Tag Archives: Soweto

One day at The Star Soweto Literary Festival

Pam and BontleCamaraderie. That is the word which comes to mind when I think back to the one day I spent at the fabulous Soweto Theatre, attending the inaugural The Star Soweto Literary Festival. It was quite a whirlwind affair. A day of talks, improvisation, laughter and tears. I invited myself. The moment I heard that the festival was happening – and it was organised in a shockingly short amount of time – I volunteered to speak, chair sessions, whatever, just to be there. I felt it in my bones that it would be special, and I wanted to be part of it.

I was not disappointed.

Darryl Earl David, the founder of the three-day festival which took place last weekend, first announced his intentions at the end of June: “To create a truly non-racial literary festival in a black township, something that has never ever been done before. A start has been made in Khayelitsha. But that was more a book fair, not a literary festival. I have always maintained Soweto looms large in the literary imagination of South Africa … Soweto is the cradle of black literature. It was home to the canon of black literature in South Africa – Mongane Wally Serote, Sipho Sephamla Njabulo Ndebele, Miriam Tlali, Ellen Kuzwayo and Benedict Vilakazi.”

Pam and MohaleThe day I was there, Saturday, the presence of the spirits of these literary giants was palpable. The attempt to establish “a truly non-racial” space for writers, artists and the public to engage with one another’s ideas was a great success. I attended with a dear friend, Pamela Power, the author of Ms Conception and the upcoming psychological thriller, Things Unseen. We came away inspired, glowing, and moved to the core.

Continue reading: LitNet

with Pam and Kalim

Book marks: White Wahala and Dying in New York by Ekow Duker

White WahalaA finalist in the 2011/12 European Literary Awards, White Wahala is a modern tall tale with a dark South Africa twist. When Alasdair Nicholson, a spoilt young banker from a wealthy family, heads towards Soweto with his little sister to buy drugs, he sets in motion a chain of disastrous events which will put his entire family in grave danger, expose a long-buried secret, and end up in the headlines amidst an intrigue of national proportions.

White Wahala is populated by exaggerated characters whose outrageous actions and the dubious reasoning behind them take us to the heart of the misunderstandings and fears we encounter in everyday life as South Africans of all backgrounds. Ekow Duker’s take on the present state of the country has the potential to generate a lot of debate. It is impossible to remain neutral towards the story. My own personal response was a mix of incredulity and anger.

White Wahala
by Ekow Duker
Picador Africa, 2014

First published in the Cape Times on 26 September 2014.

Dying in NYIt is difficult to write about Ekow Duker’s second novel, Dying in New York, without giving away the ending, an unexpected twist on which the entire narrative hinges. The book’s pre-teenage protagonist, Lerato Malema, suffers horrendous abuse at the hands of her father. Her mother, also a victim, unable to protect her daughter, stands by hopelessly. One day, the dynamics of the setup change with fatal consequences.

The only thing that keeps Lerato going is a vague fantasy about the city of New York which she shares with her mother. Propelled by her vivid imagination, she embarks on a roller-coaster ride through contemporary South Africa where she encounters the worst of what the country has to offer, with very little to relieve the alienation, horror and pain of her dark adventures. Reality and fantasy blur uncomfortably, revealing a highly unsettling picture of violence and insanity.

Dying in New York
by Ekow Duker
Picador Africa, 2014

First published in the Cape Times on 3 October 2014.

Review: My Mzansi Heart by King Adz

MyMzansiHeartReading King Adz’s My Mzansi Heart is like watching a reality TV show: drama, drugs, rock and roll, and rather longish ad breaks in-between. The book was almost too much for my senses and left me quite confused at times. I doubt, however, that nearing forty, still wearing shoes I bought a decade ago, and attending Metropolitan Opera live transmissions at Cinema Nouveau, I form part of the readership My Mzansi Heart is targeted at. Yet, King Adz and I have something crucial in common. We are both foreigners who have made our homes in South Africa, having fallen head over heels in love with the country and its people. Every love is different though. What matters is that your heart is in the right place, and King Adz’s beats for Mzansi.

King Adz is the pen name of Adam Stone, a Brit who grew up in the outer suburbs of London, arrived here with his family just after the changeover, and decided to stay. He started off at an ad agency and became a filmmaker, a writer (previously of Street Knowledge, The Urban Cookbook, The Stuff You Can’t Bottle: Advertising for the Global Youth Market), and most importantly a promoter of everything connected with street culture. Somewhere along his many travels he took the wrong turn and nearly lost everything to booze and drugs. My Mzansi Heart tells the story of his descent into the hell of addiction and his recovery.

The in-your-face narrative, punctuated by slang and a lot of French, is a rollercoaster ride across South Africa. It includes King Adz’s encounters with some famous locals such as the photographer Roger Ballen, the fashion stylist Bee Diamondhead, or writer Rian Malan. Along the way he also sniffs out potential future stars of different industries, whether it is fashion, media, photography, food, or music. King Adz roams the cities from Soweto to the Cape Flats looking for talent and promoting his heart out for places, institutions, products, and people (himself included), he believes in.

Towards the end of the book he writes: “There was a second there, typing the above words in, that I stopped and thought of the enormity, the stupidity, and the restlessness of the egocentric and Warholian act of self-promotion, and how it consumes a lot of my life. One moment it seems worthwhile, the next pointless and empty.” The statement captures my sentiments about his project. My Mzansi Heart offers many great flashes of insight into present-day South Africa, but one has to wade through a lot of fluff and bling to get to the gritty, good stuff.

Perhaps surprisingly, though, King Adz selling techniques worked on me. I’m looking forward to taking out a friend to lunch at Beijing Opera. As a lover of dim sum, I was intrigued by the mention of the “pop-up” restaurant in My Mzansi Heart (King Adz knows the owner Yang, and they have a copy of his cookbook on the wall). And I am not ashamed to admit that I’ll be looking out for Jack Parow Braai Sauce at my local supermarket.

First published in the Cape Times, 26 September 2014, p. 31.