Archive for the ‘The Diary of Zinzi Zwane’ Category

Wednesday Blues

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It’s 9:00 a.m. I didn’t feel like getting out of bed. So, although I’ve been awake for close to 3 hours, it’s only now that I step out of the bed. I’ve been tossing and turning and thinking about the missed call I received yesterday. It’s from my dad and we haven’t spoken in a long, long time. A part of me wants to call him, but another part of me says if he really wants to talk he’ll call, eventually. Just like my mom says he will. But I can’t seem to get him out of my mind.

It’s only around 8 o’clock that hunger starts whispering to me., forcing me to forget about the call I missed. I wake up and walk to the kitchen. Whilst preparing something to eat, something catches my eyes: an envelope written “To: Zinzi” in a handwriting I cannot recognise.

The first few lines read: “Zinzi I left. I didn’t tell you I was leaving bcoz I knew that’d break my heart as much as it’d break yours. I love you too, Zinzi.” At this point, I know who the letter is from, but all I’m wondering about is how he knew how I felt about him. I never mustered enough courage to tell Mo how I felt about him because sometimes asking for more can end up in you losing the little that you have. Our friendship, and its continuation, was more important than whatever ideas of a relationship I had. Now this? I thought I was doing a good job hiding my feelings from him.

I knew how you felt about me. I knew this because I felt it too. I felt it from the very first day we met. I fell in love with you instantaneously when I saw you. You were looking for an apartment and so was I. You were new in this town and so was I. You had travelled kilometres to study Film and the same goes for me.” At this point, I stop to think about the day Mo and I met. We had met at the Student Centre, at the Accommodation Offices. The memory of that day comes back to me and I can hear him saying: “We can share,”

“What…?” my voice louder than I had intended it to be. I mean, we had just met and here’s this guy saying we could share a flat.

“Nothing,” he said and shrugged his shoulders. His face written disappointment all over.

We ended up living just a few doors from each other. This meant that we spent time together as we would go to class and come back together. Now that I think of it, I think this is the time I fell for him…

It was only after we had spent time together that you realised what I had long realised. You tried fighting it at first; pushing me away, turning down my movie dates, trying your best to show me that my existence in your life was inconsequential, that you’d be better off, with or without me. But I’ve always wondered for how long you would fight it? How long it’d take you to convince your heart that what it wanted was not good for me? How long…

When it did happen (you realising) a lot of things changed. You’d call on me just to check up how I was and our chats would last long past midnight. You wanted to know more about me, what I was doing… I knew then that you had fallen. Love had reached your address, eventually. But it was too late, after the June holidays, just before the protests started on campus… what use was it then to start a relationship knowing very well that we were going to be kilometres apart the coming year? Long distance relationships, as you’d say, never withstand the strain that comes with the distance…

I left. But I leave knowing that love does exist. It is the times our hands brushed as we crossed Mandela Drive. It is the laughter and wine we shared and the movies we watched. The memories. It is the peace of heart and harmony that comes with knowing that someone, somewhere cares more than they should about you and you care just as much for them.
Love always
Mo

At this point, I’m frustrated. At what? At who? Myself or him? It’s a directionless anger. I’m glued to the chair, unable to move or to think. Could it be possible that I have I lost someone I love because I wasn’t courageous enough to tell him?

ZZ xx

Abantu Book Festival

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Ever heard that not-so-funny joke about how black people don’t read books? It goes: if you want to hide anything from a black person just put it inside a book? You know why? Because, apparently, black people have a phobia for books… I’ve never entertained this kind of joke. It’s a negative and narrow-minded stereotype that seeks to homogenise black people into book-fearing beings.

Ask people who make this kind of joke, “Why don’t black people read?” and I promise you they will scratch their head and keep their eyes on the floor, but no answer will be forthcoming. The reasons for the lack of a reading culture amongst blacks in South Africa are varied, but, personally, I feel that the most important one is that of access to books and literature.

