The Sun on This Rubble | Dennis Brutus

The sun on this rubble after rain
bruised though we must be
some easement we require
unarguably, though we argue against desire.

Under jackboots our bones and spirits crunch
forced into sweat-tear-sodden slush
now glow-lipped by this sudden touch:

sun-stripped perhaps, our bones may later sing
or spell out their malignant nemesis
Sharpevilled to spearpoints for revenging

but now our pride-dumbed mouths are wide
with wordless supplication
are grateful for the least relief from pain
like this sun on this debris after rain.


Dennis Brutus (1924 – 2009) was a South African activist, educator, journalist and poet. 

Only A Free Man Can Tell the Truth

“To know is not enough. One must try to understand too. There will be a lot of talking in the Cape these days, one man’s word against another’s, master against slave. But what’s the use? Liars all. Only a free man can tell the truth. In the shadow of death, one must walk on tiptoe, for death is a deathly thing.”

In the early nineteenth century, a slave rebellion, one of the very few that ever existed, rises in the Cape Colony in the heart of South Africa. On a farm, the master’s family and the slaves co-exist, at first without really interfering with each other; the white master, Piet, is tough and inflexible farmer, Alida, his wife is sad, nostalgic about her youth in the Cape. As their two sons Nicolaas and Barend get married and build their own lives on separate farms, the slave community has to follow the new masters. With time, new tensions and passions form until a rebellion eventually occurs.

The increasing tension is at first framed by an act of accusation of the slaves, the novel is literally the chain of characters’ voices speaking; all characters, dead and alive, have their say in this literary chorus. It is this tense climate that the debate on the abolition of slavery reaches the ears of the Bokkenveld inhabitants, disrupting the established relationships between masters and slaves, men and women, friends and enemies.

The atmosphere of the book is very similar to one before a storm; there are signs of change, the wind silently blowing in different directions… As the abolition of slavery comes to the front stage, the established norms in human relations change and even blur; old friends are set apart by ambition or rivalry, wives question their husbands and their precarious status. A Chain of Voices is at the same time a chorus of different tones and complaints, and the clanging echo of chains breaking to set the human spirit free.

A Chain of Voices by Andre Brink

 9781402208652| 2007| Sourcebooks Landmarks

Review by Ioana Danaila

IMG_0478-2Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She has published short stories and translated books from French to Romanian. She speaks Romanian, French, English, and Spanish and teaches English to high school students in France.

Black Women Be Like: An Interview with Andiswa Maqutu

Andiswa Maqutu describes herself as a pan-Africanist and feminist. She is the author of Black Women Be Like and the founding curator of the eponymous series that consists of stories, poetry, visual and audio art to be produced by black African women from around the continent. Whether exploring a lesbian couple in South Africa, or travelling around Asia as a black woman, Andiswa’s writing is a magnificent lens that captures so much of what it means to exist, on one level as a relational human being, and on another, as a black woman negotiating societal tensions. What could become a futile exercise in double consciousness instead becomes a work of art and genius in Adiswa’s hands. The ABR had a brilliant chat with Adiswa about Black Women Be Like and more.

 

Andiswa Maqutu

ABR: What inspired Black Women Be Like?

MAQUTU: Black Women Be Like-The Book, was inspired by my experiences as a woman who is black. It was driven by the conflict I had with my lived experience as a black woman in the 21st century, and the stories I had read and watched about black African women in short stories, books, films and music videos.

I believe the way to get a nuanced story about any people, is for those people to tell their authentic stories themselves. Even in stories that are purely from the imagination and may never take place in this realm, an authenticity needs to be tapped into. And if a storyteller wants to venture into the experiences of another person, she should do the necessary research.

But I struggled to find stories about women who looked like me and had similar conflicts to mine, even though I had read many stories about black women, especially African women. I mainly saw four recurring typecasts of black African women in the creative literature I read; the struggling, mystical and asexual grandmother raising her many grandchildren while dishing out pearls of wisdom or curses to strangers, the [perceived] oversexed jezebel who sleeps with army generals or older men to survive, the educated professional who is rude and proud, and the meek but passive aggressive black Muslim girl.

