Bury Me at The Marketplace

Sharing narratives

I am inspired by travelling narratives, by moving stories, and by forms that take root from a place of communal sharing than individual enjoyment. I am a student in the literatures, and have found that novels and other books constantly require retraction from community—in that you would have to go sit lonesome on a bench or in your room quietly to read—perhaps making this a core reason why most people, in my country (?), don’t read. In most of our cultures, the art of storytelling is communal, inclusive, and accessible.

I am inspired by narratives that boast their own dialects, that burst with local intonations, and by stories that move with the rhythms of their music. The English literature departments in postcolonial Africa are a point of contention—the term ‘English’ points not only to a language, but to a culture and geographical space. Most of my people would not take easily to a novel that opens with a scene on the banks of the Thames River… This is why my academic research thus far has solely focused on literatures that speak of our own landscapes, cultures, languages, and traditions.

I am moved by the idea of travelling narratives, of newly packaged forms and styles that are accessible to all that traverse its landscapes. Literature has mostly been an elitist art form, perhaps the most inclusive and aristocratic, mostly enjoyed in closed halls of high brow entertainment. I am excited by the notion of breaking down those barriers and setting stories free; liberating narratives to reach spaces previously unthought-of. I find worth in depleting the traditional literary form; tradition is a dying hallmark of culture. Culture is fluid and malleable in the 21st century.

I am happy to reveal that I am officially shooting a documentary on South African poet laureate Keorapetse Kgositsile’s lifework. I am not satisfied with investing energy and time with researching his work and sealing it in libraries of the ivory tower. His story is one that must be released from the exact traditions which he sought to be liberated from. His story must be packaged to move in unsuspected places. It must be, like his very life, a travelling narrative. It must move to the rhythms of his Setswana, his jazz, his mbaqanga, and dance freely to the baseline of Johnny Dyani the maestro (they collaborated in 1977 at FESTAC, Nigeria).

Narratives of our own people should be liberated from the high pillars of air-conditioned libraries; stories must be accessible and inclusive, as opposed to Exclusive (Books) to all whose character and cultures it speaks of; literary forms must find their ways into taxis, street corners, chisa nyamas, parties, and general meeting points. Storytelling is dependent on an audience, and on a communal appreciation from various positioned listeners. Let us fervently take up the challenge to evolve our various art forms for the benefit of those whom they are intended to speak, mostly of, but also to.

Sharing stories

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Books: Food for my Mind

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Every time I tell people I study literature they always want to know my favourite book, or want me to recommend a novel that can move them. Well, here’s a list of my ten favourite novels, in no particular order. They have all moved something inside me in a unique and memorable way, and that makes these novels closest to my heart. These would be a great Christmas gift to self or that literature-loving-bookshop-living-page-surfing special friend.

Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangerembga

This masterpiece spoke to my six year old rural self. I could identify with so many aspects of the lives portrayed in this book, that this gave birth to a love I now have for telling our own stories and representing our historically marginalised narratives. Every feminist or pseudo-feminist should read this book.

The Quiet Violence of Dreams by Sello Duiker

This book is very intense and addresses the issues of masculine sexualities in the city of Cape Town. More than that it tells the story of Tshepo who is truly a symbol of post-94 schizophrenia and disillusion. Many consider this book Duiker’s suicide note. After reading this book I bought it for my friends, as it kept haunting me in dreamland.

ImageThe History of a Pleasure Seeker by Richard Mason

This book is set in 1910 Amsterdam and Cape Town (I live in both cities), and tells a tale of a young, hot, hot man who is restless and is indeed a pleasure seeker. Coming from an impoverished background, his looks work for him, and he explores the nature of money by playing in its hands. The sex scenes between older men and this young man are steamy and rampant, unsettling some of your prejudices. My good friend read this book and bought it for me. That’s always special to know.

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

My best friend bought me this book. I read it like I was diabetic and there was insulin in it. It reminded me of Nervous Conditions in Adichie’s treatment of patriarchy and childhood. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would read it again and again. I love the role of laughter, and how something as insignificant as laughing can dismantle whole oppressive structures.

To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee

I will buy this book for my children. I used to read it every year between ages 15 and 20. It speaks so succinctly about the dangers of discriminations. Children mimic what their parents do, and not what they say they should do. The character of Boo Radley is alive in all of us. If we decide to chance being different we may very well end up pariahs.

House of Hunger by Dambudzo Marechera

The scatological nature of this novella is what does it for me. I love the seamless comparison of a post-independent Zimbabwe and its people as semen running down a prostitute’s leg. And many more other nauseating comparisons that are truly reminiscent of Jean-Paul Satre’s novel Nausea.

The Madonna of Excelsior by Zakes Mda

ImageMda weaves a magical tale of a beautiful village in Bloemfontein, South Africa, where historically the white Afrikaaner men raped the black women, leaving, till today, a village of very light skinned, or coloured, women who speak enchanting Sesotho. Mda is so naughty in this novel as he goes through additional efforts to describe the bodies and penises of the white farmers, which never fails to reduce me to chuckles. Again, like laughter in Adichie’s novel, the bees in this novel are so mysteriously powerful.

