A long weekend, the perfect time to catch up with reading. Why not start with this excerpt from This Day by Tiah Beautement?
This Day is Beautement’s second novel, published by Modjaji Books, and was recently longlisted for the Sunday Times Barry Ronge Fiction Prize. (See the full longlist here.)
The novel takes place during a single day in the life of Ella Spinner, who has suffered a loss that has left her alone to care for her clinically depressed husband, Bart. Sarah Lotz calls it: “A searing and sensitive exploration of grief and loss”, adding “This Day held me in its thrall in one sitting and will haunt me for a long time. The writing is pitch-perfect, beautifully crafted, and full of acute and witty observations.”
Read the excerpt:
Turning to go into the house, I spot the remaining chard, still waiting to be planted. I rush over, kneeling down beside their wee leaves with red and yellow stems. Footsteps come up behind me. ‘Ma’am, I would be happy to do that as well, if you wish.’
I glance over my shoulder. ‘No, I’m fine. Thank you, but no. It will only take me a moment.’
His expression is unreadable, but I am sure I must sound barking mad. How to explain? I can’t. As the headmistress at my boarding school used to say, ‘Discretion is a virtue too often overlooked.’ I say nothing. Thankfully he does not press the point and, without further comment, returns to the lawnmower.
The moment leaves me exhausted, sad. A desire to quit beckons. My eyes sting, willing me to give in. Pressing my teeth firmly down on my tongue I mentally begin stacking the bricks, focusing on this day’s plans: Kamala this morning, the meeting at noon, Luxolo at three. I repeat the mantra over and over again, stacking the bricks higher. My heartbeat slows. A deep breath and then another. At last the final chard is planted without incident. Each one receives a gentle pat with the edge of my fingertips before I dash indoors.
For a moment the location of my camera eludes me. It has been so long. There was a time when it lived around my neck. I wanted to hold every moment. Show everyone how the world looks through my eyes. Beauty was everywhere, even in the wrinkle of flesh or a can abandoned in the gutter. I wanted to treasure all of it as the lens pulled me through each day, providing an avenue through which to interact with South Africa.
President Jacob Zuma has responded to an open letter addressed to him by award-winning Mozambican author Mia Couto earlier this week on the subject of the recent xenophobic violence in South Africa.
Read Zuma’s response:
My Dear Brother
I was very happy to hear from you after a long time. It is a pity that we are reconnecting under sad and painful circumstances which have prompted you to write an open letter to me.
I remember you from our days in Mozambique, when you worked at the Mozambique Information Agency and when you were editor of Tempo magazine and later of Noticias.
I cannot forget the friendship that Mozambique accorded my comrades and to me personally. In fact Mozambique became my second home and it remains my home.
You are in pain as your letter indicates, because of the deaths of Mozambicans and the general attacks on foreign nationals in parts of our country. South Africans are also in pain because of the tragic and senseless killings of all seven persons in the past weeks. These are three South Africans and four foreign nationals. May their souls rest in peace and may their tragic deaths unite us all in the quest for peace and an end to violence.
The reports we have received indicate that the attacks last week in Durban were sparked off by the conduct of an employer who fired South African workers who had gone on strike and employed workers from outside the country. Even in the South African context, the employment of scab labour usually triggers an angry reaction from workers who are on strike. We join the country’s trade unions in appealing to employers to avoid such behaviour of pitting workers against one another. The Soweto attacks in January were triggered by the fatal shooting of a young man by a non-South African shopkeeper.
This is a difficult period for our country and its people. Millions of peace loving South Africans are in pain because they are being accused of being xenophobic which is not true. South Africans are definitely not xenophobic. The actions of a small minority should not be used to wrongfully label and stereotype more than 50 million people.
Since 1994, we have worked tirelessly to rebuild our country and to reverse the legacy of apartheid colonialism. We have made progress in building a society that is based on the respect for the right to life, human rights, equality and human dignity. We continue to build a society free of any form of discrimination. We are doing so because we know the pain of being discriminated against because of your skin colour, language or nationality.
