Sunday, December 12, 2010



Review by Raselebeli Khotseng

Editor: Dike Okoro
Publisher: Africa World Press, Inc
Number of pages: 218
Reviewer: Raselebeli Khotseng

Anthologies of “contemporary African short stories” have been churned out over the decades. In the early period of African writing, illustrious names like Chinua Achebe,Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Dambudzo Marechera,Okot p’bitek etc were also renowned for their short stories (as distinct from their novels)

Indeed Chinua Achebe was the protagonist of at least two excellent such anthologies himself over the years. No matter what some cynics/detractors might claim, short story writing will always be dynamic and bubbling, straddling the whole African continent.

Talented short story writers will always emerge on a regular basis. For example in Lesotho, there is a remarkable short story writer called Leseli Mokhele. In the nearby Free State (South Africa) the very young Teboho Masakala is already making a name for himself in this genre.

This particular anthology titled “Speaking for the Generations” has been put together by Dike Okoro, with some 48 contributors. Okoro is a well known poet, short story writer, editor, essayist and critic. He is Assistant Professor of English and World Literature at Olive-Harvey College, Chicago (USA)

Contributors to this book include Benjamin Kwakye, Freddy Macha, Tijan M Sallah, Jackee Batanda, Aryan Kaganof, Mohammed Said Raihani, Tanure Ojaide, Lola Shoneyin, Kondwani Kamiyala, Dan Wanyama Innocent, Noun Gana, Omar A Alkakli, Emmanuel Sigauke, Prince Mensah, Ayobami Adebayo, Joyce Ashuntantang, Sitawa Namwalie, Eresina Hwede, Kobus Moolman.

Other contributors are Temitayo Olofinlua, Dipita Kwa, Akoli Penoukou, Moustapha Laghiri, Ilonga Ngale, A Igoni Barret, Ozioma Izuora, Yangange Wose, Niran Okewole, Tembo Magarimbo, Yewande Omotoso, Becky Apteker, Folake Idowu, Adekunle Afolabi, Beatrice Lamwaka, Mohammed Ferri, Emmanuel Iduma, Arja Salanfranca, Hicham Harrak, Ken Efeh, Said Ahoubate, Dipo Kalejaiye, Roland Marke, Zehra Ramij, F Odun Balogun, Onyi Udegbe, Khadija El Younoussi, Joseph Obi, and Habib D Rabbi.

The editor (Dike Okoro) writes in his Introduction to the book, inter alia: “This book represents fresh insights by some of the very best established and emerging voices of contemporary African fiction...many of these writers grapple with themes that are diverse and universal...(e.g) Aryan Kaganof’s story tackles contemporary South African reality using the politics of living in the post-apartheid era as a yardstick for understanding some of the struggles that a citizen (in South Africa) experiences...stylistically, the stories featured in this book are strong indicators of the oral is my hope that readers will be able to identify with the Africa reflected here...”

From a personal point of view, I fairly enjoyed reading most of the short stories in this anthology. I will not say I found the stories particularly earth-shattering, but the thing about short stories is that one can read them individually at one’s pace; and even the most tedious of them come to an end soon! I commend the editor of this work for going out of his way to include writers from virtually every nook and cranny of the continent.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


Book: Hold back your tears
Author: Raselebeli Khotseng
Introduction by Pule Lechesa

From the Introduction of the book...

The publication of this book comes at a very important, exhilarating period in Free State Black literature. Many literary pundits have pointed out that, stripped of exceeding literary criticism, this year (2010) has been a remarkable year for writing – with the emergence of writers like NMM Duman, Hector Kunene, Jah Rose (Nthabiseng Jafta), Teboho Masakala.

Not all of them are poets; in fact Kunene and Jah Rose are the recognised poets. They are young, promising and confident. It is part of the irony of the literary pantheon that they actually published their books of poetry before a veritable doyen of poetry in the Free State, Raselebeli “Magic” Khotseng.

What is the quintessence of poetry? Amidst the cymbals of the distinction between real poetry and prose, we can at least say that we expect poetry to comprise heightened, elevated language; with moving imagery thrown in for good measure. In this wise nobody can deny that “Magic” is a good poet!

Nobody deserves a book of poetry more than Mr Raselebeli Khotseng. His dedication and sacrifices for poetry are legendary and date back to some two decades ago! Yet this remarkable individual has never published a book before, though of course his poems have been published liberally in a wide variety of publications over the years.

As for the quality and maturity of Khotseng’s poetry, his talent has always belonged to the top drawer. He is easily one of the best in the country. On a personal level, I might criticise this great poet for the rarity of humour in his poetry – but this Introduction does not intend to critique “Magic’s” poetry – rather to celebrate his life work...

PULE LECHESA (November, 2010)

Saturday, November 27, 2010



By Pule Lechesa

Book: Rooted from the Heart
Author: Nthabiseng Rose Jafta (Jah Rose)
Pages: 83
Reviewer: Pule Lechesa

The old Greeks had a word for it: hubris. This means pride. Unbearable, overweening, even irritating pride!

We might as well note that Hubris was considered a crime in classical Athens. It was also considered the greatest crime of the ancient Greek world; "outrageous treatment" in sum. It often resulted in fatal retribution or Nemesis, the protagonist’s downfall in general.

Yes, hubris! This is the distinct impression one gets whilst reading this work. This might as well be the work of a deluded potentate when we read early poems here with lines like:

“The crown I am wearing
The queen ship I feel…
(pg 1)

“Beautiful girl born…
A real beauty from the inside out
Gone and going to surprise the world”
(pg 3)

Admittedly, one must commend the author/poet f or ensuring that she produces a beautiful looking book, the fascinating cover, the litany of fine photographs o herself etc. the problem is that this is the only aspect beautiful about this work. This is a book that looks beautiful on our shelves – but sadly that’s where the beauty ends.

One’s mind goes to the magnificent English writer and playwright, Oscar Wilde who used to insist that works of art are not capable of being moral or immoral but only well or poorly made, and that only "brutes and illiterates," whose views on art "are incalculably stupid" would make such judgements about art. Aesthete though he was, many would disagree with this.

The insights provided by the poet, in the book Rooted from the Heart, if any, are negligible – even in the nigh average poems. Consider the poem “1652” for example...(pg 41)

“The abuse of power is what we see
All they do is blare instead of act
They are wrapped up with greed and selfishness
They earn millions yet they still scheme fraud
He he he...”

Alas, there is nothing poetic about these lines, no imagery, no puns, no exhilaration. We might as well be reading ordinary prose – like virtually all the poems in this book – instead of deceiving ourselves that this is poetry

In the “poem” MISSING YOU (Page 64) one definitely comes across a bad piece of composition. The faults of style and misplaced emotions aside, there is a jarring vulgarity that finds expression in lines like this:

“The feeling from your touch
The feeling from your lips kissing mine from the neck
To only you and I know to where
The feeling from when you thrust
That snake growing under your tummy in me
And it makes me wanna go oooohhh!...”

