Touré’s work is poetic with sensuous prose.

* * * * *

 
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Panashe Chigumadzi reacts to winning the 2016 K Sello Duiker Memorial Literary Award

Panashe Chigumadzi

 
Sweet MedicineSweet Medicine, the debut novel by Panashe Chigumadzi, won the 2016 South African Literary Awards K Sello Duiker Memorial Literary Award recently.

The winners were announced on 7 November 2016 at a gala dinner at Unisa. Chigumadzi shared her award with Willem Anker, who was honoured for his book Buys.

On receiving the award, Panashe had this to say:

It is deeply affirming whenever you receive external validation for what is most often a solitary and isolating experience. This award in particular is an honour because it bears the name of one of South Africa’s literary greats. Over and above that, as someone with Pan-Africanist ideals, I’m deeply humbled that South African readers were able to find resonance with a story set in Zimbabwe, despite what many prospective publishers had said to me. I’m truly grateful to be a writer who has been allowed the space to bring all of herself and her experiences and to have that appreciated by a reading audience.

Sweet Medicine is a thorough and evocative attempt at grappling with a variety of important issues in the postcolonial context: tradition and modernity,
feminism and patriarchy, spiritual and political freedoms and responsibilities, poverty and desperation, and wealth and abundance.

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The 2016 Dinaane Debut Fiction Award and Kraak Writing Grant winners announced

The 2016 Dinaane Debut Fiction Award and Kraak Writing Grant winners announced

 
The judges’ decision was unanimous: Tammy Baikie has won the 2015/16 Dinaane Debut Fiction Award for her distinctively clever novel, Selling LipService.

Baikie receives a R35 000 cash prize and the publication of her book by Jacana Media, with the title being launched as part of Exclusive Books’ Homebru campaign in June 2017.

Not to be forgotten, runners-up Saul Musker (No Word Like Home) and Thabiso Mofokeng (The Last Stop) both narrowly missed being awarded the accolade for their exceptionally well-written and creative manuscripts. We have no doubt that their work will be picked up for publication, so keep an eye out!

For the first time, the Kraak Writing Grant was also awarded. That went to Andile Cele, author of Braids and Migraines. The grant is valued at R25 000 and dedicated to the memory of Gerald Kraak. It offers the recipient mentoring and intensive coaching from editor, publishing expert and writer Alison Lowry, enabling the author to refine and develop their work still further.

The aim of these awards is to ensure that great southern African fiction continues to be published, by making possible new literature which may otherwise not have come about – not because of its merits, but because of the market forces which constrain us all in the book world. If you entered your manuscript, showed an interest or if you buy these books, you are keeping local fiction alive – the JLF thanks you!

 

The 2016 Dinaane Debut Fiction Award and Kraak Writing Grant winners announced

About the book

In Frith’s consumerist world, everyone has a stroke around the age of 18. After this coming of haemhorr-age, writing and speaking is only possible if you’re wearing LipService transdermal patches. Sponsored by corporations, the language of each patch is scripted by copywriters so that every utterance promotes the brand. For Frith’s mother, who lives and breathes the Frisson Froufrou lingerie brand, nothing could be more natural. But Frith hates everything that comes out of her own mouth.

Frith had hoped to escape the haemorrhage because of her tastures – the sense of taste that accompanies everything she touches – but she hasn’t. Experiencing the world differently has alienated her. But her inability to express herself is all the more galling because she knows language has greater range and potential than limiting LipService. Her father worked as the custodian at the book repository – where printed literature written before the branding of all narratives is quarantined. There, Frith read books that haven’t been available to the public in decades. On her father’s death, he secretly leaves her a volume of the stories they both love.

Desperate to articulate her identity as distinct from any product, Frith experiments with pushing the limits of LipService and developing her tastures. But other elements of this consumerist society are equally interested in them for commercial gain.

About the author

Tammy Baikie is a translator who qualified with French and German as source languages and who dabbles in Russian. After four years living and working in Germany, she returned home to South Africa and dreaming in English. Her translation career has continued here with advertising copy and communications as her field of specialisation. Tammy has attended the SUISS summer writing programme in Edinburgh and recently submitted her MA in Creative Writing. She was longlisted for the 2010/2011 Fish International Short Story Contest.
 

