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Archive for the ‘South Africa’ Category

Trade Secrets contributor Stephen Symons on human conflict, reconciliation, and avoiding literary cleverness

Stephen Symons is a graphic designer and poet. Currently, he is a PhD candidate at the Centre for African Studies (UCT). Stephen’s PhD research focuses on how former South African Defence Force (SADF) conscripts (1980-1990) navigate memories of induction into the SADF and whiteness in post post-apartheid society. He holds an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Cape Town. His poetry, essays and short-fiction have been published in journals, magazines and various anthologies, locally and internationally, including Prufrock, Carapace, Stanzas, New Contrast, New Coin, Type/ Cast, uHlanga, Aerodrome, Poetry Potion, The Kalahari Review, LitNet, Badilisha Poetry, Wavescape, Patricia Schonstein’s Africa anthology series and the Short.Sharp.Stories anthologies. Stephen’s debut collection of poetry, Questions for the Sea was published in 2016 by uHlanga Poetry Press. He lives in Oranjezicht with his wife and two children.

Stephen and Joanne Hichens, curator of the Short.Sharp.Stories Award, recently discussed his Trade Secrets entry, the inevitability of politics slipping into your work, and avoiding literary cleverness.

‘My Cuban’ is a thrilling story by poet, Stephen Symons, which shows this talented writer trying out a new form. By the end of the story, I wished it was the first chapter of a 20-chapter novel. I hope this poet, now turned short story writer, might yet have a novel for the world. His craft and structure are excellent. It is a reader’s delight to encounter a writer who balances the condense power of poetry in the expanded line of fiction’ – Liesl Jobson

You have written that your commended story, ‘My Cuban’, ‘…oscillates between the lingering memory of an aerial encounter over Angola during the Border War and the difficulties of wrestling with an ambiguous present’. What do you mean when you talk of an ‘ambiguous present’?

Contemporary ‘South Africa’ often seems like a surreal cyclic space where the histories and narratives of the past are open to a multitude of interpretations; where the cultural and historical replies and conversations of a few have suffused to many. I think this allows for an ‘ambiguous present’, which is both exciting and equivocal. Uncertainty also presents obvious challenges to artists, irrespective of their creative language, but I’d like to think it acts as fuel for increased creative scope and inspiration. I’d also like to mention there’s an element of intertextuality in that the title ‘My Cuban’ refers to Etienne van Heerden’s 1983 short story ‘My Kubaan’, written at the height of the Border War.

Although reconciliation is at the heart of your story, is it common for ex-combatants to meet their former enemies?

Indeed, there are many stories of soldiers spending the remainder of their lifetimes seeking out their former enemies, and I think those who have never experienced combat like to rationalise the quests of these men with words like reconciliation, closure and catharsis. I believe it’s a lot more complex and inherently more human than that. This is especially true for fighter pilots; as their ‘killing’ is done at a distance. Aerial combat is traditionally focused on skill, technology and the machine — not the man, reason enough to for ex-combatants to meet their former enemies in an attempt to ‘humanise’ their experiences of war.

Faced with the indescribable horrors of war, how challenging was it to humanize both parties — the South African and the Cuban?

Human conflict has always relied on binary views of an objectified enemy, which as we know have ‘oiled the gears of war’ for millennia. The problem is that the aftershocks of combat are felt long after battle, and the need for former combatants to seek out each other is born out of a shared need to ‘humanise the experience’. In some respects it has less to do with reconciliation, and more to do with simply connecting with another human who has experienced similar horrors. There is of course an element of curiosity, another distinctly human trait. Have a look at the following article that appeared in ‘Die Burger’ on the 20th of September 2017.

“Human conflict has always relied on binary views of an objectified enemy”


The dogfighting scenes in your story have such authenticity one wonders were you ever a fighter pilot?

I flew light aircraft many years ago, but no, I was never a fighter pilot in the SADF. I’ve spoken with many ex-fighter pilots, from the Second World War, Korea and Angolan war. I did a fair amount of technical research for ‘My Cuban’ and managed to track down a Mirage F1 operating manual and consulted a number of pilot accounts of aerial combat over Angola during the Border War, which allowed for a certain degree of authenticity. The description of the dogfight in ‘My Cuban’ is a collage of various aerial encounters, although my story focuses on a dogfight that took place on the 6th of November 1981. Two Mirage F1-CZs flown by Major JJ Rankin and Lt J du Plessis were scrambled from Ondangwa to intercept two MiG-21 MFs. A dogfight ensued and Rankin could not lock his missile, so he switched to guns and opened fire. His Cuban opponent, Lt Danacio Valdez’s MiG broke in two and then exploded. Although Valdez was seen to eject, he sadly did not survive the encounter.