In her paper titled, Mammy, Jezebel, Sapphire and Their Homegirls: Developing an “Oppositional Gaze” Towards the Images of Black Women, Dr Carolyne West explores these stereotypes in American media and how they have narrowly evolved over the years. And I realized that it is not a problem unique to black women on the African continent, while the recurring stereotypes are sometimes the lived experiences of black women, particularly in Africa’s developing nations, they are not the only images of black women that exist. So I wrote the anthology with the intention to share stories of my experiences as a young black middle-class woman in South Africa.

Black Women Be Like-The Movement, was inspired by my desire to get other black African women writing their own stories, to get the nuanced story of the black African woman.

ABR: What was the process of writing the collection? Are they based on your experiences or on those of other people and was there any emotional/ personal journey that occurred as you confronted and wrote about these issues?

MAQUTU: The process turned out to be more emotional and conflicted than I had imagined. I usually carry a little black book to write down story ideas and experiences that I can explore in the form of short stories or poetry, so I can capture the emotion of each moment in the moment, so I had a list of potential stories and decided to choose the experiences that were closest to me for good and bad reasons.

I had intended to title the book When Black Women Speak for Themselves, because I felt that was what I was doing as a black woman who had been written about and yet had never seen her stories told. But I felt that title was too loaded and would distract from the content of the book, so I decided on Black Women Be Like, playing on the memes circulating social media and perpetuating stereotypes about black women.

I also wanted to shy away from exploring themes and experiences that presented new haughty extremes to combat existing stereotypes about black women. It was more important for me to share stories that were close to me, authentic and I could write well.

So the process of writing the book was me wrestling with trying to creatively write out my experiences using the characters in the book to explore internal conflicts, and worrying about how the book would be perceived because I am a woman who is black and aware of it. And I could have easily been labeled a number of things including angry black woman and/or using empowered black African women in my stories as a feminist trope and gimmick.

Each story has at least one of my experiences. The first and last stories titled My Favourite Aunt and Kulula Izila, are both inspired by my mother and her sisters, who have been my opinionated and empowered role models. .

The story When the Jacarandas Had Begun Rotting was inspired by friends who are lesbian and by the events and brutality against lesbians in South Africa and on the continent. I wanted to explore some of the forgotten ways black women are oppressed and how they fight back, love and are loved. I had my friends read the story to ensure I hadn’t explored it from the point of view of heterosexual privilege.
Out of Africa, is about my experiences and thoughts on my trips overseas during 2014. I was really emotional transferring that piece from my little book into a short story because the experience of the racism and otherness was fresh. I could still remember sitting on a bench outside the Ayasofya in Turkey, with people watching and pointing at me. On my visit to Istanbul, I experienced, for the first time, the kind of racism that made me fear for my life.

ABR: There’s a thread of dissonance that runs through the collection, especially in the essay titled Out of Africa. Dissonance between how the protagonist is perceived based both on her gender and skin color, which is different from how she perceives her own self as a human being. Do you think that dissonance is reflected in black women today? And with regards to the dichotomy between how the protagonist sees herself vs. how the world sees her, is there any point in trying to reconcile both viewpoints? Is there a stage when one should be more important than the other? And is there a way to utilize both to one’s advantage?

MAQUTU: There is definitely that dissonance reflected in black women, and particularly young black women right now. And that’s one of the conflicts that I experience as a young black woman that I feel is not explored enough in creative writing, even by black women writers.

Black women are an acute reflection of how perceptions about both race and gender have changed very little, and where those perceptions have evolved, they have only evolved narrowly.

Black men are grappling with a similar conflict to what white people and previous oppressors of black people are; that these people (women and black people) who were supposed to keep quiet and do as they were told, now want to exercise their right to control their own actions and also have opinions about the status quo…as equals.

Continue reading “Black Women Be Like: An Interview with Andiswa Maqutu”

A Powerful Essay on Being A Black Woman: An Excerpt from ‘Black Women Be Like’ by Andiswa Maqutu

Out of Africa

The brave ones, or their nosy children, come closer to look over your shoulder and walk off muttering and giggling. But you keep yourself on display, because you hope the more of you they see, the more of you they will believe is actually human.

