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'Timbila, don't find rest' - A love letter to a now deceased poetry journal

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Words of Tears

In the last instalment of Timbila – Volume 7Vonani Bila closes the editor’s notes:

It starts with reading. To foster a South African literary tradition, we need to harness all efforts to build a national writers’ association, to encourage a culture of translation, and support multilingual literary journals like Kotaz, Timbila and Botsotso. We need to build libraries and literary museums in rural areas. Let us honour the rural communities that gave us great writers by giving them education facilities, essential social services, and the opportunity to read.

This is after a rant about all the great writers that are products of de-privileged rural South African communities. This was the vision and the basic purpose of Timbila, a role that it wanted to fulfil: unearth and nurture voices in any language and domain. That critical word, “was”: Timbila is no longer with us, the living. The lifeblood that was beating there has fallen victim to the obligations of life. People do grow and maybe Timbila was another folly of youth.

This folly that I have fallen in love with; her tune invaded and extended my time in the loo.

He drinks me like wine
the kind he’d buy
glances at his watch
as he gently taps my emptying bottle
and strokes the unbroken ‘O’ of its lips

The harmony of that Timbila presented the fifth dimension of life, knowledge that words are not for academia and William Shakespeare was not meant for school but for life.

Just one more gulp –
He speaks: I swoon
and spill out the corners of his mouth

It has in its short life unearthed some of the greatest contemporary voices of our democracy. Timbila presented us with the likes of Vonani Bila – the passionate poet who, himself lost and starving within the cracks of this illiterate country, created a platform for the footpath/street corner wordsmith to be realised as a poet. An applause, please.

Goodenough Mashego – a rural wordsmith from rural Mpumalanga. He, who made Shatale township a beautiful living being, caressed and made love to her. Cried in her arms and ridiculed him when he became inhuman.

He takes a handkerchief
and carefully
wipes the mess
before it lands on his shirt.
Smiles apologetically:
A bit of caution, my dear.

The list is endless, Myesha Jenkins – the woman from America who divorced the first world for our beautiful economy class country. Makhosana Xaba – she made a mark because of Timbila, Mpho Ramaano, Mbongeni Khumalo, Kopano Dibakwane, David wa Maahlamela, Moses Mtileni and, from the dungeon of life, Timbila saved and presented to the nation Tshifhiwa Given Mukwevho, who to this day possesses no power to disempower. The list goes on and on.

Possessed
by a thirst
that only the devil could
bestow.
He drinks me.

I would never have crisscrossed the minds of these poets but because Timbila presented them with love and care I knew their deep thoughts. Timbila did not remodel the poet for purposes of exploration but in order to harness and harvest what was inside.

He drinks to the very dregs
of my youth.
And – lost in psychedelic illusions –
exposes the man-child
and his games.

As one who has fallen in love with words, words enjoyed in moments, verses of life, these words more potent than a shot of angel dust or a pull of nyaope.

Futile, I hear you say, but satisfying and addictive. Addictive because you can never get enough of it. You always need it and when the supply goes, WHEN THE SUPPLY CLOSES SHOP, you are left with a scorching headache and nowhere to doctor it. Yes, you can browse your favourite bookshop but Timbila, like angel dust, is never in the mainstream. Drugs are illegal and if one supplier goes another sprouts out but in the case of Timbila, of words, it is exclusive, for very, very few.

My beautiful girl, the bone of my bones once said it as she un-boned herself from my bones:

Poetry doesn’t feed babies

Yes, black men are a virile lot and babies need be fed.

Yet I chose to play –
I allow him to swallow
me in exchange
for this mockery of love:
I am his Venus today,
His piss tomorrow

Timbila, don’t find rest.

Book Launch: Amagama Enkulululeko! Words for freedom: writing life under Apartheid by Equal Education

amagama-schools-edition-cover-frontPlease join us to launch this collection of “words for freedom”, edited by Equal Education.

Panelists Tshepo Motsepe (General Secretary of Equal Education), Dinga Sikwebu (Tshisimani Centre for Activist Education and United Front), Zfikile Mbewu (Equaliser) and Daniel Sher (Researcher/ Co-Editor of Amagama Enkululeko!) will read and reflect on the book.

Amagama Unkululeko! is a collection of fiction, poetry, narrative journalism and extracts from novels and memoirs which frames local literature as a lens through which to engage with South Africa’s past.

