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Archive for the ‘Feature’ Category

“I try to make history relatable – to humanise it”: Zakes Mda on his writing

By Michelle Gouws, for STIAS

Zakes Mda during his seminar presentation on 1 February 2018. ©Christoff Pauw

 
“My mission is to tell a good story. If I don’t make my characters human – the story will fail,” said Zakes Mda.

Mda is currently Artist-in-Residence at STIAS where he is finalising his latest work The Zulus of New York, a historical novel set in KwaZulu, the Cape of Good Hope, London, New York and at a Jieng village in South Sudan between 1878 and 1895. Celebrated author Mda, who is Professor Emeritus of English at Ohio University, outlined the plot of the novel, the historical events underlying it, analysed the role of historical fiction and explained some of his writing process to STIAS fellows. He also treated them to a reading from the novel.

He aimed to answer the question of why we need historical fiction when history has already told us the story.

“I write about the past to discuss the present,” he said. “I write historical fiction to tame the past and foist order on it.”

He described historical fiction is an effective tool for interrogating and challenging historical narrative, and moving those previously marginalised from the periphery to the centre.

“I try to make history relatable – to humanise it,” he said. “The historical record states but fiction demonstrates. History tells us what happened while historical fiction demonstrates what it was like to be in what happened. It takes us inside history into the interiorities of the players – both historical and fictional. We can only sympathise with those whose story we know.”

He pointed out that neither journalism nor the historical record is completely objective about contemporary events. “It’s one perspective. And it brings baggage and values in selection. History represents the dominant discourse and creates a narrative that legitimises the ruling elite. I try to use my fiction to address this situation.”

“There are two possible approaches – to rewrite the past or to reinvent the past,” he added.

“I like to make it clear what is history and what is imagination. My novels are set in a historical period but are driven by fictional characters whose fate is not necessarily determined by history. They have agency and psychological motivation but are influenced by events in the historical record. I place characters in the context of history but their actions are their own.”

In The Zulus of New York Mda tells the story of a group of Zulus who were imported to England and later the United States in the 1880S by William Leonard Hunt, also known as The Great Farini, to perform as ‘human curiosities’ or ‘freak shows’ in his popular circus.

Continue reading here.


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“If you look at Afrikaner identity, it’s really forged out of the kinds of exclusions that split families” – Christi van der Westhuizen at the launch of Sitting Pretty

Christi van der Westhuizen, Zimitri Erasmus, and a riveted audience. ©Johan Eybers

 

“Gaan dit goed met jou?”
“Ja, baie goed.”
“Dis [x,y,z], hulle is lieflike mense.”

Ordentlik, nè?

Ironically enough, this conversation was taking place in the courtyard of everyone’s favourite indie bookshop in Joburg, Love Books (and not a kerkbasaar), during the recent launch of academic Christi van der Westhuizen’s Sitting Pretty: White Afrikaans Women in Postapartheid South Africa, a book which explores the identity of white Afrikaans women through the concepts of ordentlikheid and the volksmoeder.

Love Books played host to Van der Westhuizen, her respondent Zimitri Erasmus – the perennially smiling sociology professor and author of the seminal volume Coloured by History, Shaped by Place – and a noteworthy turnout of bibliophiles.

As Sitting Pretty was published ten years after Van der Westhuizen’s first book, White Power & The Rise and Fall of the National Party, Erasmus was curious to know how her thought process had changed since.

“So much happens in South Africa it’s difficult to recall what happened two months ago,” Van der Westhuizen responded (much to the audience’s delight.) She continued by saying that the National Party collapsed in the mid-2000s – “not with a bang, but with a whimper” – into the African National Congress.

