This title is a theme and a review that comes from Professor Sbu Ndebele ‘s book: The cry of Winnie. He paints the colliding worlds of four South African women from different geographical spheres, social strata, childhood memories and voices of education and the ghosts that haunt them after a lifetime of a futile wait for their silent strong men to speak. He ventures into the lives of women who have deep-questions about themselves, terrible frustration on how to make amends and incredible insecurities around their self-concept.

Set against the backdrop of the true paragon and custodian of waiting Penelope-who waited almost without remedy, as she vowed to keep her promise to stand by her man, till the very bitter call to the bowels of doom. These women then draw from an Afrocentric icon – Nomzamo Winnie Winifred Madikizela Mandela, as their crystal epitome and embodiment of a society’s script of who they collectively aught to be, as women.

There’s a coincidental orchestration of an event where they meet, after their limitless wait, only characterized by hope against all hopes of what it meant for one woman to have met her particular man. Such an elongated wait seems to be held together by the threads woven into the strength with which their icons seemed to carry their burdens – boldly, unwavering!

Here they are these women, seeking to solicit answers as well as allow themselves the space to vent out. This time they listen and hear the tragic blow of one woman and there’s a somewhat ‘confession booth’- where they try to loose themselves of the chains they’ve made firmer as well as those tightened around them by the voices of their various educations. The other time they would sit and strategize what to do to find a way forward.

They counsel each other and try to pin down what moral imperative and police that chains them, some institutionally educated as they were, to the wait that proved to be vapour of vapours and vanity of all vanities. All this while, it is worthy and very interesting to note that, their meetings never talk about the men that entered and exited their space and their suspected suffocation. Or desire to be breastfed by warmer bosoms. Or a fantasy and deep-seated wish for them to run away into the sunset with someone who had something to say about the state of the nation and perhaps on a grander scale, how their departure was some form of sign language, to the women, to sniff their way of liberating themselves as men! More deadly, hoping – that these women would catch on to the obvious and begin to emancipate themselves too. It was this that seemed most hidden and like rocket science to these women!

The insights that emanate from these discussions they have, do not prove very fulfilling. The mirrors of society still hold them in the wrong. They still find it hard to grapple with the self-loathing that arrests them as utterly foolish in retrospect. Very tied to this, their fears of their need to give into the very same thing they’ve feared all along! Perhaps they were the architects of their current state and it was this daunting truth which brought them great trepidation! It was too sinful to consider! After all – their mothers taught them well and these teachings incarcerated them in universal shame!

Ridden by a very deep sense of discontentment at how this still points back to them. How self-sadistic they have been, having a hand in their own journey as well. With very blurred lines of exactly how, perhaps through certain activities and inactivity. They were determined to find out.

The book then hits crescendo when they draw consensus to write to Winnifred, seeking guidance, truth and the exposition of activities done in the darkness- where everything is unknown; for which self-forgiveness was too prized a thing for them in those areas. So, they write to the former social worker, they write to the very bold, headstrong and vocal Winnie wondering whether she relates.

Her responses are very calculated, like a woman of prestige, she’s one of them. But in many other ways she’s not. It is on these very grounds where she replies in the most discreet of ways. She illuminates to them that some nights did get lonely and indeed days did go unnoticed during her wait for the world icon she married. Be that as it may, she could not say every detail in its very unfolding, where she drew her strength from, suffice would be to at least to say security through the bodyguards was in place.

To cut a little bit closer to the nerve of her life story around that man, she most felt contrite of being the Messiah during the great historical day of his release from prison. She continued saying much, sympathizing where she could but very sealed within her letters to them, was her emphasis of the importance of giving into the very same things they feared. Trying to make them see how much a step toward some confidence their readiness to the questions indicated already.


Tell us: What do you think of this piece?