No lines could be more banal, and irritating (not to talk of bordering on indecency for sensitive readers). There is nothing poetic here. We have seen distinguished African writers like Njabulo Ndebele, Soyinka and Laye writing about sex and incorporating superb imagery. Here we are confronted with pure unimaginative trash.

The same is true for “MONARENG” (Page 68)

“He became mine and I became his
I watched him sit on that toilet seat and
Chat with him like we were in a decent place
He lets me in...”

It is unlikely that even DH Lawrence at his most vulgar went this far, but at least he had luxuriant imagery to push his ideas further

But enough of the despair – let us end this review on a positive note. The poet writes late in the book about how therapeutic she finds her poetry:

“I have been going through my poems
It’s amazing how the stuff one writes
Seems to heal...”
(page 80 )

It is as well that she feels like she has been healed by her poetry. Pity she’s the only one; as readers are unlikely to feel such healing after going through this book.

Monday, November 15, 2010


Today the great African writer, Chinua Achebe, clocks 80! We are all delighted about this - what better tribute to him than to re-publish an article published about Achebe on this blog many months ago?

There can be no doubt about it: the celebrations will cascade on, the drums will roll, as Africa and the world celebrate the 80th birthday of Chinua Achebe today, who many consider as the greatest novelist black Africa has ever produced. Achebe wrote Africa’s all time most famous novel, Things fall apart (1958)

It is a novel that has delighted and moved the world for decades. But the author (Chinua Achebe) published other excellent novels – like No longer at Ease, (1960), Arrow of God, (1964) A man of the people (1966), and Anthills of the Savannah (1987). Of course there was a 20 year gap between A man of the People, and Anthills of the Savannah, which has been attributed to Achebe being “traumatised” by the Nigerian civil war (in the late sixties).

Achebe is an Ibo (or Igbo) from the eastern part of Nigeria. The Ibos were mainly the disenchanted people of eastern Nigeria who tried to form their own country or republic: “Biafra” precipitating the Nigerian civil war which ended in 1970. From his writings it is clear enough that Achebe was very much a Nigerian in spirit before the war (this is not to suggest that he is no less a Nigerian thereafter, as can be ascertained from his honest, earnest book of essays The Trouble with Nigeria)

In his novel, No longer at ease, for example, young well educated Obi regards himself as both an Ibo man, and a Nigerian. There is nothing wrong in being proud of one’s tribal origins or Mother tongue (Ghana’s Kofi Awoonor has demonstrated this in his works too). In Achebe’s A man of the people, national (Nigerian) politics loom large too, whilst still paying tribute to ethnic origins. Like Wole Soyinka (a Yoruba and a proud Nigerian too) Achebe’s works often assume a national and international dimension.

Things fall apart has been acclaimed as a classic as the author (Achebe) re-creates a pre-colonial, proud society with elaborate, intriguing customs complemented by a fluent, expressive language. If we contrast this work with Camara Laye’s superb work The African Child, the dispassionate approach by Achebe to his own first novel puts him in a special class. When an author tries to be “neutral” a work is often more powerful, and many critics, eg, hated the tone of Ayi Kwei Armah for example in Two thousand Seasons. Achebe’s work shows a highly intelligent, dispassionate author at work.

Achebe’s language in his fictional work shows that he is very much at ease with his mother tongue. Whilst writing in English he goes out of his way to convey the particular authentic atmosphere of the (often) people at grassroots level he is writing about; even as regards “Pidgin English” he gets the inflections and jokes right. Hence, his global acclamation as a great writer

There is the tendency to harp on Things fall apart as the author’s greatest work, and it must be said that many of such observers have probably not read all of Achebe’s works of fiction. It is a matter of taste, but I personally believe that novels like Arrow of God and No longer at ease (both also written by Achebe) are perhaps better than the original classic (Things fall apart) Certainly Achebe’s re-creation of the past and the sweep (even co-incidence?) of pivotal events in the society is more powerful in Arrow of God. Many critics frowned at A Man of the people, but it’s a brilliant work too, castigating political corruption, and also a satire – before Armah’s The beautyful Ones are not yet born.

But all this show how great a writer Chinua Achebe is. His books are read all over the world. Like in his works, Achebe in real life condemns negative things, including bad leadership, but at the same time he has a gentle, sagacious sense of humour. No praise can be too much for this wonderful son of Africa! We wish him all the best as he clocks 80 today…

Saturday, October 16, 2010


By Pule Lechesa

Hector Kunene has rightly been praised by many for his promising work, Through the Tunnel. However I am yet to read even one critical piece or essay on the book, which is a great disservice to the author. As a new author he deserves his work to be evaluated in a critical manner, not just praised in ignorant fashion.

We have always pointed out that no writer, no matter how good, is immune from criticism. Thomas Hardy for example is one of the greatest writers the world has ever seen with his world class novels; yet even when he was at the height of his powers and he published Jude the Obscure the critics in his enlightened society tore the work apart – it was a real ‘onslaught of vituperative criticism’ as Hardy himself described it whilst alive

It is tragic indeed that basically so many people at grassroots level hardly read in our (black African) society, no matter how educated they are; hence we have situations where works full of many mistakes are praised, whilst more sophisticated readers, and especially the scholars and critics, can identify these mistakes very easily. Through the Tunnel is full of such mistakes

Take page 38 for example (containing the poem ‘I will portray’). The mistakes on this page are quite horrific; or how else do we describe a situation where almost TEN spelling mistakes appear on just one page? Of course the most painful error here is the misspelling of ‘portray’ many times on this page; but there are others, like ‘highlights’ instead of ‘highlight’

In case some readers out there start thinking that this is a random mistake, the unfortunate fact is that the legions of mistakes in the book start even before the book formally begins! It is irritating enough that the poet engages in extreme self-praise even on the blurb and the error-strewn ‘Hector Kunene biography’. Indeed the page (page 3) is very embarrassing with so many illogical and syntactical mistakes.

Sentences such as ‘The poem Bloody corpuscles is about alarming the use of the specific words when talking especially to the young ones’ and ‘His poems are mainly in English but he throws in Zulu poems...which are normally shared at occasionally’ are meaningless and will make the purists of the English language flinch with shock.

