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Archive for the ‘South Africa’ Category

‘Scribbling through skylines’ – Read 3 poems from Landslide, a new collection by Arthur Sithole

‘Scribbling through skylines’ – Read 3 poems from Landslide, a new collection by Arthur Sithole


LandslideFor today’s Fiction Friday, dip into a new poetry anthology: Landslide by Arthur Sithole.

Landslide was edited by Marike Beyers and is being published by Elohtis Media.

The cover was designed by Gretchen van der Byl, who designed the most recent books by Ivan Vladislavić, Beverly Rycroft and Zakes Mda.

The book will be available from 6 May.
About the book:

This debut anthology catalogues a writer’s attempt in defining and drawing strength from a potent realm of consciousness – somewhat lost in the labyrinth of life; in the many layers and dimensions of past, present and future self.

Sithole’s poems seem to find reconciliation in themselves, merging different images and voices to paint different paradoxes and delights; characterised by painful realisations, beautiful affirmations, and kaleidoscope of new beginnings and endings.

Read an excerpt:


Scribbling through skylines
in partition of words
vowels bent
into currents of light

out of
a celestial alpha
your soul weaves in time

a rock, a river, a tree

out of your mouth
the world unfolds
a love letter

penned out of a heart
unmasked out of dust
the touch of your palm
your soul knitted in mine

high on mountain sighs
into garments of time
the cosmos of your soul
brims into life


The N1 freeway
Binds us in chains
In a congested wait
Six feet above
Our lingering graves

Bends spells and wands
In suits and heels
Brakes and pedals
Swivelling a morning rite

- And I

I keep changing gears
Relentlessly interchange
Fill every lane
Through an idle smile

Rushing a pace
As slow as a snail
As empty as a pulse
Exhaled to Joburg’s air


I am startled by the fading weight
Of a feather floating in heavy space
There is no dent in my spirit
I bear no scars on my face

The war has been real
Its course runs deep
My anguish is over
My destiny healed

Buried in fragmented needs
From a future that couldn’t breathe
Now I can return to be little
Play football on the streets

I can see the sun rising on me
Down Grandma’s house on Second Street
In Pretoria’s lonely CBD
And all the places I’ve not found peace

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3 African writers shortlisted for Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize: Best Unpublished Manuscript

Wilbur Smith Prize

The Wilbur and Niso Smith Foundation has announced the complete shortlists for the inaugural Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prizes.

Two South African authors, Kirsten Miller and Zirk van den Berg, and Kenyan author Stanley Gazemba have made the shortlist for Best Unpublished Adventure Manuscript.

Miller is the author of All is Fish – shortlisted for the 2005 European Union Literary Award – and Sister Moon.

New Zealand-based Van den Berg’s first crime novel, Nobody Dies, was published to considerable acclaim in his adopted country, and an Afrikaans edition was released as ’n Ander mens in South Africa in 2013. Half of One Thing is his first English novel to appear in his native South Africa, and was recently optioned for film by independent producer Neil Sonnekus of New Zealand production company Stinkwood Films.

Kenyan author Gazemba is the author of The Stone Hills of Maragoli, which won the 2003 Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature, Ghettoboy, which was shortlisted for the Kwani? Manuscript Prize and most recently Callused Hands.

Find out more from the Wilbur and Niso Smith Foundation:

We are delighted to announce the names for two additional prizes. These are:

Best Unpublished Adventure Manuscript

John Righten for Churchill’s Rogue
Kirsten Miller for The Hum of the Sun
Stanley Gazemba for Khama
Mark Isherwood for Dutch
Zirk van den Berg for Starlight and Stone

The winner of the prize for the best unpublished manuscript will be offered the opportunity of a creative writing residency at the University of Cape Town and career guidance from Wilbur Smith’s literary agent Kevin Conroy Scott.

Author of Tomorrow Award

Alex Atkinson for Jungle Gold
Rory Hinshelwood for And With the Wind It Went
Alice Sargent for Cherokee Rose

The winner of the author of tomorrow award (for the best adventure short story under 5,000 words, written by someone between the ages of 12 and 21) will receive £1,000 pounds sterling.

The prizes will be awarded at a prestigious event, hosted by the BBC’s Kate Silverton, at the Royal Geographical Society on 12 May, 2016.