“If you thought of the National Party at the height of its powers in the 1980s, of course it was under pressure, but it was really building its militaristic powers. If somebody had said to you at that stage that it was going to collapse into the ANC, you’d be completely off your head. I mean, you must have been smoking something potent! [Cue appreciative laughter]

Zimitri Erasmus, Kate Rogan, The Audience. ©Christi van der Westhuizen

 

“What was obscure for me, was that particularly Afrikaners were not dealing with the collapse of the party and this party. And, if you think about it, the NP was pivot in Afrikaner identity for so many decades.

“Of course when people are so absolutely dedicated to looking away from something then I’m always drawn to try and figure out ‘why’? I felt like I still couldn’t get my head around why Afrikaners particularly are so fixated on such a particularly pernicious and offensive set of hierarchies and exclusions, in terms of forming identity.

“If you look at Afrikaner identity it’s really forged out of the kinds of exclusions that split families.”

Van der Westhuizen furthered this statement by adding that identities are always formed through exclusions: “I was interested in why did this one take these kind of forms as opposed to others. As part of that quest I started to change my analysis, into one of post-structuralist discourse analysis. To try and make sense of meaning formations at the subjective level, which basically means looking at discourses, looking at language and trying to make sense of the world around us; how we construct ourselves and our identities through language and the world around us.”

Construction of the self and creating hierarchies (unfortunately) exist in a symbiotic relationship.

“Human beings are very fixated on difference. We use difference to make meaning and frequently to create hierarchies and inequalities. Sitting Pretty sprang from that.

“My particular interest has been in power and how we, as human beings, make power for us and how power can work against us. In social sciences, we tend to focus on the margins … There’s an over-abundance of work on poor, black people – and I’m not saying that we should not try and understand poverty and the intersection with blackness – of course you must – but at the same time these kind of convictions are being constructed from somewhere, you know. That’s why it’s important for me that we look at the centers of power. That’s why I’m interested in where whiteness comes from, intersectionality and middle-classness and I decided to mix it up a little bit and throw women in.” (This last comment was met with appreciate laughter from the crowd…)

“I’m a woman” [ another round of 'haha's!'] “so I thought – just in terms of my own position – it’s also a question to understand the legacy of where I come from; my own sense of a deep familiarity with Afrikaner identity and on the other hand a profound alienation with Afrikaner identity – particularly around its sexual and gender constructions. I’ve never wanted to live up to its prescriptions in those regards.”

Van der Westhuizen’s familiarity and alienation with Afrikaner identity is personified by her grandmother, she disclosed.

Described by Van der Westhuizen as a loving, warm, embracing, affirming figure, her grandmother also believed in the inferiority of black people on the basis of race, and was a field cornet in the proto-fascist Ossewa Brandwag.

“So how do I deal with this contradiction of this woman who I also loved so deeply and was such a wonderful person to me and at the same time – with politics – was absolutely so horrendous? She was, to a large extent, also a patriarchal woman. She was advancing patriarchy through many of her practices. So how to make sense of that, that was also important to me.

“So it wasn’t a question of pointing fingers, I mean I discovered a few things about myself in the writing process…”

Christi in conversation. ©Mila de Villiers

 
“It is very interesting and powerful to realise the books that really hold your attention, that really hold your heart, are born of something personal-political that the author is wanting to make sense of, and that’s really what I felt reading Sitting Pretty,” Erasmus responded before touching on the next subject – Van der Westhuizen’s decision to open the book with Mandela’s reference to Ingrid Jonker’s poem, ‘The Child Who Was Shot Dead by Soldiers at Nyanga’.

“What are your thoughts of the effects of this particular opening, at this moment when Mandela’s politics are being challenged quite severely in particular circles – especially ones you and I circulate in at universities?”

“It’s particularly noticeable in the university context, so I wondered to what extent people have picked up on this; that there’s a kind of anti-Mandela discourse that has started to circulate,” Van der Westhuizen replied. Judging by her “I see quite a few nodding heads”-remark, it’s clear that audience members are also aware of, and possibly agree with, the anti-Mandela manifestation.