With logic also often thin on the ground, the perceptive reader is left perplexed on a regular basis as he or she reads this book. A poem like ‘Cheating Standard’ might well have a message, but one suspects that only the poet knows what it is. At the very end of the poem the poet tries to explain what it is all about, but we are still none the wiser, as we are confronted with another confusing, quite meaningless sentence – ‘This friend ended up having a baby with this guy whilst married to his wife few months after this poem was inspired’ (page 23)

What the hell is this? we wonder. Is ‘this friend’ male or female? Surely a male can not have a baby, so we assume it is a woman; but can a woman be married ‘to his wife’ as the rest of the sentence ‘explains’? And how can all this (the betrayal) have happened months AFTER the poem was inspired? Doesn’t the poet mean that his poem was inspired after this betrayal? No matter how you look at it, there is no coherence here.

Indeed it is a common mistake with people who use languages like English formally whilst writing, to want to flaunt their knowledge, and hence they often go off in a tangent, and end up in a confused muddle. Additionally there are problems with similar sounding words which often lead some writers to add to their mistakes.

Alas, such is the case in Through the Tunnel too. There is no point in pointing out dozens of such mistakes in this book, but two shall suffice here. On page 17 the poet wants to write ‘at first sight it was’ but ends up writing ‘site’; again on page 37,(line 6) he confuses ‘live’ with ‘leave’ and ends up writing ‘you live me in a state...’

The desire for the poet to display his ‘flair for words’ often ends in confusion and embarrassment, as we have pointed out. The ‘big words’ hardly go hand in hand with common sense or real poetry. In the poem ‘Paradigm in paradise’ we can only assume that the poet, whilst showing the world that he knows such a ‘big’ word, is amusing himself, but not the intelligent reader. Lines such as ‘perpetual lifestyle sarcastic to the ancestors who fought’ are in no way poetry.

That the poet is confident, very confident, is clear enough from the book; but the problem is when this confidence strays into the arena of arrogance which should not be tolerated. Indeed in more enlightened societies a poem like ‘Gays and games’ (page 32) would land the poet in serious trouble from countless quarters!

One can only shake one's head sadly at this juncture, realising that the hoary statement ‘if you want to hide something from a black man put it in a book’ might well be true. Or how do we explain a poem like ‘Gays and games’ in this modern world? The disdain and arrogance of the poet shines through in lines like ’Gays and games or lesbians and less beings’? Again the poet makes a mistake here, as he clearly wants to write ‘lesser beings’ – but the effect is still the same; a very dangerous, insensitive poem.

Time and again, it has been shown that the best poets, whilst writing in English as a mother tongue, or as a ‘foreign language’ focus on a coherent message, with brilliant imagery, at least. Good poetry is not about big words or trying to sound clever – that is why even in the Free State the likes of Lebohang Thaisi will continue to be respected for their brilliant simplicity and lyricism in their published poetry. One can only hope that Mr Hector Kunene will try to focus less on ‘sounding bombastic and clever’, and more on writing moving poetry that will linger in the mind.

* Pule Lechesa, often referred to as the foremost literary critic in the Free State, is the author of critical books like Four Free State Authors, and The evolution of Free State Black Literature

Friday, October 8, 2010


JAH-ROSE's Rooted from The Heart!

By Flaxman Qoopane

An anthology of poetry “Rooted from The Heart” by poet Nthabiseng (Jah-Rose) Jafta, has been launched at a glittering gala dinner at the Café Society, Waterfront in Bloemfontein, South Africa.

The Master of ceremonies was Itumeleng Modise who is a well known comedian. Speaking at the launch of the book of her daughter, Matselane Jafta, from Phelindaba Location in Mangaung said: “As the family of Jafta, we are happy to be invited to be part of the launch of the book of my child”

Goitsemang Pholo, from the Department of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation in the Free State rendered inspirational words. He said he felt it was important for him to be part of the launching of the book of Jah Rose. “The achievement of the poet will motivate many young women in the Province to follow the footsteps of Jah Rose.”

Flaxman Qoopane, veteran poet, journalist and author presented a speech and connected Nthabiseng Jafta with quotations of other female poets.

The book reviewer and the seller was Hector Kunene, the well known poet and columnist. The highlight of the occasion included the performances by the female guitarist and singer Belinda Van Zweindrech, actor Alcapone Pieterson, Dela-Zee, Peace Jafta a popular soloist and poet Lebogang Motloung.

Jah Rose entertained, educated and inspired the audience with her performance of some of her poetry. In conclusion, Jah Rose thanked the management of the Café Society and the staff for giving her the venue for the book launch. She also thanked everybody who contributed to the success of the launch of her anthology “Rooted from the Heart”

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

MINE BOY - By Peter Abrahams

Review by Neo Mvubu

As a very young South African lady, Mine Boy touches the heart in such a way that it moves every inch of your body. This book – published over fifty years ago - has touched a part of me that I didn’t know existed. It explores the life of Xuma, a man born in the rural areas to seek wealth in the big city Johannesburg.

We walk with Xuma in his love life, in his path to find success as a miner and we realise the inequalities that the apartheid government imposed on him. As the story progresses we find him falling in love with Eliza, a woman who dreams of living the life of a white man, she loves him too but is pulled away by the luxuries, the material and the life that the white man lives. She then realises that that she cannot live with Xuma, at the same time, Xuma cannot satisfy her material needs.

We also experience the life of a miner and the conditions these people had to endure, the illnesses and the hunger and we see an old man who is on the verge of death but doesn’t disclose his disease, just to see his family pay off the debt!

The book is so visual that it pulls you into the lives of these people, you can see the people dancing in the street, drinking alcohol and you can see them blissful in their lives, even for that brief moment. The imagery is powerful, Peter Abrahams is able to create a picture that remains in your mind for years, and this is what one calls an unforgettable read.

As a young person in South Africa, we tend to take for granted the strides our people had to go through to ensure a great future for us and we don’t really understand what was going during the apartheid era, for me, it feels like it never happened, it’s like people never fought but when you read this book, you truly become part of your history. You tap into the daily lives of these people and experience every single emotion, the happiness, the heartache, the love and the music. You can feel yourself being part of the history and it just takes you back.

We see a man called Johannes in the book, this man was introduced into the life of alcoholism and never had anyone seen him sober. They say in the book, that white people introduced alcohol and then tried to take it away from black people, they introduced something that would take away the dignity of a black man and for Johannes, and it took away his essence. It took away the thing that made him who he was.

We also see a black doctor experiencing the same amount of racism and he doesn’t understand why he is treated like this. He is a doctor, tried to get the very education that would make him equal to a white man but it doesn’t and we get the impression that whatever you do, the whites would never see blacks as their equal.

Mine Boy was written many decades ago but we still see the racism taking place today, and this makes us realise that achieving a non-sexist, non-discriminatory democracy will take many more years; it is a journey rather than a destination.

Peter Abrahams addresses the plight of the black man in apartheid South Africa and makes us re-live the history in a visual way. This book is for people who appreciate black history, people who are eager to learn about themselves and where they come from.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

LEWIS NKOSI: Literary icon breathes his last

Writer, composer and journalist Lewis Nkosi has died at the age of 73, the communications company, wRite Associates has announced. It said he died on Sunday after a long illness.