The shortlist for the £10,000 first prize, the Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize, was announced earlier this month:

The Tears of Dark WaterInto the FireVanishing GamesEagles at WarThe Revelation CodeBritannia



Niso Smith, Founder of the Wilbur and Niso Smith Foundation says: “The Wilbur and Niso Smith Foundation was created to allow us to share our love of adventure writing with the world. Over the years, we have travelled together through Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas, and in every country and culture we have found storytellers weaving tales of adventure. The foundation’s aim is to aim is to introduce true talent from across the globe to the reading world.”


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The ocean at the centre of the world: Bron Sibree talks to Simon Winchester about his book Pacific

By Bron Sibree for the Sunday Times

Simon Winchester (HarperCollins)

In his stellar five-decade career as a journalist and author, Simon Winchester hasn’t even toyed with the idea of writing a memoir. “You can really only write one memoir, and I don’t want to write one yet,” laughs the peripatetic 71-year-old author of bestselling works such as The Surgeon of Crowthorne, The Map that Changed the World, Krakatoa, Atlantic and The Man Who Loved China.

But the tracery of a life lived in service to a curiosity that knows few limits can be found in each of his well-crafted books. None more so than his latest offering Pacific, a “biography” of the Pacific Ocean, which in some senses is his most passionate book yet. Indeed, it’s only since he finished it, says Winchester, “that I’ve become aware that the book is very, very critical of the way the West has treated the Pacific. It wasn’t intended to be, but it is rather angry in the first few chapters”.

As he declares early on in the book, “the Pacific is the ocean where much of the dirty business of the world has been conducted”. None so dirty as the misuse of this, the world’s largest body of water, and its island residents by the US as an atomic testing ground during the early years of the Cold War.

Even now as he speaks of the Marshall Islands and “this whole nuclear business” his ire is palpable. “Western impact on the Pacific Ocean has not been benign. We’ve colonised, we’ve enslaved, brought illness and greed and disdained their culture. I’m hoping they’ll reassert their cultural dominance and begin to push back against what we’ve done to them.”

The book is as much a plea for greater respect for Pacific island cultures and an expression of hope in their ancient maritime skills as it is an account of the vast Pacific itself, its effect on global weather and its role in human history. For the historical tide has long turned and Winchester sums up the key moments in potent and novel ways in this compelling narrative.

Contrary to the old Kipling line about East and West and “never the twain shall meet”, says Winchester, “West and East are now meeting across the Pacific, and depending on whether they clash or co-operate, or whether the better elements of one culture are absorbed by the other, is how the future will be played out.”

Talking to Winchester is a lot like reading one of his books, you just relax for the ride. He’ll first ensnare you with an informed account of some little-known but key global event or phenomenon, then take you on a detour into even more unexpected waters.

Mention the Pacific as the driver of the world’s climate “which is going so haywire” and he’ll tell you not only about the El Niño southern oscillation but “this extraordinary single-celled creature called the prochlorococcus, which is like a sort of scrubber that’s taking all the nasty carbon dioxide from the ocean and turning it back into oxygen”.

In a life ruled by “serendipitous encounters” as much as by his driving curiosity, Winchester credits fabled travel writer Jan Morris as “someone who completely changed my life” by convincing him to abandon his profession as a geologist and become a newspaper reporter.

Anther chance encounter came when, lying in the bath reading a book on lexicography, he spied an obscure footnote that led him to write The Surgeon Of Crowthorne, which sold several million copies. “Who’d ever think that a book about a 19th-century lexicographer would sell? But that book changed my life in all sorts of ways, and I bless the publisher.”

He is working on a book about precision. And after that?

“I don’t think I’ve got the knowledge to try it, but a big new book on Africa would be a very tempting thing to write”.

He describes himself a “nosy old bugger”.

“I love poking my nose into other things, you never know what you’ll come across.”

Follow Bron Sibree on Twitter @BronSibree

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A punch to the gut: Pearl Boshomane reviews Niq Mhlongo’s Affluenza

Niq Mhlongo’s tales are short and seldom sweet, writes Pearl Boshomane for the Sunday Times

AffluenzaAffluenza: Short Stories
Niq Mhlongo (Kwela)

Are readers spoilt? Perhaps we are, because after reading Affluenza, Niq Mhlongo’s collection of short stories, my biggest complaint is that some of the stories feel incomplete, that the characters or scenarios aren’t fleshed out enough for them to be impactful.

But just how much detail and in-depth exploration should – and can – a writer do when they’re writing a short story? Isn’t the joy of a short story that it teases the imagination without revealing every single thing about its characters?

