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Kgebetli Moele

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category

Blames and Thoughts; 009/14

There I was; with my girlfriend and my long-time friend. My girlfriend caught in the middle of the National Arts Festival, the first National Arts Festival that she is enjoying her pocket bearing the costs. My friend caught up in the middle of the soccer World Cup as if it is the end of the game, there will never be another World Cup while I was planning on delving deeper into a poetry book.

Each is equally excited about what it is that is that they had their mind to do. In my hand is Mafika Gwala’s Jol’iinkomo. The book is out of print but this one in my hands is still fresh, new. It is not a reprint, the book is out of print and for that reason this copy that I have doesn’t have a barcode. It is an orgasmic moment for a lover of words and I cannot wait to delve deeper.

My girlfriend has her own programme of the National Arts Festival events that she has to see, she already has the tickets, bought way in advance.

For my friend Brazil and Germany are going head to head and he seeing that he cannot wait for the start-up whistle between the three, I am caught.

“This is the game that decides the World Cup 2014, you cannot afford to miss it, this is the final, the cup stays in South America or to Europe, today.”

“Baby, the national arts comes once a year, you see and enjoy art and the artists. And who cares about soccer, just a bunch of men running after a ball like toddlers in a nursery.”

“You are talking about people who are lazy to work, then they call themselves artists. It is soccer?” He looks at me with his big eyes, “let what time and fate brought together, let no woman take apart?”

“A man will leave his mother and even his friends and go with his woman because they are one rib. And what is soccer anyway.”

He points at her, “you are a girlfriend, you are not married, yet.”

“Why don’t you find your own girlfriend?”

“I don’t want to be entered into the Book of the Dead.”

“Why don’t you go alone?”

“We have been friends long before you came along.” He looks at me in the eyes, “let what time and fate brought together, let no woman take apart?”

In the end of our day Mafika Gwala whispers in my ears the voice seen by the eyes:

    There’ll always be those
who’ll want me to act
after their accepted fashion;
those who’ll expect me to pull a smile
just to please their vanities
those who’ll wish I should agree
with their clawed existence
those who’ll say I’m not polite
jes because their grabby ways
ain’t gonna be my stays,
and their swags don’t fool me.

I stayed home with Mafika Gwala, and the show turned out to be boring that she walked out, and Brazil lost that he forced himself to sleep even before half time was over. Don’t blame me this time, please. I did nothing wrong.


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Illuminating Africa

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Killing SaharaIt is hard not to like Killing Sahara and its antagonist, for somebody who hates politicians needless of origin and nationality, and hoping for their substitution or total demise from society. Killing Sahara is Mũkoma wa Ngũgĩ’s second born. He claimed while visiting us, here in Cape Town during the Open Book Festival, that he is better than his father, the Great Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o. And when I was reading Killing Sahara, this little claim came along for the read.

What Mũkoma did here was an attempt to present the enigma that is Africa in a silver spoon, simple and complete. He tried. He did not fail though, it is just that no one can present Africa as a whole and still make sense. Therefore
Africa can only be presented in bits and pieces. It is still a challenge to anyone who thinks that they can write Africa between two covers.

There are many issues that Mũkoma confronts between these two covers and then, like a dog, he puts his tail between his legs and yelps, running away from them. This is an epic journey, not only of Kenya, not of the two detectives and their families, but of Africa, the continent and its relation with itself and the others.

The author has in a sense failed to present the epic continuous journey of this continent but decided to give us a crime story. Honestly, I saw no murder but high-end white collar crime and corruption, in total control. The issue of Rwanda and the massacres is presented like a half-naked pinup poster of a woman in the bedroom of a teenage boy. While trying to make her a strong woman, she rails off.

Then there is ethnicity, that other African curse that always rears its head like a black mamba ready to bite and inject its deadly venom in us. And it does; it induces us and then we pick up AKs and machetes, amputate a man’s arms and then rape our women, at worse we kill.

At the pinnacle; there is aid, another of Africa’s many curses. Presented on paper it is true gold but what always manifests in practice is not that which was written down but profit for individuals. Aid in Africa is a profitable business and this can be seen in the selling line: Help us, help them, those giving the aid mention themselves first as the ones in need of help.