Starting his career as a journalist at the Zulu-language newspaper Ilanga lase Natal, Nkosi joined Drum magazine in the early 1950s.

When he received a Nieman Fellowship to study at Harvard University in 1960, he was forced to leave South Africa on a one-way exit permit, exiling him from his country of birth for the next 31 years.

He held teaching posts at several universities including Zambia, Warsaw, Wyoming, London and Brandeis.

Among his works are the novels Mating Birds, Underground People and Mandela's Ego. plus several volumes of essays. His plays include The Black Psychiatrist, We Can't All Be Martin Luther King, and The Rhythm of Violence.

Project director of the South African Literary Awards Raks Seakhoa said on Tuesday(Sep 7 2010) that Nkosi was "part of those talented few who took South Africa's literary heritage to greater heights. He was among the pioneers of South African writing during his stint at the Drum magazine,"

A memorial service would be held on September 8 at the Museum Africa, Newtown Cultural Precinct, in Johannesburg at 5.30pm. The funeral would be in Durban on September 10.

Friday, August 13, 2010



By Neo Mvubu

Many have spoken volumes of an incredible woman of Africa. They have beaten their drums and ululated for a Zimbabwean queen who possesses a mighty sword; the sword of putting words onto paper. Tsitsi Dangarembga, the author of Nervous Conditions, could not have placed it any better.

The book reflects on the daily lives of the people during and after the colonial rule in Zimbabwe. The voices of her character have more depth and every one of those characters has a voice, a strong voice that cannot be ignored. Tambu the main character in the book sees her loved ones change after getting exposed to the Western culture. She sees herself also going through it when she enrolled at a mission school.

We walk a path of life with Tambu as she grows from humble beginnings to becoming an educated woman in her community. We see the pride in her mother’s eyes and also her fears after losing a son to these Western values. Her mother mentions ‘the Englishes” saying that English took her son away and that is also taking her daughter away too.

We see Babamakuru who has a burden of looking after his entire family from his earnings as a teacher, we see the pain he goes through and this is reflected in his wife, who cannot bear to see his husband go through this pain. Many at home appreciate what he does for the family but they do not understand the work that goes into providing for all those goods.

Nyasha on the other hand is Babamakuru’s child who grew up in England and spent most of her childhood at the mission school. She speaks this English that Tambu’s mother talks about vividly in the book and she forgets, she forgets her home language and forgets her childhood friend Tambu. Nyasha smokes, drinks alcohol, and does all those things that are foreign to a traditional home in Africa. She is then isolated from her larger family because she does not fit in anywhere.

We are given different perspectives in the book and Tsitsi Dangarembga, the author blends all these characters beautifully. She creatively infuses their spirits in one book and carries their souls with wisdom.

The book reminded me of when I went to a model C school, I had a coloured, Indian, white and black friends and we would all speak English. For me, there was no racism; it was just me and my friends playing. After a few years I could hardly speak Setswana fluently that was difficult for me to socialise with my own people. I was like an outcast and for many years I didn’t know why until someone said it. Throughout my high school years, I was called a snob by the same people I went to primary school with. I was in a way mocked for not knowing my home language, for being lost in transformation, in the rainbow nation.

My parents were happy I was getting a good education, they were proud that I could speak English, like there was a colonial mindset behind them that said knowing the language meant you were intelligent. I never meant to forget where I come from, I didn’t plan going to a model C school but I have a choice now and I speak Setswana and I feel that I am coming back to my roots.

Working as a journalist gave me a wake up call, I had to speak Setswana, I had or how else could I speak to a person who does not know English. I had to re-learn my home language at 19 years old, it was embarrassing at times but I did learn. Now I fit in everywhere, and I am proud to be a black woman who grew to know herself, where she comes from and what makes her who she is.

Nyasha in the book couldn’t have put my experience any clearer, she forgot where she came from. What western cultures do is belittle your own language of which language is the backbone of every culture, without it you lose your values, your ancestors, your roots and most of all you lose yourself.

I recommend every person, young or old, to read this book. It is a book that makes you remember why being rooted is so important to a human being, an African.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


Book: The Guillotine (2001)
Author: O Bolaji
Reviewer: Pule Lebuso

The Guillotine is the title of the 2001 collection of short stories written by Bolaji. There are ten stories in all in the book, and they are all short stories, ranging from 4 to ten pages. These stories were written between 1996 and 2000, and at least half of them had been published in various newspapers and magazines.

The Drunkard, one of the short stories, is a powerful, didactic, piece of fiction; it contains the usual humour and interesting 'scenes" one has come to expect from Bolaji. The character of Malome in particular, a famous charlatan is brilliantly done. Here is the voluble township wiseacre, full of himself "I'm a psychologist, psychiatrist, psychoanalyst “ he says absurdly, with self-importance.

After reading this story, we are left in no doubt that excessive drinking is not only irresponsible, but dangerous. We are filled with disgust when we read: "The next thing he (Elias) remembered was waking up somewhere in the township, far from his own place, and feeling extraordinarily uncomfortable - in the discarded chassis of a car. He hated himself, seeing some blood stains on his clothes and body, feeling a horrible wound on his face, drenched in his own urine and vomit; hating his own goddamn awful body smell"

(The Guillotine, page 39)

Love Hurts, one of Bolaji's most popular writings (originally published in Drum magazine over a decade ago) is also reproduced in this collection, in book form. A new generation of readers can enjoy this short story that enhances Bolaji's reputation as "African master of the unexpected"

Although interesting enough, The shocker is rather mediocre but deals with the well-worn theme of disappointment in love. The Blabbermouth is a simple enough story too. The language seems quite harsh in the opening paragraphs with the author obviously angry and disgusted with exceeding dishonesty. The conclusion of the story is full of bathos, though.

Two short stories in this collection deal with the supernatural: The Dream, and The Ghost. Both have the usual Bolaji "twist"; The Dream is an interesting story weaved around the Italian phrase "delle bestie con le belle voci". In The Ghost we are introduced to a delightful lady who is too good to be true:

"He felt that there was something 'different' about her, the unearthly glow of her skin...the ethereal whiteness of her teeth: even her voice was so melodious that it defied sweet, congenial rhythmic bells ringing harmoniously"

(Page 44)

Many men young and old, have commented that they found the story The Narrow Escape the most interesting and the funniest. It certainly is an enjoyable story as a young man who cannot stop himself from "seducing" a sexy young lady apparently finds himself in serious trouble

Another Little Drink has a twist of its own too, and one cannot but wonder at the folly of the young man involved here. We are also reminded of the Sarafina 2 play.