Event Details

  • Date: 10 August 2016
  • Time: 5:30 PM for 6:00 PM
  • Venue: Book Lounge , cnr Buitenkant and Roeland Streets Cape Town
  • Refreshments
  • RSVP: booklounge@gmail.com

Book Details

2016 Lowveld Book Festival programme revealed

2016 Lowveld Book Festival programme revealed

 
Alert! The full programme for the 2016 Lowveld Book Festival has been revealed.

The festival will take place from 5-7 August this year in Mpumalanga.

Authors involved in the festival this year include Jayne Bauling, Mabonchi Goodwill Motimele, Joanne Macgregor, Arja Salafranca, Bontle Senne, Fiona Snyckers, Tony Park, Sindiwe Magona, Wynie Strydom, Pamela Power, Onkgopotse JJ Tabane, Eric Miyeni, Jessica Pitchford – and many more!

Event Details

  • Date: Friday, 5 August to Sunday, 7 August 2015
  • Venue: Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre
    White River
    Mpumalanga | Map
  • Email: lowveldbookfestival@gmail.com
  • Phone: 071 134 8172
* * * * *

2016 Lowveld Book Festival programme

FRIDAY 5 AUGUST 2016

10:30 AM – 11:30 AM (Casterbridge Barnyard Theatre – by invitation)
Lenore Zietsman – African Dilemma – story for high school children

10:30 AM – 11:30 AM (Casterbridge Cinema – by invitation)
Elinor Sisulu – PUKU presentation to younger primary school children – musical storytelling workshop

10:30 AM – 11:30 AM (Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre Marquee – by invitation)
Elinor Sisulu – PUKU presentation to older primary school children – artist Khehla Chepape Magkatho facilitates an art workshop

11:30 AM – 12:30 PM (Casterbridge Barnyard Theatre – by invitation)
Ida Gartrell – Spinner of Tales – storytelling

6:00 PM – 7:00 PM (Casterbridge Barnyard Theatre)
Opening cocktail party (with Dave Walters, Lenore Zietsman, Dr Mathews Phosa, Jenny Cryws-Williams)

7:00 PM – 08:30 PM (Casterbridge Cinema – R50)
Nozizwe Cynthia Jele – introduces the movie Happiness is a Four-letter Word – a South African romantic drama directed by Thabang Moleya and written by Melissa Stack based on Nozizwe Cynthia Jele’s novel of the same name

7:00 PM – 9:00 PM (Casterbridge Barnyard Theatre)
Casterbridge Music Development Academy – gentle background music

* * * * *

SATURDAY 6 AUGUST 2016

9:00 AM – 9:45 AM (Casterbridge Barnyard Theatre – R30)
Alita Steenkamp – Die vreugde en uitdagings om met woorde te woeker (the joy and challenges of working with words)

9:00 AM – 9:45 AM (Casterbridge Hollow Hotel Lounge – free)
Jayne Bauling, Kiran Coetzee, Bontle Senne – Launch of two youth novels and a group discussion

9:00 AM – 9:45 AM (Casterbridge Art Gallery – free)
Sue Kloeck – Children’s storytime

9:00 AM – 9:45 AM (Casterbridge Cinema – R50)
Jessica Pitchford – Switched at Birth – Jessica discusses her book which is an insight into a story that gripped the public imagination, a story of living with the unliveable and how some decisions can never be unmade.

10:00 AM – 10:45 AM (Casterbridge Barnyard Theatre – R50)
Eric Miyeni – Interview by Jenny Cryws-Williams on literature, publishing and writing and about Eric Miyeni’s books specifically

10:00 AM – 11:45 AM (Casterbridge Hollow Hotel Lounge – R50)
Joanne Macgregor – Workshop – Swinging both ways: a hybrid author speaks about self-publishing after being traditionally published

10:00 AM – 10:45 AM (Casterbridge Art Gallery – free)
Sue Kloeck – Children’s story time

10:00 AM – 10:45 AM (Casterbridge Cinema – R50)
Wynie Strydom – A chat about his book My Bloed is Blou and he will share a few toerstories

10:00 AM – 10:45 AM (Casterbridge Hollow Hotel Boardroom – R30)
Hans Bornman – A well known historian who has written books about history, people and pioneers of the Lowveld, will talk about how he got into writing

11:00 AM – 11:45 AM (Casterbridge Barnyard Theatre – free)
Mabonchi Goodwill Motimele, Nozizwe Cynthia Jele, Arthur Sithole – Panel discussion on furthering literacy in our youth – facilitated by Bontle Senne