She questioned whether she should intro with Mandela, “given that there’s been a political shift around his significance and his politics. The issues are real – his politics are being questioned; his politics weren’t really transformative. In fact, transformation as a concept is being rejected by this particular position and the position has now been adopted as one of so-called ‘decolonisation’. Mandela’s politics was, in a sense, sell-out politics and Mandela wasn’t in any way a radical – just a really large band-aid to make socioeconomic inequality and injustice continue from the apartheid era to post-apartheid era and, in fact, we’re not in the post-apartheid era, we’re actually still living in apartheid, we’re just calling it something else,” she asserted.

Van der Westhuizen criticised decolonisation for diverting away from Mandela’s original politics which “produced a very strong vision of an alternative South Africa that’s borne on justice and equality.” She also spoke out against the lack of alternative political visions. “What I have seen is essentialisation of race, a lot of homogenisation of blackness and whiteness.”

After a healthy bout of inner turmoil, she decided to stick with Mandela.

“At the end of the day, yes, he was an African nationalist and I abhor nationalism of any kind, particularly because of my close encounter with other forms of nationalism. At the same time he gave us a very powerful vision; a radical vision, a vision of inclusion. A vision to try and see if we can actually dare to try and establish justice in our country on every level.”

Casual product placement… ©Mila de Villiers

 

Given the preconceived notion that Afrikaner women should subscribe to a certain ethic of respectability (“ordentlikheid”), Erasmus mentioned how ordentlikheid is one of the threads that runs through Sitting Pretty.

“Talk to us more about this specific relationship between ordentlikheid, white English speaking South Africaness and blackness.”

“I was trying to get some kind of configuration that could capture the identity that I’m talking about,” Van der Westhuizen responded, “and interestingly a lot of Afrikaners are not identifying as ‘Afrikaners’ anymore.”

According to Van der Westhuizen “Identifying as an Afrikaner does not indicate whether someone is reactionary or radical. People who don’t identify as Afrikaners can either have radical or reactionary politics in terms of race, gender and sexuality. Paradoxically the same is true for those who identify as Afrikaners.

“It’s a mixed bag. ‘Afrikaner’ becomes almost useless in trying to capture the identity we’re talking about.

Ordentlikheid is the word that finally came up for me; it’s an intersection where a particular ethnic idea of sexuality, gender, class and race takes shape.”

Ordentlikheid manifests via particular ideas about politeness, decency and respectability, Van der Westhuizen continued.

“It’s achieved through adopting very particular gender or race or class or sexual positions. Identity is always approached; we feel like we have very stable identities, but actually we’re constructing our identities all the time. We’re making it up as we go along and we’re using these categories of difference to do that.

Ordentlikheid, in a sense, is the permeation this particular identity takes.”

Afrikaner identity tries to set itself apart from other identities, as shaped by the frontier – the cause of our colonial apartheid history.

“The primary frontier in terms of the relationship with other identities is still race. Afrikaners – or white, Afrikaans people – want to set themselves apart from black people. People are still racialised as ‘black’, which is erroneous because we know it’s all social constructions. They also want to set themselves apart from white, English-speaking South Africans.”

Van der Westhuizen commented on the political project in the early 20th century, stating that “it was all about sharing the spoils of whiteness. A very overbearing identity came with British imperialism.” Anglo-Whiteness was entrenching itself in South Africa, painting the Dutch/Boer settlers in unflattering lights, she explained. ‘Whiteness’, as constructed by the British, was adopted as the standard against which civilisation was measured.

The Boers, as a people, were dehumanised, described by Kitchener as ‘savages with a thin, white veneer’.

“So you have the Afrikaner identity constructed in opposition to this overbearing British whiteness that arrived,” Van der Westhuizen said, interrupting herself mid-sentence as she commented on an audience member’s physical response to her statement.

“I see Sheila is shaking her head vigorously.”

