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Sisonke Msimang's The Resurrection of Winnie Mandela is an astute examination of one of SA’s most controversial political figures

The death of Winnie Madikizela Mandela on 2 April this year unleashed a hailstorm of opinion.

On one side, her legacy was cast by the media and public in the shadow of her sanctified ex-husband. Winnie was history’s loser. She was damaged goods; Nelson Mandela was whole and pure.

A younger generation, in particular women, took a different view and so a battle of ideas began that sought to reframe Winnie’s career and reclaim her identity as an extraordinary woman and fierce political activist.

Sisonke Msimang, an acclaimed author and public commentator, wasted little time in jumping into the fray.

And when the dust settled, what emerged is this short but razor-sharp book which reflects critically on the turbulent yet remarkable life of Winnie.

Msimang situates her political career and legacy in the contemporary context, what she means today in social and political terms, by exploring different aspects of her iconic persona.

The Resurrection of Winnie Mandela is an astute examination of one of South Africa’s most controversial political figures, of the rise and fall – and rise, again, – of a woman who not only battled the apartheid regime, but the patriarchal character of the struggle itself.

In telling Winnie’s story, Msimang shows us that activism matters, and that the meaning of women’s lives can be reclaimed.

SISONKE MSIMANG currently lives in Perth, Australia, where she is Programme Director for the Centre for Stories.

She is regularly in South Africa where she continues to speak and comment on current affairs.

Sisonke has degrees from Macalester College, Minnesota and the University of Cape Town, is a Yale World Fellow, an Aspen New Voices Fellow, and was a Ruth First Fellow at the University of the Witwatersrand.

She regularly contributes to The Guardian, The Daily Maverick and The New York Times.

Her first book, Always Another Country, was shortlisted for the Sunday Times Alan Paton Award for 2018.

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Magical, inspirational, life-affirming – notes on the 12th Book Dash, held in Johannesburg

By Anna Stroud

Photographer Urvesh Rama was there from start to finish, capturing all the action. Visit Book Dash on Facebook for more images.

 
Energy crackled in the air – the kind that makes every hair on your body jig, from your nose to your toes.

It’s a powerful sensation watching nine teams brainstorm, craft and chisel away to create nine beautiful children’s books in less than 12 hours. And that’s exactly what happened on Saturday, 27 October, as volunteers drove into the heart of Johannesburg to participate in the 12th edition of Book Dash.

The Streetlight Schools in Jeppestown was the perfect home for the Book Dash crew. The schools started in October 2013 in a small store-room in Bjala Square and their aim is to create globally competitive schools in the most underserved areas in South Africa.

In 2016, they launched the flagship Streetlight Schools: Jeppe Park where we hung our hats for the day. Judging from the drawings on the wall and the wholesome menu on the blackboard, it’s a nice, caring place to learn.

The nine teams of three – writer, illustrator and designer, plus one editor for two teams – experienced that care first hand. The school’s support staff kept us fed, hydrated and happy as we worked our way to the finish line.

“Everything we do today is a gift to the world,” said Book Dash founder Arthur Attwell at the start of the day, while his six-year-old son (and unofficial Book Dash cheerleader) beamed at us from across the room.

Book Dash originated in 2014 from the founders’ belief that each child should own 100 books by the age of five. The books are available for free under the Creative Commons Attribution licence and in all 11 official South African languages.

The Book Dash model has been replicated by various groups in and outside South Africa, and the Android app recently hit just over 100 000 downloads worldwide!

This 12th edition was made possible by the Otto Foundation Trust, which allows Book Dash to print and distribute the books.

One of the reasons why I volunteered as a Book Dash editor is the feeling of positivity and goodwill that permeates the room.

Throughout the day, the love spreads from writer to editor, designer to illustrator, facilitator to support staff, barista to photographer to videographer, and back again, like a never-ending cycle of good vibes. (Yes, we had our own barista!)

In the morning, all the writers and editors gathered in the library to read their stories aloud and to give each other feedback. I’ve never experienced such an affirming group of people, who gave each other advice on how to make their stories better and built each other up every step of the way.

It wasn’t an easy feat.

As the day progressed, illustrators’ hands started to cramp, designers started to see double, writers and editors went back and fro with coffee, snacks and kind words to motivate them to the finish line.

Then the final stretch: proofreading for wayward punctuation, frowning at fonts with their own free will, and watching the clock count down to the final minutes.

And then – sweet release – the work was done and we could bask in each other’s glory.

The teams took to the stage and the writers read their stories aloud to roaring applause. The final book caused all the tired creatives to collapse in fits of laughter: somewhere in the night, a car backfired just as one writer read the line: “What’s that noise behind the tree?”