Black people don’t read because there are no books to read to begin with. If my mother was not a writer and voracious reader (not all of us are so lucky!), chances are I wouldn’t have been exposed to the magic that comes with turning a page and consequently; I would’ve been counted in the statistics of those who don’t read. So, for me, access is chief. What the joke also doesn’t account for is the large numbers of black people who read on their phones the incalculable ‘Diary’ Facebook pages and through websites like the Fundza mobi site and many others like it. So, yes, black people read!

They read despite the fact that there used to be a time in the not so distant past of this country they were not allowed access to (certain) libraries. The oppressors of the past knew that it was to their advantage if black people were kept far away from books as possible.

Not that much has changed since democracy graced our shores. Although there are libraries in the townships, most of them are understocked. In these libraries, it’s easier to find book collections of authors from Europe and other continents than it is to find a book by an African author. Access, again! Access to literature that speaks to us, that is about us and is written by people from our continent and addresses the issues that we deal with on a daily basis.

And then you find people jokingly telling you that black people don’t read…what should black people read? Stories about foreign lands and foreign cultures whereas they have their own culture and…I almost said “land” but then I remembered black people don’t have land (But that’s a topic for another day). But, yes, surprisingly black people have a culture of their own and interestingly we have our own writers.

It thus doesn’t make sense that our libraries are filled with books that have travelled miles to reach our shores and have only a few written by people who live right here in the country, which is why I’m going to tell you about the Abantu Book Festival. The Abantu Book Festival – a book festival organised by black authors for black readers. The Abantu Book Festival aims to change the status quo by bringing black authors and a black audience under the same roof to discuss books. The book festival took place in Soweto (Eyethu Lifestyle Centre and Soweto Theatre) from the 8th to the 10th of December. The line-up included some of my favourite authors like NoViolet Bulawayo, Rehana Rossouw, Gcina Mhlophe, Niq Mhlongo, et cetera, et cetera. And you know what’s good? Attending the book festival is free, mahala.

Dish it: So did you know about it? If yes, did you go? How was it?

ZZ xx

2016

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As the year draws to an end one cannot help but muse over how fast time really flies. It seems like it was only yesterday when I packed my bags and travelled over 900 kilometres to study at UFS at the beginning of the year.

I still remember how the move to Bloemfontein didn’t make sense to anyone, even myself. Why was I leave Cape Town? people asked. I would look at them and scratch my head, thinking hard about an answer but finding none. Why was I leaving the comforts of home for a land I had never seen? My mother would ask.

Was it curiosity? Was it wanting to know how it feels to be alone in a city where you have neither friends nor close relatives? Did it have something to do with being independent and learning to make a life for myself away from my parents?

I still remember, too, the optimism that overwhelmed me on my way here. Life, for me, was only beginning. I was starting on a new path whose destination I could never be sure of. But I still felt optimistic about the year 2016. I was going to do all the things I couldn’t do under my mother’s watchful eye. I was going to party and have fun and just enjoy being me.

It’s so sad, though, that most of the things I had in mind are still undone because, well, life happened. Life happening. I think that’s how I will remember 2016.

Life happening. What does this mean? Life happening is when things beyond your control have an impact in your life and there is nothing that you, personally, can do about them. So, you just accept them as being part of this drama called life and you continue living. Life happening is when campuses become militarised and there’s nothing you can do about it and eventually the sight of seeing police and securities on campus becomes normalised.

Life happening is your father selling your family home and you are the last person to hear about it because, well, your opinion/feelings don’t matter that much in the grand scheme of life. Life happening is when 2016 keeps knocking you down and the only thing you find solace in is your knowledge that no matter what happens 2016, like any other year before it, is going to come to an end eventually.