To expect Mhlongo – or any writer – to hand the reader everything on a plate would be silly: this isn’t a 600-page novel, after all.

The tales in Affluenza are a look at post-democratic South Africa through various lenses: from an elderly, racist farmer caught up in land grabs in “The Warning Sign”, to a fake rich, whisky-swigging Joburger in the title story (which is a clichéd story of keeping up appearances, but with a pleasantly surprising twist).

One of the most powerful stories in the collection is also the shortest. “Dark End of the Street” is set in the aftermath of a student’s suicide and its ending is like a punch to the gut. Another highlight is a sombre and sobering portrait of two grieving families caught between culture and denial; a peek into what happens when age-old traditions clash with so-called modern ways of being.

In fact, there aren’t a lot of happy endings in the book. Mhlongo seems more interested in exploring what people are like and how they react during the darkest and most trying times in their lives, when the music has stopped and the flowers have wilted. There’s quite a bit of death in the book, as there is betrayal, deception, heartbreak and even murder.

That’s not to say it’s all melancholy and gloomy – Mhlongo writes in such a way that you’ll laugh out loud when you least expect it. “Four Blocks Away”, a story about a guy and some condoms, is ridiculously funny yet also reveals a lot about race relations in the US and US attitudes towards Africans through the protagonist’s interaction with cops outside a pharmacy.

“My Name is Peaches” (yes, a reference to a line in Nina Simone’s “Four Women”), while at its core a melancholy tale, also has humour sprinkled throughout (not to mention it’s difficult to read the story and come across the name “Peaches” without Ms Simone’s voice sounding in your head).

With Affluenza, Mhlongo has obeyed the classic writer commandment, “write what you know”: he clearly knows a lot about South Africa and the heart of its sociopolitical issues, but he also knows human beings quite well – although the female characters are somewhat flat and at times unpleasant. He knows us when we’re in love and when we’re acting out of fear. He knows the sides of ourselves we keep hidden.

If Affluenza is supposed to be any sort of representation of South Africa and its people, we’re a slightly twisted bunch – but at least we make for good stories.

Follow Pearl Boshomane on Twitter @Pearlulla

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Book Bites: 24 April 2016

The Secrets of HappinessThe Secrets of Happiness
Lucy Diamond (Macmillan)
Becca and Rachel are step-sisters who cannot stand each other due to their respective perceptions of the marriage that made them stepsisters. When Rachel has a crisis at home, Becca unwillingly steps in to help. Together they discover new things about themselves and each other and eventually find the meaning of true sisterhood. This is an easy-to-read, feel-good novel, with true-to-life characters and situations that make the book a pleasure from start to finish. There are a few surprises but none so unpredictable as to be jarring. – Noluthando Ncube @beautysdaughter

The Other Mrs WalkerThe Other Mrs Walker
Mary Paulson-Ellis (Mantle Books)
A dark and beguiling debut novel that transports the reader between the seedy underworld of wartorn London and the comfortable present life of Edinburgh. Margaret Penny is a middle-aged woman with kleptomaniac tendencies and a love of oranges who returns to Edinburgh after 30 years. On the other side of the city, an old woman with similar interests dies alone in her flat. Margaret takes on the job of finding the woman’s identity and family so that she can be laid to rest, but instead finds a family history that is peppered with secrets, thievery, the Ten Commandments, oranges and rum. Hilarious and tragic. – Annetjie van Wynegaard @Annetjievw

100 Things They Don't Want You to Know100 Things They Don’t Want You to Know
Daniel Smith (Quercus)
Despite great excitement at the idea of discovering the secrets of the unknown, 100 Things They Don’t Want You to Know was misleading and disappointing. The topics are listed but remain unanswered, making one wonder about the actual purpose of the book. There are no further explanations for Stonehenge or who Jack the Ripper really was. While the volume is filled with lovely imagery, its shallow investigations create a feeling of disinterest and haste. – Samantha Gibb @samantha_gibb

The Steel KissThe Steel Kiss
Jeffery Deaver (Hodder & Stoughton)
Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs forensic series never gets boring – there’s always the clever twist you didn’t expect. And the enemy is always more dangerous and more of a genius than in the previous books. This time it’s a tall, beanpole of a maniac who loves to kill people in whatever brutal way he can. Oh, and Amelia is mad at Lincoln for quitting the force and leaving her to deal with the scum all by herself. – Jennifer Platt @Jenniferdplatt

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Chigozie Obioma reviews And After Many Days by Jowhor Ile

And After Many DaysVerdict: carrot, with criticism

There is a recurring motif of someone switching on a light bulb in Jowhor Ile’s laudable first novel, “And After Many Days.” The book begins in Nigeria in 1995, when the country was shrouded in literal and metaphorical darkness — plagued by war, corruption, and frequent and annoying power cuts. But this idea of a light that has gone out also applies to the family at the center of the book, a family whose own light is to be snuffed out by tragedy.