There is Sahara and the International Democracy and Economic Security Council (IDESC), a well-to-do man who loves and understands Africa and Africans.

Honestly, I fell for his scheme, at times I was hanged and wishing that the story could go his way, maybe we would have a much better Kenya, a better Africa.

At the face of it, there are our politicians/leaders, former freedom fighters who think that the country owes them and their families, with no vision and dream for the country and only greed. These issues/characters are cut and paste, making way for the author to present the crime story.

Why did Mary have to die if the national security was threatened? Yes, she married a man of another ethnicity. This was the first low point of this tale, the author connecting O personally to the crime. This fails.

Killing Sahara is a sad book telling a sad universal story and the real criminals are the one that profit tenfold. To say that this is a crime story does this African tale injustice, this is an epic, filtered from being a human rights story to being a crime story of O and I.

The detectives are the only real people here, operating as private detectives with access to the state police force. They follow the trail of a murdered American man, and it is interesting and trilling the way the detectives peel away the onion skins to get to solve this murder. It is involving and engaging but they fail to solve the crime. They do get their man at a cost of O’s wife and a massacre but in the end they are party to the corruption of living this life as we know it.

The real winner is Jason, the security agent at the American embassy during the day cum intercontinental drug trafficker at night, and his profits are huge and intercontinental. He puppets our two detectives, buying them therefore buying their protection.

“I no longer believe that we are serving justice.” Ishmael declares while sharing a cold beer with Jason as Kenya is being used as a port for Jason’s individual profit. What Amos’ dead body lead O and I to was Jason but they let him live. This is the sad reality of this life: there is no one serving justice.

Is Mũkoma better than Ngũgĩ? Not yet, he still has to prove himself and the odds are against him.

Book details

Image courtesy of mukomawangugi.com


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These Hands. This Life.

There are things in our daily lives that enrich our lives, but most of the time they pass and, enriching as they are, they pass unnoticed. There are many enriching things, I am trying to think of few and I cannot find any because they are just that: enriching and unnoticed.

There are many things that we think have enriched us but they have only enriched us within our own perceptions. This enrichment is not the type that results from of your degree or connections. This enrichment is what words or a smile or situation can do, bringing a smile to your face as you are sitting on a bucket, pants down.

There are moments like this, when my pants are down and I wish for a pen and paper, which are nowhere to be found. Moments that defy logic, and this is such a moment:

A nine-year-old black girl came to my house, unlike any other person who had visited my house, and she gave her attention to a book on the table. She involuntarily pointed at it while delivering the message that was the reason for her visit. I thought that it was just the cover that attracted her. She picked it up and I pretended to look the other way, but when she read I looked at her because she had entered into another world. She snapped out of it as she was about to turn the page, and realised that I had been looking at her.

“This is a good poem,” declared the nine-year-old; the poem penned by Makhosazana Xaba from her debut poetry book, These Hands.

“Why do you say that?”

“I don’t know but it is a good poem.” On behalf of Xaba, I signed and gave her the book.

I met her again in the street with her three friends. “I have read the book.”

“To the last page?”

“To the last page.” Then my detective instincts came in.

“What was the best poem?”

“‘X-Himself and Song’.”

“And the worse?”

“‘X-Himself and Song’.” The rabbit’s eyes go up in the air as her friends are tuned in, or just waiting, but completely bored.

“It is a very sad poem but it is brilliantly captured and written that it would move you to tears.” She whitewashed my big head that I smiled. Now, with pants down, I am thinking, what is she doing in the township? That kind of thinking has no business growing up in the township. Mokgethi did not survive this township, this township fed on her. Then I was caught in between; the beautiful little girl in this community and (X-Myself and Write) why do we use beautiful words to describe the wickedness of our lives?