“Nodding!” The one and only Sheila protested, which caused to crowd to crack up, made all the funnier when Van der Westhuizen enquired whether she was nodding in an affirmative kind of way and replying ‘Viva’ to Sheila’s ‘Yes’.

Alle grappies op ‘n stokkie.

“We’re being positioned in a very particular way in relation to Anglo Whiteness and this emerging group wanting to share in almost all its whiteness. You want to differentiate yourself from Englishness, particular ethic permutations and ultimately sexuality and gender then become quite important. Sexual/gender relations are used to create this form of ethnic whiteness. In terms of black people, I found a series of discourses that sort of divide black people into categories.

“Dichotomies are created. Basically, good black people are black people that exonerate white people of all the injustices of the past.”

Ja, that’s part of the book that’s really gripping,” Erasmus responded. “So you need to get there!” she urged the audience.

“Just a sort question,” Erasmus serenely went on, “the term ‘Afrikaner’ – I don’t know where I get this from, but I understood that from about the mid-90s there was a shift to something called ‘Afrikaanse’. “I’m not an Afrikaner, but I’m Afrikaans-speaking person”. Is that distinction still there?”

“That speaks to the stigma that’s attached to Afrikaner identity,” Van der Westhuizen said.

“The reason why so many people don’t want to claim Afrikaner identity anymore is because of the stigma of apartheid, so apartheid has spoiled the identity; it speaks to question of ordentlikheid. The work that’s being done after apartheid is to try and establish the ordentlikheid of the identity, because apartheid is like a massive stain that you just can’t scrub out; the identity is trying to get rid of it. The Afrikaanse – I’m very careful about that because I do feel that that seems to be like a political project that tries to expand the ranks of the people who used to be called Afrikaners, to buttress them and plump up their numbers; and at the same time to make them politically more viable a force.

“There are certain racialisations that are still in operation … I feel that Afrikaners need to do a lot more work in terms of racial identities over the 20th century. We haven’t done that work sufficiently in any way whatsoever,” Van der Westhuizen emphatically asserted.

Van der Westhuizen and author William Mervin Gumede. ©Johan Eybers

 

Erasmus’s next query targeted a persistently problematic phenomenon – that of the women’s magazine. Sarie, to be precise. (Which Erasmus assured the audience she DOESN’T read – “Just admit it, you’re a closet Sarie reader!” Van der Westhuizen retorted.)

“I found it really interesting to learn that the majority of the columnists for Sarie are men,” Erasmus said, to the amusement of the audience. “I thought ‘what?!’ So, is it unusual?”

“Well, I didn’t do a comparative analysis with other women’s magazines,” Van der Westhuizen diplomatically replied, “but it did strike me that the majority of columnists were men. Even the last column of the magazine, called ‘Laaste Sê’, and that was written by a dominee,” [cue raucous laughter] “with the name of Izak de Villiers, who in his day used to be the editor of the magazine.

“In a sense it really symbolised how the femininity that Sarie constructs is basically surveilled and regulated by this patriarchal overseer. I was compelled to write a chapter just drawing on what my respondents were saying about men and Afrikaner masculinity. You have the volksmoeder who calls certain shots and then you have a patriarchal overseer. Some of the magazine illustrates it really well. You do have the male figure in women’s magazines but usually much more hidden; in Sarie magazine it’s this pan-optical male but he’s not invisiblised, he’s actually very visible. You could see him on their pages and he’s restricting discourse and he’s allowing you to only go *this* far because we want you to live up to white western hetero-femininity and to actualise white western hetero-femininity and at the same time you’re still our women and you need to know your place.” (This was followed by murmurs of agreement from the audience…)

“That I find really fascinating; it makes me want to buy women’s magazines. Because I see all the men here! What are they doing?” Erasmus laughed.

Van der Westhuizen demonstrated the pan-optical patriarchy present in Sarie via the performer and public figure, Nataniël, who is closely associated with Sarie the brand, and, inherently, as a brand himself.

