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Archive for the ‘Non-fiction’ Category

Win a copy of Hagen Engler’s latest lank kiff book!

A hilarious compendium of iconic South Africanness.

As they tend to say on Idols shortly before eviscerating some poor aspiring singer’s performance, this comes from a place of love. This book is a celebration of South Africa’s iconic people, places, situations, songs, character traits and consumer products … every part of our culture that makes us happy and proud to be South Africans.

Add a twist of humour to South African nostalgia with Hagen Engler’s latest offering.

Black Twitter, Blitz and a Boerie as Long as Your Leg is a light-hearted, humorous read of multiple entries that can be dipped into at will.

Optimistic, topical and definitely tongue-in-cheek, this book could easily be that last-minute gift that you pick up at the airport before you head back to the parental home for the holidays.

Not too politically edgy – so as not to offend any sensitive elephants in the room – it draws on the great many things that South Africans do have in common, and that will give us all a moment to agree on something, for a change. The book aims to list and celebrate the tiny, subtle aspects of South African life that we all experience but don’t always notice.

Engler looks at icons of our shared South Africanness but drills a little deeper to make them more specific, a bit more ridiculous, a bit funnier, and hopefully to induce an excited exclamation from the reader of, “Yoh! That’s so true!”

Look out for the following:

• A fake pair of Ray-Bans from the robots
• Your skaftien of last night’s stew
• Getting a proper vuvuzela blast going
• The passion and the glory of the Soweto Derby
• The hair salon that has it all
• Proof of address. Not more than three months old!
• Counting the black faces in any group photo
• The edgy hairstyles of Afrikaans ladies of a certain age
• Some construction workers on the back of a bakkie, judging you
• Building a 10-year relationship with the guy at your robots
• The way you like your Oros
• A room divider on the far side of a room
• Sunlight Soap. The green bar
• Chicken Licken Hotwings
• Black Twitter on a Sunday night
• Zodwa Wabantu’s vosho
• Khabonina Qubeka’s hamstrings

Hagen Engler has co-written, ghost-written and edited more than 12 books. He can peel a naartjie in one go, survive an extra-hot bunny chow, and drink all day while the Proteas occupy the crease at the Wanderers. So you see now.

Jacana Media are giving away FIVE copies of Hagen’s latest lank kiff contribution to the local literary scene. To stand a chance to win a copy, let our editor (Mila de Villiers) know on what day of the week Black Twitter is on fire. Mail your answer to mila@book.co.za before Thursday, 6 December.

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Cape Town launch: Everyone is Present by Terry Kurgan (22 November)

In this book, Terry Kurgan begins with a family snapshot made by her Polish grandfather in 1939 on the eve of the war.

Presenting this evocative image as a repository of multiple histories – public, private, domestic, familial and generational – she sets off on a series of meditations on photography that give us startling insights into how photographs work: what they conceal, how they mislead, what provocations they contain.

Each essay takes up the thread of the story of her family’s epic journey across Europe as they flee – country by country – Nazi occupation, until they reach Cape Town, South Africa.

But Kurgan takes detours, circles back, diverts attention elsewhere, enriching and also disrupting the narrative with digressions on the way Google has changed our relationship to photography, on her grandfather’s eloquent daily journals, on the shipboard flirtations of her fascinating grandmother, on vanity, on self representation, on loss and return, home and exile.

Kurgan’s richly satisfying essays are part memoir, part travelogue, part analysis and they demonstrate her sophisticated understanding of a medium that has long engaged her as an artist.

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Launch: Set a Table by Karen Dudley (20 November)

Mother City foodies! Join Karen Dudley in conversation with Ming-Cheau Lin as she launches her latest scrumptious offering, Set a Table – Tuesday, 20 November (5:30 PM for 6 PM) at the Book Lounge. Yum!

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Launch – Dimitri Tsafendas: The Man Who Killed Apartheid by Harris Dousemetzis (8 November)

 
In the South African House of Assembly, on 6 September 1966, Dimitri Tsafendas stabbed to death Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd.