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Presidency to honour Marguerite Poland and Benedict Wallet Vilakazi with Orders of Ikhamanga

Presidency to honour Marguerite Poland and Benedict Wallet Vilakazi with Orders of Ikhamanga

President Jacob Zuma will bestow the 2016 National Orders Awards on a group of distinguished local citizens and foreign nationals this week.

The orders are awarded to those who have “played a momentous role towards building a free democratic South Africa and who also have made a significant impact on improving the lives of South Africans in various ways”.

Author Marguerite Poland and the late poet and novelist Benedict Wallet Vilakazi will be honoured with the Order of Ikhamanga, which recognises South African citizens who have excelled in the fields of arts, culture, literature, music, journalism and sport.

Benedict VilakaziBenedict Wallet Vilakazi (6 January 1906 – 26 October 1947) was a distinguished Zulu poet, novelist, and linguist. He wrote the first book of Zulu poems to be published, and in 1946 became the first black South African to receive a PhD. He was also the first African senior lecturer at a “white university”, joining the Department of Bantu Studies at the University of Witwatersrand as a lecturer in 1935. Vilakazi was a prolific writer, publishing his first novel, Nje nempela, in 1933, and his first book of poems, Inkondlo kaZulu, in 1935. He is credited with the establishment of a unique poetic genre, combining traditional Zulu praise-poetry with blank verse. Vilakazi also contributed many articles to scholarly publications and co-authored a Zulu-English Dictionary. Vilakazi Street in Soweto – famous as the place where two Nobel Prize winners, Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, once lived – is named after him.

Vilakazi reflected on his impressions of Wits in the poem “Wo, Ngitshele Mntanomlungu” (Tell, White Man’s Son):

Such massive and majestic columns,
Drawing my gaze where, high above me,
Doves are perched whose noisy cooing
Is like the bellowing of bulls.

Thus, as I gaze around in wonder,
I realise beyond all doubt
That I am lost! Yet well I know I came
To serve my own beloved people –
Aware of them always, I hear them cry:
‘”Take up your burden and be our voice!”

Translated by Lulu Friedman, from Clive Chipkin’s Johannesburg Style, architecture and society 1880s-1960s.

The KeeperMarguerite Poland grew up and was educated in the Eastern Cape, and is fluent in Xhosa and isiZulu. She is a graduate of Rhodes and Stellenbosch Universities and the University of KwaZulu-Natal and has a BA in Xhosa and Social Anthropology, an Honours degree in Comparative African Languages and an MA in Zulu Literature. Poland writes for both children and adults, and her landmark 1979 book The Mantis And The Moon is credited with establishing a market for indigenous children’s books in English in South Africa. Her adult novels have won several prestigious awards, and she has also written a number of academic papers and reports. Her most recent novel is The Keeper.

Other notable recipients of National Orders this year include the late journalist and editor Zwelakhe Sisulu (Order of Mapungubwe, gold, Posthumous), the late entrepreneur Marina Nompinti Maponya (Order of the Baobab, gold, Posthumous), Winifred “Winnie” Madikizela-Mandela and Sathyandranath Ragunanan “Mac” Maharaj (both Order of Luthuli, silver).

The ceremony will take place on Thursday, 28 April, at Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guesthouse in Pretoria.

Full list of 2016 Order of Ikhamanga recipients:

The Order will be bestowed in Bronze on:

  • Laurika Rauch: For her outstanding contribution in the field of music and raising awareness on political injustices through music. She bravely deployed her artistic talents to highlight the injustices and tyranny of the apartheid rule.

The Order will be bestowed in Silver on:

  • Thomas Hasani Chauke: For his excellent contribution to the development and promotion of Xitsonga traditional music in the country. His prolific song-writing and performances have put Xitsonga music in the forefront.

  • Sylvia “Magogo” Glasser: For her excellent contribution to the field of dance and transference of skills to the young people from all racial backgrounds, fostering social cohesion in the time of apartheid. 

  • Marguerite Poland: For her excellent contribution to the field of indigenous languages, literature and anthropology. Her literary works are taught widely in South African schools.