The Blackmailer, another popular story of the author's is reproduced in this book too; and in this version some other paragraphs have been added. This is Bolaji doing what he does best: quickly building up a tale, which ends in a completely unexpected manner. It turns out that nobody in this story is what he/she first appears to be.

Now for the very short story, The Guillotine. It is food for some thought. It can be viewed as pathos, bathos, or even idiosyncracy of the highest order. I have heard some readers even claiming that it "symbolises" the sacrificial nature of the author himself, with the protagonist being something of a martyr. This impression is accentuated because the author writes the story in the first person.

In The Guillotine the patent unfairness of the fate and plight of the narrator has to be viewed against the backdrop of his obvious emotional "immaturity" and idealism as he willingly opts for death:

I said: "Sir I want to die too". I moved into the tumbril and a great gasp and shout went through the town. The man in charge said: "Why do you want to die?" I explained that my heart had been broken by a lady. And I heard a horrible peal of laughter, a gargantuan tidal wave of derisive laughter...And the crowd began to chant: "He must die! He must die! the naive man must die...the sentimental guy must die first!!!"

(Page 29)

We should however note that The Guillotine is pure fiction and we do not need to read much into it. The protagonist passionately demonstrates the type of suspect, ultra idealistic love exemplified by Doctor Kawa in Lenrie Peter's novel, The Second Round. It is also interesting that at least once (in a personal poem) Bolaji confesses that he himself "has always been a stickler for romantic love" The short stories in the book, The Guillotine are indeed "mouth watering"

Wednesday, July 21, 2010



By Flaxman Qoopane

Tourists attended in large numbers the Qoopane Literary Gallery exhibited at Tsa Setso Arts and Craft 2010 Soccer World Cup South Africa, held at the Mangaung Information Centre in Bloemfontein from 10 June- 11 July 2010

Tsa Setso Arts and Craft 2010 soccer World Cup South Africa was presented by the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture and Recreation in the Free State province and is supported by the Department of Arts and Culture Republic of South Africa

Flaxman Qoopane is the curator of the Qoopane Literary Gallery who exhibited one hundred photos of South African, Nigerian, Zimbabwean, and Malawian writers and their profiles. He has also added new exciting writers like Hector Kunene and Skietreker Seape to the Gallery.

James Agori, journalist of This day Nigeria, together with Jones Bamidele from News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) and John Ebhota from The Nation newspaper in Nigeria visited the exhibition. “It is one of the best sources of literature in Africa that researchers can benefit a lot from it” said James Agori

Kgomotso Sekhabi, from the Department of Arts and Culture in Pretoria said: “A wonderful initiative that will really need to be supported as it promotes South African writers that have made a tremendous contribution to the literature of South Africa. Keep up the wonderful work, Mr Qoopane”

Jorge Arellana Lavanderos from Chile said: “This is a good development in preserving literature. It will be good for Chilean writers. South African writers can exchange experiences and do cultural exchanges in their works,”

Ing Milin Kamuscak from Bratislava, said: “This is the greatest collection of African writers I’m seeing for the first time in my life, I learnt a lot about literature in Mandela’s country birth”

“I am very excited that the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture and Recreation has given me an opportunity to showcase my gallery during the 2010 soccer World Cup. So far, my exhibition attracted tourists from Chile, Italy, Korea, Nigeria etc and we exchanged contact. I urge other tourists to visit Mangaung information centre” said Qoopane

Mangaung – Bloemfontein
South Africa
Cell: 073 565 7783



Friday, July 16, 2010


Book review: Young Blood
July 15, 2010

By Tshepo Tshabalala

Young Blood

By Sifiso Mzobe (Kwela Books, R175)

Mazobe's work is inspirational. He is prone to a few jagged transitions, but the story is something the South African movie industry should take thorough note of.

It tells the story of Sipho, 17, who lives in Umlazi, Durban. After doing dismally at school, he drops out to help his father fix cars at home.

Soon his shrewd friend Musa returns from Joburg after applying his intelligence to shoplifting, which progressed to carjacking, eventually earning him a stint in jail. When local carjackers learn of Sipho's skill behind the wheel and under the bonnet, they want to recruit his services. Musa decides against the idea of Sipho running around with untrustworthy cliques, and hooks him up with a few projects he is overseeing.

Sipho tastes the life of quick money and soon grows a hunger for it. He joins in the 'jacking and dissembling of cars, making easy money. But the game becomes more dangerous, leading to drugs, problems with the cops and a trail of death.

The novel explores the materialism around relationships that pressurises especially the male youth into finding means of making cash to avoid segregation. It is about the sacrifices one is willing to make to fit in, and the conflict of working towards a better life, even in a manner that is destructive. It takes you into the underground world of hijackers, money-lovers and misers. It is a breath of fresh air.

The writing is rough, but clever. The story pulsates with energy that makes it intense and very real. It is a voice that tells about crime and how it speaks to the youth through poverty. The read is a thrilling, action-packed diamond in the rough. -- Tshepo Tshabalala

* Courtesy of TONIGHT

Thursday, July 1, 2010

DEEPEST SPRINGS - utterly satisfying

(Above) NMM Duman


Reading NMM Duman’s Deepest Springs is a veritable excitement, a highlight in the life of an authentic black African who cherishes and relishes good writing, poignant plots and descriptions; brilliant writing in general. In sum, I have no doubt in my mind that this work is one of the most breath-taking and satisfying in the pantheon of African literature.

Indeed, the danger in a case like this is that the reviewer or critic of a superb, imaginative work like Deepest Springs can go overboard with superlatives, praising a work to high heavens. Yet the “critic” must do his/her job in a conscionable manner. Though in the case of Deepest Springs, it is obvious that Duman is a tough critic herself (self-critical) who has taken time to ensure that the final product, her book, is outstanding. As all time great TS Eliot tells us:

“The larger part of the labour of an author in composing his work is critical labour; the labour of sifting, combining, constructing, expunging, correcting, testing: this frightful toil is as much critical as creative”

Yes Deepest Springs bears comparison to the best of African writing – whether it be the novels of Buchi Emecheta or Flora Nwapa or Miriam Tlali or Tsitsi Dangaremgba (the all time greats of female African writing). But it goes beyond this – I have no hesitation whatsoever in comparing this work to English classics like those written and still revered, by the Bronte sisters for example (Charlotte and Emily Bronte)

Indeed the "sexual passion" that runs through Duman’s work echoes and adumbrates the best of English works like Jane Eyre (by Charlotte Bronte) and Wuthering Heights (by Emily Bronte). The fact that, effortlessly author Duman gives her own great story an African background, with excellent Sesotho (African) references; not to talk of Afrikaans is a thing of unbridled joy. And celebration.