Dub StepsThe Story of Anna P, as Told by HerselfKhalil's JourneyDeeper Than ColourSaracen at the Gates
Till We Can Keep An AnimalCoconutBitches' BrewIce in the LungsThe Silent Minaret

 
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Bestselling author Kopano Matlwa publishes her third novel, Period Pain

The return of one of SA’s bestselling fiction authors

Bestselling author Kopano Matlwa publishes her third novel, Period Pain

 
Period PainKopano Matlwa stole South Africa’s heart with her debut novel Coconut. With almost 25,000 sales, this award-winning title cemented her position as one of South Africa’s bestselling authors.

With her follow-up novel, Spilt Milk, Matlwa continued to amaze us with her ability to intimately address complex political issues through relatable characters.

This year she brings us her best novel yet, Period Pain: a compelling story about how the broken continue to survive.

In Period Pain Matlwa has poignantly captured the heartache and confusion of so many South Africans who feel defeated by the litany of headline horrors: xenophobia, corrective rape, corruption and crime and for many the death sentence that is the public health nightmare. Through this story we are able to reflect, to question and to rediscover our humanity.

Matlwa is a brand in her own right, and to celebrate her latest release all three of her titles will be re-branded and jacketed. Look out for the epitome of #BlackGirlMagic.

About the author

Kopano Matlwa is one of South Africa’s most vibrant young writers and winner of the 2007 European Union Literary Award. A medical graduate, Matlwa is the author of the critically acclaimed novel Coconut, and Spilt Milk which won the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in 2010. She has recently returned to South Africa after completing an MSc in Global Health Science and is currently reading for a DPhil in Population Health at the University of Oxford.

 
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2016 Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award announced – a second win for Athol Williams

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Athol Williams has won the Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award this year, for the second time, for his poem “Visit at Tea Time”.

Athol WilliamsWilliams is a poet and social philosopher from Cape Town. He is the chairman of Read to Rise, a youth literacy NGO that he co-founded after many years as a business strategy advisor. His poems have been published in anthologies and literary journals in the UK, USA and South Africa and he has published three poetry collections. He is also the author of the Oaky series of inspirational children’s books, and Pushing Boulders, his memoir, was published this month.

 
Williams grew up in Mitchells Plain, Cape Town and has been educated at Oxford, Harvard, MIT, LSE, London Business School and Wits University.

As the winner he receives a cash prize and, for the first time this year, a three-week residency at the NIROX Foundation in the Cradle of Humankind, which includes fully serviced accommodation in a beautiful studio, free full board, and a serene environment in which Athol can focus solely on his craft. We are delighted to be able to add this rare privilege to the award.

The NIROX Foundation was established to foster the arts in their widest sense. Poetry was from inception within our diverse focus, but it is a quiet craft that can often be overshadowed by its popular siblings – the visual and musical arts, for which NIROX is best known. And so it is a great pleasure for the Foundation to make a residency available to the winner of this year’s Sol Plaatje Award. We hope that this is the start of a long association. Athol Williams is a worthy winner. We look forward to the opportunity of working with him amongst our other artists in residence in the coming year.

- The NIROX Foundation

The Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology 2011The Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology Vol IIThe Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology Vol IIIThe Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology Vol IVThe Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology

 

The runners-up, who also received cash prizes, are Siphokazi Jonas, in second place for her poem “MamBhele’s Harvest” and Charles Marriott, in third place for his poem “Cape Town”.

The award ceremony took place on Sunday, 9 October, at the Mail & Guardian Literary Festival in Newtown. Senior judge and chairperson of the Jacana Literary Foundation (which administers the competition and publishes the related anthology in partnership with Jacana Media), Professor Mongane Wally Serote, as well as the European Union Ambassador Designate, His Excellency Marcus Cornaro, presented the prizes to the winners during the event. A wonderful poetry performance by longlisted poets Zewande Bhengu, Siphokazi Jonas, B-Lyrical, Thabiso Mohare, Pieter Odendaal and Kori Strange, as part of the 6th Word N Sound International Youth Poetry Festival, kicked off the proceedings.

The Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award aims to reveal the political and social attitudes of our time. The annual Award, supported by the European Union, is now in its sixth year. Named after Solomon Tshekisho Plaatje (1876-1932), it recognises the life and vision of this highly respected political and social activist. As in previous years, Volume 6 of the series anthologises the three winning poems (selected by the iconic poet Serote) along with some 90 other longlisted poems in Afrikaans, English, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, isiXhosa and isiZulu and accompanied by English translations where relevant (selected by a jury of three notable South African poets: Goodenough Mashego, Thabiso “Afurakan” Mohare and Pieter Odendaal). The submissions are judged blind.

The anthology was launched at the same event.

 
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2016 Sol Plaatje EU Poetry Award shortlist announced

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The shortlist for the 2016 Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award has been revealed.

From the longlist of poems selected by this year’s judging panel for publication in volume 6 of the anthology, Professor Mongane Wally Serote (chair of both the panel and the Jacana Literary Foundation) has selected the three finalists.

The shortlist includes last year’s winner, Athol Williams.

Serote, a Black Consciousness icon, poet and writer, is a renowned member of the Soweto poets – a group which advocated for black literary voices in South Africa during the tumultuous 1970s. His poems of that time speak of the realities of apartheid, and have been invaluable in provoking thought about oppression, as well as capturing the truths of the era.

Similarly, the Sol Plaatje EU Poetry Award aims to reveal the political and social attitudes of our time.

“These South African poets have understood something,” Serote says. “They hold the present by the scruff of the neck and threaten it. If this nation has not revolted, it is evolving to revolt, the poets say. The present cannot hold, the poets keep saying. Like healers, they sing, beat the drums and dance to the rhythm of their tongues.”

In alphabetical order, the 2016 Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award shortlist:

  • “Cape Town” by Charles Marriott
  • “Mambhele’s Harvest” by Siphokazi Jonas
  • “Visit at Tea Time” by Athol Williams
The Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology 2011The Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology Vol IIThe Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology Vol IIIThe Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology Vol IVThe Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology

 

How these poems have placed and the overall winner will be announced and cash prizes awarded (R6,000 for first place, R4,000 for second place and R2,000 for third place) at an event at the Mail & Guardian Literary Festival on Sunday, 9 October at 11:30 AM.

The Litfest will take place at Sci-Bono in Newtown, Johannesburg, on 8 and 9 October. Tickets are R50 a session, with half-price discounts for students and pensioners (R25 a ticket). Tickets will be on sale at the venue on the day.

There is a significant nod to South African literary history in the Litfest, marking the 140th anniversary of the birth of Solomon Tshekisho Plaatje (1876-1932), the highly respected political and social activist after whom this award is named.

For more information, contact the Jacana Literary Foundation on awards@jacana.co.za.

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Longlist for the Sol Plaatje EU Poetry Award announced

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The longlist for the 2016 Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award has been revealed.

The longlisted poems are in a range of South Africa’s official languages, and will all appear in volume six of the Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology.

They were anonymously selected by judges Goodenough Mashego, Thabiso Mohare and Pieter Odendaal.

Congratulations to all of the poets whose work was nominated!

The Jacana Literary Foundations says:

Each year we are awed by the enthusiasm of South Africa’s poets and your overwhelming support of this project, and would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to everyone who entered their poetry.

The Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology 2011The Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology Vol IIThe Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology Vol IIIThe Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology Vol IVThe Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology

 

A shortlist of three poems from this list will be selected by Professor Mongane Wally Serote and announced on 24 September, National Heritage Day. The winner and placing will be revealed at the Mail & Guardian Literary Festival in Johannesburg on 9 October.