11:00 AM – 11:45 AM (Casterbridge Art Gallery – R50)
Melanie Reeder-Powell, Elliot Ndlovu – A Sangoma’s Story: The Calling of Elliot Ndlovu – her book sheds light on Zulu culture and clarifies the misconceptions about traditional healing

11:00 AM – 11:45 AM (Casterbridge Bandstand – free)
Open Mic (Poetry and readings)

11:00 AM – 11:45 AM (Casterbridge Cinema – R50)
Jacquie Gauthier – In conversation with Karabo Kgoleng – Igniting your passion and having the life you want

11:00 AM – 1:30 PM (Casterbridge Hollow Hotel Boardroom – R100)
Graeme Butchart – Workshop – Think out of the box. Author of The Genius Programme delivers a workshop about acquiring the tools to unlock your creative thinking.

12:00 PM – 12:45 PM (Casterbridge Barnyard Theatre – R50)
Tony Park – Interview by Jenny Cryws-Williams – Jenny will discuss Tony’s book An Empty Coast and his new book Red Earth and much more in between.

12:00 PM – 12:45 PM (Casterbridge Hollow Hotel Lounge – R30)
Athol Williams – Poetry – Bumper Cars: a social, political and philosophical reflection on human conflict. Athol’s poetry discusses how love is central to resolving this conflict.

12:00 PM – 12:45 PM (Casterbridge Art Gallery – R30)
Deanne Kim – Lifting the Veil – Author of the books Cinderbella Gets Divorced and The Cracked Slipper

12:00 PM – 12:45 PM (Casterbridge Cinema – R30)
Siphesihle AfrikaWisdom Shabalala – Literature is life

1:00 PM – 1:45 PM (Casterbridge Barnyard Theatre – R50)
Sindiwe Magona – Untended Fires

1:00 PM – 1:45 PM (Casterbridge Hollow Hotel Lounge – R30)
David Hilton-Barber – Footprints in the Lowveld – a book about pioneering people, interesting places and significant events

1:00 PM – 1:45 PM (Casterbridge Art Gallery – R30)
Dr Arien van der Merwe – Managing Diabetes and other related health challenges – an holistic and integrative medicine approach

1:00 PM – 2:45 PM (Casterbridge Cinema – R50)
Cindy Robertson – Verhaalwerkswinkel (workshop) – ‘n Liefdesverhaal … waar begin ek?

2:00 PM – 2:45 PM (Casterbridge Barnyard Theatre – R50)
Pamela Power – Having it all – just not all at once – an interview by Joanne Macgregor about Pamela’s book Ms Conception which compares breastfeeding with becoming a successful writer

2:00 PM – 2:45 PM (Casterbridge Art Gallery – R30)
Enrico & Erna Liebenberg –
We are the Champions: Champion Trees of South Africa – The oldest and largest and most spectacular of trees in South Africa are afforded the title of Champion Tree and thus protected by law. Join Enrico and Erna Liebenberg on an armchair journey through South Africa and be captivated by the imagery of the sometimes gargantuan and sometimes familiar sights of these trees, some of which are way beyond a millennium old and be wowed by our Natural heritage in trees of which so few people are aware.

2:00 PM – 2:45 PM (Casterbridge Hollow Hotel Lounge – R30)
David Patient – David will discuss his books Make a Plan … Possibility and Empowerment in a Time of Aids and Positive Health

3:00 PM – 3:45 PM (Casterbridge Barnyard Theatre – R50)
Samkela Stamper, Eric Miyeni, Sindiwe Magoma – Panel discussion lead by Karabo Kgoleng – Initiatives to Decolonise Literacy and Literature

3:00 PM – 3:45 PM (Casterbridge Hollow Hotel Lounge – R30)
Linda Louw – Horses of Kaapsehoop – a six year project paying tribute to the wild herds of horses of the Kaapsehoop escarpment

3:00 PM – 3:45 PM (Casterbridge Art Gallery – R30)
Walter Thornhill – Truth, Memory and Perception – talk weaves in and out of these three dynamics within the context of writing through the eyes of the child and the adult; questioning the relevance and veracity thereof (author of The Eye of the Child)

3:00 PM – 3:45 PM (Casterbridge Cinema – R50)
Paul-Constant Smit – Do you really see? – a talk on how each one of us perceives things differently

4:00 PM – 4:50 PM (Casterbridge Barnyard Theatre – R50)
Ida Gartrell – Storytelling – The Fabulous Creatures of Zulu Mythology for adults and children alike

4:00 PM – 4:45 PM (Casterbridge Hollow Hotel Lounge – R50)
Bontle Senne, Jayne Bauling, Fiona Snyckers – Who is reading and what?