Of course in those days – over 200 years ago or so- the Bronte sisters could not write specifically about sex despite the smouldering, powerful emotions in their work. The world has moved on, hence in Deepest Springs there are references to sex, decently couched – whether it be the deflowering of our protagonist Dikeledi; or making love in the bathroom (whilst washing) or in the bush/forest.

African literature has thrown up memorable female characters, including a gallery of women of ill-repute. For example this classical extract from Wole Soyinka’s Season of Anomy:

“We must acknowledge the fact that (women) are the familiar vanguard of the army of change. When the moment arrives a woman like Iriyise becomes for the people a Chantal, a Deborah, torch and standard-bearer, super mistress of universal insurgence. To abandon such a potential weapon in any struggle is to admit to a lack of foresight. Or imagination”

Dikeledi is a fine young lady compounded of the variegated emotions of our world, and who is very much in love with her man, despite vicissitudes. She can also be self-sacrificing and stoical as in the case where she remains philosophical and reticent about the abuse (beating) she had earlier received.

The hypocrisy of certain traditional beliefs is also evident in this work and it is also a mark of an excellent writer (Duman) that she does not take sides (as a woman)directly. A good example is when they refer to Dikeledi as a “slut” just because she allows her aroused lover to sleep with her before the formal wedding. She was a virgin even then, so why should she be condemned?

That Duman is a polished, creative writer can also be seen from the many occasions when she enters “the mind” of male characters with great conviction (although of course the author is a woman). Like in the case when Dikeledi’s lover after making love muses over why he was behaving like a naïve, uncircumcised nerd! Such strokes clearly show that the author is a master of her craft!

I can go on and on, but a reviewer (or a critic) is supposed to open doors as it were, give glimpses into a pertinent work which would encourage others to read such a work and bask in its excellence. I am very happy to recommend this outstanding work to all readers from around the world…

(Omoseye Bolaji is the author of over 20 books. His awards for writing include a Lifetime Achievement Award, the Chancellor’s Medal from the University of the Free State, and an African Chieftaincy title)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

DEEPEST SPRINGS - a masterpiece by NMM Duman

What a literary tour de force by the author, NMM Duman!!!

This is a story of love during the apartheid years. Follow the riveting story of the protagonist, Dikeledi...

395 pages!!!

Publisher: Ad Print (2010)

ISBN 978 - 0 - 620 - 46876 - 3

A majestic work by a superb, imaginative African (black) writer. Fluent, incisive, brilliant prose. A pearl of a work showcasing the best in authentic African literature.

Read NMM Duman's Deepest Springs now!!!


By writer Flaxman Qoopane

NMM Duman is the Whole School Evaluation Supervisor, at the Quality Assurance Directorate in the Free State Department of Education in Bloemfontein (South Africa).

She started to write her novel in September 1996. It took her thirteen years to finish the novel in September 2009. She says: “The book originally had 800 pages. When I wanted to publish it, I was told that it was too thick and we decided to publish it to 395 pages.”

The initial South African edition of the novel was launched at the Bloemfontein Public Library in Bloemfontein on 18 June 2010. The cover was designed by Mmamuso Manyo. Duman is the mother of three daughters: Loondo, Xoliswa, and Baraka.

She says her love for creative writing showed itself from a tender age. “I was fortunate to be introduced to reading early in my life. At that time I was 9 years old at Roma in Lesotho. I was attending a class, we had no grades. Every morning we had English workbook. Later we did some kind of literary exercises. I started writing my own stories including the Golden Idol, a story about Tyrannasaurus Rex, invading our school. I made a booklet with pictures.”

She continued: “When I was 12 years old, I wrote more stories; adventure stories, about espionage and love stories. I went to the National University of Lesotho to Study B.Sc, and I studied Masters in Science Education at the University of Southampton in Britain. I stopped writing because I was busy with my studies,” she vouchsafes.

Her parents are retired Professor Mbuyiselo Edward, and Tlhaku Victoria Makhanya. They live at Yellow-wood in Durban. Her father was a Professor in Geography and he lectured at several Universities including Fort Hare, University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland in Manzini, Swaziland and at the National University of Lesotho. Duman’s mother trained as a professional nurse and also as a social worker.

In 1997 Duman joined the Free State Department of Education. “I was employed as the Education Specialist in ABET until 2001. I got promotion to Deputy – Chief Education Specialist until 2009.” Thereafter, she got a transfer to the Quality Assurance Directorate in Department of Education in the Free State, where she is employed as the Whole School Evaluation Supervisor until to date.

Duman was born at Phola Park Benoni, East Rand on 08 December 1965. She is the eldest child; in a family of four children, her sister Mathabo Makhanya – Angura is a medical doctor, and she lives in Roodeport. Her other sister Thembi Makhanya, who was also a Medical Doctor, died in November 2008 in Johannesburg. Her brother, Tshepo Makhanya is an IT Specialist in Durban.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


(Above) The USA published book, "African Writers"

Lovers of African literature will always appreciate general books on African writing, documenting our continent's creativity over the years.

Celebrated books along the line include Jane Wilkinson's Talking with African writers; and Indaba with African Writers (by Stephen Gray)

It is thus exciting to learn about a new book on African writing (2010) just released into the international market. I am particularly enthused that a fellow Algerian, Tahar Lamri, is included/profiled in this new book.

But there are other well known, or fairly well known African writers also profiled in this new book (even on the cover) - like Wilbur Smith, Ayi Kwei Armah, O Bolaji, Bloemhof...

Those interested in ordering this new international book can check out the links below:


- B Madjer

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


Book: How do I talk about my Ordeal?
Author: Maxwell Perkins Kanemanyanga
Publisher: Eselby Jnr Publications

Review by Paul Lothane

This work, How Do I talk about my Ordeal? follows on the heels of the author’s first book, Enemy of the State (2009). This new book reinforces the literary fecundity of the author, Maxwell Perkins Kanemanyanga.

Kanemanyanga has the penchant to produce works that are somewhat didactic, with moralistic undertones. It is no surprise that this continues in this new work, starting with the Introduction. This gratuitous, sometimes irritating approach can be seen from when Gogo spouts the following to a nurse in the very first story:

“But gogo tell me, what is wrong with our society today?” nurse Sibanda asked gogo maMoyo as they were waiting for the results.

“Uh, it’s not easy. You children of today don’t listen to your elders anymore. You say you went to school and us we know nothing. But look at me; I have seen my grandchildren, something that you are failing to do. You are dying young. Go to the cemeteries you will see what I am talking about. Born 1980, died 2000, born 1981 died 2009, born 1985 died 2010. During our time we learnt how to cook like our mothers but now you, learn to drink like your fathers. The young men are like bulls. They leave babies all over they go. The first born is in Bloemfontein, second born in Eastern Cape, the third born in Polokwane all with different mothers. How do you survive this disease? Your children grow up without guidance, because they don’t know their fathers. Every day they are introduced to a different man saying he is your father. A child needs a moral compass. That means instilling a sense of right and wrong. The moral compass for children is their parent’s behaviour. Unfortunately for you children of today, family is no longer important and that is very bad. By the time you will you realize this most of you will be dead.”