X-Himself and Song

Looking at his face you would think that he was the composer
Watching his body move, you would think that he created movement
His fingers in motion got you instantly in motion
He ensouled you with his voice,
His thick, malleable lips,
His every bit of body
Wasiphuka, wasiphuka, wasiphuka
Wasiphuka, wenyuka
Wenyuka, wenyuka uApollo
Apollo Eleven
Every child got to know
In the back of beyond, in Ndaleni
Where I grew up.
The composer put the words in song
My father made it come alive
Without the TV images
We had our own visual artist
We saw Apollo Eleven shoot out
Into the galaxy
Through his every bit of body

To the July handicap
I still haven’t been.
I have zero knowledge of horse racing
But through his every bit of body
I love horses
Because when he sang:
Uponi ihhashi lami engilithandayo
Uponi ihhashi lami engilithandayo
Uponi ihhashi lami engilithandayo
ihhashi lami engilithandayo
Uponi ihhashi lami engilithandayo
ihhashi lami engilithandayo
You had no choice but to fall in love with horses
You started believing that he created horses

My father must have lived in the souls of many composers
A conductor of note
With a voice you would give you vote
An educator extraordinaire
Because his choice of loved songs must have been for nurturing the young
Why else did he love the great King Kong song
On the politics of poverty?
With that song
I did not need social scientists
I did not need political scientists
To give me loads of notes
On apartheid’s greatest crimes
Or capitalism’s gravest sins.
But through his every bit of body
I knew that,
I heard it,
I lived it:
Hambani madoda, niyemsebenzini
Vukani bafazi siyahlipheka
Amakhaza nemvula
Ibhasi ligcwele
Otsotsi besikhuthuza
Siyaphela indlala
Nemali ayikho
Hambani madoda
Isikhathi asikho
through his every bit of body
even Christianity took an unexpected turn
’cause he knew the great composer who
Had the skill to transform
What was alien and alienating
Into something familiar, to be embraced
When Jesus Christ is all of a sudden
Born in Qhudeni, near Nquthu
You can’t help but sit up and listen.
Then you touch the blue African skies
On his every bit of body,
Then you hear the lowveld’s serenity
Then you smell the water from the stream
And the dead night comes alive.
From the peaceful valleys of Qhudeni
A true Christmas carol for Africa.
He made it worth knowing.
He made it worth singing
Through his every bit of body
Kuzolile ebusuku
Eduze naseQhudeni
Abelusi bezinkomo
Babebgazelele lutho
Kwavela ukukhanya okukhulu
Besaba bawela phansi
Bathuthumela

He sang these songs at night
In the mornings
In the small hours of the mornings
Sometimes with his friends
Oftentimes alone
Sometimes with his tuning fork in his right hand
Oftentimes on his feet
Other times on his behind
Sometimes on their bed next to my mom,
Oftentimes with us watching
And, at times demanding we sang along

Well I too, like the shepherds,
ngiyathuthumela
At the thought that this day
I still have not been to his grave
Because all this time
I have not been able to forget the pain,
The sorrow,
The misery
He brought to the family
With his love for the bottle

I watched my mother lose her smile,
Her laughter,
Her humour
Because of him.
I watched my big brother lose inner peace
Because of him.
I watched myself lose hope,
Clutching despair
Because of him
His love for the bottle went through his every bit of body
Destroying what love I could have had for him
He died on Monday morning
13 April 1998
In his sleep
In his bed
At home.
His liver fed up,
His heart gave up

That morning, at my Johannesburg home,
I sang a song about death that he so loved:
Ngimbeleni phansi kotshani duze nezihlahla zomnyezane
Ngimbeleni phansi kotshani
Duze nazo ezomnyezane
Ngozwa name lapho ngilele utshani ngaphezulu buhleba
Utshani ngaphezulu buhleba

I do not know what type of grass is growing on his grave
I do know we did not bury him next to the willow trees.
I do trust that he continues to hear the grass whisper
As he wished.

What I do know is that his music lives in me
His voice will forever pierce through me
As it always pierced
Through his every bit of body.

Through his every bit of body,
His tuning fork in his right hand,
His tapping feet,
His thick, malleable lips,
I feel the staff notation
I smell do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do,
I hear the crescendo
I touch forte, fortissimo
I taste p, pp, pianissimo.

****

Khosi, how can you be this beautifully cruel with words in this life that is so cruel?

This Hands is available from Clarke’s Books, www.clarkesbooks.co.za.


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