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Watch: Sifiso Mxolisi Ndlovu discusses The Soweto Uprisings on SABC

When the Soweto uprisings of June 1976 took place, Sifiso Mxolisi Ndlovu, the author of The Soweto Uprisings: Counter Memories of June 1976 was a 14-year-old pupil at Phefeni Junior Secondary School.

With his classmates, he was among the active participants in the protest action against the use of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction.

Contrary to the generally accepted views, both that the uprisings were ‘spontaneous’ and that there were bigger political players and student organisations behind the uprisings, Sifiso’s book shows that this was not the case.

Using newspaper articles, interviews with former fellow pupils and through his own personal account, Sifiso provides us with a ‘counter-memory’ of the momentous events of that time.

Here Professor Ndlovu discusses the book and his participation in the protest on SABC’S Morning Live Show with Leanne Manas:

The Soweto Uprisings

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Miss Behave a manifesto for South African black women, writes Nkateko Mabasa

Miss BehaveUpon encountering historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s quote, ‘well-behaved women seldom make history’, Malebo Sephodi knew that she was tired of everyone else having a say on who and what she should be.

Appropriating this quote, Malebo boldly renounces societal expectations placed on her as a black woman and shares her journey towards misbehaviour.

According to Malebo, it is the norm for a black woman to live in a society that prescribes what it means to be a well-behaved woman. Acting like this prescribed woman equals good behaviour.

But what happens when a black woman decides to live her own life and becomes her own form of who she wants to be? She is often seen as misbehaving.

Miss Behave challenges society’s deep-seated beliefs about what it means to be an obedient woman. In this book, Malebo tracks her journey on a path towards achieving total autonomy and self-determinism.
 
 
Miss Behave will challenge, rattle and occasionally cause you to scream ‘yassss, yassss, yassss’ at various intervals.

Nkateko Mabasa recently reviewed Miss-Behave for The Huffington Post, describing Malebo’s memoir as “a manifesto for South African black women”:

In the coming revolution, it seems to me, that it will be women who shall lead us. Or rather it shall be a black radical feminist. For it is them, who not only have a true sense of reality but honestly seek to fight oppressions of all kind, having been subjected to it all.

And it is in the work of debut writer Malebo Sephodi that one has a glimpse of what that liberated future might look like. In her insightful and deeply personal book “Miss Bahave”, Malebo presents a world of the black woman in South Africa.

A world of hidden anxiety, maltreatment and nervousness, not to mention the inner turmoil of being silenced. Bearing society’s burden on a body that does not belong to itself. It is the world hidden from view but existing nonetheless. And as a society, we refuse to see this body, let alone hear it. It’s absence and silence confirms to us our sense of normal; it hides our moral depravity. But then appears in this deep and lonesome night, a bright light.

Sephodi, much like a skilful director of a play, breaks the fourth wall. The audience is shocked, realising it is actually participants in this play called life. Shocked not out of horror but out of the responsibility they must accept. One is moved from passive observer, to face up to one’s role in the continued subjugation of black women.

Though Sephodi seeks to write about how ‘to navigate life as a woman’, she does more. Miss behave is about women refusing to ‘know their place and stay there’, refusing to behave, to be docile and submissive.

Society is put on trial and has been found wanting. But all hope is not lost.

To enjoy the democracy and freedom of our ideas, black women cannot be ignored any longer. Here is a brave voice to speak on the issues that matter.

Continue reading Nkateko’s review here.

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A literary tap dance: Pearl Boshomane reviews Alain Mabanckou's Black Moses

Published in the Sunday Times

Black MosesBlack Moses
Alain Mabanckou (Serpent’s Tail)
****

The cliché that comes to mind after reading Alain Mabanckou’s Black Moses is “better late than never”, because I had previously never heard of him or his works. And I’m glad that I’m tardy to the party rather than never having cracked an invite at all. The novel, which made the Man Booker longlist, is a delicious read – even if its premise is a tragic one.

