Archive for the ‘South Africa’ Category
Business Day has shared an excerpt from South Africa’s Insurgent Citizens: On Dissent and the Possibility of Politics by Julian Brown.
In his book Brown, who teaches Political Studies at Wits University, counters the political despair that is prevalent in South Africa at the moment, arguing that “politics is alive and well – if you know where to look”.
According to Brown, there is a “new kind of politics” developing on the streets and in the courtrooms of the country, made by a new type of citizen, an “insurgent citizen”.
Read the excerpt:
THERE is one story everybody knows about SA: how the violent struggle against apartheid gave way to concessions, discussions and negotiations at the end of the 20th century, and how the leadership of Nelson Mandela and others brought about the “miracle” of a peaceful post-colonial transition.
It is a story of how a civil war was averted and how a social consensus was built around a political project — the making of a “New SA”.
It is an unsurprisingly popular story. It has been told and retold in one medium after another. It can be found in textbooks and scholarly books; in the memoirs and autobiographies of SA’s leaders; and in biopics of politicians or famous sportsmen.
It is also a dated story. Apartheid ended in 1994: its political institutions were dismantled and politics changed. And yet, two decades later, SA is once again in flux — caught in a moment in which the boundaries of politics and society are unstable and liable to change without notice.
» read article
BlackBird Books has shared an excerpt from The Pavement Bookworm by Philani Dladla.
“The Pavement Bookworm” is a former drug addict, who was out of hope and living on the street. But he used his love of books to change his life.
Dladla earned his nickname after he began reviewing and selling books to motorists on Empire Road in Johannesburg, pricing the books according to his rating. His story captured imaginations everywhere and went viral worldwide.
Today Dladla is a motivational speaker and runs a reading club for underprivileged children in Johannesburg. Visit pavementbookworm.co.za for more information on his ongoing projects.
The Pavement Bookworm tells his story, and was published towards the end of last year.
Read the excerpt from the book:
By the end of 2012, I had made enough money to go and visit my family in KwaZulu-Natal after many years. They knew that I was still alive because the Pavement Bookworm was doing the rounds in the media. At least I didn’t have to tell them my story. I bought everything brand new from head to toe and some gifts for uMa and my brothers. I still had uMa’s contact number but I didn’t call because I wanted to surprise them. After travelling for more than seven hundred kilometres crammed in a taxi we arrived at my beautiful hometown of Port Shepstone. I took another taxi to Oshabeni where my home is. It felt good being home again. My mum was happy to see me. My family had some questions for me – Where had I been? How had it been? Why it had been so long since I had made contact or sent money? Some asked if I had missed them. It was very emotional. People were very happy to see me again – even those who used to gossip about when I got stabbed, dropped out of school and tried to kill myself and called me a loser and a bad influence and nsangwini (weed addict). All was forgotten; it was like it never happened. It felt like I had a new body. My holiday was not very long because the City of Gold was calling me back, I had more dreams and they were bigger than the small town Oshabeni. If I wanted my dreams to come true I had to go back to the gold digger’s city. Look at this book you’re reading; it is one of my dreams.
I didn’t need to pack because I lived like a rat in Johannesburg. I took a bus from Oslo Beach that arrived at 5:30 am at Park Station in Johannesburg. I waited in the waiting area for the sun to rise and then went to get a few books from Henry’s place. On my way I received a call from a lady called Twanji Kalula who works for a morning show called Expresso on SABC 3. They wanted to do an interview with the Pavement Bookworm. I gave her the green light and she said she’d meet me at Empire Road with her crew at 9:30 the next morning. I was early as usual and arranged my books neatly. I started selling books while I waited for Twanji and the Expresso crew to show up. What I didn’t know was that the media attention had turned my friends sour. My own boys, my friends who lived under the bridge with me, came in numbers with new faces to attack me. They were led by Simon, popularly known as Lesiba – another heartless street king. After Bongani was stabbed to death, Simon replaced him. It was like the devil sent him to give me a hard time. He never liked me and he said I thought I was better than everyone else since I managed to quit drugs successfully. He expected me to relapse again and when that didn’t happen he started abusing me every day, calling my feeding scheme a Mickey Mouse business. He physically attacked me many times but I never fought back because he was expecting it, and then he would kill me with the okapi knife he kept in his pocket. I still have scars on my head, which are reminders of how he once broke a bottle on my head.
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Panashe Chigumadzi has written an article for The Times titled “We don’t want white apologies, we want our land back”.
In the article, Chigumadzi analyses the race debates that seized South Africa at the beginning of 2016, sparked by controversial statements by people such as Penny Sparrow, Justin van Vuuren and Chris Hart on social media.
This is a topic Chigumadzi is familiar with, having delivered a TEDxTalk in 2013 titled “A New Self-identity for Africans”.
Chigumadzi refers to a Facebook post by Anton Taylor which reads:
White South Africans play this strange game of calling each other racists. They write articles about how the Matric reading syllabus is party to a patriarchal racist colonial subterfuge but they can’t fucking bring themselves to drive a few kilometres down the road to help out at a women’s shelter. If you care that much about South African race relations then spend a few hours a week at a charity or go to isiXhosa lessons. For most white people, if we have the capacity for self-examination, we all (myself certainly included) do far too little.