Their nosiness reminds you of the girls who ran to you at Guangzhou airport chanting something in Mandarin between excited smiles and squeals. You remember how they grabbed and touched your dreadlocks. You remember how one of the girls pulled out her cellphone and typed something on it with small pale hands. You watched as the slits she had for eyes read something on the screen and then she said, “You hair pretty”

“Is that a translator on your phone?” you asked her, moving your head around, trying to dodge the pats from her friend’s hand.

“She like your hair,” the girl repeated her meaning, pointing at her friend, who was still excitedly trying to touch your dreadlocks. You remember how you were disarmed. How you smiled and let her examine your hair. Were you condoning the common ownership of a black woman‟s hair or was that a display of tolerance?

You wonder if tolerance and not treating people who look different as if they were zoo animals, is a product of education and exposure to the world. But then you think of the rich American brats at the summer camp you ran in Kinetikit during your gap year. Who, when you tried to show them how to do an activity or tell them it was lights out, would say, “Shut up! You‟re from Africa; I don‟t have to listen to you”. And you remember how the camp organisers told you to smile, because for some reason you just weren‟t smiling enough, or you would ruin a teenager‟s summer.

You remember walking in the Ayasofya, its marble floors wrinkled and painfully etched with the memory of earthquakes. Overlooking you were ancient paintings of Christianity and Islam, side by side. You struggled to connect with a history that did not include your people, who may have been despised at the time. But you were drawn by the symbolism of religious tolerance and coming together in painful earthquake times. You longed for a racial tolerance and you wondered where this tolerance was lost. So you thought that maybe you were being hard on them. I mean, maybe you stared the first time you saw white or Indian women. Maybe you tried to grab the locks of her silky hair.

The ships below sail your mind from your notebook to Lagos. To memories of a visit where you felt you belonged. You are ashamed now of the pride you felt when you basked in compliments about how you were a lighter shade of black; “Are you South African or Kenyan?” they asked. “South Africans are beautiful, not dark like us”. But out here, brown is all the same. There is no yellow-bone privilege. It does not matter the shade. You miss seeing black women wearing their copper and brown Peruvian and Brazilian weaves and big black afros, walking into a hotel in Lagos. You miss seeing the birthday girl, wearing a pink sash with the words “Miss Lagos” stitched across it, wearing a long black dress that ran its material over every visible and secret curve of her body. You miss watching her walk into the hotel and command a table of the best French Champagne to celebrate her 21st birthday. You miss her friends‟ short mini-skirts and printed peplums. You miss how some of them wore dresses and pants made of “African print” fabrics. You miss the way some of them wore the latest trends hot off the pages of the latest magazines and not seeming any less African. You miss the way the whole restaurant would stare at each one walking in, one after the other, with stares that were not threatening or loathing or ashamed, but appreciative and often curious.

You miss the way Lagos girls looked at you; sized up your hair and make-up by whatever standard they liked on that day, and walked off feeling more beautiful. The way they did not care that you looked foreign.

You miss measuring the size of their ass against yours, and sometimes coming up short. You miss watching women of your colour commanding appreciation from all kinds of women and men in ways that were not taboo. You feel superficial, as you miss having your beauty measured against your own kind.

Because yesterday, you took a selfie outside a store called “Gratis” in Istanbul, and giggled that everything in the store must be free, with the two blonde Afrikaans girls and the red haired male tourist with you on the trip. When you reviewed the selfie you felt like you stuck out repulsively among them. Then a group of young Turkish looking men told the other girls how pretty they were as they annoyed them with their advances. While you stood awkwardly aside, trying not to be seen, but wanting desperately to be noticed.

You wondered when you loathed yourself so much.

You are nostalgic. You miss hearing Kabelo‟s “Ngicela ukuhamba nawe” and singing along to the words. You wonder if it is okay, even for black men, to sing that way about black women‟s‟ bodies. But you are too desperate for home and belonging to care. A stranger‟s back that presses against your own as they take a picture of the ships sailing across the bay startles you back into the present. Maybe they didn‟t mean to, but it‟s the first physical contact you have had with a stranger on this trip. Maybe the display is working. Maybe their fear and ignorance is beginning to wear off, you think. But then you sneeze, once, and then again. And a third time too many. You are reaching for your purse, reaching for some tissues. And they begin to move away in panic. After a few sneezes, your hay fever has failed you. The café owner walks over to let know “No Ebola allowed here.” You try to explain that‟s it‟s an allergic reaction to the rose bed behind you. He tells you he doesn‟t speak English. He tells you to leave…in English.