Please tell us more about your recent exhibition (mixed media, including installation art, sculpture and illustration) held at the Cape Town Castle. Is the story perhaps an extension of/ or part of that work?

No, I didn’t see my story as an extension of the exhibition, but the Border War lasted almost two decades and certainly remains a largely silenced era of South African history that I’m drawn to. In June I had an exhibition titled ‘’NUTRIA’ – Imprints of Conscription into the South African Defence Force (SADF)’. The exhibition aimed to interrogate the manner in which memories of the conscription of white males into the former South African Defence Force enter a contested present. These largely silenced ‘militarised journeys’ began in childhood and have entered the present imbued with a sense of nostalgia and romanticism. I hoped that those memories could be navigated, acknowledged and disrupted effectively by means of a series of creative engagements, perhaps prompting further conversations relating to the hidden and oft silenced histories of all South Africans. (Visit the NUTRIA exhibition website here.)

Your story, ‘Red Dust’, in Short.Sharp.Stories anthology Incredible Journey, focused on an ambiguous ‘future’. Is South African political tension inherent to most of your writing?

Despite my general disdain for politicians, there’s no way as a South African, and a writer, I can ignore politics – it simply attaches itself to your story like a remora fish. If you’re writing about South Africa, the landscape has a way of writing itself into your story, with its politics, history and inevitable tensions. Even a ‘de-people’ landscape (to use J.M. Coetzee’s term), remains a contested space in itself. As much I want to run away from it, politics has a habit of catching up with me in my writing.

With reference to Liesl Jobson’s quote, how do you as a poet ‘retain the power of the short form in an expanded line’?

I was once told that I should treat my poems as short stories and then perhaps a novel. I’m not so sure about that, but I try to avoid ‘literary cleverness’ and unnecessary embellishments that have a tendency to deplete the energy of the narrative, and shift focus from establishing a sense of rapport with the reader. I believe in accessibility, not code, but do believe that readers like to be challenged. Poetry forces one to choose carefully and avoid obvious solutions or easy exit routes, so I inevitably attempt, and mostly fail, to follow a similar approach to the expanded line.

What writing Trade Secret would you like to share?

I think Thoreau was onto something when he said: ‘Write while the heat is in you. … The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with.’

Visit to read Stephen’s poetry.

Book details

Trade Secrets

Questions for the Sea

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Shortlist for 2017 South African Literary Awards announced

2017 marks the highest milestone of South African Literary Awards (SALA), as the shortlist includes, for the first time, the !Xam and !Kun languages.

Listed under the Posthumous Literary Awards, five legendary contributors are drawn from Wilhelm Bleek and Lucy Lloyd collection of !Xam and !Kun narratives, verses, songs, chants, drawings and other materials consisting of over 150 notebooks running in some 13 000 pages which is considered a unique cultural and literary collection which has been recognised by United Nations Education, Science and Cultural Council (UNESCO) and entered into the memory of the World Register.

The materials deal with the land, the rain, the history of the first people, the origin of the moon and stars, animals, cosmology, beliefs, ceremonies, art and information of the
individual lives of the informants who had come to Cape Town as prisoners of the British Crown and were released into Bleek’s custody at his residence in Mowbray for linguistic and cultural research.

Also interesting is the shortlist list under the Translators Literary award consisting of William Wellington Gqoba: Isizwe Esinembali, Xhosa Histories And Poetry (1873 – 1888), DLP.Yali-Manisi: Iimbali Zamanyange, Historical Poems and The Thirstland Trek: 1874 – 1881. While the Creative Non- Fiction Award has The Keeper Of The Kumm: Ancestral Longing And Belonging Of A Boesmankind, by Sylvia Vollenhoven, My Own Liberator by Judge Dikgang Moseneke and Emily Hobhouse – Geliefde Verraaier by Elsabé Brits.

The shortlist goes on to list under the Lifetime Achievement Literary Award, South Africa’s legendary Credo Vusamazulu Mutwa, who is largely respected for his predictions of world events, including the destruction of New York’s World Trade Centre in 2001, the 1976 June 16 Uprising, HIV, Chris Hani’s assassination, load shedding and the ousting of President Thabo Mbeki. Mutwa shares the category with other literary stalwarts, Aletta Matshedisð Motimele, who is revered for her Sepedi works and Etienne van Heerden, an academic and prolific Afrikaans author.

