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Thando Mgqolozana on Being Published: I'm Not Going to Wake Up Tomorrow to a Decolonised Country

Thando Mgqolozana and Malaika wa Azania

 
In an interview with the Mail & Guardian, Thando Mgqolozana has clarified his standpoint on the “colonial literary system” in South Africa.

A Man Who is Not a ManHear Me AloneUnimportance

During an event at the Franschhoek Literary Festival this year, titled “Is Anger Underrated?“, Mgqolozana said to the almost all-white audience: “You can just turn around and look at yourselves – it looks very abnormal. In this country, it should never be like this.”

These remarks did not arrive out of the blue, as Mgqolozana and other authors have been discussing the issues for years, and Mgqolozana has been speaking specifically about quitting literary festivals at least since last year’s Open Book Festival in Cape Town.

After the FLF, Mgqolozana summarised his argument – and suggestions – in 21 points on Twitter. A few weeks later Jacana Media organised a debate at Wits entitled “Decolonising the Literary Landscape”, chaired by Eusebius McKaiser with Mgqolozana, Siphiwo Mahala, Ben Williams, and Corina van der Spoel taking part.

During that discussion, Mgqolozana admitted that there is a “flaw” in the stance that he has taken.

“I wish that I was taking a stance not to be published by Jacana, not to be reviewed by white critics and blah, blah, blah,” he said.

“I wish I was taking a stand in which I was jumping completely out of the colonial literary system in South Africa. But I still do want to be published. I cannot change those things. I can make a decision not to go to a literary festival. But I can’t change what I’ve just described. I’m hoping it will change, by us focusing on something different rather than trying to change it.”

Mgqolozana’s remarks prompted Thabiso Mahlape, a publisher at Jacana, to comment at the end of the discussion, saying that as a black publisher in a white publishing work she did “feel like a bit of an askari sometimes”.

Mahlape also announced her own imprint under Jacana called the Black Bird, to be launched in August.

“A part of me, and I suppose it’s the askari part of me, wanted [Thando] to keep quiet and not upset things,” she said. “Like them I owe you an apology, Thando, because I’m very proud of you.”

In a new interview Mgqolozana clarifies what he sees as his options:

I’ve said a few times already that the only time I will feel at home in the SA literary space is when my publisher, editor, proofreader, graphic designer, layout person, printer, publicist, distributor, bookseller and most readers are black – reading my work in their preferred languages. But I’m not going to wake up tomorrow to a decolonised country, am I? So I have two choices: to write – because I can’t not write – and never publish, or to write and publish but stand my ground where I can.

As part of the same series, Kwanele Sosibo speaks to Ben Williams, playwright Mzi Mngadi and Mofenyi Malepe, author of the “motivational tract-cum-memoir” 283: The Bad Sex Bet.

Dark Continent My Black ArseSosibo refers to Sihle Khumalo’s Dark Continent My Black Arse, a South Africa bestseller – having sold over more than 20 000 copies. According to Khumalo, these numbers just prove that “we do not take literature very seriously, as a nation”.

“We have this massive potential in terms of market, more than 50 million people, but you sell 5 000 copies and you are regarded as a bestseller,” he said. “We as South Africans should be ashamed.”

Sosibo says perhaps we need to take a different tack:

According to his publishers (Umuzi) it was a combination of wit, charisma, a catchy title, the novelty factor but most of all word of mouth that combined to make Dark Continent the smash that it was. Khumalo’s other travel titles for the imprint never quite came close to repeating that first feat, suggesting that a formula may very well lie outside of tried conventions.

These comments resonate with what Williams said at the “Decolonising the Literary Landscape” debate, referring to books that managed to “hack the system”, such as 283: The Bad Sex Bet, as well as Gayton McKenzie’s A Hustler’s Bible, which he produced and sold outside of the white literary system, and DJ Sbu’s Leadership 2020.

As Williams said: “They figured out that you can strategically publish something, and make money.”

