This is an important post. I want to pass on a message from author Sindiwe Magona, who was one of three speakers at Exclusive Books’ 2009 Homebru launch, which took place at Melrose Arch, Johannesburg last Friday.
Put simply, Sindiwe stole the show, turning a press junket into an activist’s rally, drawing those present to her cause with an articulate, impassioned speech attacking the cultural straitjackets that become women’s death shrouds in this age of AIDS.
She was there to talk about her novel Beauty’s Gift, a 2009 Homebru selection. “It’s a book I wrote because I am very, very angry. And I wrote it in sorrow,” she said.
The Beauty of the title is a victim of the straitjacket: “faithfully married, she died of AIDS”.
Magona implored us to examine that statement, which applies to South African women by the thousand. She herself drew several conclusions from it, which, she admitted, would not make her popular among black men, or among those who defend “African tradition” at all costs.
Using startlingly direct language, Magona laid the blame for South Africa’s AIDS epidemic squarely at the feet of “our men, our husbands, our fathers, our brothers, our friends, our relatives” – making it clear that she meant men within the black community. She was equally unsparing of black women, castigating their submissiveness – their collusion in the snuffing out of their lives: “There’s status, there’s the money he gives you, there’s the good sex, there are the children, there are any number of reasons why women stay.” But they’re not minding their lives if the stay, Magona said.
“AIDS is not a black disease, we keep on saying. How many white AIDS orphans have you seen lately?” the visibly angry author asked. Then later in her speech: “How does a grown man uncover the body of a four-month old baby and see sex in it?”
Here are two video clips that capture her controlled fury:
Sindiwe Magona: “Faithfully married, she died of AIDS”
Sindiwe Magona: “It’s our men, it’s our husbands, it’s our brothers”
- Fuzzy? Not loading? Watch on BOOK SA TV
At the heart of Magona’s speech lay a plea for South Africans to cherish life. “The mother of all human rights is the right to life,” she said; as such it’s the most precious, the right most deserving of care. “You mind your life, and if you have a good heart, mind the life of your partner. We do not have to die of AIDS.”
“Mind your life,” she repeated, and the crowd at Exclusive Books wished for the message be amplified a million-fold. Mind your life.
Here is further coverage from one of the other journalists at the event, Duncan Alfreds:
Johannesburg – “I’m angry and sad and that’s why I wrote Beauty’s Gift,” said author Sindiwe Magona. “Our men – husbands and fathers rape our children.”
Magona is angry at the plight of women and children and explores this theme in her new book. “Aids isn’t a black thing, but how many white Aids orphans have you counted?” she told News24.
The diminutive Magona commanded a huge presence at the Exclusive Books Homebru event in Melrose Arch as she spoke passionately about her new book, which deals with the Aids pandemic.
- Beauty’s Gift by Sindiwe Magona
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