As Chigumadzi points out, many black people would have a problem with this technique of combating racism. By way of example, she mentions Thando Mgqolozana’s experience and statement at Franschhoek Literary Festival last year.
“One of the things I advise – when young white people come to me and say ‘what can I do’ – the first thing you can do is stop the charity work you are doing in Khayelitsha, it’s not helping anyone. Just stop it. Stop the soup kitchens and donating blankets. It’s just making people more angry, it doesn’t change anything.”
At this point an audience member shouted out “bullshit!”
Firstly, the thing about going to “spend a few hours a week at a charity” or at isiXhosa lessons is that they are actions that happen on white people‘s terms — they happen on his or her time, at his or her comfort. These are not terms dictated by black people.
Second, and most importantly, these are actions that appease white guilt but don’t do much to attack the very root of our historical “racial” problem. They do nothing to dismantle the structural racism that is founded on the theft of land and subsequent accumulation of white generational wealth on the back of black labour.
The fact that Taylor spends a few hours at the charity will not change the fact that the face of poverty in South Africa is a black woman.
Chigumadzi’s debut novel, Sweet Medicine, is available now.
» read article
The launch of the latest in the Jacana pocket biography series took place in early December when the highly respected historian and academic Colin Bundy presented his most recent book, A Jacana Pocket Biography: Nelson Mandela at The Book Lounge.
The author was joined in a fascinating conversation with Ronnie Kasrils, the former freedom fighter and Minister for Intelligence Services who wrote the prize-winning memoir, The Unlikely Secret Agent.
Kasrils described the book as “eminently well done” while highlighting the challenge that the demands of brevity imposed upon an author. He cited the letter Karl Marx wrote to Ludwig Kugelmann where he says: “I’m begging your pardon with my letter because of the length… You see I’m in a hurry and I haven’t had time to make it more succinct.”
Bundy reflected on the fortuitous nature of the project that made it easier in some regards than his previous book, Govan Mbeki: A Jacana Pocket Biography. Because Mandela’s life was so widely documented he could leave out some of the widely known facts and “go for the telling details, the anecdote that nailed the subject, leaving plenty of room for opinion as well as detail …”
For well over an hour a passionate discussion on the life of the first president of a democratic South Africa held everyone in the audience enthralled. The speakers explored the dramatic political changes that occurred at the time of Mandela’s liberation and election, weighed the decisions that were taken at the time and considered the spontaneous unfolding of events that occurred some 20 years ago. Kasrils reflected on the legacy of remembrance, noting that Mandela became the face of the ANC on his 60th birthday when people around the world flooded the postmaster at Robben Island with postcards.
“This began the process of his becoming an icon and the personification of the struggle, shifting the awareness from the 10 Rivonia trialists to a single face, that ultimately became larger than life.”
In Bundy’s view, icons are a short cut to understanding that help people formulate their thinking. He said:
The South African drama played out in the full glare of the world media. What made their job a little easier was that it came with a ready made hero. Since 1978 there had been an accretion of symbolism around his absence. His silence reverberated. Then on 11 February 1990, suddenly the myth became man. There he was, beautifully dressed. We remember the famous iconic photo where he stands hand in hand with Winnie. The next morning he gives that rather exhausted address from Cape Town City Hall balcony.
The next morning he meets over 200 local and international journalists in the garden at Tutu’s mansion. The press conference lasts two hours. Every time a journalist puts up his hand, Mandela would recognise him and say, ‘Oh, I read your article in so-and-so …’ but more than that, he did this extraordinary thing that later became so familiar to us: that mixture of gravitas, dignity, self deprecating humour, and very careful balance. At the end of that press conference, 200 hard-bitten journalists swallow their objectivity, forgot that they were reporters, and stood up to applaud the man.
Bundy noted that this was a particularly significant moment that was about myth, a sudden icon, and an icon living up to a degree of what was expected of him. “It foretold a lot of what came later, his position as anointed leader, his willingness to adopt that position and to speak for the movement,” he said.
Kasrils suggested there was an element of the confident play actor in this moment, that Mandela knew he had people eating out of his hand. “Because he could afford to be that modest one has to ask whether it was genuine,” he continued.
Bundy pinpoints 1978 as the moment when a conscious myth-making began about Mandela:
It’s also the moment when regulations on Robben Island become more relaxed. From 1979 onwards, Mandela wrote daily on big full page calendars. Over the years, Mandela logs various peace prizes, honorary doctorates and external affirmations of his position of leadership.
He’s very consumed with the realisation that he will have to live up to the expectations. He senses fully what they are. He spoke from Cape Town saying, ‘I’m here as a servant of the people’, but he’s very consciously adopting a leadership role.
Kasrils reflected on the fall out on Robben Island between two groups of ANC leaders that left Govan Mbeki and Nelson Mandela in a locked position, where issues of temperament and personality were involved. Mandela was one of “a pantheon of capable leaders” but his leadership was contested by Govan Mbeki. Kasrils said, “While none could compete with his stature, he was a boring speaker … but by God they deferred to his leadership! He was the messiah. Not just of the ordinary people, but of those with money, those that fix things, the corporate world, here and internationally. He was the answer to their prayers.”