“Indeed, as its main aim, SALA continues to strive to become the most prestigious and respected literary accolades in South African literature,” says Ms Sindiswa Seakhoa, director at wRite associates, founders of SALA, in partnership with the department of Arts and Culture in 2005.

Since its inception in 2005, to date, SALA has honoured 160 authors in 11 categories in all official South African languages. SALA also boasts legacy programmes including:
- The National Poet Laureate Programme and the Keorapetse Kgositsile Lecture, in honour of the Poet Laureate, Prof Keorapetse Kgositsile.
- The Miriam Tlali Reading and Book Club, in honour of the late Miriam Tlali.
- Band of Troubadours, a publication comprising the work of the SALA recipients
- Africa Century International African Writers Conference and International African
Writers Day Lecture, established in 2012.

The conference is set to become a Mecca of who is who of the African literati, the Diaspora and the entire globe where the celebration of African letters occupies centre stage.

This historical gathering of literary intellectuals and authors from across the world, is, as the then-OAU’s Conference of African Ministers of Education and Culture (meeting in Coutonou, Benin, in 1991) resolved, “… to afford the African people a moment of pause within which to reflect on the contribution of African Writers to the development of the Continent”.

Both the 2017 South African Literary Awards ceremony and Conference will take place on the 7th November at Kgorong Building, UNISA. This is partnership by the wRite associates, the department of Arts and Culture and the Department of Afrikaans and Theory of Literature, UNISA.

The theme for the conference is “The Writer as a Drum Major of Conscience, Restoration & Transformation”, with the sub-theme being “The Establishment of the South African Writers Organization”.

Prof Zodwa Motsa, a Fulbright Scholar, a Researcher, Writer and Social Engineer, who has served as Head of the Department: English Studies (UNISA) from 2006 -2011 and currently serving as the Country Director at UNISA’s Ethiopia Centre for Graduate Studies in Addis Ababa, since 2012, will deliver the sixth International African Writers Day Lecture and Prof Nhlanhla Maake, an academician, novelist, dramatist, literary critic, and language activist will deliver the response. Prof Andries Oliphant, author, poet, literary scholar and cultural policy advisor, will lead the seminar on the establishment of South Africa’s writers’ organization.

Category: First-time Published Author Award

Amy Jephta, Kristalvlakte
Moses Shimo Seletisha, Tšhutšhumakgala
Mohale Mashigo, The Yearning

Category: k.Sello Duiker Memorial Literary Award

Kopano Matlwa, Period Pain
Nthikeng Mohlele, Pleasure

Category: Poetry Award

Helen Moffett, Prunings
Ronelda S Kamfer, Hammie
Simphiwe Ali Nolutshungu, Iingcango Zentliziyo

Category: Creative Non- Fiction Award

Dikgang Moseneke, My Own Liberator
Elsabé Brits, Emily Hobhouse – Geliefde Verraaier
Sylvia Vollenhoven, The Keeper Of The Kumm

Category: Literary Journalism Award

Don Makatile: His oeuvre
Phakama Mbonambi: His oeuvre

Category: Literary Translators Award

Bridget Theron-Bushell The Thirstland Trek: 1874 – 1881 (Afrikaans to English)
Jeff Opland, Wandile Kuse and Pamela Maseko William Wellington Gqoba: Isizwe Esinembali Xhosa Histories And Poetry (1873 – 1888) (isiXhosa to English)
Jeff Opland and Pamela Maseko DLP.Yali-Manisi: Iimbali Zamanyange, Historical Poems (isiXhosa to English)

Nadine Gordimer Short Story Award

Nick Mulgrew, Stations
Roela Hattingh, Kamee

Category: Posthumous Literary Award

|A!kunta: Body of work (!Xam and !Kun)
!Kabbo: Body of work (!Xam and !Kun)
≠Kasin: Body of work (!Xam and !Kun)
Dia!kwain: Body of work (!Xam and !Kun)
|Han≠kass’o: Body of work (!Xam and !Kun)

Category: Lifetime Achievement Literary Award

Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa: Body of work
Aletta Matshedisð Motimele: Body of work
Etienne Van Heerden: Body of work

Category: Chairperson’s Award

The recipient will be announced at the award ceremony

Book details



The Yearning


Period Pain







My Own Liberator


Emily Hobhouse


Keeper of the Kumm


The Thirstland Trek


William Wellington Gqoba: Isizwe esinembali


DLP Yali-Manisi: Iimbali Zamanyange





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Andrew Salomon’s new short story collection available as free eBook until 17 October!

A PSA from Andrew Salomon!