The Black Moses of the title is a boy who was named by a priest, Papa Moupelo, when he was a child in an oppressive orphanage. His full name is actually a sentence: Tokumisa Nzambe po Mose yamoyindo abotami namboka ya Bakoko, or “Thanks be to God, the black Moses is born on the earth of our ancestors.” While this name might seem almost ridiculous, Moses tries to live up to its meaning – as someone who will lead the lost out of the proverbial desert.

But after Papa Moupelo is plucked from his life and a Marxist-Leninist revolution erupts in 1970s Democratic Republic of Congo, Moses joins a street gang and reinvents himself as Little Pepper, before eventually appointing himself Robin Hood.

Black Moses shows a character at various stages of their life in what feels like a series of screen grabs. That’s not a criticism – it’s one of the things I love about it.

Mabanckou is a delightful writer whose long sentences (much like Moses’ name) are pretty rather than pretentious. Even when he writes about Moses’ descent into madness, it’s hard not to find pleasure in its description, as tragic as the subject matter is.

Example: “My memory problems affected my gait and I started to walk in zigzags because it completely slipped my mind that the shortest route from one point to another is a straight line, which is why, as they say around here, drunkards always come home late.”

If writing really is like dancing as Zadie Smith said, then Black Moses is a literary tap dance.

Follow Pearl Boshomane @pearloysias

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Twists and shouts: Anna Stroud talks to Fred Strydom about his latest novel The Inside-Out Man

Fred Strydom’s new novel explores identity through characters who are striving to find peace. By Anna Stroud for the Sunday Times

Photo © Joanne Olivier

 
The Inside-Out ManThe Inside-Out Man
Fred Strydom (Umuzi)
*****

Fred Strydom was a kid who always asked, “Why?” He started writing as soon as he could read, and in high school he wrote Pulp Fiction-style plays with his friend Sean Wilson that smashed the tedium of traditional school productions. It’s only natural then that his inquisitive mind and subversive streak should culminate in a book like The Inside-Out Man.

“Both The Raft and The Inside-Out Man are books about identity,” Strydom said about his debut and second novel. “[They’re] books about people being scared of who they are.”

The narrator is jazz genius Bently Croud – aka Bent, “the misshapen state” – who meets billionaire Leonard Fry. Leonard presents him with an unusual proposal: live in my house for a year while I lock myself in a room, and let’s see what happens.

Strydom’s characters are unnervingly honest. “Always write from the perspective of the person you trust the most,” he said. He spent the most time with Bent, but there’s also a part of him – a part that scares him – that identifies with Leonard. “Leonard does represent a twisted, idealistic version of how I wish I could sometimes be… to act on impulse, to say ‘to hell with it’, to make rash decisions, to be totally confident and to let the chips fall where they may.”

The setting is Krymeer, a countryside mansion – a three-dimensional character with a locked door at the centre of the narrative.

“Something can only be constricting if it’s alive,” Strydom said. Bent is trapped by the city, the countryside, and the deal he made with Leonard. “Each trap is presented to him as an option out… but it isn’t.”

Bent struggles to cope with the residues of an unhappy childhood – an absent father and an unhappy, alcoholic mother – and his own lack of self-awareness. The one thing he wants, Strydom said, is peace. “I think we’re more aware of how Bent’s past affects him than he’s aware of it.” Leonard, on the other hand, “represents somebody who’s trying to find peace with himself by keeping himself from a world that he can’t fit in with.”

The tension in The Inside-Out Man is maintained by the three characters in the house – Bent, Leonard, and Jolene (Bent’s girlfriend) – and their secrets. Strydom drew on influences like Edgar Allan Poe, the irrational horror of HP Lovecraft, Alfred Hitchcock’s film noir, and Raymond Chandler’s gritty dialogue. “There’s a femme fatale you can’t trust, there’s an anti-hero and there’s a mystery at the heart of it.”

There are strange parallels between Bent and his mother and Jolene and her son. He gets sucked into her world, and soon he can no longer recognise himself in the mirror.

Strydom writes his stories in his head, and finds the act of putting words to paper the “least interesting” part of writing. He wrote a third of The Raft during a road trip from Cape Town to Johannesburg. “If it’s good it will stick and if it’s not good it will go,” he said. “It’s just a case of getting a hold of your story.”