Prizes are awarded to the shortlist:

  • 1st place: R6,000
  • 2nd place: R4,000
  • 3rd place: R2,000

 
In alphabetical order by surname, the longlisted poems and poets are:

(*Highly commended)

HOTNOTS-KÁNON, Caroline F. Archer *
BATTLEGROUND, Mutinta Bbenkele *
EDEN’S KNELL, Tanisha Bhana
IN THE MOOD TO MONKEY, Zéwande Bk Bhengu *
KLEEDREPETISIE, Rene Bohnen *
PIPE DREAM, Kathryn Clare Botes
THE THIRST, Dianne Case
TERRA NULLIUS – THE MARIKANA SYMPHONY, Christine Coates
WINTER COLD, Bella (B-Lyrical) Cox *
CHOKING, Bella (B-Lyrical) Cox
ALL CHANGE, Lise Day
THE ARCHBISHOP’S LAMENT, Graham Dukas
METAMORPHOSIS, Graham Dukas
THE PLACE OF THE JACKAL, Elaine Edwards
IN RESPONSE TO SEEING AN AFRICAN WOMAN ABBA A DOG ON FACEBOOK, Connie Fick *
RE KWALA TSE DI SWA, Tshepo Gaerupe
HLAL’ APH’ EMZINI NGOB’ IINKOMO ZIYATHETHA, Nobuntu Gantana *
WEEKLY SERVICE, Siphokazi Jonas *
I AM BEAUTIFUL, Fiona Khan
CLASS, Musawenkosi Khanyile
CHURCH, Musawenkosi Khanyile *
OMRING, Lara Kirsten *
RIBBONS ON THE FENCE, Lynne Kloot
NTSO YAMATHILE, Nomnikelo Komanisi
THERE’S A ME THAT’S STILL NOT FREE, Portia Mabaso
MOTHERS, WARN YOUR DAUGHTERS OF GAY LOVE, Portia Mabaso
HIP HOP, Songeziwe Mahlangu
APARTHEID IN THE SKY, Patrick Maitland
THEY CAME, Patrick Maitland
SALUTE TO KLIPSPRUIT RIVER, Maishe Maponya
THE TRC – ON THE BOX, Maishe Maponya
THE POWER-POINT POET, Maishe Maponya
CAPE TOWN, Charles Marriott *
JOHANNES SI BHEKE, Kela Maswabi *
UPHAHLA, Zongezile Theophilus Matshoba
GO DIKGAITŠEDI TŠA LEFSIFSI, Katise Mawela
IKASI LAMI, Ongezwa Mbele
PUINHOOP, Marthé Mcloud
HO THABA BA ILENG, Thabiso Mofokeng
DIFAQANE, Maneo Refiloe Mohale
GAUTA O JA BATHO, Tsietsi Mokhele *
YET MORE STONES, George Momogos
VERGANGENHEITSBEWAELTIGUNG, Jackie Mondi
A HUNGRY STOMACH HAS NO EARS, Jackie Mondi
VARIATIONS IN COLOUR, Nedine Moonsamy
LANIWANI, Moses Mtileni *
THE HOUSE WE BUILT, Sifiso Mtshali
TO MOS DEF IN THE WOOLWORTHS QUEUE, Nick Mulgrew *
FOUR MINUTES, Luthando Ncayiyana
THE BARKSOLE MAN, Pamela Newham
TO THOSE FLUTTERING BEINGS, Mandla Robert Ngakane
NOT ANOTHER NURSE’S TALE, Mandla Robert Ngakane
A THANKLESS LABOUR, Vuyokazi Ngemntu
THEY NEVER DIED, Bomikazi Njoloza
ILIZWE LAM, Amanda Nodada
CASSETTE, Sihle Ntuli
REFLECTION, Lazola Pambo
LIKE A LOG, Jim Pascual Agustin
BLACK JOY, Koleka Putuma *
RESURRECTION, Koleka Putuma *
BEDTIME STORIES FOR OUR LITTLE GIRLS, Sibongile Ralana
A PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS, Sibongile Ralana
POWER, Arja Salafranca
COLLATERAL DAMAGE, Ferdie Schaller
THE BURNING MAN, Ferdie Schaller *
BOOTS FOR LITTLE BOYS, Ferdie Schaller
OOGAF, Karin Schimke
UNCLE TOM, Kori Sefeane
AUSCHWITZ, Kori Sefeane
FIX ME, Sinazo Somhlahlo
A REVOLUTION, Caitlin Spring
MINE WILL BE OF AFRICA, David C. Steyn
EVEN BIRDS, Caitlin Stobie
REFUGEE 70, Louella Sullivan
THEATRE OF HEARTS, Elizabeth Trew
STHANDWA SAM’, Lesego Tsoho
NGIYABONGA MAMA, Lesego Tsoho
IN MY CUPBOARD, Troydon Wainwright
A WEDDING POEM, Troydon Wainwright
INVESTMENT RETURNS, Athol Williams
VISIT AT TEA TIME, Athol Williams *
MISSING, Sue Woodward