The order will be bestowed in Gold on:

  • Benedict Wallet Vilakazi (Posthumous): For his exceptional contribution to the field of literature in indigenous languages and the preservation of isiZulu culture. A world famous street in Soweto, where two noble prize winners once resided, bears his name.

  • Professor Rosina Mamokgethi Phakeng: For her excellent contribution in the field of science and representing South Africa on the international stage through her outstanding research work.

Click here for the full list of 2016 National Orders Awards

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Benedict Wallet Vilakazi image courtesy of Ulwazi

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Johns Hopkins University will award honorary degrees to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Spike Lee

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Honorary Degree
Half of a Yellow SunWe Should All Be FeministsAmericanahPurple HibiscusAmericanahThe Thing Around Your Neck

Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, United States has announced its list of eight “distinguished achievers” who will receive honorary degrees this year.

The list includes award-winning novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, groundbreaking filmmaker Spike Lee, Nobel Prize winner Richard Axel and Ellen M Heller, Maryland’s first woman to become an administrative Circuit Court judge.

The honorary degrees will be conferred at a commencement ceremony on 18 May.

Adichie earned a prestigious creative writing master’s from Johns Hopkins in 2003.

Johns Hopkins University President Ronald J Daniels says the group are “visionaries who have challenged the status quo and changed the world for the better”.

“They have made a lasting impact on the arts, public health, the law, neuroscience, and the resilience of communities here in Baltimore and across the globe,” he continued. “At Johns Hopkins, we share their commitment to innovate and to work for the benefit of humankind, and I’m so pleased that these honorary degrees will celebrate all they have accomplished.”

The 2016 Johns Hopkins honorary degree recipients are:

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:

Richard Axel: Axel was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2004 for work on how the brain deciphers the world of smell—research he did with his colleague, Linda Buck. He continues to study olfactory perception as a University Professor and as an investigator at the Columbia University Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Susan Baker: Founder of the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy, Baker is the author of the Injury Fact Book and is known for developing the Injury Severity Score, a system used to assess patients with multiple injuries. She has tirelessly advocated for life-saving tools that, thanks to her efforts, are now common, including airbags and child-safety caps.

Ellen M Heller: The first woman appointed to be Maryland’s Administrative Circuit Court judge, Heller introduced court-ordered mediation for some civil cases, allowing them to be resolved faster and more affordably than through a trial. She recently concluded her term as trustee and chair of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation. She graduated with honors from Johns Hopkins in 1972.

Shelton Jackson (Spike) Lee: The filmmaker whose acclaimed works include Do The Right Thing and Jungle Fever is also a writer, director, actor, producer, author, educator, and entrepreneur. The founder of 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks, Lee’s work is known for challenging assumptions about race and prejudice. He is also this year’s commencement speaker at Johns Hopkins.

Judith Rodin: Rodin is the president of The Rockefeller Foundation, an organization focused on building greater resilience and more inclusive economies. A former psychology professor, she served as provost of Yale and as the first woman president in the Ivy League at the University of Pennsylvania, her alma mater.

Shale Stiller: An eminent trial attorney and a partner at DLA Piper, Stiller was a leader in the comprehensive revision of the Code of Maryland (Statutes). He has been at the forefront of recent high-profile successful litigation against Iran, and has been named in every edition of The Best Lawyers in America since it was first published in 1987. An adjunct professor at the University of Maryland Law School for 53 years, Stiller earned a master of liberal arts degree with honors at Johns Hopkins in 1977.

Laurie Zabin: The founding director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health, Zabin has led public health initiatives in developing nations. A former Planned Parenthood director, Zabin, who has a PhD from the Bloomberg School of Public Health, is also an expert on teen pregnancy and reproductive rights.

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Win some books for Books LIVE’s birthday!


This past Saturday was World Book Day, which also happens to be Books LIVE’s birthday!

23 April was chosen by Unesco to be World Book Day as it is a symbolic day for books: on this date in 1616, Cervantes, Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega all died, while it is also the date of birth or death of other prominent authors.

Books LIVE is turning nine this year, if you can believe it, and to celebrate we’re giving away a hamper of books.

To enter, simply quote a line of Shakespeare at us on Facebook or Twitter pages, or in the comments below (sign up here).

We’ll announce the winner on Thursday morning (28 April, 2015).