Hello story lovers,

I’d like to let you know that my short story collection Dark Shenanigans: A collection of eleven stories is now available as a free eBook download on Amazon, until 17 October.

Here’s a blurb:
When a foreigner accused of stealing honey is brought to the police station on the Greek island of Kythnos, Sergeant Laziridis’s uneventful night is about to take a very unexpected turn. A man regains consciousness and finds himself the only diner in a strange restaurant with some remarkable staff and a dinner literally prepared to be the meal of his life. Things fall badly apart on a newly-terraformed Mars. And then there’s the pair of midwives from a secret society you never want to cross…

These tales and much more await in this weirdly wonderful speculative fiction short story collection. Dark Shenanigans includes the PEN Literary Award-winning story A Visit To Dr Mamba and the 2015 Short.Sharp.Story best story Train 124.

You can download the collection here.

So go and grab it while it’s hot off the virtual press, and until 17 October for free!

I hope you enjoy the stories, and if you do, please rate and review the collection on Amazon.

Happy reading,

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Africa’s war on poaching spills over into new Tony Park novel


Author Tony Park has once more drawn on his real-life experiences in Africa and his background as a former army officer to bring a real-life “wildlife war” to the pages of his 14th novel, The Cull.

In the book, former mercenary Sonja Kurtz is hired by business tycoon Julianne Clyde-Smith to head an elite squad. Their aim: to take down Africa’s top poaching kingpins and stop at nothing to save its endangered wildlife.

But, as the body count rises, it becomes harder for Sonja to stay under the radar and she is targeted by an underworld syndicate known as The Scorpions.

When her love interest, safari guide and private investigator Hudson Brand, is employed to look into the death of an alleged poacher at the hands of Sonja’s team, she is forced to ask herself if Julianne’s crusade has gone too far.

From South Africa’s Kruger National Park to the Serengeti of Tanzania, Sonja realises she is fighting a war on numerous fronts, against enemies known and unknown.
Personal experience
Park has personally encountered Africa’s war on poaching and the people fighting it.

“I live half of each year in Africa and, near my house, on the border of South Africa’s Kruger National Park, there is a war being fought daily between anti-poaching units and heavily armed poachers hunting endangered rhinos,” he says.

“Elements of The Cull are based on reality. Ex-soldiers, like the fictitious Sonja Kurtz, some of them foreign veterans of the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, are currently working in Africa training and mentoring anti-poaching operatives in this wildlife war.”

Tony Park was born in 1964 and grew up in Sydney. He has worked as a reporter, a press secretary, a PR consultant and a freelance writer. He is also a major in the Australian Army Reserve and served as a public affairs officer in Afghanistan in 2002. He and his wife, Nicola, divide their time between Australia and Southern Africa.

Park, who served with the Australian army in Afghanistan, visited all-female anti-poaching unit the Black Mambas near the Kruger park. The Mambas, all members of the community near the reserve, provided the inspiration for an all-woman unit in The Cull called The Leopards.

The author is also a volunteer with an international NGO, Veterans for Wildlife, which pairs military veterans with anti-poaching units and conservation programmes in Africa.

Just like Sonja Kurtz, real-life female soldiers who have served in the Middle East are supporting anti-poaching efforts by passing on their expertise. One of the challenges facing the Black Mambas is to break down stereotypes in what has traditionally been a male-dominated profession.

Park said the job of protecting wildlife was a high-risk, high-stakes business, with rhino horn now worth more than gold, diamonds or cocaine. It’s a life-and-death struggle for humans as well as animals.

“About 500 armed poachers have been killed in South Africa over the past 10 years in this ongoing battle. Every day, national park rangers, police and military take to the African bush and put their lives on the line in defence of the environment. It’s inspirational stuff,” he added.

Book details

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Read an excerpt from the third book in Bontle Senne’s Afrocentric fantasy adventure, Shadow Chasers

Only the Shadow Chasers, with their magical knives, can save the world from the evil that lives in the dreamworld.

“Scary riveting fun! Escape in this magical and modern South African fantasy.” – Nonikiwe Mashologu, childhood literacy specialist

“I love the book because it’s scary and cool. Nom is a very brave girl.” – Gugulethu Machin, tweeny reader

Flame of Truth is the third in the Shadow Chasers series, an Afrocentric fantasy adventure for pre-teens (9 to 12 year olds.)