“What’s interesting with the role that Nataniël plays in the magazine, is that he’s a gay male but he’s not identified as such in the discourse – he has to sanitise his sexuality; he’s there to advise on decor and food … he’s your best little friend on who’s shoulder you can cry. He’s a desexualised figure. He actually brought out a notebook with an inscription from him – allegedly, because Sarie makes up this stuff – “you can’t make yourself feel better if you don’t make other people feel better”. And that’s the femininity – it can only actualise itself in so far as it can service to the others around it and those others must be white.”

Speaking of whiteness…

“You write about aspirational disposition among middle-class Afrikaners toward what you call a ‘global Anglo whiteness’,” Erasmus said. “Does the Netherlands any time, or today, have a place at all in these aspirations to what you also write about as a kind of western universalism? Does the Netherlands have any place there? I’m interested in that question, partly because of my own connection to Holland [Erasmus completed her PhD at the University of Nijmegen] and partly because of my experience of what is called the Afrikaner aristocracy in the western cape.”

“I think there was a strong connection to the Netherlands up until a certain point in the 20th century, because it’s the so-called stamland, the primary country from which settlers arrived. I think the break came with the anti-apartheid movement when there was a strong sense of a humiliation by European whiteness and I think global whiteness in general. Afrikaner whiteness was suddenly not acceptable anymore.

“Our racial practices here – which carried a certain kind of support from the west – started to crumble and Afrikaners are confronted with their racial project being morally and ethically unsustainable and despicable. The Netherlands had a very strong anti-apartheid movement, so that caused quite a break with the Afrikaner nationalist class. At the same time, the white English-speaking South Africans here (or WESAS) like to operate.” The laughter elicited by Van der Westhuizen’s proclamation of ‘WESAS’ – pronounced weh-zas – was a clear indicator of the audience’s familiarity with this, um, particular kind of South African…

The (seated) author signing copies of Sitting Pretty. ©Johan Eybers

 
As a Joburg summer thunderstorm raged outside, the audience posed their Q’s and Van der Westhuizen provided them with A’s, before the crowd started to disperse – either to have their books signed, or to capitalise on one of the (many) highlights of a book launch – good ol’ mahala vino.

***

Sitting Pretty

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“Handle history with care – it might come back to bite you”: Stephen Coan on Tribing and Untribing the Archive


 

Former features writer for the Witness, writer-director in film and theatre, and freelance journalist, Stephen Coan, recently wrote an article on Tribing and Untribing the Archive, edited by Carolyn Hamilton and Nessa Leibhammer, discussing the significance of past events which has shaped the current political order. Read Coan’s insightful piece here:

Decolonisation. The use of the word is much in vogue at present; usually invoked to advocate a move away from a Eurocentric focus to one that is Afrocentric. If the concept is to be pursued with serious intent it could have quite unexpected implications for traditional leaders, not only in the province of KwaZulu-Natal but the whole of South Africa.

These implications are made clear in Tribing and Untribing the Archive – Identity and the Material Record in Southern KwaZulu-Natal in the Late Independent and Colonial Periods, edited by Carolyn Hamilton and Nessa Leibhammer, published in two slipcased volumes and consisting of twenty essays and an epilogue drawn from a multidisciplinary team of contributors, including archaeologists, anthropologists, historians, art historians, archivists and curators.

According to the editors the essays provide a window into “not only to see how archives give shape to history, but also how history gives shape to archives.”

But what exactly is “the archive”? On one level it is what has been written: what is found in state repositories, missionary records, personal papers, recorded oral testimony and newspapers. However Tribing and Untribing the Archive goes further, drawing attention “to the extent of the material culture record … little appreciated by researchers outside art history and archaeology.”