Have a look at our birthday posts over the years, back to when Ben Williams launched the site as BOOK SA:


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See an excerpt from Jabu Goes to Joburg, a fotonovela from the latest Chronic – with Isabel Hofmeyr as an evil villain

Read an excerpt from Jabu Goes to Joburg, the fotonovela featured in the latest edition of Chronic

This Fiction Friday, feast your eyes on Jabu Goes to Joburg, a fotonovela by Achal Prabhala that features as a pull-out supplement that rubs with the latest edition of Chimurenga’s Chronic.

The April edition of the Chronic explores “the tensions between reform and revolution, and decolonisation and the neoliberal order in the academy, through the lens of history and via the alternate education paradigms based in indigenous knowledge systems, and also arising from South Africa’s radical anti-apartheid struggle”.

Contributors include Rustum Kozain, Masande Ntshanga, Lidudumalingani Mqombothi, Florence Madenga, Ed Pavlic, Jon Soske, Meghna Singh, Abdourahman Waberi, Nick Mulgrew, Lindokuhle Nkosi, Wendell Marsh, Nick Mwaluko, and many more.

To buy a copy in print or as a PDF head to the Chronic‘s online shop or find your nearest stockist.

Of Jabu Goes to Joburg, Prabhala says: “I’m particularly excited to see this in print for several reasons, not least of which is that the form itself has been dead for two decades – even though every South African over the age of 30 will recognise what we are doing.

“There are some surprising people in the fotonovela, including Isabel Hofmeyr – an intellectual I deeply admire, and the deeply respectable author of too many books to name – taking on the thoroughly disrespectable role of a fur-clad golden-gloved crime boss. Which is something I hope you’ll enjoy!”

Read an excerpt from Jabu Goes to Joburg, the fotonovela featured in the latest edition of Chronic


Jabu Goes to Joburg was produced by Pam Dlungwana, and the full cast list is: Euridice Kala, Tiyiselani Kubayi, Phindile Cindi, Suraj Yengde, Meghan Judge, Nicky Falkof, Pule, Francis Burger, Nana Zajiji, Dorothee Kreutzfeldt, Gilles Baro, Achal Prabhala, Dean Hutton, Skhumbuzo Mbixane, Sibusiso “The General” Nxumalo and Isabel Hofmeyr.

In an interview with the Chronic, Prabhala explains the project:

I haven’t actually seen “Jim comes to Joburg”. I’ve heard of it, of course, but I don’t think I’ll be watching it any time soon. I find it massively annoying that every urban story in South Africa is some version of “XYZ comes to Joburg” – and essentially the same story: good-hearted wide-eyed rural man/woman comes to the city of gold to seek his/her fortune and gets screwed. Alan Paton wrote “Cry, the Beloved Country” in 1948 and that little snowflake he kicked down the mountain kept rolling, and rolling, and became an avalanche. So much so that 70 years later, the big feature films set in the city – I’m thinking of Tsotsi and Jerusalema – are about little more than how the whole place is some kind of torrid hallucination. It’s as if there’s a rule; a mandatory clause that requires all creative people to plumb the stygian depths of Joburg in any narrative of the place, from which no one is exempt – not even, for instance, the young, black, male writer of a promising blog-turned-book called the “Diary of a Zulu girl” in which said Zulu girl makes the long journey to Joburg only to immediately descend into prostitution.

He also has time for some praise for pulp fiction:

One of the casualties of a high-minded literary culture everywhere – from South Africa to India and to the United States – is the devaluation and gradual disappearance of pulp fiction. Literary culture can degrade popular culture all it likes, but the lurid stories being sold on the streets of Lagos, São Paulo, Hong Kong or Bangalore – where I live – have the stamp of democracy. Mostly terrible, sometimes passable, and very rarely wonderful, the book on the street is, however, always a sign of a population in control. And as much as I regret the loss of the steamy paperback in middle-class literary life, I am reminded of how the sentiment still exists when I read the tabloids, or internet fan fiction, or see popular social media memes. Google Mugabe’s misstep on the tarmac, or Zuma’s weekend-special Finance Ministry appointment, and then read our fotonovela: you’ll see the same thing going on – ordinary people crudely photoshopping their reality on earth into the preferred universe of their imagination. Pulp fiction has only disappeared from print, not from our lives.

Chimurenga has shared an excerpt from Jabu Goes to Joburg with Books LIVE. Have a look:

Excerpt Jabu Goes to Joburg, the fotonovela featured in the latest edition of Chimurenga's Cronic by Books LIVE

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