Gcina Mhlophe was a guest on The Forum@eight on SAfm recently where she spoke about the thing she loves most – storytelling.
Who is Gcina Mhlophe? “I’m a writer, I’m a storyteller and I see myself as a cultural ambassador wherever I travel. I’ve been travelling the world for 33 years, everywhere I go I try to represent my country or my continent in fact.”
In the podcast, Mhlophe muses on the meaning of Heritage Month and Heritage Day: “Heritage Day for me means that we must celebrate our history, where we come from, celebrate those who came before us. We celebrate what we remember so that we pass it on to future generations. It means that we not only look at dressing up in African attire one a year – we should do it as many times as possible and feel good in our skin.
“It means that we must wake up the pride in each and every one of us as citizens of this wonderful continent, the place of beginnings.
“We need to get back to celebrating who we are,” she says. “What on earth is Braai Day? If you want to braai go ahead and braai then. We want to celebrate our culture.”
Listen to the podcast for Mhlophe’s account of how she started telling stories in 1991:
Dana Snyman is een van ons land se mees begaafde storievertellers. Die kunstige manier waarop hy sy unieke blik op die lewe verwoord het ‘n manier om hartsnare van Kaapstad tot Kathu te roer.
Dié skrywer is tans besig met ‘n besonderse reis deur die land – “‘n reis wat alles met rugby te doen het, maar ook niks met rugby te doen het nie” – waartydens hy stories en foto’s oor ons land se gunsteling sport kollekteer. Een van sy jongste inskrywings op sy aktiewe Facebook-blad het die afgelope naweek groot aftrek gekry met oor bykans 2000 “shares” en oor die 3200 “likes”.
Lees oor die middag to Dana saam met Trevor Nyakane, die Springbok-stut, se familie rugby gekyk het – ‘n storie wat in volkleur in sy nuwe boek verder vertel sal word:
No problem, sê Lerato agter die toonbank in die Gravelotte-kafee. Sy sal Trevor se pa se nommer vir my kry.
Sy tel haar selfoon, ’n ou Nokia, langs die kasregister op en bel iemand. ’n Lang gesprek volg. Al woord wat ek verstaan is Nyakane. Daarna bel sy nog ’n nommer, en nog een.
Sy skryf die nommer op ’n servet neer en gee dit vir my.
You phone him now, sê sy. We call him Uncle Norman.
Dis net ná twee die middag, en die waaier met die wye, wit arms teen die kafee se dak veg vergeefs teen die hitte. Dis 30 grade plus. Skuins oorkant die straat is ’n slaghuis en ’n drankwinkel. Gravelotte se sakekern.
Uncle Norman antwoord in ’n sagte stem. Ek verduidelik vir hom wie ek is en dat ek ’n rugbyboek skryf. Sal hy omgee as ek vanmiddag se wedstryd saam met hom kom kyk?
Please, sê hy. Come. I’ll show you the real truth.
Kan ek vleis saambring, dan braai ons? vra ek. En sal hy iets drink?
Yes, yes, sê hy. I drink Amstel.
Trevor is hier op Gravelotte, tussen Letsitele en Phalaborwa, gebore. Hy was ook in die Laerskool Gravelotte.
Ek ry soos Uncle Norman verduidelik het: links hier, regs daar. Later is ek in ’n klein township naby ’n myn.
Uncle Norman staan in ’n Springbok-trui voor ’n huisie met ’n kaal voortuin. Agterop die trui is ’n nommer 17. Trevor het sy eerste toetswedstyd in daardie trui gespeel.
Ivan Vladislavić has written a quirky but thoughtful piece for Literary Hub on an article he once read in an in-flight magazine.
Vladislavić was on his way to Stellenbosch University to take part in a “public conversation” with Marlene van Niekerk when he read the article, which was about “people who had met with death in some peculiar or memorable way”.
“Just the ticket when you’re about to leave the ground in an aeroplane,” Vladislavić says.
The article mentions some famous people who met unusual deaths, including stoic philosopher Chrysippus, “who laughed himself to death at the sight of a drunken donkey”, and legendary dancer Isadora Duncan, “who died of a broken neck when her long scarf got caught in the spoked wheel of an open car”. But it is the off-hand treatment of Sherwood Anderson’s demise that causes Vladislavić to brood over the piece and its implications.
But the story that brought a lump to my throat concerned Sherwood Anderson and the perils of putting things in your mouth. It was the shortest of the items that made up the article, a mere paragraph. This is what it said: “Take Mr Sherwood Anderson, for example, who swallowed a toothpick at a dinner party in 1941. This fairly successful writer later developed a case of peritonitis and his life and career came to a grim and painful end. Peritonitis is the inflammation of the serous membrane that lines the abdominal cavity, leading to infection, internal bleeding and a rather long and painful death.”
Several thoughts went through my head. I will order them below, because I am writing, but in truth they came to me in a jumble, as thoughts often do.
I thought: Poor old Sherwood.
MaThoko’s Books has sent out a call for submissions for the follow-up to its award-winning anthology, Queer Africa: New and Collected Fiction.
The book, which was edited by Karen Martin and Makhosazana Xaba, won the LGBT Anthology (Fiction) Award at the 2014 Lambda Literary Awards.
MaThoko’s Books invites writers to submit short stories of 2 000 – 6 000 words on a queer African theme by 31 January, 2016. Stories will again be selected and edited by Martin and Xaba. See the below press release for submission information.