Another fascinating turn taken in the discussion between Bundy and Kasrils was the mention of An Inconvenient Youth by Fiona Forde. Kasrils reflected on the issue of how Julius Malema touches a raw nerve calling Mandela a sell-out. “He’s a rough diamond. He makes people think. You might not like what he says …”
Bundy said that Malema did not invent a criticism of Mandela:
In 1993 a young black truck driver told Jeremy Cronin that the real Mandela had been killed in prison, that his lookalike had been coached for years until he was ready to be released and that was the man they could do business with.
It’s a nice fable but when Mandela is in his prime, in the run up to the elections and as president, it became very difficult for people to voice their criticism. Once he was ailing and very old the occasional, usually partisan critique was expressed. So vehement was the media and State disapproval that few could offer their dissent.
Zakes Mda, an independent minded author, wrote an obituary that lacked the reverence dripping from the obituaries. He wrote: ‘There is an increasingly vocal segment of black South Africans who feel that Mandela sold out the liberation struggle to white interests.’
Bundy also cited the composer Neo Muyanga saying that the criticism of Mandela is kind of code for black anger at white South Africans, positing the question: If Mandela is so sacrosanct for whites, must he not be suspect in some way?
In Bundy’s view, Malema caused such a furore because he is criticising something beyond himself and the EFF. “The last six months, Rhodes Must Fall, and particularly during Fees Must Fall, has seen youth and student activists increasingly distancing themselves from the 1994 settlement and therefore, from Mandela, because he is so closely associated with it,” Bundy said.
“Fees Must Fall has potentially been the moment where the ANC loses the allegiance of better educated, urban Born Frees. That scares the political party rigid. It certain should,” he said.
“It’s because Malema is voicing those undercurrents, that kind of sussuration of discontent that echoes with Africanist impatience, that have made his remarks so combustible!” Of particular significance was the parallel drawn between Julius Malema and the young Nelson Mandela.
Kasrils believed it was vital to assess the context in which the changes took place between 1990 and 1994:
There’s aspects of Mandela’s life with which we are all very well acquainted. Everybody was petrified that we were looking into the abyss as we faced Boipatong and the ‘Third Force’.
Nobody thought or imagined that the leviathan National Party was moving towards universal franchise. We then have a Mandela – in brilliance – who is able to bring round those of us who didn’t believe. He was absolutely correct. It was possible. In retrospect it is easy to see how the barons of industry emerged intact. Because we didn’t have a grip on economic controls, we have not been able to deal with poverty, with rubbish education and health. Therefore, you put it off, when the chickens come home to roost, they’re as big as turkeys!
Bundy reflected on the critique of the “sellout”. There’s a fascinating way in which that individualised and personalised critique is a mirror image of the lionisation of Mandela as the saviour. “They’re both historically barren and mythic. Mandela’s key role was symbolic. More than any other single politician he voiced the aspiration of the black, disenfranchised majority, and at the same time, he assured white South Africans that they were part of the future. Obviously, he didn’t do it on his own. He did it because there were very strong intellectual, political, social, local and international forces driving those decisions.”
Bundy and Kasrils noted that the economics were overlooked:
Mandela was not an economist. On 11 February he said we’ll nationalise the banks and the land and everything else in a speech written by a committee. By the time he gets to Davos 18 months later, he personally removes nationalisation from the agenda, but he was moving in step with the leadership of the party, and in particular, the exiled leadership.
By that time they’ve bought into an acceptance of the need to compromise, specially on issues of the economy. Mandela’s role was twofold. First, he was personally susceptible to the blandishments, flattery and persuasion and arguments of capitalists. Malema’s right. If Madiba is lunching at Brenthurst, why shouldn’t the ANC executive?
The dire situation South Africa now faces is a measure of the truth that “the chickens are coming home to roost”. Of particular prescience was Kasrils’ “mea culpa”. He repeated a number of times the deep regret that he did not stand up to Mandela on the importance of addressing poverty via economic remedies.
This was an evening to remember and those who were present benefited hugely from hearing this eloquent, passionate and well informed dialogue.
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Liesl Jobson (@LieslJobson) tweeted live from the event using the hashtag #livebooks:
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» read article
Incredible Journey: Stories that Move You, the third annual Short Sharp Stories anthology, featuring short stories by 20 writers, was released last year and launched at The Book Lounge.
This year’s winner was Andrew Salomon, who took home the R20 000 prize for his story “Train 124″.
In an interview with Two Dogs/Mercury, Salomon says: “A lot of ‘Train 124’ is borrowed from actual experience – more so than any other short story I have written – and I guess that confirms that truth is often stranger than fiction.”
The Mail & Guardian has shared an excerpt from the story. Read it here:
Neurodevelopmental disorder. Sensory hypersensitivity. These are medical terms and the first includes an eighteen-letter word. Too many. Words get awkward above ten letters. I have been diagnosed with both of these disorders by mental health professionals. On the screen in front of me – in easy-to-read tabular form – are the results from my latest biannual psychological assessment. The results show no discernible change in impairment from the same assessment twelve months ago. I could have just told them that.
The professional are wrong. I am not impaired. What I have are talents that happen to complicate my life. I close my laptop and pick up my bag. I have a train to catch.