An ominous forecast. Yet despite her horrifying ordeal, Maze the young lady violated in the opening story manages to go on with life. As the aphorism points out “As they say the axe that cuts quickly forgets but the tree that was cut will never forget.”

Yet this initial story, like others, goes on and on to the point of becoming tedious. One gets the impression that perhaps this story should have been further developed into something like a novella.

Once again, fine expressions intermittently come to the fore and are lavished on us; the display of eclectic knowledge and references still predominate; eg “She remembered one of the best statements from William Shakespeare’s books and tears began to flow on her pretty face. “The liquid drops of tears that you have shed shall come again, transformed to orient pearl advantaging their loan with interest of ten times double again of happiness.” And the likes of Martin Luther King Jnr are quoted with relish too.

We have what comes close to true pathos in the story “Beautiful Ghost” as a woman is abused and humiliated by her husband. “One night she heard her husband arguing with another woman in the next room. What else could she do anymore? Was it because she was dying? But she had always been there for him. In the dawn of that same night Janet passed away in the arms of her mother whilst, her husband was sleeping in the arms of another woman. She died with a heavy painful heart.” This is heart-rending.

Yet the story is a disjointed one that can easily confuse, with the didactic fulminations once again overdone, and the authorial intrusions sometimes jarring. The author wants to make a point here, and certainly does so.

The story, “Baby from the plastic” might have been a success, but once again it is marred by the author’s penchant to go on and on -even including a long discourse on football, Arsene Wenger and his regime at Arsenal. It is clear the author loves football. But here in this context it comes across as gratuitous, over-stretched and even boring.

But by and large, this is an impressive work by Maxwell Kanemanyanga; his commitment to his art, his principles (even if overdone to the extent of marring his artistic level), and his love for general knowledge have to be commended.

Kanemanyanga has started his literary career by publishing two books of short stories. Many in the literary fraternity will now reckon that his next step should be a novel or at least a novella. In these days where when imaginative writing is thin on the ground at grassroots level, one can not but wish Mr. Kanemanyanga all the best.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Zulu Author dies

Muntu Xulu part of warp and weft of Zulu Literature

Muntu Jeremiah Xulu, novelist, playwright, former teacher, journalist and editor died after a long illness at his home in Vukazenzele, Mangaung in Bloemfontein on the 05th May 2010.

Bekumthetho S.Nkosi from Bhekuzulu in Kwa-Zulu Natal told Free State News “Muntu was my relative, he was an outstanding novelist, playwright and comedian. He published many novels, plays and a book of jokes in his own Zulu Language which was widely read at schools and universities in the country. Xulu had the gift of the pen.”

Jeremiah published the following novels in Zulu, Kunje Ke! published by Shutter and Shutter Publishers in 1987, Amalutha Emalutheni published by Educum Publishers in 2000, Amathe Nolimi published by Shutter and Shutter in 1997, Uthando Lunjeke published by N.G Kerk Printing Press in 1978, Nondela Mtanami Nondela published by Longman Publishers in 1988 and Mahlayana Mahlayana published by Shutter and Shutter publishers in 1981. As a result of his contribution to the Zulu literature, the national Museum in Bloemfontein honoured him as part of their literary exhibition.

Nhlanhlanhle L.Xulu from New Castle in Kwa-Zulu Natal said “My father studies journalism at Kitwe School of Journalism in Zambia in 1957 – 1958. He did another journalism course with the International correspondence School of Journalism in London, Britain in 1964 – 1969,”

He was born on 28 November 1930 in Johannesburg. He grew up in Kwa-Zulu Natal. In 1950 he completed his Teachers Training diploma at Umphumulo Institution.

He was buried at the South Park Cemetery in Mangaung on 15 May 2010.

- F Qoopane

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Kopano Matlwa holds head high

By Aderinsola Ajao

The third edition of the biennial Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa took place on Friday, April 30 at The Civic Centre in Lagos, Nigeria.

Of over 300 entries, a panel of judges selected from across the continent had the task of pruning the list down to a longlist if 11 and eventually to a shortlist of three. The final three up for the grand prize of $20,000 were South African writer Kopano Matlwa (Coconut), Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani (I Do Not Come To You By Chance) and Wale Okediran (Tenants of The House).

Before the winner was declared, The Crown Troupe of Africa led by Segun Adefila held the curious audience's attention with a series of performances.

The three finalists also received tokens from the organisers to make up for any one of them eventually losing out. Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka, who was also at the event, had pointed out that hopefully, this year the winner will not be a Nigerian woman as had been the case with the two previous editions. Okediran was the single male and second Nigerian writer on this edition's shortlist and Soyinka had hoped he would not win.

At the end of the evening, one winner was declared plus one more. Possibly to break from Soyinka's observation, Matlwa of South Africa and Okediran, former president of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) were declared joint winners of the third Wole Soyinka Prize for literature.

This came as a surprise to many in the hall, who already thought there would be one clear winner.Previous winners include female Nigerian writers Sefi Atta (Everything Good Will Come) and Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu (Zahrah the Windseeker).

Organised by The Lumina Foundation, the award was established in 2006 to "encourage people to read, to think and to write," said its chairperson, Francesca Emanuel. Since its inception, known and unknown writers from across the continent have vied for the top prize of $20,000. For the first edition, 87 entries were received from four African countries; by the next edition 126 works were submitted from 6 African countries. This year's edition received 330 entries from 11 participating countries.

Friday, April 16, 2010


Demise of a great wordsmith

It was with great sadness that I personally learnt about the death of Prof Dennis Vincent Brutus, an academic, political activist and world class poet.

In 1988 when I was in exile at the ANC School, the Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College (SOMAFCO) in Morogoro Tanzania, I established the poetry link with Prof Brutus who then lectured in the Department of Black community, Education, Research and Development at the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the USA.

He personally sent me a number of interesting poetry magazines (The Gar) relevant to his poetry and the struggle to South Africa, which together with the SOMAFCO poets we used (the material) during our poetry workshop.

Prof Dennis Brutus also sent some us some of his anthologies of poems including Letters to Martha and other poems from a South African prison, A simple lust and Censure published in Enugu, Nigeria.

I recall that on behalf of the Somafco Poets I sent our poems to Prof Brutus and he edited and published them in magazines (CALLALO) and newspapers including the People (UWAP) at the University of Pittsburgh.