Afterwards, Tsafendas was declared to be a schizophrenic who believed a tapeworm lived inside him which controlled his actions, and that he had no political motive for assassinating Verwoerd. Pronounced unfit to stand trial, Tsafendas went down in history as a deranged parliamentary messenger.

For fifty years, this story prevailed. However, this book now reveals the truth about Tsafendas; that he was deeply political from an early age.

He was arrested numerous times, starting in Mozambique, the country of his birth.

In Portugal, the security police opened a file on him in 1938, when he was aged only twenty. After the assassination, Tsafendas volunteered a series of incontestable political reasons for killing Verwoerd, but these, along with details of his political past, were never allowed to see the light of day.

This book reveals the extent of the cover-up by South Africa’s authorities and the desperate lengths they went to conceal the existence of Tsafendas’s opposition to apartheid.

The book exposes one of the great lies in South African history, that Verwoerd was murdered by a mad man. It also offers for the first time a complete biography of this extraordinary man.

Advocate George Bizos characterised Dousemetzis’s work on Tsafendas and Verwoerd’s assassination as ‘monumental’ and of being ‘of major historical importance for South Africa and as to our understanding of Verwoerd’s assassination’.

Professor John Dugard said ‘South African history should know the truth about Tsafendas. Dousemetzis has done South Africa a service by correcting the historical record.’

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Launch: Everyone is Present by Terry Kurgan (14 November)

In this book, Kurgan begins with a family snapshot made by her Polish grandfather in 1939 on the eve of the war. Presenting this evocative image as a repository of multiple histories – public, private, domestic, familial and generational – she sets off on a series of meditations on photography that give us startling insights into how photographs work: what they conceal, how they mislead, what provocations they contain.

Terry will be in discussion with Professor Gerrit Olivier (Wits School of Arts).

Event Details

  • Date: Wednesday, 14 November 2018
  • Time: 6:00 PM for 6:30 PM
  • Venue: Love Books, The Bamboo Lifestyle Centre, 53 Rustenburg Rd, Melville | Map
  • Guest Speaker: Gerrit Olivier
  • RSVP: kate@lovebooks.co.za
     

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Launch: Confronting Apartheid by John Dugard (6 November)

South Africa achieved notoriety for its apartheid policies and practices both in the country and in Namibia.

Today Israel stands accused of applying apartheid in the Palestinian territories it has occupied since 1967. Confronting Apartheid examines the regimes of these three societies from the perspective of the author’s experiences as a human rights lawyer in South Africa and Namibia and as a UN human rights envoy in occupied Palestine.

Most personal histories of apartheid in Southern Africa tell the story of the armed struggle.

This book is about opposition to apartheid within the law and through the law.

The successes and failures of civil society and lawyers in this endeavour are described in the context of the discriminatory and oppressive regime of apartheid.

The author’s own experiences in Namibia and South Africa serve to illustrate the injustices of the regime and the avenues left to lawyers to advance human rights within the law. The end of apartheid and the transition to democracy are also described through the experiences of the author.

The book concludes with an account of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories of East Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank and the author’s work as human rights investigator and reporter for the United Nations.

This involves the examination of issues such as the construction of Jewish settlements, the demolition of Palestinian homes, the restrictions on freedom of movement and the attacks on the life and liberty of Palestinians which the author argues constitute an oppressive regime falling within the definition of apartheid under international law.

A separate chapter is devoted to the situation in Gaza which was closely monitored by the author for nearly a decade.

Namibia, South Africa and Palestine are dealt with separately with introductions designed to ensure that the reader is provided with the necessary historical, political and legal background material.

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Read an excerpt from David Bristow’s The Game Ranger, the Knife, the Lion and the Sheep: 20 Tales about Curious Characters from Southern Africa

The Game Ranger, the Knife, the Lion and the Sheep offers spellbinding stories of some amazing, little-known characters from South Africa, past and very past.

Let us introduce you to some of the characters you’ll meet inside. Starting with Krotoa, the Khoi maiden who is found working in the Van Riebeeck household as both servant and interpreter.

In time she becomes the concubine of Danish surgeon Pieter Van Meerhoff and later his wife.

Then there is Mevrou Maria Mouton who preferred to socialise with the slaves than her husband on their farm in the Swartland. It was with these slaves that she conspired to murder him.