Read all the reports from the debate:

 

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Listen to the full podcast here:

 

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See a Twitter timeline of the #LitApartheid hashtag:
 


 

 

Flickr album from the event:
 

 

 
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Try Justin Bonello's Recipe for Spicy Chicken Wings - "Guy Food at its Best"

Road TrippingBertus Basson, for the Zululand Observer, recently shared the recipe for Spicy Chicken Wings from Justin Bonello’s latest book Road Tripping.

Basson says that Spicy Chicken Wings is an example of “guy food at its best”, because you can eat with your hands, lick your fingers and because a braai full of Spicy Wings goes perfectly with an icy bucket of beer.

Try the recipe:

At least 4 free-range chicken wings per friend… so go count them
About 4 chillies (or more)
About 6 tablespoons of sugar
The juice of one lemon
2 cups of tomato sauce
About a handful of fresh coriander
3 garlic cloves
Salt and pepper to taste
Metal or bamboo skewers
Lime wedges for serving

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Good-bye Loadshedding, Hello Winter Bush Getaway!

Are you yearning to leave the cold, loadshedded city behind for a place where traffic doesn’t matter and darkness is merely a means of being closer to nature?

Look no further than Getaway’s list of splendid destinations for affordable winter breaks in the bush. The selection includes everything from camping spots and camps with tents to mid-range and luxury lodges:

11. Langkloof campsite, Karoo National Park

A roofless ruin of red mud bricks stands in front of a rhythmically squeaking windmill, a tower of water tanks and a newly built concrete kitchen and ablution block. Together, these form a small outpost in the upper regions of the Tankwa Karoo’s Langkloof Valley. The bed of the Rhenoster River, less than 50 metres away from camp, gives life to a belt of lush acacias brimming with the chirps and whines of LBJs.

The camp’s two sites are positioned on either side of the simple amenities building, which contains two basic kitchens with sinks (you’ll need to take all utensils and cooking equipment), two hot showers and two flushing loos. This means campers at the respective sites don’t have to share facilities, but we advise booking out the whole camp; it would be a shame to end up with neighbours after travelling to somewhere so remote.

Whether you live in KwaZulu-Natal, the Western Cape, Limpopo or the Karoo, or you wish to visit these places, there is something for everyone. Listen to your inner adventurer, pack your books, flashlights and hip flasks, and head into the wilderness this winter!

To help you prepare for the trip, here are a few Struik Travel titles for the avid researcher. Enjoy!

Picturesque Cape Town Picturesque Durban and SurroundsPicturesque Drakensberg
National Parks and Nature ReservesTimeless KarooKwaZulu-NatalBest Walks of the Drakensberg

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"South Africans Don't Take Literature Seriously" - Sihle Khumalo Speaks out at the #LitApartheid Debate

Sihle Khumalo

 

Sihle Khumalo spoke up about South Africa’s “white literary system” at the debate around Decolonising the Literary Landscape, which was held at Wits University on Tuesday.

Almost Sleeping My Way to TimbuktuUnimportanceCould I Vote DA?A Man Who is Not a ManDA of nie?

Dark Continent My Black ArseWhen a Man CriesAfrican DelightsYakhal’ Indoda

Eusebius McKaiser led the discussion, with the panel consisting of authors Thando Mgqolozana and Siphiwo Mahala, as well as Ben Williams and Corina van der Spoel.

Khumalo made a comment at the end of the debate, saying South Africans should be ashamed of their attitude to literature.

“We do not take literature seriously, as a nation”

“My first book, Dark Continent, My Black Arse, sold more than 20 000 copies,” Khumalo said, to cheers from the audience.

“You see, that’s exactly the point,” he retorted, “there are more than 50 million South Africans, and we celebrate selling a mere 20 000 copies. It is definitely not acceptable.