For more information, contact the Jacana Literary Foundation on awards@jacana.co.za.

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Ronnie Kasrils’s Alan Paton Award-winning book The Unlikely Secret Agent published in French

nullThe Unlikely Secret Agent

 
Jacana Media is delighted to announce that The Unlikely Secret Agent by Ronnie Kasrils, recipient of the 2011 Sunday Times Alan Paton Award, has just been published in French by Mardaga Publishing.

On hearing the news of the French edition, author Ronnie Kasrils had this to say: “I am particularly delighted that this book about an unsung heroine of South Africa’s national liberation struggle is appearing as a French-language publication.

“The anti-fascist resistance in Europe during World War Two has resonances in this book about a daring young woman who was prepared to sacrifice her freedom to a just cause. I believe French-speaking people of all ages will be inspired by this Scots-born woman who grew up in South Africa and became the first female operative in the clandestine armed struggle under Nelson Mandela’s command.”

Written after the death of his wife in 2009, The Unlikely Secret Agent tells the story of Eleanor Kasrils, one of the few white South African women to engage in armed struggle against the apartheid regime. A story written with humility and a pride that the reader can only share.

Ronnie’s response to Eleanor’s sudden death last year at home in South Africa was to write this extraordinary book at breakneck speed. It is a love story, a historical document of great importance, and a terrific tale of a clandestine success.

- Journalist and writer Victoria Brittain

A poignant and beautiful book.

- James McAuley, Washington Post

This “little” book about an “ordinary” woman with the heart of a lioness confirms the truth that our freedom was not free. From its pages rings out another truth that among the outstanding heroines and heroes of the South African struggle were those who did not set out to perform heroic deeds. These are the heroic combatants for freedom like the Unlikely Secret Agent, Eleanor Kasrils, the subject of this engrossing “little book”, who did the equally “little” things without which victory over the apartheid regime would have been impossible.

- Former President of the Republic of South Africa Thabo Mbeki

 
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Familicides – how apartheid killed its own: An excerpt from The End of Whiteness by Nicky Falkof

Nicky Falkof, University of the Witwatersrand

The End of WhitenessIn this extract from her book, “The End of Whiteness: Satanism and Family Murder in Late Apartheid South Africa”, the University of the Witwatersrand’s Nicky Falkof explores how during the height of apartheid family murders became what was termed a “bloody epidemic”.

The terms “family murder”/“gesinsmoord” only came into frequent use in South Africa in the early 1980s. Murders within families had, of course, happened before but had not been defined in this way. Those deaths were reported as individual tragic killings rather than as symptoms of a larger social problem. Family murder as a phenomenon was particular to the late apartheid era and developed when it did because it had meaning outside of itself.

By 1984, amid burgeoning cultural awareness of a national “problem” of family murder, the term was sufficiently entrenched to merit a three-page article in the popular Afrikaans magazine Huisgenoot, often a social barometer of white Afrikanerdom. This considered three recent murders, of Aurica Costin, Mirian Swanepoel and Talitha Hamman, all killed by estranged spouses who subsequently committed suicide.

These deaths, coming at the start of the panic, did not fit with ideas about family murder that became set as the decade progressed. Family murder was later characterised as something separate from domestic violence, an act that involved a family structure – always children, sometimes other relatives too – rather than just a couple, and almost always ended in the suicide of the killer.

Nonetheless at this early stage Huisgenoot referred to the Costin, Swanepoel and Hamman killings as “gesinstragedies” (“family tragedies”) and to the killers as “family murderers”. The magazine called the deaths a “bloedige epidemie” (“bloody epidemic”).