What became of them is … best those gory details are glossed over for now.

And the giant Trekboer Coenraad de Buys – rebel, renegade, a man with a price on his head who married many women (none of them white) and fathered a small nation.

The explorer Lichtenstein called him a modern-day Hercules.

Then there are the men of learning and insight, such as Raymond Dart and Adrian Boshier, who opened up the world of myth and ancient artefacts so we now better understand the ancients and the world they created for us to inherit.

Or James Kitching who broke open rocks in the Karoo to reveal creatures that inhabited this region long before even Africa was born. And so, without further ado, we give you our selection of stories about remarkable characters from the veld.

These stories will excite, entertain and enthral you! You will finish reading them wishing you had more!

George Mossop – Running the Gauntlet

A life lived to the fullest on the open veld

The Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 is remembered almost entirely for two battles. The most famous one was at Isandhlwana where a Zulu impi inflicted a humiliating blow on a rear detachment of Lord Chelmsford’s grand imperial army. The second was a follow-up engagement later that day and all that night at Rork’s Drift store and field hospital where a rag-tag assortment of reinforcements, storemen, medics and the wounded put up a most heroic defence.

Whether before a battle, or an international rugby game at Ellis Park, the opening lyrics of the Juluka classic “Impi”, cool the blood and raise the hair on one’s arms.

Impi! Wo’ nans impi iyeza.

Obani benanthinta amabubesi?

War! O here comes war.

Who here can touch the lions?

However, the war that followed was no mere two-day event, lasting some six months with many other battles and skirmishes. At least as bloody and humiliating for the British forces as Isandhlwana was the battle of Hlobane Mountain. George Mossop, a sixteen-year-old British subject of South African birth, was among those who fought there. His recounting of the action, as well as the events in his life that led up to it, is one of South Africa’s best least-known sagas.

George Joseph Mossop was born near Durban or what was then Port Natal, in the Colony of Natal in the early 1860s. He spent his youth running barefoot in the veld around Umvoti where he was supposed to be attending the village school.

“Wanderlust was in my blood,” he wrote in his memoirs in 1930, using all the scraps he’d written throughout his extraordinarily adventurous life to bolster his memory. In 1875, at the age of fourteen, he left home and set off for the Transvaal where, he understood, the real wilds of Africa could still be found.

“I became a product of the veld and the wide spaces to which I still cling, for I have never lived in a town or near one.”

In 1937, the year before he died, when he wrote a preface to his notes he admitted he had never been to the cinema or seen a circus, although he had once seen an aeroplane sailing the sky like an eagle, “though no bird ever kicked up such a fiendish row”.

His first year of freedom was spent with a party of Boers shooting game for their skins and to make biltong.

The Eastern Transvaal Highveld, now Mpumalanga, was the last refuge of the huge herds of game that once covered the entire grassland biome in tens and hundreds of thousands. Before the arrival of white hunters the Highveld would have hosted a wildlife spectacle far exceeding the now more famous Serengeti Plains.

The region was also covered in wetlands where waterfowl gathered in vast flocks, and great numbers of other birds nested in the extensive reed beds. However, one by one the reed beds were burned to convert the land for grazing. The birds moved off, never to return, and neither did most of the wetlands.

When his hunting party reached the main body of the game migration near present-day Ermelo, the Boers made camp without any hint of haste – they had done this many times before. The Good Lord would provide. Oxen were unyoked, horses knee-haltered, tents pitched, fires made, then coffee and rusks were handed round. The game was on.

Mossop said of the migration: “The scene which met my eyes the next morning is beyond my power to describe. Game, game everywhere, as far as the eye could see – all on the move, grazing.”

It seemed to the inexperienced lad that the game appeared not to be moving but that the Earth itself was carrying the vast herd of animals along with it. As he watched he realised that within the great herd were smaller groups of specific species: a herd of some five hundred black wildebeest moved towards the wagons, stopped, wheeled as one with their heads facing the shooting camp, then up went their white tails and off they moved. Then another, several thousand strong.

