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.

 

A Simple Lust By Dennis Brutus

Born in 1924 in Salisbury to South African parents, Brutus is best known for his protest poetry which challenged the South African apartheid while celebrating freedoms all men ought to have. He was instrumental in the exclusion of South Africa and Rhodesia from the 1964 Olympics on the grounds of racism. His activism led to his being banned from all political and social activity and in 1973 he was arrested but escaped while on bail. He was later re-arrested and sentenced to eighteen months in prison. He spent those months on Robben Island, in a cell next to Nelson Mandela. Described as “A fearless campaigner for justice, a relentless organizer, an incorrigible romantic, and a great humanist and teacher,” Brutus died on 26 December 2009, at his home in Cape Town, South Africa.

584232-2A Simple Lust is a beautiful collection of Brutus’ poems during his time as a political prisoner and exile traveling the world unable to return to South Africa. Brutus captures the alternating awareness of limitations and challenges such restrictions in his poems about the land of South Africa, “A troubadour I traverse all my land… and I have laughed, disdaining those who banned/ inquiry and movement…choosing, like an unarmed thumb, simply to stand…” (2)

And stand he does, in his resistance to the forces of oppression and his insistence on delimiting the land as his, he captures the emotional gamut of black and colored South Africans, from the desire to fight for freedom, “Sharpevilled to spearpoints for revenging…” (9) to a simple resolute appreciation for just surviving, “Somehow we survive,/ and tenderness, frustrated, does not wither” (4).

Little can match  the well of understanding and emotion Brutus deftly disperses throughout A Simple Lust, yet his writing style and keen sense of observation elevate the reader’s experience even more. Brutus does to words what Achebe did to African Literature, he expands our appreciation of them. With words such as ‘air-live,’ ‘harsh-joy,’ ‘lovelaughter,’ he pushes their limitations past meaning into feeling.

A Simple Lust takes the reader from the darting eyes of a prisoner in his cell describing the effects of confinement on the psyche, to desolate beaches in Algiers, through the sorrowed longings of a wife separated from her husband, presenting cold reflections on ‘Amerika…the home of the brave’ (144), and on. Brutus welcomes the reader into a lush, experienced, understanding of oppression and resistance. More importantly, it offers a profound sense of what it means to carry joy as hope and to, as Brutus, reject desolation as the only reality.

“Peace will come./ We have the power/ the hope/ the resolution./ Men will go home.” (96)

A Simple Lust by Dennis Brutus

African Writers Series | 1979 | ISBN: 0 435 90115 X | HEB 115