It takes four hundred and sixty four steps from my gate to the spot where I wait for the train: by the yellow metal pole supporting the public announcement system on the platform at Kenilworth Station. This includes the steps down into and up out of the tunnel running under the tracks.
On the way to the station I pass the parking area on the corner of Kenilworth Road and Second Avenue. Stop there for DVDs, Chinese food and tapas. This time of morning there are only seven cars, covered in dew: three white, two silver, one black, one blue (scratched).
There is one person crossing the parking area: a one-legged man. No crutches. He hops instead. The empty trouser leg is pinned up to his waist. He covers about half a metre with each hop. The one-legged man stops and turns his face to me. I’m waiting for it. The middle finger.
The judges of this year’s competition are Henrietta Rose-Innes, Ken Barris and Makhosazana Xaba, with a foreword to the collection by Sindiwe Magona. The curator of the Short Sharp Stories Awards is Joanne Hichens.
» read article
Sweet Medicine by Panashe Chigumadzi invites readers to sit down and discover Zimbabwe beyond the news headlines, painting a glorious picture of life as seen through the eyes of Tsitsi – a young, well-educated woman who is simply trying to make a living in the only way available to her. It’s a story of compromise between the way she was raised, as a devout Catholic, and the harsh realities of life.
This is a novel unlike any other; written in a fresh, authentic voice. Buy two copies, one to keep and one to pass around your circle of friends.
To give you a taste of Chigumadzi’s magnificent debut novel, which was published by BlackBird Books at the end of last year, we will be sharing an extended excerpt from Sweet Medicine in three parts over the coming weeks.
Enjoy part one of three:
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“So,” Chiedza announced dramatically as she sat down on a chair at their usual table, “I’m here with my sugar daddy, Jonathan, the American spy I met at Borrowdale Race Course.”
“A spy? ChiChi, what kind of movie are you living in?” Tsitsi scrunched her nose.
“Yes, Tsitsi, a spy! You think Zvobgo and his crew are just paranoid? This Jonathan, he’s a real-deal spy.” “So if he’s the real deal, what’s he doing with you?” “I think he has jungle fever,” she threw back her head and began to cackle. “I even asked him what his fascination with black women is. Told him that I’m sure that black, white, and even purple women for that matter, have the same anatomy. He just laughed and grabbed my bum. Anyway, he’s in a meeting in one of the rooms here, so he told me to keep myself entertained until he’s done. And then, you know …” Chiedza’s voice grated with exasperation. She used her eyes to great effect. She loved to dramatise everything she said. She pretended to gag as she rummaged through her handbag for a packet of cigarettes. Tsitsi watched as Chiedza lit up, the smoke curling high up to the chandelier above them. She thought about how all of this, made even more deplorable with the impending addition of alcohol, would have scandalised her mother and, not too long ago, would have scandalised her too.
Aside from the release, Chiedza smoked as a way to keep the weight off. “You know I don’t have curves like you, Tsitsi. Ndikafuta, I will never become a Coke bottle,” she said as she mimed the shape of the bottle with her hands. “Instead, I’ll be more like a fridge or a bottle of Mazoe!” She would, she said, make a large fridge too – like the one Tsitsi had bought for Mama and Sekuru Dickson – and burst into laughter.
Chiedza’s make-up was painted on in bold, garish colours as if to implicate her American lover in a scuffle the previous night. Tsitsi herself was unrecognisable from her usual, traditional guise. She had her twelve- inch weave brushed out in full display and wore a tight-fitting dress. In any case, it didn’t really matter if she was recognised as Zvobgo’s Live-In-Girlfriend, because the diplomats, forex dealers, authorised journalists and the like, all tacitly agreed to a code of self-censorship or risked implicating themselves in the immorality.
Chiedza had always been industrious. When her older sister, Netsai, had been an air hostess with Air Zimbabwe, she had been one of the first to begin importing goods from London.
She applied the same kind of diligence to her beauty. She was the kind of woman who had an immediate effect on men, simply because her entire being, her whole demeanour, was sexual. And so she often dispensed with rules of courtship, relying on an innate ability to approach men directly and still have them pursue her after the first encounter. When she had worked as a waitress, it was for what she called ‘the networking opportunity’. According to Chiedza, it was better than being a secretary. Her hours were flexible, for one. And, of course, she could pick and choose. She could afford to be non-committal – there was a greater variety of men available to her, so she could be discriminating in her choices.
On quiet days, when the restaurant manager was not there, she often used to take the patrons’ orders before sitting down at the table with them, a move that always disarmed them and, for many, elicited a nervous sense of excitement at her show of assertiveness, a hint of sexual confidence and prowess. The kind of show that let them know that this was a woman who could ride on top. For those with imagination, her build lent itself to the image of a sturdy mare, one they would not need to be gentle with, one they could ride and be rough with, feeling her take, and enjoy, all of them, unlike the gentle and fragile virgins they had married.
Chiedza called a waiter to their table. “Whisky on the rocks please.”
“Just a Coke for me.’’