You reminded me of the hospitality and generosity that was accorded to me by Mozambicans during my stay in your beautiful country in exile. We agree that we benefited immensely from international solidarity and friendship during our struggle against apartheid. Our brothers and sisters in the African continent in particular shared their meagre resources with us. Many were killed for supporting our struggle for freedom. The Matola raid in your beautiful country is an example. It is for this reason that we embrace our African brothers and sisters who migrate to South Africa legally. In fact our migration policy is advanced because we integrate refugees and asylum seekers within our communities. They live among our citizens, they are part of us. We are one people as President Samora Machel said after the tragic Matola raid in which many Mozambicans were killed by apartheid security forces.
Mozambicans and South Africans, and also FRELIMO and the ANC, enjoy deep bonds that go far back into our history. These are bonds created by our living together, our working together, and of our fighting together against colonialism and apartheid. In spite of Mozambique’s vulnerability to attacks from apartheid forces, you demonstrated an unwavering willingness to “turn a blind eye” to MK and ANC combatants so that they could pass through Mozambique and enter South Africa clandestinely to engage apartheid forces.
We built our movements together in the early years of the anticolonial struggle. We shared camps in Tanzania. Umkhonto Wesizwe (MK) cadres fought side by side with the Angolan MPLA and the Cubans to defend Angola’s independence.
South Africa has not changed and has not forgotten such comradeship and solidarity. But like most countries that have emerged from conflict, we have deep-seated challenges.
We appreciate the contribution of foreign nationals in South Africa. They contribute to our economic development by investing in the economy, bringing critical skills and through adding to the diversity that we pride ourselves in. But there are also some complaints or problems that citizens have raised which need to be addressed. These include the increasing number of illegal and undocumented immigrants in the country, the displacement of many local small traders by foreign nationals and that some of the migrant traders operate illegally. There are also accusations that foreign nationals commit crimes such as drug peddling and human trafficking, that they take the jobs of locals as employers prefer them as they are prepared to take lower wages and also complaints about free government housing that is secured by foreign nationals. We have emphasised that none of these grievances justify any form of violence against foreign nationals and that it will never be tolerated by government. We are also pointing out that not all migrants are in the country illegally and not all are involved in criminal activities.
The grievances of the South African population have to be balanced with the plight of many refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants from the continent and beyond. We therefore have a lot of work to do to find long-term solutions. We are already looking beyond the incidents of the past weeks. I have appointed an Inter-Ministerial Committee of 14 Ministers to look into the broader management of migration. Drawing support from all sectors of society, they will help us address the underlying socio-economic causes of the tensions between citizens and brothers and sisters from the continent and from countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh to prevent another flare up of violence. We have already had consultations with all sectors in our country from business, labour, sports, religious leaders, youth, women, children’s sectors and many others. I am also consulting organisations representing foreign nationals resident in the country in the process of seeking solutions. Ministers, Premiers, Deputy Ministers and other government leaders are all over the country speaking to the South African population as well as part of the consultations.
In the short-term we will also improve the implementation of the existing migration policy including tightening controls at the ports of entry and borders and also ensuring adherence to the laws of the country, while protecting migrants and the local population from criminal elements who are taking advantage of the tensions caused by socio-economic challenges. Work has also begun to review the country’s migration policy based on the current and recent experiences.
Our government will rely on the cooperation of sister countries in the continent from where most of the migrants come, as we search for solutions.
We truly appreciate the encouraging messages from the African Union, the United Nations and other regions.
What also gives us strength as government, is that we are working with the full support of our peace-loving population. The peace and friendship marches that are being held throughout the country embody the South Africa we know and the South Africa we are proud of. That is the South Africa which condemns hatred, violence, racism, xenophobia and all other related intolerances.
I invite you to join us my dear brother, as we move beyond the anger and pain, and promote sustainable and inclusive development as well as peace and friendship all over Africa.
President Jacob Zuma
Tshwane, South Africa
Source: South African Government
Images courtesy of Times LIVE and Neustadt Prize
The Sydney Writers’ Festival (SWF) – set to take place from 18 to 24 May 2015 – will feature Ben Okri as one of the international highlights on the programme. He will be the only representative from the African continent.