And then walks off.

You are the dark brand face of a hemorrhagic disease some three thousand kilometres away because you sneezed. Suddenly you fear your own display. The stares are no longer curious. They are no longer excited. No one is taking pictures. Some are moving away slowly, more of them briskly. Some are standing just staring at you. Challenging. You are afraid. You are alone. You think of the reports you read about restaurants and shops in Thailand and Korea with signs at their doors reading “No Africans”, an uninformed fear, or precaution, that all black people suffer from Ebola. You think back to your trip to Mozambique and are convicted by how you kept your distance from the local people, out of a fear of contracting malaria. Or when you joked with friends about making sure you don‟t befriend anyone from anywhere “north of the Zambezi River” until “this Ebola thing” blows over.

You stand up to leave. They grab their children and dash off in different directions. You are left with the cries of those children reaching for your eardrums from distant places you can‟t see, and then slipping until faint and no more. You are alone, except for a few men who stayed behind. Their eyes are threatening. You move forward to leave. They remain stationed. You swear you see another smile. You see another caressing your skin and your behind with his eyes. The same way that store manager did when you ran back to spend the last of your last Turkish Lira on those sunglasses. Or the Chinese men whose eyes followed you as you walked down the beach on Hainan Island. Or when you were shopping downtown for cheap souvenirs in Sao Paulo. Or walked into the hotel elevator in Madrid. Those men who, when you caught them staring at you, would quickly look away, offended. Not out of respect for you, but from the self-damning shame of finding you attractive. Those scare you, because you don‟t know how dark their fantasies of exploring a dark woman might be.

You push through the remaining men, the last kick of your dying display. One of them grabs your arm and twists it. He mutters something and the others laugh. They move closer. He moves his grip from his arm to your face. He holds your chin between his thumb and index finger. His eyes are a muddy green covered by a hanging forest of dark eyebrows. His olive skin is weathered; maybe from drinking, definitely from smoking, as he breathes foreign words laced with tobacco onto your face and the others laugh, again.

His face is analysing your skin; like fine cocoa granules moulded into a face. You struggle from his grip only to walk into more grips; from different hands, because a black woman‟s body is for common ownership. On every visible and secret curve of your body. You struggle, and struggle some more to keep the glass sheets over your eyes from shattering into stinging tears. You are saving them to stain your pillow with muddy foundation. You struggle until you break away.

And now you sit in your hotel room nursing the bruised brown of your skin. It will never turn into a pale shade of white. You think about the interview on the talk radio station back home, about why it is not okay to mock black women‟s bodies. You remember the emotional voice of the woman who called in describing the struggles she had with the voluptuous body that carried her. You remember the men who called in saying it did not matter what anyone thought or said or did, and she should be proud of her body. The glass sheets over your eyes do not shatter. If people only get a certain amount of tears to cry about one thing, you‟ve long used up your ration. You resolve to go and report the men to the police, even though you don‟t believe it will make a difference.

But you will keep yourself on display, because you hope the more of you they see, the more of you they will believe is actually human.

 

Black Women Be Like by Andiswa Maqutu | Buy the Book | READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH ANDISWA MAQUTU HERE

Andiswa Onke Maqutu | 2014 |  B00OM907TO

6 Amazing Books by African Women You Have to Read

So Long a Letter by Mariama BâSo Long a Letter is an epistolary novel written in the voice of Ramatoulaye, a Senegalese school teacher. Addressed to her best friend Aissatou, the letters chronicle Ramatoulaye’s emotional journey after her husband’s second marriage and his unexpected death. Considered a classic of contemporary African women’s literature, So Long a Letter is a must-read for anyone interested in African literature and the passage from colonialism to modernism in a Muslim country.

 

A Bit of Difference by Sefi AttaUsing the life of Deola Bello, a single auditor working for a British charity, Atta explores everything from Western perceptions of Africa and African women, to the contradictions inherent in social expectations for women and their abilities to meet, ignore, or defy set expectations.