Paranoia at work

Huisgenoot’s article was part of an emergent repertoire of representation about family murder that included the exhortation for the public to watch out for the “warning signs” listed in the pages of popular publications. There was a certain paranoia at work here.

If the family murderer was always white, male and Afrikaans then it followed that each white, male and Afrikaans person could have the seeds of murder within him. The injunction to watch each other potentially accused all people who fitted into this mould. All white Afrikaans men could be marked with the possibility of this type of evil and it became everyone’s duty to observe them.

Huisgenoot also reported, “[Family murder is] a sign of a sick society, say psychologists.” Press responses to family murder turned to psychiatry and medicalisation early on. The notion of expanded blame – that society as a whole rather than just the killer was responsible for these deaths – also came to the forefront early in the coverage of these killings.

Similarly, family murder was understood as a sign of larger ills. In an article on South Africa’s “new brutality”, the right wing Aida Parker Newsletter, secretly sponsored by intelligence divisions within the South African Police, classified family murder alongside child abuse and other social ills as the consequence of a “sick society”.

That was a society newly filled with pornography, “enlightened” churches that preached politics instead of religious obedience, high divorce rates, “trendy” sex across the colour line and newly “liberal” attitudes towards abortion, homosexuality and lesbianism. All of these ills were contrary to the rights of the majority who wished to “live in an ordered, humane, civilised society”.

Death of a daughter

On November 4 1984 Gert Botha (38) shot and killed his ex-wife Maretha (35), their daughter Madaleen (15) and himself. Although there had been two similar cases the previous month, this one garnered far more press coverage, at least partly because of the idealisation of the murdered daughter.

“Madaleen, 15, was the beauty of the family. She had already won one pageant … Next year she would be a prefect. That night the family was torn apart. Mrs Botha lay dead. Madaleen was shot in the stomach and the eye when she ran into the bedroom after the first bullets were fired. Gert Botha turned the gun on himself,” reported Huisgenoot at the time.

Madaleen’s healthy normality was repeatedly emphasised in the press. Her gender and ethnicity were combined to depict her as a perfect white Afrikaans daughter. She was the model victim of a social plague. This was in contrast to parental dysfunction. Newspapers insisted that Gert and Maretha’s constant fighting should have alerted their community to the looming tragedy.

Saving families

Ideas about warning signs were part of the medicalisation of the family murder, the belief that there was a set of symptoms that could be spotted and avoided. This social-psychiatric narrative also implied that the unwary were to blame for disaster.

The Sunday Tribune, an English-language weekly newspaper published in what was then Natal province, went as far as to use the standfirst, “Family ignored danger signs – and paid with their loved ones’ lives”. Complacency and lack of communal care were blamed for the destruction of white South African youth. Society was failing to protect the young from dangers that could have been anticipated.

An editorial in the Afrikaans daily Beeld, titled “Kommerwekkend” (“Worrisome”), speculated that deaths like the Bothas’ were part of a national crime problem, the result of a society that was too violent, with firearms too easily available.

The Weekend Argus in Cape Town called the deaths part of a “frightening chronicle” of killings and printed a list of possible causes agreed upon by several unnamed psychologists: “unemployment, stress, sex, the availability of firearms, misplaced religious beliefs, immaturity, alcohol, fears about the future and ‘hot weather’”.

This list avoided the most influential, volatile and unsettling factor that affected South African society. Save from fear of the future, apartheid was given no place in a consideration of why family murders happened, although notions of Afrikanerness and gendered cultural identity crept in in the form of religion, immaturity and sexual issues.

Later in the period other experts suggested a different causal model for family murder that implicated the violence of apartheid as a primary factor. The family murder panic was thus part of a cultural shift. It helped to inaugurate a public discussion of the fact that apartheid could be dangerously brutalising for white people, allowing them to be critical of the system without having to acknowledge the far more damaging consequences it had had for black South Africans.

The Conversation

Nicky Falkof, Senior Lecturer in Media Studies, University of the Witwatersrand

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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