Richard de Nooy was so taken with Queer Africa, he compiled a list of excerpt from the anthology on his Books LIVE blog:
“Queer Africa is a collection of charged, tangled, tender, unapologetic, funny, bruising and brilliant stories about the many ways in which we love each other on the continent,” writes Gabeba Baderoon in her foreword to this anthology edited by Karen Martin and Makhosazana Xaba. Having dog-eared this fascinating collection of stories I strolled back to collect my markers and celebrate that love with excerpts from each story.
“That’s the idea. Let it sound bush. I sing for the people. If I sound bush, the people will think they are better than me. If they’re better than me, they will pity me; they will want to help me; they will want to save me. With their money.”
(From Davina Owombre’s Pelican Driver)
“Hell, said Dominee Boonzaier, would have so many skelms from the bank that there wouldn’t be room for the Tswana and the English, and the godless people from Johannesburg.”
(From Emil Rorke’s Poisoned Grief)
“I kissed you on the mouth three days after we met. You said it was a complication you could do without, and then you smiled.”
(From Wamuwi Mbao’s The Bath)
Pumla Gqola writes in the Introduction to the collection:
Karen Martin and Makhosazana Xaba have achieved an extraordinary feat in bringing together this very welcome volume of stories that imagine queer Africa in such diverse and exciting ways. It is a beautiful and necessary project that presents a shared vision across the pages of the book whilst allowing the individual short stories, and the two excerpts from novels, to stand completely in their own stead. A shared vision is not premised on agreement or similarity, as these stories show; the editors of the collection gesture towards a political, aesthetic and imaginative community that is not premised on sameness. After all, each of these stories offers a slice of what it means to be queer in Africa because in a direct sense, that description and call is what the authors responded to or what their stories suggested, prompting invitations to publish here.
CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS
Queer Africa II: New and collected fiction
Following the international success of Queer Africa: New and Collected Fiction, MaThoko’s Books is delighted to announce a follow-up anthology: Queer Africa II.
We invite writers to submit for consideration short stories on a queer African theme. Stories will again be selected and edited by Karen Martin and Makhosazana Xaba.
Queer Africa won the 2014 Lambda Literary Award for a fiction anthology. According to the Lambda Literary Foundation, the awards “identify and celebrate the best lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender books of the year and affirm that LGBTI stories are part of the literature of the world”. The collection has since been translated into Spanish, and an Arabic translation is under discussion.
Queer Africa is being used to teach literature and queer theory at prestigious universities, and continues to be written about in academic journals. In a recent review by Ayub Sheik (University of KwaZulu-Natal), Queer Africa was described as a “milestone” and was celebrated for its groundbreaking representations of sexual and gender diversity:
Collectively these narratives posit sexual rights as political rights and celebrate queer sexuality as positive, pleasurable and empowering human experiences. (Agenda, Volume 29, Issue 1, 2015)
Queer Africa featured 18 stories by writers from six countries: Botswana, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe. Our goal for the follow-up anthology is to publish stories from as many African countries as possible. We want an anthology that reflects continental diversity, but that also delves into local specificities. We are looking for stories that evoke believable characters and that take their readers on worthwhile human journeys. We are committed to publishing creative explorations of our theme, and seek stories rich with layers, nuance and complexity. Our yardstick for selection remains literary merit.
We would be honoured to consider your unpublished fiction in English, or your literary translation into English of a previously published story. Where necessary, the editors will work closely with writers to develop and refine submissions. Writers need not identify as queer, but do need to identify as African.
For more information email email@example.com or find MaThoko’s Books on Facebook. Please spread the word along your networks.
Stories of 2 000 – 6 000 words should be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org by 31 January, 2016.
Please provide a covering page with the title of the story, your full name, email address, telephone number and a bio of no more than 100 words.
For translations, please also provide the writer’s name, the original title of the story and any publishing details.
All submissions will be acknowledged, and the final selection will be made by 30 April, 2016.
About the Editors
Karen Martin writes short fiction, and is at work on her first collection. In 2014, she was awarded a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Syracuse University. During the three years of her studies, she won writing fellowships and residencies in the United States, and EC Osondu awarded her short story “Re-enactments” the 2013 Stone Canoe Prize for an emerging fiction writer. She is a professional editor and copyeditor. She has initiated and developed several publishing projects for Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (GALA).
Makhosazana Xaba is the author of Running and Other Stories (2013), which won the 2014 Nadine Gordimer Short Story Award. “Running”, the collection’s title story, was selected for the Twenty in 20 project, a book celebrating 20 years of democracy and showcasing South Africa’s excellence in the short story genre. In 2005, “Running” won the Deon Hofmeyr Prize for Creative Writing. She is the author of two poetry collections: these hands (2005) and Tongues of their Mothers (2008). She holds a Masters in Writing from the University of the Witwatersrand.
About MaThoko’s Books
MaThoko’s Books is the publishing imprint of Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (GALA), a Johannesburg-based centre for LGBTI culture and education.
Launched in 2011, MaThoko’s Books aims to be a corrective to the limited publishing support for queer writing in Africa and to act as a springboard for emerging and marginalised voices. It also provides a much-needed publishing outlet for scholarly works on LGBTI-related themes.
Recent titles from MaThoko’s Books include Under Pressure: The Regulation of Sexualities in South African Secondary Schools, Outside the Safety Zone: An Agenda for Research on Violence against Gender-nonconforming Women in South Africa and Reclaiming the L-Word: Sappho’s Daughters Out in Africa.
More information about MaThoko’s Books can be found at www.gala.co.za or at Facebook.com/mathokosbooks.