The books will be available soon – but here’s a sneak preview of the magical titles that came to life during the day:

• I don’t want to go to sleep!
• The Great Cake Contest
• The very tired lioness
• Dance, Mihlali!
• Let’s have an inside day!
• Mali’s Friend
• Auntie Boi’s Gift
• Lions are always brave
• What’s at the park?

To experience some of the magic, follow the hashtag #BookDash for live coverage on the day or visit their website to find out how you can get involved.

"It’s vital that children growing up in harsh environments can imagine worlds beyond those harsh realities" - a Q&A with speculative fiction author, Mandisi Nkomo

Nal’bali Column 28: Term 4, 2018

By Carla Lever

Mandisi Nkomo

 
What’s the place of speculative fiction – a broader term than science fiction that covers everything from superheroes to fantasy – in Africa right now?

It’s a big scene, just somewhat underground! Apart from certain big names that have managed to break into the pop culture hive mind, there’s a ridiculous amount of African Spec Fic around if you’re willing to dig. I can’t even keep up.

You have said that your writing is influenced by pop tech – highly visual, graphic forms of storytelling in videogames, comic books, anime and so on. What kind of feeling does this give your work?

At first it was more about creating a strong sense of the kind of mood that often comes with a lot of audio-visual platforms, or even taking the weird fiction path where plot takes a backseat in favour of cinematography, music, themes and surrealism. It’s taken a bit of a new turn recently though. Now I’m working on something where I’m building a whole story world around gameplay ideas, like ammo drops.

Another really interesting thing about your work is how it draws from real, often underrepresented, African histories. So, for instance, you’ve made references to the Namibian border war, the TRC, corruption. How can speculative fiction help us to understand or re-process our own worlds?

Most speculative fiction is about understanding or re-processing our own worlds. Authors just choose how much real life influence they want to give readers as clues to what they’re actually discussing in their work. George Orwell’s Animal Farm for example, was set in an almost childlike fantasy world of talking animals, but was actually an way to talk about very serious world issues.

Afrofuturism is very trendy worldwide right now, particularly with the success of Black Panther. But imagining an African knowledge system that has power and commands global respect is something that many are trying to do with the decolonisation project. Have you found there are links that writers are able to make where business people and politicians often can’t?

Definitely! Business people and politicians are not necessarily taught to push creativity and imagination when problem-solving.

Do you think that being able to imagine worlds differently is a skill that we should encourage all our children to develop through reading more?

I really do. It assists with problem-solving and increases your ability to think outside certain norms or embedded cultures. From a South African perspective, it’s vital that children growing up in harsh environments can imagine worlds beyond those harsh realities.

What’s the best way to keep up to date with your latest writing?

I keep my website up to date whenever I get published, and post updates regularly on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I’ve also started a Patreon page, where I plan to self-publish writing exclusives for paying patrons.

https://thedarkcow.com/
• Facebook: @darkcowproductions
• Instagram: @mandisithepolymath
• Twitter: @mandisinkomo
https://www.patreon.com/thedarkcow

What online resources are out there for fans of African speculative fiction who might not have access to published books?

The African Speculative Fiction Society is an excellent source. They maintain a list of African Speculative Fiction from novels to works readily available online: http://www.africansfs.com/resources/published

Why is telling – and reading – our own stories in Africa so important?

Well, for one, history tends to be written by the victors, but now we have this little thing called the internet which is making it harder to erase underrepresented voices. And, as you mentioned, with the rise in popularity of things like Black Panther, we have to make an effort to not get written out of the narrative by those with more money and influence.

Reading and telling stories with your children is a powerful gift to them. It builds knowledge, language, imagination and school success! For more information about the Nal’ibali campaign, or to access children’s stories in a range of South African languages, visit: www.nalibali.org.

Book Bites: 28 October

Published in the Sunday Times

Melusi’s Everyday Zulu ****
Melusi Tshabalala, Jonathan Ball Publishers, R220

Peals of laughter shook me. The cat ran off without looking back. “Doctor” Tshabalala takes politics head-on, wades through current affairs, family, being a “grown-up” (so many aren’t!) and muses on 21st-century life as a Zulu man with the same wild abandon and unexpected humour. You can learn a Zulu word a day (actually about three), on his site or his Facebook page and blog, as this comedian/social guerrilla infiltrates White Monopoly Culture. But it’s the light touch that does it, the gentle prodding that makes you wish you were learning the entire depth of the Zulu culture and language. A really, really fun read. Ngiyabonga kakhulu Melusi! Ungaphumalela na! David Forbes

The Last GirlThe Last Girl: My Story of Captivity and my Fight Against the Islamic State ****
Nadia Murad and Jenna Krajeski, Virago, R225

Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad’s childhood in the Yazidi community was a happy existence in a village of peasant farmers in an area of Iraq that was a curious melting pot of religions – Muslims, Christians and the ancient Yazidi sect – who in the main tolerated each other. But in 2014 that all changed when Islamic State fighters destroyed her village, killed almost all the men, including six of her brothers, and many of the women and took Nadia and other young women to be sex slaves; to be abused, raped and dehumanised. She eventually escaped, and a Sunni Muslim family risked their lives to get her to safety. Resettled in Germany, Nadia is now an advocate for the Yazidi cause and has spoken all over the world, including at the UN. Her story is a stark and compelling reminder that victims of war include more than the corpses you see on the evening news. Margaret von Klemperer

An Unquiet PlaceAn Unquiet Place *****
Clare Houston, Penguin, R260

Neglected, lost and fragile, Hannah Harrison leaves everything she knows in Cape Town for a bookshop in the Free State. There, she discovers a diary dating back to concentration camps from the South African War. Hannah is intrigued by the idea that she could unravel the mystery of the diary and what happened to the person who wrote it, but she encounters many obstacles: new love, an ex-lover and a deranged woman living on a farm nearby. Houston manages to weave together a complicated tapestry of events in an unexpected and rich way. So masterful is Houston’s writing that at the end readers will likely be inspired to research our history. Jessica Levitt @jesslevitt

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In Die troebel tyd bewys Ingrid Winterbach weer haar merkwaardige vernuf as romansier, met ’n eiesoortige, snydende humor en ’n buitengewone insig in die menslike psige

Magrieta Prinsloo, dierkundige, se kop haak uit op die verkeerde antidepressant.

Sy raak vervreem van haar kollegas, beledig haar departementshoof, en haar illustere akademiese loopbaan kom tot ’n einde.

Sy aanvaar ’n betrekking by die Buro vir Voortgesette Onderrig, met die enigmatiese Markus Potsdam as hoof van die Kaapse tak. Daar word van haar verwag om te reis om met medewerkers te skakel, o.m. na die Oos-Kaap.

Op hierdie reise kom sy heelwat teë – sowel medewerkers as walvisse – wat haar lewe in ’n beduidende ander koers stuur.

Wanneer Markus Potsdam boonop op ’n oggend verdwyn, raak haar lewe nog verder gekompliseer.

In Die troebel tyd bewys Winterbach weer haar merkwaardige vernuf as romansier, met ’n eiesoortige, snydende humor en ’n buitengewone insig in die menslike psige.

Die roman is as wenner aangewys van NB-Uitgewers se Groot Afrikaanse Romanwedstryd in 2018.

Ingrid Winterbach is ’n veel-bekroonde skrywer. Sy het al meermale die Hertzogprys, die M¬Net¬prys en die UJ-prys ontvang. Winterbach se romans het al in Nederland, Frankryk en Amerika verskyn. Sy woon op Stellenbosch en is ook ‘n beeldende kunstenaar.

Boekbesonderhede

"Just stick to cricket, Shane." Good ol' Warney has been indulged once more in this tedious biography, writes Archie Henderson

Published in the Sunday Times

No Spin: My Autobiography **
Shane Warne with Mark Nicholas, Penguin Random House, R320

Shane Warne deserves a good biography.

This is not it, even with Mark Nicholas as his amanuensis.

Nicholas, an accomplished broadcaster and writer, played a marathon innings, listening to his subject, recording him, transcribing their conversations and bringing some coherence to the garrulous Warne’s ramblings.

He fails to rein in Warne and a book of almost 400 pages (including seven of fascinating statistics) could have been half the length, enough to accommodate the best part of the book, the cricket.

Warne was a great cricketer – many aficionados believe he was one of the greatest – but he can also be a great bore.

His peccadillos with a variety of women and his affair with film star Liz Hurley are tedious.

His obsequiousness toward the rich (Kerry Packer et al) is embarrassing, especially his blatant pleading to be invited to Johann Rupert’s next golf outing at St Andrews.

And his participation during a TV reality show in the “jungle” near the Kruger Park is ludicrous and irrelevant.

Stick to cricket, a strong captain – Steve Waugh, perhaps, whom Warne loathes – might have advised.

But good ol’ Warney has been indulged once more.

When he does stick to cricket, he redeems himself and his book.

He is a deep thinker on the game, was a brilliant exponent of the difficult art of leg-spin bowling and would have made a very good Australian captain.

Sadly, part of his behaviour cost him that job. Now it’s cost him a good book.

One day, when time has created some distance for dispassion, Warne will get his deserved biography. It might even be by Gideon Haigh, the Australian who is as good a writer as Warne is a bowler and who has already compiled a series of essays on the player. In them Haigh describes Warne’s bowling action as being “both dainty and menacing, like Ernst Blofeld stroking his white cat”.

Now that’s a book that would be worth reading.

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