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'There is a writer, or at least a storyteller, in all of us' - read Zakes Mda's foreword to Amagama eNkululeko!

Zakes Mda

 
Amagama eNkululeko!!Cover2Cover has shared Zakes Mda’s introduction to their new publication, Amagama eNkululeko! Words for freedom: Writing life under Apartheid.

The collection is an anthology of short fiction, poetry, narrative journalism and extracts from novels and memoirs. It aims to frame local literature as a lens through which to engage with our past.

Pieces by RRR Dhlomo, Nat Nakasa and Oswald Mtshali are included, as well as work by contemporary writers such as Eric Miyeni.

The collection was put together and edited by Equal Education and will be launched at Bridge Books in Joburg on 11 October.

Mda is the author of the famous novels Ways of Dying and The Heart of Redness, among many others, and his work has been translated into 20 languages. He is the recipient of the Order of Ikhamanga and was the winner of the 2014/2015 University of Johannesburg Prize for Rachel’s Blue. His most recent book is Little Suns.

With a foreword by Zakes Mda, and a mixture of famous and seemingly forgotten struggle writers, this anthology of poetry and prose opens a window onto the ways ordinary, everyday life was shaped by the forces of history.

Read Zakes Mda’s eloquent foreword:

Today’s equalisers are heirs to generations of resistance. Some of the voices of South Africa’s struggle for freedom from colonial and apartheid rule are captured in this book. It is a rich collection with works ranging from a 1929, poignant story by RRR Dhlomo, to a 1964 Nat Nakasa non-fiction piece, to the poetry of Oswald Mtshali that gained popularity after the publication of his anthology in 1971, to the musings of the contemporary cultural commentator Eric Miyeni. These works speak eloquently of our past, but they also speak of our present, for indeed the past is a strong presence in our present.

Why do you keep harping on about the past? The past is gone, done and buried. Why can’t you just forget it and move on? You said you forgave the past, so why can’t you forget it as well?

These are questions we often hear whenever a project that explores the past, such as this one, is initiated. Some of us tend to think that forgiving and forgetting are either the same thing or should, of necessity, go together.

To forget the past is not only to have amnesia about where we come from but about who we are. Like all members of the human race we are who we are today because of who we were yesterday. We have been shaped by our past for better or for worse. Our very identities are tied in with our individual and collective memory. We are often reminded of the saying: you will not know where you are going unless you know where you come from.

Forgetting the past would be forgetting the legacy the writers in this collection have bequeathed us, and indeed all other legacies that have shaped our humanity.

However, we must not remember the past selectively. We often hear that history is actually the story of the victor. We only hear of the events in which those who triumphed and became the ruling elite participated, to the exclusion of all others who also played a crucial role in our struggle, and made those victories possible. We hear this history only from the perspective of the ruling elite, valorising themselves and toasting their heroic exploits with expensive champagne, while the masses look on and have only their saliva to swallow. The stories and poems such as we have in this collection remind us that the ordinary people who bore the brunt of colonial and apartheid oppression are the true makers of history. We forget that at our peril.

The most important thing about remembering the past is not just to honour and celebrate those who fought for liberation, it is to reflect on the inhumanity of what was done to us, so that when we have attained some power we do not do the same to others. Alas, our memories are short and the arrogance of power knows no bounds. That is why quite often yesterday’s victim and survivor become today’s perpetrator and persecutor.

We must remember the past, yes, but we must not be steeped in it and live only for it. In that instance we become immobilised by perpetual victimhood. The heroism of yesteryear does not feed your stomach today. We do not want to be like a stuck car whose tyres keep spinning in the mire, unable to move forward. We move on, we act, we achieve, we hold those in power accountable as equalisers do every day. For we are working for the future.

One way of working for that future is to keep a record – even if it is just a journal – of the present, of how things are and what you did to make them better for you and those who will come after you. Hopefully after reading the stories and poems in this collection you’ll be inspired to write your own.

There is a writer, or at least a storyteller, in all of us.

 
Related stories:

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Book Launch: Amagama eNkululeko!: Words for freedom: Writing life under Apartheid by Equal Education

Amagama Enkululeko!Join Zakes Mda, Tracey Malawana (Deputy Chairperson of EE), Nana Moloto (Equaliser), Daniel Sher (Researcher EE) in a discussion about the book Amagama Enkululeko!: Words for freedom: Writing life under Apartheid.

Event Details

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How to cut your novel in half - Nnedi Okorafor describes the painful process of writing Who Fears Death

Nnedi Okorafor at the 2016 Open Book Festival
BintiLagoonWhat Sunny Saw in the FlamesThe Book of PhoenixChicken in the KitchenWho Fears DeathAkata Witch

 
Award-winning Nigerian-American author Nnedi Okorafor was in Cape Town recently for the Open Book Festival, and chatted to filmmaker Wayne Thornley about writing in collaboration, the differences between writing for film and writing a novel, and her upcoming feature animation, Camel Racer.