Consequently material objects such as snuff spoons, sticks, photographs and artworks are brought within the compass of the archive thus allowing scope for such essays as Nontobeko Ntombela’s Shifting contexts: Material, Process and Contemporary Art in Times of Change and Hlonipha Mokoena’s quirky and intriguing ‘Knobkerrie’: Some Preliminary Notes on the Transformation of a Weapon into a Swagger Stick, or Sometimes a Stick is Not Just a Stick which teases out out the meaning and complexities of a photograph (c.1890) depicting two policemen, one (white and seated) with a swagger stick and the other (black, barefoot, and standing) holding a knobkerrie.

Another group of essays, which include an aspect of Christoph Rippe’s pioneering work on the photographic collections at Mariannhill Monastery plus André Croucamp’s delving into tourism promotion by the Natal Government Railways, reveal how the image of “the Zulu” popularly assumed to be a product of the Zulu heartland north of the Thukela was in fact constructed much further south with paintings and photographs made within easy travelling distance (firstly by horse, then rail) of Durban.

Whatever a contributor’s particular focus all the essays coalesce under the umbrella of the title essay, Tribing and Untribing the Archive by Hamilton and Leibhammer, which elaborates on how “yoked together in the service of colonial and later apartheid rule, the pernicious combination of tribe and tradition continues to tether modern South Africans to ideas about the remote past as primitive, timeless and unchanging, despite substantial scholarly and public critical discussion of the fallacy of these notions.”

Speaking at the book’s launch in Johannesburg contributor John Wright said the most frequent response to its content was: “‘Well, if we can’t call them tribes, what can we call them?’”
“It’s the wrong question,” he countered. “The issue is not about finding new names for a category, but rethinking the nature of the category altogether. Historical work is showing that before the 19th century Africans lived not in bounded, relatively homogeneous ‘tribes’, but in polities, for which we have no word in English, that were fluid, relatively loosely structured groups, organized round the exigencies of making and remaking alliances, and incorporating newcomers.”

“Many people – black and white – today find it very difficult to think beyond Africans as ‘always’ having lived in tribes. They find it very difficult to think historically about African polities.”

While Tribing and Untribing the Archive has a specific regional focus – that of southern Kwazulu-Natal, bounded by the Thukela River in the north and the Mzimvubu in the south – the insights it contains have far wider application. “This area had a very distinctive colonial experience,” said Hamilton at the launch. “And it had a very distinctive experience before that, both before and after Shaka built up his power. What happened in this region has ramifications for the rest of the country.”

With the arrival of white settlers in significant numbers from the 1840s onwards southern KwaZulu-Natal became subject to colonial administration which saw Theophilus Shepstone, the Diplomatic Agent to the Native Tribes, devise a form of indirect rule which controlled African communities via the power of their chiefs. Non-compliant chiefs were either marginalised or, as in the case of the Hlubi leader Langalibalele kaMthimkhulu, designated rebels and violently subjugated. However, the great majority of chiefs recognised by Shepstone happily acquiesced in this system of government and turned it to their advantage. Thus by the end of the nineteenth century the concept of the “tribe” as the basic social and political unit of African society had become rooted in the minds of both the coloniser and the colonised.

Since 1994, as Grant McNulty details in his essay (Re)discovering the Correct History, numerous communities in KwaZulu-Natal have called for recognition of their pasts and identities both before their assimilation into the Zulu kingdom during the time of King Shaka kaSenzangakhona or their later status under colonial rule, “wrestling with how best to navigate these oppressed histories and how and what to present as evidence in support of their claims.”

This has seen frequent recourse to the archive, as the Campbell Collections in Durban and local state repositories can attest, in order “to strengthen and validate claims for traditional leadership submitted to the Nhlapo Commission and the Commission on Traditional Leadership Disputes and Claims.” The archive has also been used by lawyers investigating land claims while many members of the public have taken to researching their histories to try and re-establish their roots and identity.

According to McNulty the resultant re-emergence of the pre-Zulu history of the Hlubi, Ndwandwe, Quabe, and Nhlangwini represents “a direct threat to the authenticity and power of the Zulu king as a custodian and symbol of a unified Zulu nation.”