4:00 PM – 4:45 PM (Casterbridge Art Gallery – R30)
Katja Kowalec – Those Miraculous Sunflower Seeds: A Riveting Story of Faith, Hope and Love

4:00 PM – 4:45 PM (Casterbridge Cinema – R30)
Darryl David – Co-author of 101 Country Churches of South Africa, author of A Platteland Pilgrimage and Church Tourism in SA, founder of the Richmond Literary Festival and Richmond Booktown

5:00 PM – 5:45 PM (Casterbridge Barnyard Theatre – R50)
Kim Wolhuter, Clyde Niven – Reminiscences of Jock, Fitz, Harry Wolhuter and some of the old timers in the Lowveld

5:00 PM – 5:45 PM (Casterbridge Hollow Hotel Lounge – R30)
Athol Williams, Arja Salafranca – Poetry for Sundowners

5:00 PM – 5:45 PM (Casterbridge Art Gallery – R30)
Judith Mason – The Mind’s Eye – Judith discusses how making art is as important and relevant as arithmetic and learning to read and that adult artwork is not only a pleasure but a form of philosophy

5:00 PM – 5:45 PM (Casterbridge Cinema – R50)
JJ Tabane – Interview by Karabo Kgoleng about his book Lets Talk Frankly: Letters to Influential South Africans About the State of Our Nation

6:00 PM – 6:45 PM (Casterbridge Barnyard Theatre – R50)
Jessica Pitchford – Carte Blanche – the stories behind the stories when Jessica was Managing Editor at Carte Blanche

6:00 PM – 6:45 PM (Casterbridge Bandstand – free)
Open Mic (Poetry and readings)

6:00 PM – 6:45 PM (Casterbridge Hollow Hotel Lounge – R50)
Roger Webster – Fireside Chats – make yourself comfortable and listen to a few of Roger Webster’s fireside stories

6:00 PM – 6:45 PM (Casterbridge Art Gallery – R30)
Samkela Stamper – This Woman’s Work … 60 Years On – a mini exhibition explores women in literature who have contributed to the landscape of South African literature

6:00 PM – 7:30 PM (Casterbridge Cinema – R50)
Nozizwe Cynthia Jele – introduces the movie Happiness is a Four-letter Word – a South African romantic drama directed by Thabang Moleya and written by Melissa Stack based on Nozizwe Cynthia Jele’s novel of the same name

7:30 PM – 9:00 PM (Casterbridge Barnyard Theatre – R150)
Nik Rabinowitz – Comedy show – What the EFF?

* * * * *

SUNDAY 7 AUGUST 2016

10:00 AM – 10:45 AM (Casterbridge Barnyard Theatre – R50)
Paul-Constant Smit – Do you really see? – a talk on how each one of us perceives things differently

10:00 AM – 10:45 AM (Casterbridge Hollow Hotel Lounge – R50)
Roger Webster – Fireside Chats – make yourself comfortable and listen to a few of Roger Webster’s fireside stories

10:00 AM – 10:45 AM (Casterbridge Art Gallery – free)
Sue Kloeck – Children’s story time

10:00 AM – 10:45 AM (Casterbridge Cinema – R30)
Fiona Snyckers – Trinity series, the lighter side of fiction writing

10:00 AM – 12:30 PM (Casterbridge Hollow Hotel Boardroom – R100)
Graeme Butchart – Workshop – Think out of the box. Author of The Genius Programme delivers a workshop about acquiring the tools to unlock your creative thinking.

11:00 AM – 11:45 AM (Casterbridge Barnyard Theatre – R50)
Tracy Todd – Writing in Dragon – how using voice technology could aid both able and disabled writers

11:00 AM – 11:45 AM (Casterbridge Hollow Hotel Lounge – free)
Samkela Stamper, Arja Salafranca – A discussion about their approaches and writing styles, their favourite poems as well as a few readings

11:00 AM – 11:45 AM (Casterbridge Art Gallery – free)
Sue Kloeck – Children’s story time

11:00 AM – 11:45 AM (Casterbridge Cinema – R50)
Pamela Power – This might be a very stupid idea … how stupid ideas become great storylines on TV

12:00 PM – 12:45 PM (Casterbridge Barnyard Theatre – R50)
Tony Park – Interview by Nicky Manson (editor of Lowveld Living magazine) about his new book Red Earth and discovering why he loves living in the Lowveld, how he develops his characters and his views on conservation