“Nhai iwe, Tsitsi, I thought you asked me to come out for drinks?” Chiedza pulled the waiter’s arm. “You remind me,” she said to Tsitsi, “of the religious zealot you used to be.’’ She turned to the waiter. “She’ll have the same. Just add lime for taste.”
Tsitsi tried to object, but she knew that this was all beyond her control and it wasn’t long before their waiter was returning with their fourth round. By then she no longer noticed. And when the waiter came back with their fifth, Tsitsi took her drink right off his tray before he had the chance to set it down.
On an inebriated wave, Tsitsi continued her soliloquy. She felt self-conscious of the repetition, but the relief from unburdening herself got the better of her.
“Shuva, Chiedza,” she paused to consider her words, “I have it better than those holier-than-thou women with their marriages.”
“You know, T, I took a psychology course for two semesters.” Chiedza leaned forward, placing her arms on the table, so that Tsitsi could smell her whisky-and- smoke-laced breath, “And do you know what was the most important lesson that I learned?”
Tsitsi shook her now heavy head.
“I’ll tell you, the most important thing that I learnt was not from a textbook, but from experience. It’s that the beautiful thing about the mind is that if you tell yourself a lie enough times, you will start believing it. The Catholic saint who dreamed of a big white wedding has talked herself into living in sin.”
“Look, whatever keeps you happy, my dear. And, most importantly, whatever keeps you fed in this upside-down BACOSSI economy, handiti?’’
Tsitsi held her head in her hands and then looked up, forcing a smile. “Chi, it’s easier this way. He’s my husband now.’’
Chiedza stubbed her cigarette in the ashtray, then fished for another in her bag. Despite a number of strikes, the match wouldn’t light. She got up and approached the next table with the confidence of a woman who is used to having her way with men – men who are in fact looking to be tempted.
The men at the next table – old white men with skin pink from a day in the Sunshine City – smoking cigars, and they happily obliged, even offering her a cigar, not only because Chiedza was possibly the central character to a fantasy they wished to act out, Tsitsi guessed, but also because of the easy camaraderie of smokers that never ceased to amaze Tsitsi.
One of the men happily produced a lighter, and popped it, igniting the flame. Chiedza bent over, putting the cigarette already in her mouth to it, and inhaled. Immediately, she seemed to come back into focus, taking deep pleasure in the fumes.
“Thanks ka?” she winked at them.
“Why don’t you join us?” his friend asked.
“Next time,” she glanced back over her shoulder,
smug with satisfaction. Settled back in her seat, Chiedza remained quiet for a short time, inhaling the smoke from her cigarette before continuing.
“The most difficult kind of honesty is honesty with yourself, Tsitsi – you know that.” Chiedza drank deeply before leaning in towards her. “But tell me, you must be getting bored, lying under the same septuagenarian?’’
“No. Not really.’’ Tsitsi averted her eyes.
“Zvenyu! He’s that good, huh? Inga, rather! I have to say, I didn’t see it coming from that potbelly.’’
“No. We haven’t—” her speech slowed as she struggled to find the words jumping around in her head, which was now pounding with a bad headache.
“You haven’t what?”
She straightened herself and raised her hand for their waiter. “Bring me some water, please.”
“Tsitsi, what? You haven’t what?”
“Whatever I say can and will be used against me. I hereby invoke my Miranda Rights to remain silent under questioning.”
Chiedza laughed heartily, almost choking on her whisky.
“What? Your Miranda Rights! Don’t make me laugh!”
Tsitsi smiled, “I took a law course too, you know.” “I am your friend and have a right to know. Where there is a conflict, The Right of the Friend to Know takes precedence over the Miranda Rights.”
Tsitsi remained silent until the waiter returned with the glass. She gulped down the water and immediately called for another. Now more in control of the words in her head, she began again.
“Chiedza, Zvobgo and I haven’t done it in a while.’’
She said the words quickly in the hope that they would float up, disappear lightly into the air with her friend’s cigarette smoke, but Chiedza latched onto them.
“Wow, so His Excellency His Grace Comrade Zvobgo is a keeper. You stinge him and he doesn’t kick you out?’’
“No, Chi, he’s been focused on other things.’’
“Other things?’’ Chiedza narrowed her eyes. “You mean other women? Shamaz, I’ve been with enough men to know that a man has to eat.’’ She sat her glass down and called for the waiter again. “Imwe whisky, Sekuru.”
Tsitsi broke eye contact. “No. He wouldn’t.’’
“Ha, Tsitsi, are you saying our man is like Banana?” The thought flitted through her brain, but she quickly suppressed it. “No, no, Chi – I know he likes women.”
Chiedza did not seem convinced. “My dear, what makes you think you are so exceptional?”
“Never mind, Chiedza. It’s nothing. Really, nothing.” Even her own insistence struck her as suspicious. She forced an approximation of a laugh, “I know my Zvobgo wouldn’t do anything, okay?”
“And why not? If he could do it to her, he can do it to you.”
Chiedza carried on oblivious as Tsitsi remained silent, the dull throb in her head beginning to surface again. She felt dizzy.
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Social media has been up in arms, and rightfully so, after a racist comment made by KZN estate agent Penny Sparrow in which she openly referred to black people as monkeys on her Facebook page:
Sparrow’s name has been trending on Twitter all day, with calls for action against blatant racists like her:
The conversation that has been sparked by Sparrow’s offensive comment, and other similar social media posts, has reminded us of a point made by Sweet Medicine author Panashe Chigumadzi during the 2013 TEDxJohannesburg gathering.