Post-1994 the liberation movements deliberately moved away from the tribal concept, a trajectory widely expected to continue. “Paradoxically, the opposite has happened,” according to Wright in Making Identities in the Thukela-Mzimvubu Region.

“National and provincial governments sought first to accommodate and then to win the support of ‘traditional leaders’ by recognising and augmenting the authority they exercised in terms of ‘customary law’ in ‘tribal areas’ based on those established in the eras of colonialism and apartheid.” Or, to put it another way, what is the decolonisation project to do with traditional leaders whose status came into being as the result of collaboration with the colonial regime or direct colonial appointment?

There are no easy answers to such questions and if nothing else, as Mbongiseni Buthelezi puts it in his perceptive epilogue: “These volumes show us that we know neither enough about the past before colonialism nor about the ways in which local institutions were reshaped in the early years of colonialism to suit a form of indirect colonial rule.”

“We need more investigation into the longer past because the more we know about the forms of social organisation, leadership, relations between neighbours and so on that existed prior to the advent of European settlement, the better we give back to the present and future their pasts.”

Tribing and Untribing the Archive marks both a beginning of that process and a challenge to the current political order.

 

Tribing and Untribing the Archive

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John Trengove Discusses iBhokhwe, His Film Based on Part of Thando Mgqolozana’s A Man Who Is Not A Man

A Man Who is Not a ManWhile doing research for his short film partially based on Thando Mgqolozana’s A Man Who Is Not a Man, John Trengove learned that there is a belief that traditional circumcision has the power to “cure” homosexuality.

During interviews with gay Xhosa men, Trengrove was told that homosexual initiates are “often neglected or completely abandoned over the period of three weeks, which is supposed to be the healing period after the initiation”. iBhokhwe, his 13-minute film, focuses on a young man abandoned by his elders in a makeshift hut after the ritual.

Sandiso Ngubane of the Mail & Guardian spoke to Trengove about iBhokhwe, which was screened at the Berlinale in Germany last week. Trengove hopes to develop it into a feature film exploring homosexuality and traditional circumcision.

It’s been touted as the first film to explore homosexuality within the context of traditional Xhosa initiation.

IBhokwe: The Goat, screened at the Berlinale in Germany last week, is partially adapted from Thando Mngqolozana’s book A Man Who Is Not a Man. It follows the story of a young man who has been isolated from the other initiates.

Times LIVE reported some of the shocking statistics of botched traditional circumcisions:

Initiates who needed medical attention during the traditional circumcision season were often stigmatised by their communities.

Some men in the Eastern Cape who developed infections refused to go to hospitals and some had parents who prevented them from accessing medical treatment.

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Video: Ashwin Desai Discusses Chatsworth: The Making of a South African Township

ChatsworthAshwin Desai joined Leanne Manas on SABC’s Morning Live to discuss Chatsworth: The Making of a South African Township, which he co-edited. Manas comments that the book includes “an exhilarating mix of voices” that tell the story of Chatsworth, the Indian township in Durban which was created by apartheid era planners.

Desai discusses how the book offers a deeper understanding of the ways in which Chatsworth has changed over the years, as well as looking at the continuity of the area. He mentions aspects such as the expressions of sexuality, and the way in which Pentacostal Christianity has become the fastest growing religion in the area, as examples of these shifts.

Watch the interview and read about Desai’s comments below:

YouTube Preview Image

In 1960, apartheid’s planners created the “Indian” township of Chatsworth, evicting people from established neighbourhoods around Durban and forcibly settling them into a grid of modern racial ghetto.

The book, “Chatsworth: The making of a South African township”, brings together an exhilarating mix of voices that collectively tell the story of Chatsworth’s origins and transformations.

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21 Icons South Africa Features Short Documentary and Portrait of Gcina Mhlophe

Have You Seen Zandile?Gcina Mhlophe has been featured as one of the extraordinary South Africans that filmmaker and photographer Adrian Steirn is profiling with his 21 Icons South Africa project.