12:00 PM – 12:45 PM (Casterbridge Cinema – R50)
Melanie Reeder-Powell, Elliot Ndlovu – A Sangoma’s Story: The Calling of Elliot Ndlovu – her book sheds light on Zulu culture and clarifies the misconceptions about traditional healing

12:00 PM – 12:45 PM (Casterbridge Art Gallery – R30)
Enrico & Erna Liebenberg – We are the Champions: Champion Trees of South Africa – The oldest and largest and most spectacular of trees in South Africa are afforded the title of Champion Tree and thus protected by law. Join Enrico and Erna Liebenberg on an armchair journey through South Africa and be captivated by the imagery of the sometimes gargantuan and sometimes familiar sights of these trees, some of which are way beyond a millennium old and be wowed by our Natural heritage in trees of which so few people are aware.

12:00 PM – 2:00 PM (Casterbridge Hollow Hotel Lounge – free)
Mabonchi Goodwill Motimele – Workshop for writers – The element of surprise in literature

2:00 PM – 3:30 PM (Casterbridge Cinema – R50)
Nozizwe Cynthia Jele – introduces the movie Happiness is a Four-letter Word – a South African romantic drama directed by Thabang Moleya and written by Melissa Stack based on Nozizwe Cynthia Jele’s novel of the same name

Book details

Soccer SecretsKe a hwa, ke a ikepelaFault LinesUitsonderlike liefdeBeyond TouchPowers of the Knife
Now Following YouThe Gift of an ElephantAn Empty CoastChasing The Tails of My Father’s CattleWynie - My bloed is blouA Sangoma's Story
Ms ConceptionLet's Talk FranklyLoui FishGold Never RustsHere Comes the Snake in the GrassSwitched At Birth
At the FiresideBumper CarsLandslideWe are the ChampionsFootprintsTrinity On AirRecoil

2016 Sol Plaatje EU Poetry Award and Anthology - entries open

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Entries for the sixth annual Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award and Anthology are now open! The project is made possible thanks to the ongoing support of the European Union. The Jacana Literary Foundation is also thrilled to welcome on board the Mail & Guardian this year, who will join in on the sixth Award, as we celebrate the anniversary of Sol Plaatje’s 140th birthday.

Up to three poems in any of South Africa’s official languages can be submitted via the online entry form. Entrants are encouraged to submit poems written in their mother tongue. Entries will close at 8 AM on Friday, 29 July.

The work submitted is judged blind, by a panel of four esteemed poets. As in previous years, a longlist of the best entries received will be published in Volume 6 of the anthology. A shortlist of three poets is selected from the longlist, and those finalists will be invited to attend an event at the seventh annual Mail & Guardian Literary Festival in early October, where the winner will be announced and cash prizes awarded.

Named after Solomon Tshekisho Plaatje (1876-1932), the Award recognises the life and vision of this highly respected political and social activist. We always hope that it reveals the political and social attitudes of our time, and reflects the complex, nuanced and uncomfortable truths of life in South Africa, and thus poems which reflect our current realities are warmly welcomed.

For more information, contact the Jacana Literary Foundation on awards@jacana.co.za

The Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology 2011The Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology Vol IIThe Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology Vol IIIThe Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology Vol IVThe Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology

Prizes:

  • A shortlist of three poets will be selected by the judging panel. They will be invited to attend an awards ceremony and book launch at the Mail & Guardian Literary Festival on 9 October, 2016 in Johannesburg.
  • prizes are awarded to the shortlist:

    1st place: R6,000
    2nd place: R4,000
    3rd place: R2,000

  • A longlist of the best poems entered will be selected by the judging panel, and published in Volume 6 of the anthology, which will be launched at the Mail & Guardian Literary Festival.

Rules:

  • Entries open at 5 PM on Friday, 15 July and close at 8 AM on Friday, 29 July.
  • Poems in the 11 official languages of South Africa are accepted.
  • Poets may enter in more than one language.
  • Entrants must be South African citizens residing in South Africa.
  • Poems submitted may not have appeared in any publication, online (including blogs and social media) or in print. Only unpublished poetry is accepted.
  • Intertextuality and references must be appropriately attributed.
  • A maximum of three poems may be entered, although one or two poems per author is also acceptable.
  • If you are entering more than one poem, please ensure that they are each saved and uploaded as separate Word documents.
  • Poems must not exceed 100 lines.
  • Poems must be submitted as a Word document – doc or docx files. No other file formats are accepted.
  • Please ensure that the poet’s name does not appear on the Word document. It should only include the title and poem.
  • The file name should be the title of the poem.
  • Ariel size 11 or Times New Roman size 12 fonts are preferred. No “fancy” fonts, borders or images should be included on the Word document.
  • Handwritten entries are not eligible.