[Read our interview with Sefi Atta here]

 

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi AdichieFifteen-year-old Kambili and her older brother Jaja lead a privileged life in Enugu, Nigeria. They live in a beautiful house, with a caring family, and attend an exclusive missionary school. They’re completely shielded from the troubles of the world. Yet, as Kambili reveals in her tender-voiced account, things are less perfect than they appear.

 

 

Maru by Bessie HeadA moving and magical tale of an orphaned girl, Margaret Cadmore, who goes to teach in a remote village in Botswana where her own people are kept as slaves. Her presence polarizes a community that does not see her people as human, and condemns her to the lonely life of an outcast. In the love story and intrigue that follows Head brilliantly combines a portrait of loneliness with a rich affirmation of the mystery and spirituality of life.

 

Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga: This stunning first novel, set in colonial Rhodesia during the 1960s, centers on the coming of age of a teenage girl, Tambu, and her British-educated cousin Nyasha. Tambu, who yearns to be free of the constraints of her rural village, especially the predetermined lives of women, thinks her dreams have come true when her wealthy uncle offers to sponsor her education. But she soon learns that the education she receives at his mission school comes with a price.

July’s People by Nadine Godimer: Set against a fictional civil war during the aparatheid in South Africa, Godimer’s second novel covers a middle-class family of white liberals in South Africa fleeing the horrors of a large scale revolution started by blacks who then find safety in their black servant’s village.

Fiona Leonard: An Interview

The African Book Review hosted a live interview with Fiona Leonard, author of The Chicken Thief on Saturday, July 5th. Here’s a condensed version of our interview, filled with Fiona’s playlist of African songs she listens to when writing, the inspiration behind The Chicken Thief and her plans for her next books.

profilepic-2
Fiona Leonard

ABR: We’re hosting a live interview with ‪@FionaJLeonard author of ‪The Chicken Thief, a fun tale involving chickens, politics, & revolutionaries. Hi Fiona, you’re in Ghana right?

FIONA: Hi ‪@AfricanBkReview thanks so much for suggesting this! Yes, I’m in Accra, Ghana. I’ve been here for almost 5 years.

ABR: I know you’ve travelled around the world a bit. How did you land in Ghana?

FIONA: My husband is Ghanaian (& Filipino). We’d been travelling for a year in the US & Canada and decided to…come to Ghana and spend some time here with his family. We originally thought it would only be for a year or so, but then we stuck around! It’s been a very creative 5 years for us

 

ABR: Especially with you just publishing a book! Tell us a bit about The Chicken Thief

FIONA: It tells the story of a young thief who accidentally rescues a war hero who has been held prisoner for 25 years. That sets in motion a chain of events that threatens to bring down the entire government

ABR: I think that’s what captured my attention when I first read the book, the intersection of harmless chicken and serious politics. I suspect there’s a funny anecdote behind why Alois (the main character) steals chickens? Why chickens? 

FIONA: One day when you have time Google ‘how to hypnotise chickens.’ I found it by accident and it really appealed to me. I loved the idea of someone who could do that. (Apparently Al Gore is a chicken hypnotizer of note!)

ABR: Wait what! I was a bit mind-blown by all the chicken-stealing details! And they’re all real? That’s awesome.

FIONA: Well, I can’t say I actually tested them, but everything I’ve read and watched suggest it’s possible!

ABR: So what was it like doing research for The Chicken Thief

FIONA: I lived in Zimbabwe for 3 years and travelled a lot in the region. I read widely especially about liberation struggles so that was a big part of it. And a lot came from talking to friends and people who had lived through those times. Plus the Internet is a godsend to writers!

ABR: Did that play a role in why ‪it’s set in Africa? 

FIONA: Definitely! There were so many stories I wanted to capture in some way.

ABR: What was it like, getting people to talk about the liberation struggles in Zimbabwe? Was it difficult? Or were people open?

FIONA: No, people talked about it. And there are great films like Flame, Peter Godwin’s Mukiwa (amongst many others) plus all the fascinating works out of South Africa. My story is all fiction though. It’s not a rendering of any particular event or person.