Bontle Senne is a book blogger and literacy advocate. She is a former managing director at the Puku Children’s Literature Foundation, a trustee of READ Educational Trust and a part owner of feminist trade publishing house Modjaji Books.
Read an excerpt from Bontle’s extraordinary book:

They hear the piercing scream of the Lightning Bird as another ball of flames falls from the dark sky and explodes on the patch of sand at the cave opening.

Nom and Zithembe lie on their bellies in the dirt, trying to stay low in the shadows so that the Lightning Bird does not come into the cave to find them.

“Nom, when we get out of here … ,” Zithembe whispers bitterly, pressing his cheek to the ground so he can look at Nom and she can see how annoyed he is.

Nom rolls her eyes and shifts her attention to the cave opening. She can’t hear the Lightning Bird, but that doesn’t mean it’s not waiting for them just outside the cave, ready to drop another ball of fire. “There was no way I could have known that it was going to come all the way up to the mountains,” Nom says. “I thought these things stayed in the forest!”

“Who told you that?” Zithembe snaps.

“Rosy! Well, kind of Rosy. I think that’s what she said …” Nom thinks back to a few weeks ago when she and Rosy, Zithembe’s cousin, had come into the dreamworld and were chased by the Lightning Bird. The giant black bird had flown over them, circling, stalking. With its long, curved beak, shaggy chest feathers, two sets of wings, and two long, orange legs, it had terrified her and brought back Rosy’s darkest memories.

Now, when Nom reaches out and her hand finds the cave wall, the stone feels cool and wet. She feels the magic of the dreamworld buzzing lightly through the tips of her fingers. It’s the same feeling she sometimes gets when she holds her knife. A Shadow Chaser’s knife has powers that she and Zithembe are only just starting to understand.

“We could go back,” she suggests, already guessing what Zithembe will think of that idea. Zithembe groans as a clap of thunder booms from outside the cave.

“We cannot just go back,” he says. “We have to find my mother. How can we find her if we go back?”

“Zee, we’re not going to be able to get out of here without getting roasted. We can use the special powers in your knife to get home, and then try another night. We can come back in a few days with – I don’t know – a plan or something.”

It is weird for Nom to suddenly be the one with a plan. She’s never really been known for thinking things through. They got stuck here in this cave because when Nom saw the Lightning Bird she turned and ran before Zithembe could even ask what was going on. They had scrambled further up the mountain they were exploring. Then Nom dragged Zithembe into the cave just as the balls of fire began to rain down on them, burning holes the size of soccer balls into the sand. Nom had been right to be afraid, but she could have at least warned him before she started running.
It was so often “act and then think” with her. At least Zithembe had finally gotten used to that.

“I have a better idea,” Zithembe says. “You should use your knife to turn yourself into a Lightning Bird.”

“What?” Nom asks, even though she’s pretty sure she heard him.

“You should turn yourself into a Lightning Bird,” Zithembe repeats, replaying what his mother had told him about the power of Nom’s blue knife to change her into someone – or something – else. “I’ll jump on your back and we can fly out of here and into the forest.”

If they weren’t trapped, crawling on their stomachs in the dark, Nom would punch Zithembe. “But the forest is where it lives!” she says, feeling deeply frustrated.

Nom remembers the forest from her visit to the dreamworld with Rosy, when they fought the Mami Wata.

She remembers the muffled sounds of moans, crying and wild giggling drifting out to them from inside the dark and unknowable Thathe Vondo Forest. Rosy had explained that the forest exists in the real world and the dreamworld at the same time. In the real world, the people who live near the forest believe that it is full of spirits and monsters. In the real world, the people are just as afraid of the Lightning Bird which they call Ndadzi, as Nom is, here in the dreamworld.

“OK, then we fly to the Clearing or to the Lake of Memories,” Zithembe suggests.

Being annoyed isn’t helping, so Nom sighs and tries to be kind instead.

She says, “Zee, listen to me. There are soldiers of the Army of Shadows everywhere. Even now, the shadow men must be marching towards us. Your knife’s power can get us out of here safely. I know you want to find your mom. I want to find her too, Zee, but not today …”

They are quiet for a few minutes.

Nom isn’t sure whether Zithembe is still trying to think of ways to get out of this cave and keep exploring the dreamworld or whether he is trying to accept the truth in her words. As she waits for him to speak again, Nom sees a cloud of pale orange dust float into the cave.

The dust cloud stops just in front of them, blocking their view of the cave’s opening, and then drifts down low to the ground where they lie.

“Nom … Zithembe,” says the soft, faraway voice of a girl.

Zithembe twists his head to look at the floating dust and then back at Nom.

“Did that dust thing just speak?” Nom asks, saying out loud what both of them are thinking.