Indeed, the year is drawing close to its inevitable end. You can see this everywhere you go. The shops with their Christmas branding and sales and tillers wearing Santa Claus hats. The “Ke December boss” posts on social media. But, for me, the end of 2016 is visible in how empty campus is. The Student Centre, which is usually filled to its brim with students buying lunch and chattering cacophonously, is now a ghost town and a constant reminder that home (wherever that is) is waiting for me. The chairs sit empty and listen to the silence that is not the usual.

“Where is everyone?” the chairs must be wondering.

As the year draws to an end most of us are happy that it is happening. Not because we’re happy that the holidays are now here and we can now do fun things, like reading books and falling in love with our summer flings and drink alcohol without being bothered by the thought of going to class tomorrow. No. Our happiness derives from the fact that 2016 was a year that at times felt like it was never, ever going to end; that it will hold on to us like a boyfriend who doesn’t want to make peace with the fact that all good things (even the bad ones) come to an end.

ZZ xx

Dish it: What will you remember most about 2016?

Book Review: Welcome To Our Hillbrow

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Title: Welcome To Our Hillbrow
Author: Phaswane Mpe
Publisher: University of Natal Press
Year: 2001
Genre: Fiction

I’m tempted to say this is the best book I have ever read. But something at the back of my mind tells me not to make rash choices out of temporary emotions.

“You’ve read books before, and is this not how you felt after reading John Grisham’s The Chamber or NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names?” the voice seems to be saying.

Indeed, to go right out and claim a book as your favourite, especially having read many others you’ve loved, is not an easy thing. I mean, there are thousands of books, written by different authors, about different things, what makes this one special? So as much as I loved it; it will have to be in my top ten.

There are many, many things I liked about Welcome To Our Hillbrow. But, first, maybe a little bit of history will make you understand why I love this book so much. The first time I read a piece written by Mpe (an extract from Welcome To Our Hillbrow) was in an anthology of writings by South African Literary Awards recipients, an award he had won posthumously in 2007. The piece was short, but I liked it so much that I can recall Google searching the See the World Through The Eyes of The Child song that he kept on mentioning in the book. Of course, I searched for the book too, but to no avail.

So, when I found it at the library I felt tremendously blessed. Although I had gone to the library to look for something to read, I was not expecting to find the book I have been crushing on for four years or so lying in one of the shelves, beckoning me to pick it up and open just a page to be transported into the streets of Hillbrow. I loved the book. All of it. From the first sentence to the last.

But, first things first, what is the book about?

I think the book best speaks for itself when Mpe refers to a short story written by Refentše, the protagonist in the novella, as a story that looks at ‘Aids and Makwerekwere and the many-sidedness of life and love in our Hillbrow and Tiragalong and everywhere.’ The novella narrates the stories of three characters – Refentše, Lerato and Refilwe – and how their lives (and those of other characters) intersect like the streets of Hillbrow.

The book itself is short (124-pages) and quite a pleasure to read. In fact, one can easily read the book in one sitting, within hours and finish it. The language is rich, the prose, beautiful. Wry humour here. Ironies there. Literary aesthetics abound. But, the number of pages of this book are misleading; the book packs far more punches than its 124 pages might suggest.

The themes covered in this book revolves around issues that post-apartheid South Africa is still grappling with such as the influx of makwerekwere who have left their countries of birth to “pursue green pastures after hearing that the new president Rolihlahla Mandela welcomes guests and visitors unlike his predecessors who erected deadly electric wire fences around the boundaries of South Africa trying to keep out the barbarians from Mozambique Zaire Nigeria Congo Ivory Coast Zimbabwe Angola Zambia from all over Africa fleeing their war-torn countries populated with starvation like Ethopia flashing across Cousin’s TV screen every now and then…”

That’s one hell of a sentence. Long, without punctuation marks and yet its message is not lost. This brings me to another thing that caught my eye (and heart) whilst reading Welcome To Our Hillbrow – that is, long sentences without punctuation marks that are at the end of some of the chapters of this book. These sentences are aesthetically pleasing and, maybe because I had never seen something like that before, they made my reading more pleasurable. I couldn’t help but smile at the beauty of it all; the genius and creativity behind it. What was he thinking as he wrote these lines? I kept on wondering.