Mhlophe explains how she followed her true calling to become a storyteller, after building her career as a performer, director and playwright. She says that people thought something was wrong when she changed paths, but that she has never been happier and is very grateful that she listened to the voice that urged her to tell stories.

Watch the short documentary, see the portrait of Mhlophe and read the essay:

Gcina Mhlophe has many talents. She has won awards as a performer, a director and a playwright, and built the foundations of her career doing those things. But her true gift is storytelling.

She realised this in the late 1980s, just as her career as a performer was peaking. The calling to change direction and become a fulltime storyteller concerned those close to her. “People got worried about me – they thought something was going wrong,” she says. “I wanted to listen to that voice, to answer that calling. And I’ve never been happier. I’m very grateful that I listened to that voice.”

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Video: Pamphilia Hlapa Discusses How Writing A Daughter’s Legacy Helped Her to Deal with Her Past

A Daughter's LegacyPamphilia Hlapa was featured in a recent episode of I Am Woman: Leap of Faith where she discussed how writing her novel A Daughter’s Legacy helped her break the silence about being raped and sexually assaulted when she was younger. The book is written as fiction but deals with the abuse that rural girls are often exposed to.

Watch the video of the episode, in which Hlapa meets presenter Lisa Chait in The Book Lounge in Cape Town to discuss her childhood and the healing she found writing A Daughter’s Legacy.

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Pamphilia Hlapa to Feature in Upcoming Episode of I Am Woman: Leap of Faith

A Daughter's LegacyAn upcoming episode of I Am Woman: Leap of Faith will feature Pamphilia Hlapa, author of A Daughter’s Legacy. The series is presented by Lisa Chait and “features the lives and Leaps of Faith of 52 remarkable women showing how they stepped into brand new territory bravely when faced with life’s greatest challenges and opportunities”.

Hlapa’s episode looks at how writing A Daughter’s Legacy helped her to break the silence about being raped and sexually assaulted when she was younger. Although the book is fictional, it gave her “a space to share her own story and that of her rural sisters”. The episode will air on SABC 3 on Sunday 14 July at 10:30 AM.

Read more about Hlapa’s journey to breaking the silence:

Can you live a full life despite what has happened in your past?

Sexual violence in South Africa features on the national agenda but shocking statistics and horrific attacks continue to come to light. What is not spoken about enough, however, is the protracted, relentless abuse of young women in rural villages where, even more so than in our already abuse-ridden urban spaces, girls are at the mercy of men and boys.

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Percy Zvomuya Interviews Nthikeng Mohlele, Author of Small Things

Small ThingsPercy Zvomuya chatted to Nthikeng Mohlele, author of Small Things, for the Mail & Guardian. Zvomuya mentions JM Coetzee’s “unrestrained praise” of the book, saying that it is easy to see why Coetzee says that, “The prose is rich in texture, the final effect melancholy and comic in equal proportions.”

Zvomuya found out what Mohlele is currently reading, what music he’s enjoying at the moment and other little snippets from his life:

“Behind this story of love, music and the eternal quest, lies an artistic sensibility as generous as it is complex. The prose is rich in texture, the final effect melancholy and comic in equal proportions,” the Nobel ­laureate wrote.

Unrestrained praise, but then, over the past few years, ­Coetzee has been generous in his praise of young South African writers.

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Slideshow: Sabelo Mlangeni and Graeme Reid Examine the Lives of Gay People in Small Towns

How to be a Real GayThe Mail & Guardian has published a multimedia slideshow of Sabelo Mlangeni’s images of gay people in small town South Africa, accompanied by a description of Graeme Reid’s book How to be a Real Gay: Gay Identities in Small-Town South Africa.

The slideshow describes how Reid discusses the ambivalent space that gay people inhabit in the small towns of South Africa:

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