“I have a deal for you,” whispers the dust. “Help me rescue my friend fromthe Army of Shadows and I will help you find Itumeleng.”

Itumeleng. Zee’s mother.

“Who – or what – are you? Why should we believe you?” Zithembe asks.

There’s a trace of anger dripping into his voice. He wants to save his mother, but how can he trust a floating cloud of dust? Any of the magical things in the dreamworld could trick him into trapping himself or Nom here.

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Historic sale of the huge Thorold’s Bookshop collection

An interior shot of Thorold’s Bookshop. © Madelene Cronjé

Frank R. Thorold established Thorold’s Bookshop in downtown Johannesburg in 1904. It was originally a sewing shop with some books but became the oldest and most renowned bookshop in the city over the course of the 20th Century. Robyn Fryde bought the bookshop in 1962 and continued to grow the reputation of this excellent Africana, legal and general bookshop. Upon Fryde’s passing Neillen van Kraayenburg acquired, and moved, the in excess of 150 000 books to purpose made buildings on his property in Kya Sands in Randburg. (See a recent Mail & Guardian article on Thorold’s.)

Sadly, Neillen passed away two years ago. Now the entire collection of more than 30 000 general books is going on sale at Thorold’s under the auspices of Bookdealers, at ridiculously reduced prices starting at R20. The sale will held be on Friday 27, Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 from 9am to 5pm. Extra discounts on purchases of more than 10 books will be given on Saturday (10%) and Sunday (25%). A gourmet food truck will be on site offering meat and vegetarian options. Highlights include:

* CHILDREN’S BOOKS… and every other subject under the African Sun… ***

Thorold’s Bookshop
Cnr Orleans and Homestead Roads, Kya Sands, Randburg

Link to Google map:

Directions: Turn off the N1 at Malibongwe. Proceed along Malibongwe towards Olivedale and Northgate. Cross over President Fouche. Cross over Bellairs/Olievenhout Ave. Cross over Northumberland/Witkoppen road. Turn right into River road. Turn left into Bernie St which becomes Homestead road. Look out for Thorold’s on the right on the corner of Orleans road.

For more information contact:
Chris: 083 463 3989,
Doron: 082 452 1441 or Merwelene: 082 414 9829

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From Para to Dakar: Joey Evans’s story of defying all odds and reaching the Dakar finish line

‘I’ve realised that when things are really tough and there seems no hope for the future, it’s sometimes just Chapter One of a really cool story, and the ending is entirely up to you.’

From Para to Dakar

Joey Evans has always loved bikes, from his first second-hand Raleigh Strika at the age of six to the powerful off-road machines that became his passion later on in his life. His dream was one day to ride the most gruelling off-road race in the world, the 9000km Dakar Rally.

In 2007 his dream was shattered when he broke his back in a racing accident. His spinal cord was crushed, leaving him paralysed from just below his chest. Doctors gave him a 10 percent chance of ever walking again. Many would have given up and become resigned to life in a wheelchair, but not Joey Evans. Not only would he get back on his feet and walk, but he would also keep his Dakar dream alive. It was a long and painful road to recovery, involving years of intensive rehabilitation and training, but he had the love and support of both family and friends and an incredible amount of determination.

Joey shares the many challenges he and his family faced, relating the setbacks, as well as successes, along the way to the Dakar start line. But the start line was only the first goal – his sights were set on reaching the finish line, which he did in 2017 – the only South African to do so.
From Para to Dakar is so much more than the story of one man reaching the Dakar finish line. It is a story of friendship and respect, compassion and kindness. It is about defying the odds to reach a dream, it is about grit, endurance and raw courage, and it is inspiring in its true heroism.

“I heard Joey’s story from my friend Darryl in the days before Dakar 2017 and I was in awe of what he was hoping to achieve. The thing that struck me most when I met Joey was that he didn’t mention a single word about his ‘problems’ – he was just another guy lining up to do the gnarliest race in the world. To me, that said more about him than anything else. Good job, legend!”
- SAM SUNDERLAND (overall motorbike winner, Dakar 2017)

“Joey Evans is one of the most phenomenal people I have met in three decades of Carte Blanche. His story is one of unbelievable courage, tenacity and belief, blended with a very close bond with his wife Meredith and their four daughters.”
- DEREK WATTS (anchor and presenter on Carte Blanche)

Book details

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A Q&A with Trade Secrets runner-up prize winner, Amy Heydenrych

Amy is a writer and book blogger based in Johannesburg. She has been twice shortlisted for the Miles Morland African Writing Scholarship and her short stories have featured in anthologies across the continent including CACE Writivism, Jalada Africa, The Kalahari Review and the first Short.Sharp.Stories anthology, Bloody Satisfied. She is represented by The Bent Agency in New York and London, who are currently pitching her debut novel internationally. When she is not writing her own fiction, she ghost writes books and columns for South Africa’s business leaders, giving her some trade secrets of her own. Amy is a Trade Secrets Runner-Up prize winner for her story ‘Handle With Care’.

