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Literary Crossroads: Fred Khumalo on the importance of “telling stories which have never been told”

Fred Khumalo in discussion with Panashe Chigumadzi. Photo cred: The Goethe Institute
Johannesburg’s Goethe Institute recently hosted a Literary Crossroads talk on the course of history and its inflicted casualties, emphasising the struggle of the individual for autonomy and survival and its depiction in contemporary African literature.

Fred Khumalo and Nigerian author Folu Agoi were the intended guest speakers but owing to a delay in receiving his visa on time Agoi was unable to attend the event.

Novelist and founder of Vanguard magazine, Panashe Chigumadzi, led the discussion.

Khumalo opened the discussion by reading from his debut novel, Touch my Blood (2006). The extract was a written account of “my first encounter with colonialism”, set during his studies in Canada, wherein Khumalo described the inferiority he experienced seated among ‘European’ academics.

He added that “the more I write, the the more I realise I can’t escape my history.” This comment complements his strong belief that contemporary African writers should write their own history.


Khumalo is of opinion that anger help fuels creativity and that he wrote his recent Dancing the Death Drill out of anger; anger for the denial of black voices to be heard during apartheid; anger for the denial of black history.

Upon being asked by an audience member whether Dancing the Death Drill will lead to a surge in South African historical novels, Khumalo replied that “we owe it to ourselves to tell stories which have never been told.”

If not, Khumalo argues, these stories might be appropriated by those who’ll do it injustice. According to Khumalo historical novels are the most logical way to go ahead, offering African writers the opportunity to “expand on the footnotes in history books.”

Khumalo concluded by saying that historical novels are the most supreme form of history, as it offers the African author the opportunity to write an accurate, autonomous account of their history.


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