Next came a group of about two hundred quaggas, which were called “the zebra of the bush veld”. Mossop describes them as being taller, of lighter colour and shaggier than their more common brothers. They charged towards the wagons and came to a stop about sixty metres distant, their hooves ploughing into the ground.

Their innate inquisitiveness made them easy to shoot and the writer reckoned this was likely the last of their kind to be seen anywhere.

There were also hundreds of thousands each of blesbok and springbok. Mossop was awed, rendered speechless by the scene, but the Boers calmly went about the business of readying for the slaughter as if it were just another day’s work, stretching riems between the wagons and poles on which hides and meat would be hung.

What must the country have looked like, Mossop pondered, before the shooting had begun decades earlier? Black wildebeest moved past them at a canter, hour after hour, making speech all but impossible.

The men shot and shot and shot until they could shoot no more. At one point he asked the leader of the group, “old man Visagie”, if he did not think it wrong to slaughter all the game to the verge of extinction.

“Can you tell me, Mister Heathen,” came the stern reply, “what good this game is doing, running wild over the veld? You dare to say that the Lord did not know what he was doing when He placed them here. It is a sin to listen to such words. Never use them again in my presence.”

A year later, in 1879, the Zulu War flared up so the sixteen-year-old George rode back to Natal to sign up for duty with the Frontier Light Horse (FLH), a rag-tag group of self-equipped colonials that was modeled on the Boer commando system.

Mossop’s Bushman companion of the previous year, Gerswent, pleaded with him not to leave. The wrinkled old man said the British had no hope of beating the mighty Zulus. He had seen the British, he said, stripping naked early in the morning in winter and washing in a river. They even put their heads under the water!

The young adventurer’s journey to join up with Colonel Wood’s column took him on a tortuous route back across the Highveld and down to the Lowveld.

He got caught in a storm on the Berg escarpment near Utrecht and he and his Basuto pony, Warrior, had to brave a night of wind and driving rain “camping” – hiding behind a rock until dawn came and the storm let up.

“Although my pony was only a few feet from me, I could not see him, so thick was the darkness, but I knew that he was standing there with his tail to the blast.”

Moans and groans seemed to grip the mountainside, rushing sounds becoming ever louder until they seemed to be upon the miserable young man. When a reedbuck appeared out of the squall and let out a shrill whistle, the man crawled up close to his pony for comfort. In his day people did not prepare padkos but took whatever they had to hand. Then it was usually just a strip of biltong. Mossop finished his while sheltering behind that rock in the storm.

On 6 January 1879 he crossed the Ncome River (site of the earlier pivotal battle of Blood River between the Boers and Zulu army in the time of King Dingane) and caught up with the British army just inside Zululand: endless wagons, teams of oxen, whips cracking, drivers yelling, horsemen galloping to and fro, general bedlam.

The procedure for joining went something like this:

Officer to lad:

“That your horse?”

“Yes, sir.”

“That your saddle and bridle?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Can you shoot?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Where did you learn?”

“In the Transvaal, sir, with the Boers, shooting game.”

“How old are you?”

“Seventeen, sir.” (What was one year’s difference?)

“See him equipped, sergeant, and put him in a good tent.”

One seasoned soldier tried with some persistence to warn him to turn around and head back to from wherever he had come. The officer in charge of the Frontier Light Horse was Major Redvers Buller, later the general who led the British army at the beginning of the Anglo-Boer War when it got its imperial nose bloodied by General Louis Botha’s Boers on the Natal Front.

About the author

David Bristow grew up on the Highveld, north of Johannesburg.

Dreams of becoming an architect took a sharp turn on 16 June 1976 when “the other side” of Johannesburg seemed to suddenly go up in smoke. He resigned that day and went to study journalism at Rhodes University.

Just a few years into working as a journalist back in Johannesburg he did another 180 and resigned, this time to research and write his first book, Mountains of Southern Africa. It was an unexpected commercial success. Once again bags were packed, this time to read for a master’s degree in environmental sciences in Cape Town.

Some 20 coffee-table style books later (in between which there was a longish stint as editor of Getaway travel magazine), he decided to do what he really always wanted to: write paperback narratives about southern Africa. His first in the series of Stories from the Veld was Running Wild: The Story of Zulu, an African Stallion. This is the second.

