Monthly Archives: August 2019

Review: All the Places by Musawenkosi Khanyile

musawenkosi-khanyile_all-the-places_coverIt was by chance that I read Musawenkosi Khanyile’s debut poetry collection on a rainy morning, still tucked up in my bed. But it was no coincidence that the juxtaposition of the comfort of my bedroom and the realities described in the volume repeatedly moved me to tears. Unapologetically autobiographical, the poems included in the book trace the author’s journey from childhood to adulthood, from his rural family home, through the township, to the city. A journey undertaken by many, but not often evoked in poetry with such distinct tenderness that it takes your breath away.

All the Places offers you a glimpse into the heart of what it means to grow up with the odds staked against you, but does so without an ounce of self-pity and, perhaps more strikingly, without gratuitous exposure. The subtlety and restraint with which Khanyile approaches his subject matter is remarkable. He captures lifetimes into a few lines and makes you feel, acutely – not so much the difference between the stories he tells and those of privilege, but the common humanity of all our dreams: “In the class without a door, I took the exercise book of a little girl / who smelled of paraffin and looked at the tree she had drawn – / a leafless tree with no bird in it” (A School Visit). When asked what she wanted to be one day, the girl tells him: doctor.

Khanyile himself is a clinical psychologist with another degree in creative writing. But coming from Nseleni, he recalls the gaps in his family home’s walls, the constantly leaking roof, the demeaning trips to the outside toilet, and that in order “to survive the streets that gush out blood / and open into graves” you had to know how to “outrun the rain”. All the Places is dedicated to Khanyile’s brother Zamo: “I left you the dining room floor / and graduated to a bed / after our sister left for varsity” (Find the Truth).

As the collection’s title suggests, many of the poems focus on specific geographical spaces. In Nseleni, Khanyile states “that the goal is to make it out alive.” But even if you do escape and beat the odds, negotiating hard-earned privileges comes with its own challenges. In The World Opens Up, he asks: “What are the side effects of surviving the township?” The titular poem opens with the lines: “All the places he goes to / remind him of where he comes from.” And in Bantry Bay, a man at a guesthouse cries at the sight of the sea: “Why all this sentimentality about what’s not his? / The sea is not his. This balcony is not his. / All that he has is himself – / when does he cry about that?”

A great gift to its readers, All the Places allows you to look at the world with fresh eyes, with compassion.

All the Places

by Musawenkosi Khanyile

uHlanga, 2019

Review first appeared in the Cape Times on 16 August 2019.

HAIR: Weaving & Unpicking Stories of Identity

Joanne Hichens and I are thrilled to announce that the anthology we co-edited ⁠— HAIR: Weaving & Unpicking Stories of Identity ⁠— is going to be launched at the Open Book Festival this year!HAIRcover_10cmHigh_rgb

HAIR: Weaving & Unpicking Stories of Identity is a collection of short stories inspired by hair. Like skin, hair is a body feature with a complex and controversial history, and is constantly under scrutiny in the media, specifically with regard to identity. HAIR: Weaving and Unpicking Stories of Identity features short stories by contemporary established and emerging South African writers of diverse backgrounds writing about hair and its intimate, personal as well as socio-political meaning. The book includes illustrative photographs by local visual artists. We hope that the stories will entertain, delight and challenge the reader.

“Dreadlocks, perms, afros, wigs and braids; hair is an extension of our ever-changing selves. In this startling new collection of masterful African stories juxtaposed with vivid modern photography, we see hair woven firmly into lives like generational pain in families. Or watch it blossoming into grand filaments of pride and reservoirs of power. Ranging from the fantastical to the mundane, the surly and mysterious to the jovial and witty, reading the stories in Hair will make yours stand on end.”

– Efemia Chela

Stories by Diane Awerbuck, Tumelo Buthelezi, Craig Higginson, Mishka Hoosen, Bobby Jordan, Shubnum Khan, Fred Khumalo, Bongani Kona, Alex Latimer, Kholofelo Maenetsha, Songeziwe Mahlangu, Mapule Mohulatsi, Palesa Morudu, Tiffany Kagure Mugo, Sally-Ann Murray, Sue Nyathi, Alex Smith, Melissa A. Volker, Lester Walbrugh, Mary Watson, Michael Yee

The title is appropriately deceptive. The reader goes into the stories expecting, and hoping, to engage with the politics and the business of hair. And the anthology brings all that successfully to the fore, but offers much more. Although the common narrative is about the politics of hair, what you will mostly find in these pages are stories about life and/or death, with hair in all its physical manifestations as a recurring motif.

– Palesa Morudu

Photographs by Kirsten Arendse, Saaleha Idrees Bamjee, Nina Bekink, Noncedo Charmaine, Keran Elah, Retha Ferguson, Sue Greeff, Liesl Jobson, Simangele Kalisa, Andy Mkosi, Manyatsa Monyamane, Nick Mulgrew, Aniek Nieuwenhuis, Chris Snelling, Karina M. Szczurek, Lebogang Tlhako, Karina Turok, Michael Tymbios, Jasmin Valcarcel, Megan Voysey

“Enthralling. Excellent idea given rich life by sharp writing and exquisite images.”

– John Maytham

EDITORS: Joanne Hichens and Karina M. Szczurek

FOREWORD: Palesa Morudu

ISBN: 978-0-9946805-4-9

PUBLICATION DATE: September 2019

PUBLISHER: Tattoo Press

HAIR will be launched at the Open Book Festival on 7 September at the Fugard Studio, 20.00-21.00. Please join the editors and a few of the contributors for the occasion!

Hair invite FB

 

Review: The Wickerlight by Mary Watson

The WickerlightThe Wickerlight is the second book in Mary Watson’s The Wren Hunt series for young adults. In the first book, the protagonist Wren is chased and taunted by a few boys in the woods around Kilshamble, the village where they all live. Set in modern day Ireland, but one in which magic is as real to the novel’s characters as social media, the next instalment in the series picks up the story of one of these boys, David. He is a member of the judges, one of the ancient draoithe clans. Their sworn enemy for centuries are the augurs.

When a new family settles in Kilshamble and the older daughter Laila dies under mysterious circumstances on the village green, the judges and the augurs are set for another confrontation. Laila’s sister Zara tries to unravel the puzzling clues she receives about her sister’s death. Grieving and desperate to find out what happened, she stumbles into a world of magic that is beyond her comprehension and control. Falling in love with David puts her at the centre of the merciless battle for power between the draoithe clans. She enters a “new real, with its beating intensity”, which proves impossible to resist.

Through her spellbinding storytelling, Watson not only reveals a moving tale of love and redemption, but tackles a serious contemporary issue: toxic masculinity, how it is instilled into young minds and souls, and how difficult it is to live with for all concerned. David worries how he is drilled to believe “that strength and ambition are more important than kindness. That feelings are something to be overcome.” It will take great courage to break free from those shackles.

‘Wickerlight’ is defined as threshold time, like stepping “into pure magic”. It is exactly what reading Watson’s novels feels like.

The Wickerlight

by Mary Watson

Bloomsbury, 2019

An edited version of this review was published in the Cape Times on 8 August 2019.