In a lecture titled “A new self-identity for Africans”, Chigumadzi called for the “deprogramming of the colonised mind with programming”, reflecting on the racist notions that exist in post-apartheid South African media and society. South Africans, or more specifically black South Africans, suffer from a 300 year old negative colonial narrative that has shaped not only how the world sees them, but in many ways also how they see themselves – as inferior citizens of the world. Case in point: Sparrow’s comment (and the words of those who ‘defend’ her).
Analysing results from a media monitoring project, Chigumadzi looked at messaging and the control of African media to see how black people are projected. Racist notions that exist include the following:
1. Blacks are criminals
2. Blacks are irrational
3. People act according to their ethnic identity
Chigumadzi defines the concept ‘sterotype threat’ and makes a call for Africans to take back the stereotypes that exist about them; she urges black people to exercise control over the way in which they are perceived.
Watch the video to see examples of how that has and can be done through media, including how to speak up when negative racial notions are encouraged by individuals and media organisations:
Let’s redefine what it means to be black and African and reaffirm ourselves in our identity. Let’s deprogram our colonised minds, with good, compelling content.
Read more about Panashe Chigumadzi and her magnificent debut novel:
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Piggy Boy’s Blues by Nakhane Touré is undoubtedly one of the strongest debut novels of the year.
It’s a portrait of a Xhosa royal family past its prime and glory and follows Davide’s journey as he travels from the city back to the place where he was born in the Eastern Cape.
Piggy Boy’s Blues is a brave, experimental novel with a strong focus on creative exploration, which shines a light on an area on the margins.
For a taste of Touré’s moving novel, and to meet members of the M family who are central to Piggy Boy’s Blues, read an excerpt from Part 2 of the story:
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Esther and Jeremiah
It was winter and the streets of Cape Town were cold and grey. In the tiny room she rented Esther had just told Jeremiah her news, trembling like a blade of grass. They were in love. He laughed to himself while he paced the room, more a little snigger than a laugh, which she thought was cruel. For Jeremiah the room had suddenly become unbearably hot. He removed his coat and flung it next to her on her bed. “It’s itchy,” he said, flaring his nostrils, excusing himself like a schoolboy. She watched her hands and asked, biding her time: “Itchy?” She had nothing else to say. He nodded his head, still pacing the room. He loosened his tie. Something in his mind had begun to take shape. An idea was being knit. He had made the same mistake twice. Twice! he thought, not daring to say it to Esther. He was elated, though, for this time it was with a woman he loved. Thank God! He stopped pacing and smiled at her. She considered him suspiciously. He told her about a plot of not so modest land he had waiting for him to build on in a small town in the Ciskei called Alice. They would, he said, if they could not take the city any longer, move to the countryside. She could give birth there, and he would tend to the field. He was quixotic, Esther’s Jeremiah.
“Like Adam and Eve!” he said excitedly after she had agreed to go with him.
“Adam and Eve?” she smiled. The baby in her belly was growing.
“We’ll elope!” He was seized with a young lover’s bliss. The idea, corrupt, yet repeated throughout history, presented itself to him as an adventure. He had read about it in literature, and even though he had often felt the characters were foolish for leaving behind the comforts of what they knew, he also felt a distant pang of longing for their danger. He was prudent enough to know not to ever share those feelings with Esther. She was less excited, but not unyielding.
He sent the necessary telegrams to his cousin to start bordering his land. He sent another to his father in the Transkei, briefly notifying him of his decision. His father replied: “Do what you need to do. You’re a man. Just remember that there is a way of doing these things.” There was a postscript: “Your wife has gone mad.” He read the telegram and crumpled it in his fist, assuaging the unpleasant knowledge of his abandoned wife and son with the still fresh joy of his new family with Esther. “In my own land, with a woman I love!” He would not be derailed. He would not shrug off his responsibility to his new family.
When they arrived in Alice it was spring. Jeremiah and Esther moved into their single-roomed house which they christened Four Corner. As they settled, his cousin, rural, with fists on his waist asked: “Will this be all right for now, blood of my blood?” Jeremiah scooped him in his arms and kissed him conspicuously on the mouth. His cousin straightened his shirt, mortified, and cleared his throat loudly. Esther amusedly watched Jeremiah’s cousin wipe spittle off his lip while she sat on one of the two single beds. After his cousin had left, glad that he had caused them joy, Jeremiah sighed, then spoke after a long moment of considered silence.
“A land of milk and honey … and corn and cattle and sheep and goats.” He laughed. “And our baby.” He ran to Esther and rubbed her belly. She chuckled. “Our own Canaan,” he beamed. “Can you believe it?” He shook his head, tears in his eyes. The house was an unconventional rondavel. Where others were round and thatched, this one was square and roofed with corrugated iron. The plot of land was at the bottom of the valley. The only obstacle between it and the river was a graveyard for members of the village who did not belong to the M. family. Jeremiah had plans. He and Esther were clean slates, blank canvases begging for paint. With the move final and unchanging, they became wilfully syncretistic, vowing also to give their children only Xhosa names.