ABR: Fiction sometimes is able to capture the truths that nonfiction can’t. It reminds me of ‪Juan Gelman and ‪Ariel Dorfman, who wrote poems and stories during the Dirty War and disappearances in Argentina and Chile. It sometimes gets to the heart of an issue the way other sources can’t. Did that influence setting the novel in an unnamed African country?

FIONA: I left the country ambiguous, because I didn’t want people to bring preconceptions to the story, especially because the President is a character. I didn’t want people thinking ‘oh she means Mandela’ etc. He could be any one of many. It gives the reader power over the story. Reading should be a dynamic exchange, if you wanted to read this as a story about the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) and someone else (reads it as a story about) Mozambique that’s fine with me!

ABR: Going back to Alois, I loved all the complexities he embodies. What ultimately, does he want?

FIONA: I’ve always felt this was a book about independence, both what it means for a country and for an individual. Alois is searching for that independence, finding his place out of the shadow of his father in particular and working out what he has to contribute to the world.

ABR: All your characters have a great sense of wanting to be more or do more for their country. Was it fun creating each character?

FIONA: Yes, I have a soft spot for them all. My family think I’m insane because I talk about the characters as if they are real, which of course they are. And they seem to resonate with readers. I mentioned on Facebook one day that I was thinking about killing one of them in book 2 and there was an outcry as people discussed who it couldn’t be!

ABR: I’m joining that outcry! Also, there’s going to be a second book? That’s exciting! What’s your writing regimen? Do you do anything to get you in the mood to write?

FIONA: Yes, the second book is finished and I’m a chapter and a half away from finishing the third. I try to write every day, 1000 – 1500 words. I have a playlist to fallback on when I can’t get my head into the write space. There’s a nice unintentional misspelling! I meant right space, but write space is true too!

ABR: SHARE? Please?

Continue reading “Fiona Leonard: An Interview”

South Africa: Men in Chains | Mbuyiseni Oswald Mtshali

The train stopped

at a country station.

Through sleep curtained eyes

I peered through the frosty window,

and saw six men:

men shorn

of all human honour

like sheep after shearing,

bleating at the blistering wind,

‘Go away! Cold wind! Go away!

Can’t you see we are naked?’

They hobbled into the train

on bare feet,

wrists handcuffed,

ankles manacled

with steel rings like cattle at the abattoirs

shying away from the trapdoor.

One man with a head

shaven clean as a potato

whispered to the rising sun,

a red eye wiped by a tattered

handkerchief of clouds,

‘Oh! Dear Sun!

Won’t you warm my heart

with hope?’

The train went on its way to nowhere.

 

Mbuyiseni Oswald Mtshali was born in KwaZulu-Natal in 1940. Apartheid legislation prevented his enrolment in University after he finished secondary school, but he studied via correspondence, obtaining a diploma with Premier School of Journalism and Authorship, affiliated to London University. He worked as a messenger in Johannesburg, drawing on his observations of the city to write his first collection, Sounds of a Cowhide Drum. Published in 1971, this book went on to become the best-selling poetry book in South African history.

Following the his successful debut, Mtshali studied at the International Writers’ Program at the University of Iowa. This was followed by undergraduate studies at the New School of Social Research, and an MFA from Columbia University. His second collection, Fireflames, was published in 1980. He taught in the USA until his return to South Africa in 2007. His focus now includes the lexicography of Zulu, a translation of Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ into this language, and the collection and recording of its folk songs.

A Troubadour, I Traverse | Dennis Brutus

A troubadour, I traverse all my land
exploring all her wide flung parts with zest
probing in motion sweeter far than rest
her secret thickets with an amorous hand:
and I have laughed disdaining those who banned
enquiry and movement, delighting in the test
of wills when doomed by Saracened arrest,
choosing, like unarmed thumb, simply to stand.

Thus, quixoting till a cast-off of my land
I sing and fare, person to loved-one pressed
braced for this pressure and the captor’s hand
that snaps off service like a weathered strand:
– no mistress-favor has adorned my breast
only the shadow of an arrow-brand.

 

Dennis Brutus was a South African activist, educator, and poet. 