Your story, ‘Handle With Care’, features postal worker, Gloria, who ‘makes good’. The focus is on unfinished business, loss, unrequited relationships, after which the reader is left whole and hopeful. Is this something we need in SA right now? To feel better about ourselves? About who we are?

Most certainly! Over the past few years South Africans have been worn down by a vicious, inflamed public dialogue. So much of our public discourse appears to be focused on separateness. I really wanted to emphasise our shared humanity and capacity for good. In the story, many lives are changed through the positive, loving actions of one person who challenges the status quo. This was intended to inspire and illustrate how we often have more control over our environment than we realise.

What was the initial inspiration for your story?

Two years ago, my best friend Emma exhibited far too much faith in the postal system and sent a beautiful necklace from London to South Africa in the hopes that I would get it in time for my wedding day. The package never arrived… and so ‘Handle with Care’ was born.

Gloria’s love story is inspired by my own handwritten letter that I sent to my now-husband. I sent him a heartfelt letter, along with a book that held deep meaning for me. This was a pivotal point in our relationship and one of the main reasons we are together today. The letter is still treasured in our home.

Letters taught Amy the true meaning of ‘Handle with Care’…

Gloria, your protagonist, gets a job at a post office and begins to ask questions. How did you develop Gloria’s character?

Gloria was one of those wonderful characters that came to me all at once. I was walking a lap around the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens, fuming over my lost parcel, and suddenly she came to me as a fully formed person, down to her beret. In essence, she was inspired by some of the conscientious older women I see who, despite not receiving the opportunities they deserved, live their lives with grace and pride.

Readers have commented on the transcendent nature of the story. Did you write the story as a ‘healing exercise’?

Civil spaces such as the South African Post Office are great levelers. No matter who you are, you have to wait in the queue alongside everyone else. I felt moved by this shared vulnerability. Of course, this sense of helplessness can bring out a darker side in people and the story was a way for me to resolve my own anger at a specific type of privileged person who is abusive to civil servants. All in all, the story expresses a deep desire for reconciliation and compassion towards others.

Is the post office in itself a symbol of hope? – of anticipation, of surprise packages…

Definitely – there is nothing more exciting than receiving a package you have been waiting for! In writing the story, I was intrigued by the power a letter or a parcel can hold. It symbolises effort and care on behalf of the giver. In a world of quickfire communication, there is nothing more romantic.

At what point were you inspired to write magical realism?

I hadn’t written magical realism before, and didn’t expect this story to take the magical turn it did. I wrote the first draft of this story in a day, and just let the mood carry me. I usually focus on gritty thriller stories or sad, hyper-real literary pieces, so it felt freeing to escape the terms of the real world and imagine a happier ending.

As a ghost writer… can you share any juicy business Trade Secret?

The press statements, books and opinion pieces you read by business leaders and public figures are more often than not written by a young hack like me, mainlining coffee in her pink dressing gown at three in the afternoon. For example, one of my early jobs consisted of ghost writing a weekly column on “how to run a business” for a Nigerian newspaper. I was 26 at the time and could barely afford airtime!

What writing Trade Secret would you like to share?

The true skill of writing lies in the editing. Don’t be too proud to put your work through several rounds of edits and then have it edited by someone else all over again. This is the only way to get to the essence of the story.

Trade Secrets

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Len Verwey’s In a Language That You Know: poetry for a troubled, complex, and vibrant SA

Poetry for a troubled, complex, and vibrant South Africa.

“Poems in this book plunge you, without warning, from a mattress on the floor, a village bus stop, or a fishermen’s boat into the depth of human aloneness.

. . . Len Verwey writes: ‘You need to breathe / in stone, breathe out a flower.’ He accomplishes this mission in his book: breathing in history and landscape, he breathes out powerful, fervent lyricism.” – Valzhyna Mort, author of Collected Body and Factory of Tears: A Lannan Literary Selection

South Africa is a complicated, contradictory, and haunted place. Len Verwey captures the trajectory of life in such a place, dealing with childhood, war, marriage, divorce, and death. He explores the challenges posed by place and history, shared identities, deep embeddedness in the continent, and the legacies of violence and exclusion, as well as beauty.

