My name is Lubabalo Tatase. I am a young aspiring writer from South Africa. I live in Cape Town, the city referred to as “the Mother City”. I grew up near the coastline of Wavecrest in Centane in the Eastern Cape. Something magical fuelled my desire to write, but I didn’t always know that I was a writer. How do people discover that they are writers?
In Centane, I grew up hearing about many strange things, but I never knew that these things might somehow enlighten me at some point. Let me first put it this way: the Xhosa nation is a strange folk in a strange land. AmaXhosa people believe in strange things. I compare this nation with the likes of Norse people who produced great works of creative writing that speak of elves and dragons – massive, magical works. Do you think that they are the only ones with these strange things? Not at all, my friends. The Xhosa people have these things too, but they are named after their own fashion. Now that I am old enough to better understand things, I know that it was the love of magic that led me to this path.
We have “tokoloshe” – the hairy dwarf man. This is a mischievous and evil spirit that can become invisible by swallowing a pebble. Tokoloshes are called upon by malevolent people to cause trouble for others. At its least harmful, a tokoloshe can be used to scare children, but its power extends to bringing illness and even death to its victims. You also find uMamlambo-Mermaid, Water Cows, and Impundulu – the great lightning bird. It is these stories that inspired me to write, but these are still not enough to complete my tale. Even in my family we believe in “Ingqumbo Yeminyanya” – the wrath of the ancestors. All I can say is that we always trace anecdotes from the riverbeds of our history.
I was encouraged to read by my English teacher. Back then, I enjoyed only strange books, or at least that is what my classmates and peers would say. I suppose it is rather queer that I read the likes of Terry Brooks and J.R.R Tolkien at a very young age. I wanted books that were as thick as possible. I remember one moment in particular. I said the word “ambidextrous” out loud, while my Grade 11 English teacher (who is now a great friend of mine) was busy teaching. If I remember this well, he was saying something about people who can multi-task using both hands and I was the only person who knew the word! Yhoo! Mr Mvula was his last name. He went on a rampage, beating everyone with a rubber strip named “Sushi”. It was one of those rubbers you find in the windows of cars.
Most of the class hated me for doing that. Some of the other students who were smart enough began to see the need to develop their vocabulary. Then they gave me the name “Walking Dictionary”. Mr Mvula and Miss Masebeni, who were both Language Teachers, saw the need for me to be part of my school’s Reading and Creative Writing club. That is when I entered an essay competition and won first place at my school. The final round was held at the University of Cape Town, where I – being a Xhosa boy from the Eastern Cape – left scholars with their mouths wide open in amazement as I read my essay, entitled “Readers are Leaders”.
That is when I realised that I had great potential, and the ability to paint a picture with written words. I had heard about so many strange things when I was growing up in Centane, and when I compared these with the fictional books I read, I knew that I could breed new magical creatures, paint new worlds, and encourage children across the globe just like the authors mentioned above had done with me. I always recited these words to myself: “Only a little more I have to write before I bid this world goodbye.”
The meaning of my title is related to this: the more I read, the more I became focused on writing. I wrote because I wanted to produce something to be remembered by, to change someone’s life, to inspire and be inspired, to motivate and learn. I always question myself and answer myself when it comes to the matter of wisdom. I believe that if the infinite had not desired mankind to be wise he would not have bestowed upon him the faculty of knowledge.
To me, the difference between a sage and a philosopher is the difference between a man with knowledge and a man who seeks it. Philosophers seek and acquire knowledge until they become sages. This is my story, and this is the writer in me. I think magic led me here. I believed in magic, no matter what form it took. For me, authors pour into our minds characters with quotes so powerful they make you feel like you can take over the world. For example, quotes by the likes of Dumbledore: “Just because it is happening in your head why should that mean it is not real?”
These words are always on my mind when I apply the most magical element of creative writing: imagination. I am always keen to learn, just like James Aggrey, who said that upon passing a phase in higher education, he saw that he had not known anything, and decided to undertake another degree. If writing is a hobby for you, embrace it as if it is the only thing for you to do. The power in a writer’s work lies within the power of their imagination. Beyond a writer’s greatest measure lies a reader’s greatest treasure. For me, poetry is a way of escaping from this world to another dimension of extraordinary imagination. That is how my writing skills come in handy.
“Before my story ends only a little more I have to write.”
Tell us what you think: What is that one thing you were born to do?