Okorafor won the movie deal, along with her collaborator, Kenyan film director Wanuri Kahiu, in a competition held by Triggerfish Animation Studios, established with the support of the Department of Trade and Industry and the Walt Disney Company.

During the conversation, Thornley said that in filmmaking often you experience “seismic events” where you realise you need to dump six months of work.

“If we’re serious about quality, if we’re serious about authenticity, if we’re serious about reaching a wider audience, if we’re serious about story being king,” Thornley said, “if we do go down the wrong alleyway and realise it, we have to have the courage to back out.”

In reply, Okorafor said she has never had to take something she has written and throw the whole thing away, but she did have to go through the painful process of cutting one of her novels by half – after it was finished.

How to cut your novel in half

Who Fears Death was published in 2010, and was Okorafor’s first adult novel. It won the 2011 World Fantasy Award – with Okorafor becoming the first black person to win the award since its inception in 1975 – and the 2010 Carl Brandon Kindred Award “for an outstanding work of speculative fiction dealing with race and ethnicity”. The prequel, The Book of Phoenix, was published last year, and was a top seller at Open Book.

But it didn’t come Who Fears Death didn’t come into the world without a fight.

Who Fears Death started off at over 700 pages, a Book 1 and a Book 2, and I showed it to my agent and he was like, oh this is wonderful, it’s going to win all these awards, but you need to shrink it down a lot, because this is African science fiction and it’s new, and nobody does Book 1 and 2 – what is that, a duology?

So he said, keep the same plot, keep the same everything, but get it down from over 700 pages to 300. And I did it! It took me two years, but I did it.

Okorafor said she used a method taught to her by her agent, who also happens to write books on writing.

I took the manuscript and looked at every single word and took out every single word that didn’t need to be there,” she said. “And then I combined the ‘weak phrases’ into ‘strong words’, so instead of saying ‘very big’, you say ‘huge’.

So I took the 700 pages, scattered them around, mixed them all up, and then took each page out of context and went through the whole thing. It took years, but I got it down to 389 pages, and that became Who Fears Death. Even though it had the same story, it was a completely different book.

Okorafor added that the process of making Camel Racer is very different – starting with her collaboration with Kahiu.

“With Wanuri and I, we first sit down and talk extensively about the idea and have long, long conversations. And then one of us will say, okay I’m going to write this thing, whether it’s a treatment or a piece of script, or whatever. And they write a first draft. And once that’s done and nice and typo free, they hand it over to the other person, who then has complete, open, full rein to do whatever they want with it. Then they hand it back, and we go back and forth like that. The end product is so hybrid we can’t tell which thing she wrote and which thing I wrote. It’s one thing. And it’s something that I would never have written by myself.

“Importantly, the first draft doesn’t have to be perfect, and that’s another big change that I have really come to enjoy. That I can give something that I’ve just freshly written to someone else and not have to make that thing perfect. When I’m writing a novel I feel like I can’t show something to someone else unless it’s very much together. But when you’re collaborating it’s like you’re one brain.

It does have to do with chemistry. They way we work together, the honesty, and nine times out of 10 we are in complete agreement. It’s uncanny.

From there, Okorafor and Kahiu work with Thornley and three or four other people from the Triggerfish team on the more technical aspects of the project.

“During those meetings we’ll take the whole film and break it down into narrative aspects. That’s something I have never done with a novel and it was a part that was difficult for me. I’ve learned a lot. There are times when it feels like we are taking a living creature and dissecting it into pieces until it dies. But when we get to the end of the process, I see what they are trying to get me to see. And when we put it back together, it’s always better. It’s been an eye-opening experience, but it’s painful. But sometimes a little pain is necessary.

The soul of Camel Racer has stayed the same, but it keeps changing shape. The storyteller in me finds that fun, because it’s still storytelling, it’s just finding a way to tell the story in a different way.

 
Related stories:

Image: Retha Ferguson

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Read an excerpt from the latest edition of Chimurenga's Chronic - The Corpse Exhibition and older graphic stories

 
Alert! The latest edition of Chimurenga’s Chronic is now available – both in print and online – and they have kindly shared an excerpt with Books LIVE.

The pan-African quarterly gazette’s new issue is entitled “The Corpse Exhibition and older graphic stories” and explores ideas around African Science Fiction – specifically its ability to tell a story – and graphic storytelling.

“The Corpse Exhibition” includes contributions from authors such as Hussein Nassir Sallih, London Kamwendo, Nikhil Singh, Breeze Yoko, Native Maqari, Catherine Anyango, Thenjiwe Nkosi, Loyiso Mkize, Graeme Arendse, Carsten Höller, Moses März, Mac McGill, Francis Burger, and more.