“The reason why writers in this country can never do it full time, is exactly because of that. They have to keep their day jobs. Although we have this massive potential in terms of market, more than 50 million people, but you sell 5 000 copies and you are regarded as a bestseller. We as South Africans should be ashamed. It goes to show that we do not take literature very seriously, as a nation.”

“The role of government is central”

“Sometimes I feel we are talking amongst ourselves. Although there are people here we may disagree with, by and large we are all saying exactly the same thing. I know that this event was organised by Jacana, but I feel the role of government here is central. This thing will never fly if government is not a part of it.

On the Sunday Times Literary Awards:

“A hundred thousand rand. And it is the biggest award in the country. A country which has got an economy which is facing trillion rands, and you win the biggest literary award in the country and it’s a mere R100 000.

“Are we saying, as a country, that we cannot afford to give the winning author, minimum, a million? Two million? Are we saying as a country we cannot afford that? Of course we can! It’s just that it is not a priority.”

On the international media picking up the story:

“I think there needs to be that drive to get all South Africans involved. And it takes a number of stakeholders, parents have to play a role, the government has to play a role, all of us as individuals have to play a role, but all of us, I really think, should support what Thando has made.

“For the first time, here was somebody taking a stand, and even the international media got hold of the story. And I think that is a step in the right direction.

A question for Mgqolozana:

“If white people treat black writers as anthropological subjects, do you think they only do it at the literature festival? Or if you are doing a presentation at work? Or if you are at the airport?

“Is it just happening all the time?”

Mgqolozana’s reply:

“I said that the struggle that I’m raising here is not divorced from what the students at UCT are talking about. This is what has become normal. It comes from systems that were legal, which is apartheid and colonialism, so it’s going to take a long time for white people to see us differently.”

Also read:

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We’ve transcribed some soundbites from the event here, but to get the full feel of the debate, listen to the podcast:

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See a Twitter timeline of the #LitApartheid hashtag:
 


 

 

Flickr album from the event:
 

 

 
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Presenting Gravel Roads, Binos and Maps: An Enjoyable Kruger National Park Guide by Frans Rautenbach

Gravel Roads, Binos and MapsVerkyker, kaart en transportGravel Roads, Binos and Maps: An Enjoyable Kruger National Park Guide by Frans Rautenbach will be published by Tafelberg soon:

This book will show you how to have a great experience when visiting the Kruger National Park: what to expect, what to do, where to stay and what to eat. The book includes charming accounts of personal experiences and memories, and plenty of practical advice.

Gravel Roads, Binos and Maps is also available in Afrikaans as Verkyker, kaart en transport: ‘n Lekkerlees Krugerwildtuin gids.

About the author

Besides being a regular visitor to the Kruger National Park, Frans Rautenbach is also a labour law specialist and advocate.

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Watch Kingsley Holgate, Kearsney College and Maritzburg College Unite for the #RhinoShoutOutChallenge

Africa: In the Footsteps of the Great ExplorersKearsney College and Maritzburg College, notorious rival schools in KwaZulu-Natal, have joined forces to take hands with Kingsley Holgate, adventurer extraordinaire and author of Africa: In the Footsteps of the Great Explorers, in the fight against rhino poaching.

Holgate and the schoolboys created a video to add to the #RhinoShoutOutChallenge – a gathering of heartfelt video messages recorded as a call to action against rhino poaching and all forms of wildlife crime.

Traveller24 shared the video along with an update on the situation facing rhinos in southern Africa. They write: “The Kruger National Park (KNP) continued to be the hardest hit area, with 290 rhinos poached from the beginning of the year until April this year, compared to 212 during the same time period last year. A total of 62 arrests in connection with rhino poaching were made here.”

In the video Holgate congratulates the boys on joining the fight and stresses that “it’s the youth that can make a difference”.

Watch the video:

YouTube Preview Image

The Kruger National Park (KNP) continued to be the hardest hit area, with 290 rhinos poached from the beginning of the year until April this year, compared to 212 during the same time period last year. A total of 62 arrests in connection with rhino poaching were made here.

Book details