* * *
Though they were men of blood, shield and spear, it has been known that the M. men could never stomach the bloody bearing of their spawn. Ask all who knew them. Ask all who told tales about them, whether malign or benign. The scenes throughout their history portrayed men who ran, tripping over stones and their own feet, to fetch midwives to relieve them of their screaming wives. It is said that M., the progenitor, after leaving his wife in the capable hands of several midwives, ran to his tribe’s chief to speak, at random and without coherence, about the deploying of troops (this was after the Mfengu tribe had settled) until young men came running to announce the birth of his twins.
Although he was no novice to the anguishes of childbirth, Jeremiah M., like his forefather, still floundered at the deep end of his anxiety the day his son was born. He ran up the hill like an untethered horse, ignoring his new neighbours’ calls and greetings, to beg for the assistance of his cousin’s wife. When they drove back down to his land, he was beating the back of the driver’s seat with the impatience of a spoiled child. Esther’s shrieks welcomed them into the yard and he mopped his brow as they stepped out of the car, having lost his impatience.
“Are you coming in?” his cousin’s wife asked as Jeremiah lingered by the door. Her husband laughed knowingly. “Ah. Yes,” she confirmed and conveyed her understanding with the slant of her pursed lips and climbed up the three stairs into Four Corner. After she had closed the door, the two men exchanged disparate looks: Jeremiah’s face expressed panicked consternation with bewildered, darting eyes, exacerbated by his cousin’s teasing smile. Jeremiah folded in his lips and stormed out to the temporary zinc shed he had built to keep his gardening tools. His cousin followed him silently, taking care not to speak a word until Jeremiah required him to. He stood with his head bent while he listened to the sharp and blunt sounds of metal and wood falling on each other and the floor. Jeremiah exited the shed fuelled by the desire to work. He concerned himself now and until the shrieking ceased with all things terranean. He laid the tools on the floor: a spade, a scythe, a rake and a fork, and turned to his cousin sharply.
“Are you going to help me with this?” he said belligerently, picking up the spade.
Mute and compassionate (for he was no different from other M. men), his cousin picked up the fork and they both stepped on the upper edges of their tools, driving them into the ground to turn soil. After a while of this, Jeremiah, unable to endure his wife’s cries, walked back to his shed and returned with a rootstock. He was unsure of where exactly he wanted to plant it, so he surveyed his land and began to walk. When he came to the edge of the plot, he stopped and began to dig.
After he had smoothed over the surface soil, he trudged back to his cousin, and they silently waited for the news.
Esther gave birth to her first son – Jeremiah’s second – and they named him Ndod’enkulu M. His umbilical cord was buried in the kraal Jeremiah had built with his own two hands and the help of his more capable cousin. They slaughtered a goat for him to present him to their ancestors. A week later, on a Sunday, they were at the Presbyterian Church baptising and introducing him to the holy trinity of their missionary station’s youth.
* * *
When all the necessary rituals had been performed, Jeremiah, happy as a feeding lamb, walked to town to send the news to his father. Seeing that he was unable to spend a minute without the company of the advice-giving village women, on his slow walk he pondered on the words he would use to convey his joy. His last few telegram exchanges with his father had been replete with passive aggressive sentences from both parties, and now he was on a mission to convey the indescribable joy that the birth of Ndod’enkulu had given him. He rehearsed the words repeatedly, sharing the news with every person he passed that he knew, and they commented, sharing in his joy:
“Yes, we can see. You walk with the spring of a man who has become a father for the first time.”
Beauty was everywhere. Even the nuisance of cow dung on the road presented him with the splendour of being alive. Flowers were blossoming. Trees were tall and green with new Spring leaves. The drone and buzz of bees – a sign of good luck and the watch of his ancestors in his clan – were the notes of a marvellous melody to his ears. The cars that passed him conveyed mankind’s progress in technology. He walked on, springs under the soles of his shoes. By the time he reached the post office, his joy had wiped clean the words he had so judiciously rehearsed that he resorted to the simplest language. The telegram read:
“It is a son. His name is Ndod’enkulu.”
Two days later a telegram from his father arrived.
“I have received your telegram. Your wife has died. Don’t bother to make plans for the funeral. She has already been laid to rest in the family graveyard where she belongs. Mdibanisi is well and healthy. He lives!”
On his slow walk back home he was stricken by the realization that the news had affected him more severely than he could have predicted. Not that he could have predicted this tragedy, he reasoned. How could he? After reading the telegram, he had felt something heat up inside him and for a moment had thought that everyone around him had been watching him. He had shoved the telegram into his pocket, leaving the Post Office abruptly and almost ran round the corner. He sunk his hand back into his pocket and fingered the telegram. In his mind’s eye he saw the exclamation mark that ended his father’s telegram. He’s trying to drag my sprits low, he thought. He’s poking me in the eye. There it was, all vertical with a loud finality, a stamp serving him what he deserved. But how could it be? he thought. Nombuso? Dead? Tears came to his eyes.
From a distance was a grey blot in the expanse that was his house. In there was his future, and (!), he thought, that was where his attention was needed. This grief needed to be private and small. It needed to pass quickly. He took the telegram out of his pocket and folded it into the smallest possible square he could manage and jammed it back into his pocket.