If he were alive, honestly, I’d have made means to contact him (that’s quite easy nowadays with Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and and) and thank him for writing such a beautiful and artistic novel.

ZZ xx

Dish it: Which books have made you feel like emailing the author? What would you say?

Doomed! by social media

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You’ve probably read or heard about the so-called ‘Prophet of Doom.’ But, in case you haven’t, here’s the long and short of it: social media was abuzz over the weekend after pictures of a pastor spraying his congregation with Doom were circulated. He claims that he was healing them from all sorts of ailments and that he is doing the work of God.

Of course, people were angry. But his was not the take to the streets and toyi-toyi kind of anger. We used another form of protests instead. Social Media.

There are things that we take to the streets for and for others we use another form of protesting; social media. We sit in our rooms, scrolling down screens, retweeting, sharing, posting and blogging about whatever may be trending at the time. We chose a side and attack or defend whatever we are talking about. This is protesting. Yes, that’s how we responded to the news about the Prophet of Doom.

Now, I don’t know how effective this new form of protesting is, but it is said that some countries have used social media to bring about tangible change. Surely, South Africans can do the same. But there is something that is troubling me about it here at home. Too often we tend to turn whatever may be trending at the time into a series of funny memes – irrespective of the seriousness of the matter at hand. And thus we miss out on the opportunity to make tangible changes. Take our response to the news of the prophet of Doom, for example.

We started by sharing the pictures with outraged comments like:

Yho! What are these pastors doing?
I’m not sure which is more sad. That there is someone out there who is willing to take advantage of people like this or that there are people out there thick enough to think it will work.
What is our world coming to?
Hai! Hai! Hai! This is so wrong!
Cruel Pastor. Sies man. He should be arrested!

What I learnt from some of the posts that I read is that there are many things in this country that can do with a little bit of spraying? Then after the outrage, came the jokes:

Lol! Even spraying has “praying” in it…could this mean something?
Now we are doomed!
Maybe he saw bugs crawling all over his congregation, and spiritual relief wasn’t helping.

Then the meme’s started with people taking selfies of themselves with Doom, with captions of their prayer requests. Some were “trusting for a Lamborghini”, others sprayed their bank cards to increase their bank balances. Others were much crueller than that. There were before and after photos of people who looked “average” in the before picture and “glam” on the after picture. I found this offensive.
But what really bothered me were people who called the congregants idiots and fools, asking if these people were allowed to vote, response being “sadly yes”.

But just imagine if we could just spray our problems away? Imagine if we could fill our empty wallets with Randelas by merely spraying ourselves with insecticide? That would be great, wouldn’t it? The irony, however, is that the things we point out as the ones needing Doom are the reason why people go to these churches and believe in these pastors. It’s not foolishness that makes people eat grass and snakes, at least not the way I see it.

What is it then?

It’s desperation! It’s the empty wallets and the groaning stomachs of children whose eyes tell tales of many nights without food. It’s no wonder that these self-stylized pastors choose to prey on the poor. It’s the desperation for change in their lives, and this is exactly what the pastors promise them.

So, before we judge those who go to these churches and call them stupid, can we also take some time to think about the conditions that push them to stand in front of these pastors and hope for holy miracles? If we were still a people united, then we would be standing up for the others who are being taken advantage of. If the “educated” and technologically savvy people of South Africa would take to social media and be outraged by these acts, call for action and get results, then these pastors would not even try these gimmicks.

But we have become a divided people, a people who laugh at another’s misery and pain. So I think unless we change this and go back to the days of old, when a person was a person because of people, then we are surely doomed!

ZZ xx

Dish it: What are thoughts about the Prophet of Doom?