Disgrace by J.M Coetzee

This South African novel is powerful for many reasons. It unsettles the race issue that remained concrete and unchanged even years after 1994, and asks pertinent questions around white privilege, the place of whiteness in a seemingly black South Africa, the place of lesbians, and essentially, the future of a South Africa damaged by race and difference. And it’s written exceptionally well.

The Restless Supermarket by Ivan Vladislavic

The way I see it, Vladislavic’s work represent a depletion of standing orders and convention, and a rebuilding of art and literature from a depleted and arising new place of innocence. His words are made to carry multiple meanings that respond to the world and the ever-changing political landscape of South Africa. Vladislavic is a voice of our generation. He is a true artist.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

My husband bought me this book when we were still dating. Actually, on the night we met I asked him what his favourite book was and he told me about Ian McEwan and Milan Kundera. When I heard this poetic title I immediately wanted to read it. I read this novel and was introduced to the politics of Europe and their impact on everyday life. My eyes were prised open to the connection that binds humanity; we all strive for freedom, equality, peace, and a lightness that must be attainable in our own lifetimes.

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ImageThose are my top ten books that I would take to a deserted island. It was a difficult choice because I really love a lot of books. Others worth mentioning are Toni Morrison’s Songs of Solomon, Chris Abani’s Graceland, Biyi Bandele’s The Streets, Ben Okri’s Famished Road, Phaswane Mpe’s Welcome to our Hillbrow, and Yvonne Vera’s Butterfly Burning. My greatest love is still poetry…

My Heart doth Overfloweth

My dear reader,

ImageI would like to thank you so wholeheartedly for journeying with me on this healing process. On the 19th of January I decided to start writing a blog for various reasons: I consider myself a writer, which is a label I don’t take lightly and it has taken me over six years of writing to finally, although hesitantly, adopt the label. When I thought about the kind of writing I was doing, it dawned upon me that I only wrote academic essays. It was then that I decided to write creatively, from my heart. I did not suspect that it would have the kind of effect it has had on my general wellbeing and livelihood.

As you may know by now, my best friend passed away tragically in February. Without the support of my husband, family, and close friends, I am not sure I would have survived that primordial pain. They helped shaped a well from which I could draw strength. They were my rock! My blog helped me make sense of my pain, live it, relinquish it from my heart, and survive it. The power of words has helped to redeem me from a jungle of disappointment, hurt, and anger.

Writing this blog has helped me reclaim a lost innocence, rediscover my passions, overcome terrible pain from the past, and smile with my heart again. My innocence was lost yes. I no longer stopped to smell the jasmine, to borrow from a friend Farris’ phrase. I hesitated to celebrate the small victories of my life, I overlooked blessings, I took for granted the very roof on my head, I gobbled up my ice cream too quick, I kissed in a hurry, I bought a lovely pair of shoes and forgot about them the next hour, I ate mindlessly, doing so as duty as opposed to enjoyment. The latter became my mode of existence: duty and not dedication. Writing again has helped me live in moments, eradicate anxiety, celebrate myself, and well-up at the sight of bees dancing with sunflowers.

Writing this blog has led me closer to my true self. I have experienced firsthand the drastic shifts in my outlook, my inlook; I have considered with close attention the smallest of things that make all the difference, like the health benefits of foods, teas, gardening, herbs, whole spices, and meditation. I have learnt a lot in trying to share with you my limited knowledge of Eastern healing through eating medicinal foods geared at balancing one’s chakras; this blog has helped me want to do more research and provide you with accurate information. Writing this blog has developed in me a keen interest in human behaviour, biology, science, and philosophy. I have been happier, healthier, wealthier, and increasingly blessed for having taken a decision to write again on that January afternoon.

However, my dear reader, I would love to extend knowledge that has dawned upon me that without you reading this blog it would have probably generated a different kind of fulfilment in me. I am so grateful for your time—many people don’t have the attention span to read through a newspaper, never mind the ramblings of a free spirit—and your comments, and your feedback. It touches me most when someone writes to me to say anything at all about how my words have resonated with them. I am healed first by writing these words, so I get fulfilment, courage, and strength when I hear that the same healing has occurred elsewhere.

Therefore I would like to thank you so very much. May we continue to journey together; and may you feel encouraged to leave whatever emotions, responses, feedback, or even a ‘hi, how are you’, in the comment box. I promise to engage with your actively. I would love to know who reads my blog (I have a statistics tab that shows me where in the world it is being read, and I am constantly amazed by the disparate regions worldwide)—please just drop me a line, especially if we know each other, and say howdy! Travelling is mostly exciting but can also get lonely. I’d love to hear from you more.

ImageI truly wish you more peace in your head, in your life, and in your heart. I wish you light, as opposed to darkness, and also as opposed to heaviness. I wish forgiveness to envelope your heart. I wish you release from whatever may be imprisoning your heart and soul. Over and above, I wish you love,

Uhuru

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P.S I encourage you to write, write, write! Time is ephemeral…