The Palm-Wine DrinkardSearch Sweet CountryMurambiKwezi

The title story is Sallih’s adaptation of Hassan Blasim’s “Corpse Exhibition” which explores the concept of terrorism in a world “dominated by capital flows”.

Read the Introduction:

The latest issue of Chimurenga’s pan-African quarterly gazette, the Chronic, explores ideas around mythscience, science fiction and graphic storytelling. Like previous editions of the Chronic, this edition is borne out of an urgent need to write our world differently – beyond the dogma of growth and development and the endless stream of future projections released by organisations like the IMF and the World Bank.

In opposition to the idea of the future as progress – a linear march through time – we propose a sense of time is innately human: “it’s time” when everyone gets there.

Science fiction on the continent is always said to be nascent, always on the cusp of emerging. A fact that has little to do with literature produced by writers from the continent and more to do with the bureaucratisation of African literature as a discipline of study.

Admittedly, “African science fiction” is a much contested term and our interest is not in questions around the genre – what African science fiction may or may not be – but in its story telling capacity: its radical ability to imagine new futures and new pasts in the here and now.

Moreover, Africa has a long history of producing comics that have pushed the boundaries of time and space and rewired seemingly redundant technology into new forms, from popular photo comics such as African Film produced by Drum in Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana through the 70s and 80s to guerrilla publishing initiatives such as Kinshasa’s Mfumu’Eto and Zebulon Dread’s Hei Voetsek in Cape Town that flourished in the 1990s.

Drawing on this legacy we invited artists to produce graphic adaptations of stories that speak of everyday complexities in the world in which we live, in which we imagine we will live and in which we want to live.

This issue includes the graphic story “Avions de Nuit” by Pumle April. In an article for Chronic, April explains the meaning and symbolism behind the phrase “Avions de Nuit”:

Read the article:

In the Cameroonian imaginary “Avions de nuit” (night planes) are tiny vessels fuelled by the blood of their cargo, that make nightly flights across the Atlantic (or to neighbouring oil economies like Chad, Gabon or Equatorial Guinea – nuff people in Nigeria) carrying passages into slavery. According to news reports they could be as small as an empty tin of sardines or even a box of matches – yet despite their size any one of these planes can carry as many as twenty jumbies and fly out to great distances, with a common goal – to suck dry human beings.

The shell-body that remains would be asked: “who sold you?”

In South Africa thikholoshe extract the souls of innocent victims and transport them to the mythical kingdom of Gwadana, where they are harnessed to ride baboons through the night skies as Isisthunzela, doing the bidding of their masters.

Read an extract from “Avions de Nuit”:

Avions de Nuit by Books LIVE on Scribd

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Hamba Sugar Daddy, the new novel from by Nape 'a Motana

Young girls warned to stay away from sugar daddies …

- Karabo Ngoepe, The Sowetan

Hamba Sugar DaddyJacana Media is proud to present Hamba Sugar Daddy, the new novel by Nape ‘a Motana, author of the bestselling Fanie Fourie’s Lobola:

They have lost their youth, but gained enough wealth to buy the company of many young “cherries”: that is the story behind the life of a sugar daddy.

Meet Rolivhowa Ramabulana, a grade 12 pupil whose financial difficulties are exploited and influenced by Kedibone Mahlope and her group of chomies into being a sugar baby. Rolivhowa’s whole lifestyle changes after meeting Bigvy Masemola, the sugar daddy; she no longer eats the same food as she had like other financially challenged students and is now able to afford expensive clothing and carry the latest costly phone. Bigvy has introduced her to a new lifestyle but at what cost?

While sugar daddies are not a new phenomenon, their latest incarnation could be described as a symptom of the “new” post-1994 South Africa with its rampant consumerism and glittering shopping malls, prevalent enough in South Africa for it to have created an acceptable subculture. The unstoppable rise of social media and easier internet access has led to the creation of websites that offer a “hook up” and the engagement in transactional sex. Young women can now meet and hook up with various sugar daddies who will provide the lifestyle they desire at the click of a button.

There is more temptation for those looking for financial and material support in a climate of growing poverty.

Back in the family home, parents who struggle to put one meal a day on the table for their family don’t ask questions about where the money comes from. Rolivhowa’s mother accepts the relationship since Bigvy supports them financially.

Rejecting to heed the warnings of Khomisa Maluleka, a fellow student and born-again Christian, about her “sinful ways”, she continues her relationship with Bigvy. Only later does she begin to feel the bitter aftertaste of a sweet life and in her devastation of discovering her HIV status, Khomisa becomes a pillar of support.

About the author

Nape ‘a Motana is a novelist and playwright who has worked as a copywriter, social worker and journalist. He’s authored Fanie Fourie’s Lobola and a prize-winning play titled The Honeymoon. He lives with his wife and four children in Pretoria.

Book details

Book Launch: Amagama Enkululeko! Words for freedom: Writing life under Apartheid by Equal Education

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Please 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

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