“I will not lose this joy!” he said aloud.
* * *
She threw the telegram on his sleeping face, waking him up with a start. For a moment, he cowered like a slave, shielding his face from a blow. She had hoped for a paper cut. But the piece of paper lay flimsily next to Jeremiah’s head, offensively innocuous from the creases caused by multiple folds. Ashamed of his knowledge, he scraped the paper off the sheet and crumpled it in his fist under the covers. He turned his head to Esther’s bed where Ndod’enkulu slept peacefully. Since he was prone to midnight weeps, the couple was used to speaking in hushed tones. Esther hovered over him and whispered viciously.
“Why are we not married, Jeremiah?”
“What?” he croaked, resting his weight on his elbows.
Now Esther was one for performing decorum. Having slept with Jeremiah before they got married was deviation enough for her. Eloping!? That was an even more indecorous transgression. She had acquiesced to the plan based on the idea that once they had arrived in Jeremiah’s Promised Land, he would marry her. That way, her shame could be salved. In the man’s defence, he never once brought up the subject of marriage (for reasons clearly known). Perpetual cohabitation? Yes, perhaps. He had not grasped (fogged by the excitement of the adventure in his life) that Esther thought the two mutually inclusive. She hovered over him, livid, her breasts heaving heavily.
When she had found the telegram in Jeremiah’s pocket, she had resolved to handling the situation maturely and amicably. Watching him first cower, then feign innocence, introduced her to an anger she did not know she possessed.
“Why…are…we…not…married…yet?” She spoke each word individually, as if teaching a child.
Jeremiah sat up and found himself mute as a goat.
“Were you waiting for her to die?” Esther continued. “Is this what you wanted to happen?”
“Listen …” he tried to find words to conciliate, not knowing what to do with his hands. He put them back under the covers.
“Who are you?” she whispered, giving him a disgusted stare. “Whose child do I have?”
“What difference does it make now?” he said.
“What difference does it make?” she echoed him acerbically. “Do you, in any way, feel any guilt for what you’ve done? Oh!” She stood and paced the room. “I’ve been a mistress. I’m an accomplice to a terrible, terrible crime.” She walked back to him and sat on his bed.
“I loved you,” he said.
“You’re an animal.”
“What am I going to do now?”
“Stay with me?”
“After knowing what you are capable of?”
“I loved you.”
“You’ll do the same to me.”
“How could you even say something like that? You know me – ”
“We love each other, Esther. And there – ” he pointed to their son “ – is proof of that love. I would never leave this. I would never find anything I would want to leave this for.”
“I am a mistress,” she mused miserably.
She took a deep breath and studied Jeremiah. He reached out and squeezed her arm.
“We’re going to hell for this,” she said desolately.
* * * * * * * * *
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Africa Press is proud to present Perfect Hideaways in South Africa by Paul Duncan and Helen Untiedt:
Just in time for Christmas, a new illustrated coffee table book answers a simple question: what makes the perfect holiday home in South Africa? Increasingly in South Africa, there’s a nostalgic longing for simple country living, a need to satisfy the urge to decamp from the city to a bolt hole somewhere remote from everyday life. From bush to beach, from city to wilderness, Perfect Hideaways in South Africa features a range of holiday homes that, by virtue of their unique locations, offer varieties of different experiences. They’re found on remote escarpments of the Western Cape hinterland, in the vineyard-filled valleys of the Boland and among the mountains of the Overberg. And whether or not they’re on the edge of small country towns in the Sandveld and the Swartland, each has been invested with the passions and personality of its owner.
Staying in any of them is an adventure and part of the joy of uncovering an interesting and unusual house is the discovery that there are like-minded people creating homes from home in often impossibly wild places. In perpetual quest for houses which are handsome or pretty, or have unusual, striking looks and unique features, or which stand in a spectacular setting, there’s list of attributes and amenities that make up the perfect holiday house. This book celebrates a long list of them, identifying precisely what it is that makes an ok holiday home “perfect”.
Perfect Hideaways in South Africa is a lavishly illustrated book of South African travel, interiors and lifestyle written by Paul Duncan and published for Perfect Hideaways by Africa Press, his new imprint bringing to the reader curated worlds with authentic, accessible and engaging southern African content whose significance is more than just a passing celebration of “local is best”.
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Exclusive Books Constantia, Jacana Media and Mercury would like to invite you to a book signing with Peter Church.
Church will be signing copies of his new novel, Blue Cow Sky: A comic novella of sexual proportions, on Saturday, 12 December from 11 AM to 12 PM.
Blue Cow Sky is the story of a down-on-his-luck writer called Leo. Leo is Holden Caulfield meets Dirk Diggler meets Hunter S Thompson while trying to find himself
(and write the great postmodern novel) in the guest cottages of bored Constantia housewives, the homeless shelters of Kalk Bay and the storage barns of McGregor.
Don’t miss this!
- Date: Saturday, 12 December 2015
- Time: 11 AM to 12 PM
- Venue: Exclusive Books Constantia
Corner of Constantia Main and Spaanschemat River Roads
Constantia | Map
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