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Launch: Born To Kwaito by Esinako Ndabeni and Sihle Mthembu (25 October)

Born To Kwaito considers the meaning of kwaito music now. ‘Now’ not only as in ‘after 1994’ or the Truth Commission but as a place in the psyche of black people in post-apartheid South Africa.

This collection of essays tackles the changing meaning of the genre after its decline and its ever-contested relevance. Through rigorous historical analysis as well as threads of narrative journalism Born To Kwaito interrogates issues of artistic autonomy, the politics of language in the music, and whether the music is part of a strand within the larger feminist movement in South Africa.

Candid and insightful interviews from the genre’s foremost innovators and torchbearers, such as Mandla Spikiri, Arthur Mafokate, Robbie Malinga and Lance Stehr, provide unique historical context to kwaito music’s greatest highs, most captivating hits and most devastating lows. Born To Kwaito offers up a history of the genre from below by having conversations not only with musicians but with fans, engineers, photographers and filmmakers who bore witness to a revolution.

Living in a place between criticism and biography, Born To Kwaito merges academic theories and rigorous journalism to offer a new understanding into how the genre influenced other art forms such as fashion, TV and film. The book also reflects on how some of the music’s best hits have found new life through the mouths of local hip-hop’s current kingmakers and opened kwaito up to a new generation.

The book does not pretend to be an exhaustive history of the genre but rather a present-active analysis of that history as it settles and finds its meaning.

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Launch: Beaten but not Broken by Vanessa Govender (12 September)

At the height of her journalism career, more than one million households across the country knew her name and her face. Her reportage on human suffering and triumph captivated viewers, and with it Vanessa Govender shot to fame as one of the first female Indian television news reporters in South Africa.

Always chasing the human angle of any news story, Govender made a name for herself by highlighting stories that included the grief of a mother clutching a packet filled with the fragments of the broken bones of her children after they’d been hacked to death by their own father, and another story where she celebrated the feisty spirit of a little girl who was dying of old age, while holding onto dreams that would never be realised. Yet Govender, a champion for society’s downtrodden, was hiding a shocking story of her own. In Beaten But Not Broken, she finally opens up about her deepest secret – one that so nearly ended her career in broadcast journalism before it had barely kicked off.

She was a rookie reporter at the SABC in 1999. He was a popular radio disc jockey, the darling of the SABC’s Lotus FM, a radio station catering to nearly half a million Indian people across South Africa. They were the perfect pair, or so it seemed. And if anyone suspected the nature of the abusive relationship, Govender says, she doesn’t believe they knew the full extent of the horror that the popular DJ was inflicting on this intrepid journalist. The bruising punches, the cracking slaps, and the relentless episodes filled with beatings, kicking and strangling were as ferocious as the emotional and verbal abuse he hurled at her. No one would know the brutal and graphic details of Govender’s story … until now.

In Beaten But Not Broken, this Indian woman does the unthinkable, maybe even the unforgiveable, in breaking the ranks of a close-knit conservative community to speak out about her five-year-long hell in this abusive relationship. Her story also lays bare her heart-breaking experiences as a victim of childhood bullying and being ostracised by some in her community for being a dark-skinned Indian girl. Govender tells a graphic story of extreme abuse, living with the pain, and ultimately of how she was saved by her own relentless fighting spirit to find purpose and love. This is a story of possibilities and hope; it is a story of a true survivor.

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Book signing: Mutts by Emma O’Brien (8 September)

Mutts is a book about rescue dogs and their heartwarming stories.

Full of character, mischief and second chances, this book will have you howling with laughter and reaching for the tissues. Featuring portraits by award-winning photographer Emma O’ Brien, Mutts will complement every dog lover’s coffee table. Many of the dogs that feature in the Mutts project were deposited at shelters because their owners didn’t want them anymore, some were abused before being rescued and some found themselves there by accident of birth.

All of them are at the mercy of someone seeing them and choosing to adopt them when there are not enough homes to go around. The book proceeds will all go to CLAW and Sandton SPCA, but the publication of Mutts is not just about raising funds, it is also to raise awareness about the number of great dogs that sit in shelters, and to encourage people to adopt.

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