Declaration and permissions:

By entering, the poet declares that the entry is their original work and neither whole nor part of their poem has been published previously. They give permission for the publication of their poem in the anthology, without payment, if longlisted. Poets agree to have their work translated into English for adjudication and publication purposes.

Related news:

 

Book details

Sterkykers deur Jaco Jacobs: Vars, verrassende, vuishou-op-die-maag-gedigte vir tieners

SterkykersSterkykers, ’n heerlike bundel verse vir tieners saamgestel deur Jaco Jacobs, is nou beskikbaar op LAPA se rakke:

Skryf ’n liefdesbrief.
Bemeester die kuns van hande vashou.
Vuisstamp die lewe voluit.
Lag soos die mense in advertensies.
Raak onsigbaar.
Twiet vir iemand ’n vers.

Hierdie bundel vars, verrassende, vuishou-op-die-maag-gedigte vir tieners bou voort op die suksesvolle Toulopers. Bekende digters en skrywers soos Koos Kombuis, Ronelda S Kamfer, Nathan Trantraal, Annie Klopper, Fanie Viljoen, Izak de Vries en Jacobs span kragte saam met opwindende nuwelinge soos Deon Meiring (hoofsanger van die groep Glaskas), Solette Swanepoel, Donnay Torr en Danie du Toit (sanger en liedjieskrywer van die groep Spoegwolf) in ’n opwindende digbundel wat spesiaal saamgestel is om hedendaagse jongmense se leefwêreld te weerspieël.

Oor die samesteller

Jaco Jacobs is op Carnarvon in die Karoo gebore. Sy eerste boek, Troetelgedrog, het in 2001 by LAPA verskyn, en sedertdien het meer as honderd boeke vir kleuters, kinders en tieners uit sy pen verskyn. Sy boeke is onder meer bekroon met die Alba Bouwerprys, die C.P. Hoogenhoutmedalje en 19 ATKV-Kinderboektoekennings. Talle van sy boeke word met groot sukses by skole voorgeskryf, en in 2014 is ’n rolprentweergawe van sy gewilde tienerboek Suurlemoen! landwyd vrygestel. Hy woon in Bloemfontein saam met sy vrou, Elize, sy dogtertjies, Mia en Emma, twee honde, Pippie en Binki, en ’n baie stoute kantoorkat genaamd Lego wat sy bes probeer om Jaco uit die werk te hou. Besoek gerus sy webtuiste.

Boekbesonderhede

Read an excerpt from Binyavanga Wainaina's new short story, "Alien Taste"

Kwani?One Day I Will Write About This PlaceHow to Write About Africa

 
“There are times that even Graham believes the story he has peddled for so many years, about how he came to be gay.”

This Fiction Friday, dip into “Alien Taste”, a new short story on Brittle Paper by acclaimed author Binyavanga Wainaina.

The story starts with the protagonist thinking back on the time he first realised he was gay. Fifteen-year-old Graham drinks beer and has had sex with an older woman (but isn’t convinced that he liked either events).

“He assumed that sex was like beer—that soon it would create an unquestioning language in him, and he could lose himself in its subtleties.”

On the day he decides to smoke in public for the first time, Graham meets a man named Fred, a big Irishman with a deep, careless voice.

Read the excerpt:

There are times that even Graham believes the story he has peddled for so many years, about how he came to be gay. That he had always known; that he used to dress up in his mother; that he had been riveted by the biceps of Mohammed Ali, the anger of those black panthers on television; that he had played the kerfuffle game in public school; that the old gay friends of his mother, who had hosted him when she was in rehab, or consulting her guru in Lucknow, had made it easy to see possibilities in this world. These things are all true, but only small accessories to the main event.

But the main event, as seen by him now, is also untruthful: it was not as clear a sexual selection as he prefers to imagine, and he knows this enough not to share this story– it could well be that he was always gay, and that he would have come to it in one way or another, despite his self-protests to the contrary. But the unambiguous epiphany that the first gay fuck gave him marked not his sexuality, but his approach to life itself, it was his Woodstock, his civil rights movement. And inside himself, he remains unconvinced of his visceral homosexuality, believes that he has willfully created himself.

 
Related stories:

 

Book details

Image courtesy of Brittle Paper and Department of Arts and Culture