Okri has published nine novels, including The Age of Magic and the Booker Prize-winning The Famished Road, as well as collections of poetry, short stories and essays. His work has been translated into more than 26 languages. Okri is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, has been awarded an OBE and has won the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Africa, the Aga Khan Prize for Fiction and the Chianti Rufino-Antico Fattore International Literary Prize. He was born in Nigeria and lives in London.
He will be speaking at four events:
SWF features an incredible line-up of international literary stars, including Mohsin Hamid, Helen Macdonald, David Walliams and Alan Cumming, Richard Flanagan, James Petterson, David Mitchell, Michael Connelly and Anthony Horowitz among others.
- Dates: Monday, 18 May to Sunday, 24 May 2015
- Venues: Sydney Writers’ Festival’s main precinct is at Walsh Bay. This comprises venues at Pier 4/5, Pier 2/3 and Sydney Theatre at Walsh Bay. Events are also held at venues throughout the city, and in suburban Sydney and regional NSW. Detailed information on how to get to venues is available from individual event pages.
- Ticket cost: Free to $25
- More information: SWF
- Follow: Twitter / Facebook
For more information on the festival visit the SWF website, or read the press release sent out by the SWF organisers:
Links related to Ben Okri:
Dit is weer tyd vir die jaarlikse Suidoosterfees!
Nou in sy twaalfde bestaansjaar, bied die fees weer ’n opwindende program vol plaaslike en nasionale produksies en bekende kunstenaars van oral oor Suid-Afrika.
Vertonings vind plaas by verskeie teaters in Kaapstad, insluitend die Fugard Studio en Baxterteater. Die fees vind plaas vanaf 28 April tot 3 Mei en vanjaar se tema is “Winde van verandering”.
Boekwurms kan uitsien na verhoogproduksies van Siener in die suburbs deur PG du Plessis en Santa Gamka deur Eben Venter, asook ‘n voorlesing uit Adam Small se jongste digbundel, Klawerjas.
‘n Groep genaamd Die Argitekbekke bied ‘n wonderlike produksie met uittreksels uit die bekroonde dokumentêre film van Dylan Valley met (wyle) dr Neville Alexander – ’n Hip-hop-era-teaterproduksie wat die wortels van die Afrikaanse taal terug na die slawe en inheemse mense van die Kaap naspoor. Vir meer oor Alexander en sy besonderse bydrae tot taal in Suid-Afrika kan jy gerus Interviews with Neville Alexander: The Power of Languages Against the Language of Power en Language policy and the promotion of peace: African and European case studies lees.
Chester Missing, die uitgesproke pop wat onlangs in die sop beland het, tree ook op tydens die fees. Sy boek, Chester Missing’s Guide to the Elections ’14, het verlede jaar verskyn.
Moet dit nie misloop nie!
Loer na die program vir meer besonderhede oor hierdie vertonings:
Siener in die Suburbs
ARTSCAPE – kykNET TEATER
28 April – 3 Mei | R120
Met: Shaleen Surtie-Richards, Christo Davids, Brendon Daniels, Ivan Abrahams, Crystal-Donna Roberts, Dann-Jaques Mouton, Andrea Frankson
Ek wil van geweet wees, Ma, ek wil nie vrek soos ’n hond nie, ek wil van geweet wees.” So klink die wanhopige kreet van Tiemie die pragtige meisie (soos vertolk deur Crystal-Donna Roberts) in hierdie Hertzogprys-bekroonde drama (1971). Siener in die Suburbs speel af teen die agtergrond van maatskaplike verval, maar die fokus bly op die komplekse onderlinge menseverhoudings. “Dis nie ingewikkeld nie, nie hoogdrawend, betogend nie, dis sonder etikette, so inheems soos die skrywer self, dis komies en ontroerend.” (Chris Barnard)
The wRite associates, in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory and the Miriam Tlali Reading and Book Club, call on all writers, artists and activists to come together and say no to xenophobia.
The protest will take place on Saturday, 25 April, at the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory in Houghton from 12 to 3 PM.
Poet laureate Keorapetse Kgositsile says: “The Freedom Charter tells us that South Africa belongs to all who live in it. We also talk about Ubuntu, yet we do not embrace fellow Africans. The barbaric violence of xenophobia makes a mockery of everything we claim to value. It is time for every South African who can claim to have a conscience.”
Join the protest against xenophobic violence in our country.