Tidimalo Manyaapelo: An Interview.

Growing up, author Tidimalo Manyaapelo enjoyed reading romance books like many of her peers. She was almost sure she was one day going to be a Mills & Boon author. She later realized that though the knight in shining armor plot with a happy ending filled her with joy, it was not real. She wanted her writing to depict life as she saw and experienced it. Born in Driefontein, South Africa, Tidimalo is concerned about women, South African women specifically, and the many ways women resist oppression and make their voices heard. Her novel, A Bus Ride Home reflects this concern, as did our interview with her.

20130805-IMG_4600 - CopyABR: As a writer, what sources do you draw inspiration from?

TIDIMALO: I draw inspiration from other books, magazines, and whatever else is around me. I get inspired by events that talk to me as a person and what I believe in.

ABR: Your writing seems to be nestled in a South African environment? To what extent does your environment influence you?  

TIDIMALO: Yes, I’m influenced by South Africa. I write about what I see happening around me. This refers to my own personal experiences as well as other people’s experiences. South Africa has provided a platform for women’s voices to be heard, for women to be treated equally as their male counterparts, yet women continue to be abused and undermined. While some women can be heard, there are still attempts to silence women who seem to be vocal. These women sometimes have to suffer character assassination meant to put them in their places. Women believe they have power and equality, and yet they still have to live with men who abuse them emotionally, men who prefer polygamy and men who expose them to risks of being infected with Sexually transmitted diseases.

ABR: Do you think being a woman writer adds to that experience or does it make it harder to write within that environment?  

TIDIMALO: Being a woman is always challenging, regardless of what you are doing – my opinion. As a writer, the challenge becomes whether you want your voice to be heard or you want your voice to sound right. In my case, I believe I want my voice to be heard.

ABR: Do you have a favorite African author or book?

TIDIMALO: I honestly do not have one particular author or book that I can say is my favorite. I admire different authors for a number of different reasons. I enjoyed reading Sol Plaatje’s Mhudi firstly because as an English/Setswana translator, I look up to people like Sol Plaatje, who was the first English/Setswana interpreter and translator. I love that in 1919, there was a man who had it in him to portray such a strong and resilient woman character in Mhudi. In Setswana we have a saying ‘Tsa etelelewa ke e tshegadi pele, tsa wela ka lengope’ which basically means women cannot lead. I am proud that a Motswana man was in 1919, aware that women could be and do whatever it was, they wanted. We have many Mhudis today leading on their own or supporting those leading others.

Another book I can mention here is Waris Dirie’s Desert Flower. Waris is resilience and courage epitomized. She became the voice of the voiceless and risked being denounced by her own by revealing the inhumane treatment young girls were being subjected to in her home country and many other countries.  I admire women who, despite their sufferings, rise up and strive to better their conditions and that of others who may be destined to the same fate. I believe that no woman should be married to a man she doesn’t love the same way that I don’t think women should be objects of male pleasure.

ABR: Tell us a bit about A Bus Ride Home

TIDIMALO: A Bus Ride Home is a novel about young romance that rekindles in maturity, thereby triggering a long reflective journey.  It is a woman’s personal journey. Through Tlotlego’s personal journey, the reader is also taken through the lives of her friends. There is Pelontle who is eccentric and adventurous but fears marriage, Amantle who is nursing an ungrateful HIV positive husband as well as Kgopolo who is forced to downgrade her opulent lifestyle after her divorce. This, I believe is a story of every woman.

 

Tidimalo Manyaapelo has written dramas for Radio Mmabatho and Motsweding FM. She has also written educational programmes for SABC Education Radio including I’special, I’spani and Takalani Sesame. She currently manages her own events management company, Td Concepts. She blogs at www.tdmalo.blogspot.com where she discusses modern issues from a feminine perspective. An avid hiker, A Bus Ride Home is her first novel.

 

The firewood of this world/ Is only for those who can take heart/ That is why not all can gather it...[Professor Dr. Kofi Awoonor - A Tribute] (Songs of Sorrow I)
The firewood of this world/ Is only for those who can take heart/ That is why not all can gather it…[Professor Dr. Kofi Awoonor – A Tribute] (Songs of Sorrow I)