Verwey offers poems that speak of uncertainty, ask questions, and challenge simplistic and scapegoating narratives that become so tempting when living in a society undergoing intense social and economic pressure.

Dealing less with factual or political explanations of war and more with the compulsion of war, in particular, “maleness” and violence, Verwey pulls the reader into another world, opening eyes to the “crisis of men,” the violence against women, children, and the foreign in a country where conflicts are again escalating. In a Language That You Know strives to understand the complexity of one of the most unequal, violent, yet most vibrant societies in the world.

Len Verwey is a South African poet. He was born in Mozambique in 1973. His chapbook Otherwise Everything Goes On is included in the boxed set Seven New Generation African Poets, and his poems have been published in various journals including New Coin and New Contrast.

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Changing History: Jan-Jan Joubert talks to Charles van Onselen about his latest book The Cowboy Capitalist

When Charles van Onselen finds new information about history, he doesn’t allow conventional wisdom to get in his way, writes Jan-Jan Joubert for the Sunday Times

The Cowboy CapitalistThe Cowboy Capitalist
Charles van Onselen, Jonathan Ball Publishers

The Jameson Raid took place in 1896, a British imperialist adventure in which Cecil John Rhodes, Leander Starr Jameson and Joseph Chamberlain failed to overthrow the government of Paul Kruger. They were after gold, right? Not so fast, says South Africa’s most adventurous historian, Charles van Onselen, in his new book, The Cowboy Capitalist. It’s a galloping read which adds further dimensions to the story and turns our understanding of the Jameson Raid on its head.

The book came about by chance when Van Onselen stumbled upon information on the American link to the raid. Through rigorous research, Van Onselen unearthed the role of the American imperialist capitalist John Hays Hammond in the raid, a point proved by Hammond’s being one of the main accused after the raid – which has often been overlooked.

He also focuses on a Boer fifth column centred on Kruger’s political opponent General Piet Joubert, lawyer Ewald Esselen and the poet-journalist Eugene Marais, and their ambivalent role during the raid.

Van Onselen has written about anti-heroes and downright scoundrels on the cusp of the previous century. Why that time frame, and why choose such miscreants as his focus?

“History is about change, and change was on steroids in the Industrial Revolution,” comments the historian, lounging on a sofa in Cape Town’s Mount Nelson Hotel.

“Everything was sped up; structures, processes and people played themselves out. And I’ve always been interested in the overlaps of crime as politics and politics as crime,” he says.

“If a society’s moral and ethical foundations, and its institutions, are weak the powerful will enrich themselves at the expense of the weak.

“As for the main characters, with the exception of Joseph Silver in The Fox and the Flies, who is psychotic, they have virtuous aspects and human weaknesses, but are socially undesirable.

“The figures I focus on are often eccentric and strange, but thematically they illustrate how politics and crime become interlinked. Their behaviour is outside of the norm, and therefore acts as litmus to the norm – which exposes the true norms of their societies. Where they connect, truth emerges. Does man shape society, or does society shape man? Where people are off-centre, like many of the people about whom I write, it tells you much about their society.

“Imagine, for instance, if a thief, a liar and a cheat runs a country, what does it tell you about the country?” he says, and for a moment the divide between past and present becomes unclear.

Van Onselen’s books straddle continents rather than being contained to countries. “The figures I prefer to write about function on a global scale; I don’t regard myself as being confined to writing South African history.

“I am allergic to nationalism. If you confine yourself to the history of the nation state, it becomes a nationalist narrative. The world is much more interesting than that. The world of knowledge has no passports or borders.”

Regarding the Jameson Raid, Van Onselen believes in following the money, and the American expansionist Hammond made a lot of it – he was the highest paid mining engineer in the world at the time.

Racial policy and social justice aside, Van Onselen believes Paul Kruger was an excellent president. “Kruger was the best president this country has ever known. He had to steer an agrarian society into a capitalist, industrialising one within a matter of 10 years and had to deal with the full-scale coup d’etat which the Jameson Raid was. No other president had to adapt so completely,” he argues.

And that is the story he tells in The Cowboy Capitalist – how the Jameson Raid had its roots in the American West and the Confederacy; how Jameson’s personality played a part, and how Rhodes became something of an unwilling accomplice.

In so doing, he asks new questions, sets new paradigms, uncovers new facts and proposes new visions of the past – the very reason no one who loves history and wants to understand this beloved country can afford not to read The Cowboy Capitalist.

It is the way history is supposed to be written.

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