Strydom wants his work to inspire people to pursue their own talents. “We should have the courage to be pure storytellers,” he said. “I don’t mind if my book isn’t the best book of the year, but it’s really great if it invites people to take a stab at it.”

If one book can inspire others, it’s The Inside-Out Man. Multilayered, honest and, as promised, a hell of a trip. Don’t try to label it, but if you must, forget about it being speculative fiction. That raft has sailed.

Follow Anna Stroud @annawriter_

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Book Bites: 23 July 2017

Published in the Sunday Times

Kill The FatherKill the Father
Sandrone Dazieri (Simon & Schuster)
****
Book thrill
Dante Torre always thought his life could be divided into before and after. During his 11 years as the abused hostage of a faceless man known only as the Father, every day was caged. After his escape, he seeks to help others and live as normal a life as possible. However, when detective Deputy Captain Colomba Caselli knocks on his door and asks for his help in a case involving the abduction of a child, Dante realises that perhaps there was no “after”. Italian crime writer Sandrone Dazieri is a master of the macabre, weaving a satisfying adventure and creating a sense of lingering paranoia. – Samantha Gibb @samantha_gibb

The Boy on the BridgeThe Boy on the Bridge
M.R. Carey (Little, Brown)
****
Book fiend
This is sort of a sidelong prequel to The Girl With All the Gifts. Not a sequel. But read Girl first and don’t panic when none of the characters is familiar. They become so quickly. Once again Carey writes with a light touch when it comes to the gore and the zombie/“hungries”. Once again there is a humane feeling of empathy with the lead character – this time an autistic boy, Stephen Greaves, who is supposed to save the world with the help of a bunch of scientists. Once again, Carey writes something that will become an important part of apocalyptic references. – Jennifer Platt @Jenniferdplatt

The Fire ChildThe Fire Child
SK Tremayne (HarperCollins)
***
Book fling
SK Tremayne follows in the grand tradition of the Gothic romance in which an isolated woman, an iffy love interest, and the welfare of a child make for compelling reading. In a whirlwind romance, Rachel from the “sarf of London” marries rich, handsome widower David and moves to his historic family mansion in Cornwall, where she lives with her delightful stepson Jamie. David is home only for weekends though, and Jamie changes, becoming remote and claiming his late mother Nina is going to return. Is Jamie hallucinating? Eerie, scary and compulsive reading. – Aubrey Paton

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"Lots of muti to chew with an unrelenting, dangerous plot" -The Cape Argus reviews Dying to Live

Dying to LiveWhen the body of a Bushman is discovered near the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, the death is written off as an accident.

But all is not as it seems. An autopsy reveals that, although he’s clearly very old, his internal organs are puzzlingly young. What’s more, an old bullet is lodged in one of his muscles … but where is the entry wound?

When the body is stolen from the morgue and a local witch doctor is reported missing, Detective ‘Kubu’ Bengu gets involved. But did the witch doctor take the body to use as part of a ritual? Or was it the American anthropologist who’d befriended the old Bushman?

As Kubu and his brilliant young colleague, Detective Samantha Khama, follow the twisting trail through a confusion of rhino-horn smugglers, foreign gangsters and drugs manufacturers, the wider and more dangerous the case seems to grow.

A fresh, new slice of ‘Sunshine Noir’, Dying to Live is a classic tale of greed, corruption and ruthless thuggery, set in one of the world’s most beautiful landscapes, and featuring one of crime fiction’s most endearing and humane heroes.

Alan Peter Simmonds recently reviewed the sixth title in Michael Stanley’s Detective Kubu-series for the Cape Argus:

It has been suggested that Detective Kubu Bengu, hero of this series of detective thrillers set in Botswana, should be a contender for his own series like Alexander McCall Smith’s and I agree.

This sixth book in the series was my introduction to the African crime fighter; I look forward to reading all the books.

Real Africa, colloquial language, Botswana and the Kalahari unfold like the evening sky anywhere on the continent.

In this novel, already acclaimed by critics worldwide, the likeable, home-loving Bengu and his resilient young detective assistant Samantha Khama, plus a collection of savoury and non-savoury characters, tell a tale of death, deceit and intrigue in the sun, with conviction.

Continue reading Simmonds’ review here.

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