In 1989 a Senegalese lecturer Pierrette Herzberger- Fofana from the University of Erlangen in West Germany requested me to make a contribution to a book Critical Perspectives on African Literature in honour of Dennis Brutus’s 65th birthday in 1989.

Poets and writers across the board are deeply saddened by his death. Brutus left a polished mark in the national and international poetry.
- F Qoopane

Sunday, April 11, 2010


(above) Oyono's Houseboy

It must be confessed that it was something of a relief to learn that Aryan Kaganof, Supremo of the movie, Sugar Man had a symbolic message whilst depicting black men as "impotent" whilst faced with the powerful attractions of white prostitutes in his movie.

Indeed the erotic scenes dished out by the white ladies in this movie are very mouth-watering. The women go out of their way to try to galvanise the black clients into action, but they largely fail. This aspect will certainly not go down well with most black viewers, unaware of the "message" from Kaganof, who depicts them in this wise.

The history of African Black writing for decades has shown the black African's fascination with white women. Many memorable works of fiction published by African authors have emphasized this over the years. Ayi Kwei Armah's Fragments is just one of such works (Aimee is the white lady in the book). In Kole Omotosho's The Edifice, a white English lady, Daisy, is the object of interest.

Perhaps the most powrful, tentative description in this wise occurs in Ferdinand Oyono's Houseboy where the young protagonist almost goes crazy after a mere handshake with a white woman:

"I have held the hand of my queen. I felt that I was really alive. From now on my hand is hand belongs to my queen whose hair is the colour of ebony...whose skin is pink and white as ivory. A shudder ran through my body at the touch of her tiny moist life was mingling with hers at the touch of her hand. Her smile is as refreshing as a spring of water. Her look is as warm as a ray from the setting sun"
(from Oyono's Houseboy)

Apparently, virility is taken for granted by black African writers and there is hardly any hint of impotence in the continent's literary works, save occasionally where the man in question is elderly. (In Sugar Man the 'disabled' blacks are young hunks!). The only African work that comes to mind as regards impotence is Sembene Ousmane's Xala, though of course both the man and the young lady in question are blacks.

Here's a thought: What if Aryan Kaganof (considers) turning the movie Sugar Man into a novel? This would better explain (if possible) the motivations and plight of the characters in the movie; though I still believe the author would be hard-pressed to explain the shortcomings of the black characters, no matter how peripheral they might be in the movie. Meanwhile Black African literature blog salutes the earth-shattering performances of Leigh Graves, Deja Bernhardt and Co!!!
- R Khotseng

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Odia garners Fonlon-Nichols Award

Nigerian poet, essayist, journalist, and social critic, Odia Ofeimun emerged the 2010 winner of the Fonlon-Nichols Award. The award, administered by the African Literature Association, ALA, is given to an African writer every year for excellence in creative writing and for contributions to the struggle for human rights and freedom of expression, according to Dr. Oty Agbajoh-Laoye, chair of the ALA awards committee.

Mr. Ofeimun is the author of eight collections of poems and numerous essays on political analysis and cultural criticism. His most recent volumes include Go Tell the Generals, A Boiling Caracas and Other Poems, and I Will Ask Questions With Stones If They Take My Voice, and Lagos of the Poets, a poetry anthology. In 2008, Los Ninõs del Estero, a selection of his poems, was published in a Spanish translation in Mexico.

Ofeimun was born on March 16, 1950. He published his first book of poems, the critically acclaimed The Poet Lied, at the age of 25. His career began as a journalist and literary correspondent with The Midwest Echo, a newspaper based in Benin, capital of present-day Edo State, in Nigeria. He has also had experiences as a factory worker, civil servant, and union organizer. After a stint as a graduate student of Political Science at the University of Ibadan, he was appointed as the private secretary to Nigeria's leading political figure and former presidential candidate, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, in 1978. Following the fall of the Second Republic, Ofeimun published A Handle for the Flutist, his second poetry collection. He also became a member of the editorial board of The Guardian (Lagos).

From 1989, he was a British Council fellow at Oxford University in England; he lived in London and worked with Nigerian expatriates in the pro-democratic New Nigeria Forum until 1993 when he returned to Nigeria in the wake of the controversial June 12 presidential elections of that year. From this point, Ofeimun's political and literary engagements followed two distinct but interconnected paths: he became the president of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), and the lead columnist for the hitherto-clandestine TheNEWS/TEMPO publications. His tenure as president of the writers' body (of which he had been publicity secretary and general secretary between 1982 and 1988) coincided with the political crisis of the 1990s, and it has to be borne in mind that his immediate predecessor was the late writer and environmental activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa.

The annulment of the presidential elections precipitated the "stepping-aside" of General Ibrahim Babangida, Nigeria military president (1985-1993), and the rise to power of General Sani Abacha, under whose tenure the country experienced untold political and economic repressions. Progressive political opposition to the military dictatorship coalesced around the groups National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), the Campaign for Democracy (CD), and the Democratic Alternative (DA). Although his political connections were strongest with the first, Ofeimun dedicated his weekly columns in TheNEWS to championing and appraising the activities of all the three groups. Those classic pieces, including such titles as "The June Twelvers' Dilemma", "The Ngbati Press", "On Whose Side are the Orisa?", are remarkable for their robust illumination of modern Nigerian (and indeed, African) political and cultural history, and for their thoughtful eloquence as a most accomplished example of the concern of African writers for the lives of the majority in their societies. Ofeimun's tenure as ANA president ended in 1997, but his relationship with TheNEWS/TEMPO continued for a little longer, peaking with the organization's second period of "guerrilla journalism" (1995-1998).

In April 1995, while attempting to travel to England for a conference sponsored by the New Nigeria Forum, Odia Ofeimun was stopped by security agents at the airport in Lagos. Although they never succeeded in jailing him, the agents questioned him on his political and other activities, and his travel documents were confiscated. For the next three years he was unable to travel outside of Nigeria, and would not regain his passport until the period of "liberalization" which followed the death of General Abacha in June 1998.

In spite of these involvements, Ofeimun found time for creative writing. His career as a poet suffered undeniably from the crisis in the publishing industry, like that of many African-based writers in the 1980s and 1990s. In 2000, he published three volumes of poems: A Feast of Return Under African Skies, Dreams at Work and Other Poems, and London Letter and Other Poems. Ofeimun's poems have been widely anthologized. His works-in-progress include the poetry anthology "Twentieth Century Nigerian Poetry", the essay collections "Africa's Many Mansions" and "In Search of Ogun", and a long-awaited political biography of Obafemi Awolowo. Since Nigeria's return to civil rule, Ofeimun has become a highly-respected and much-sought-after opinion leader and public speaker, giving speeches to NGOs and other civil society outfits. He is a leading champion of human rights and anti-corruption crusades in Nigeria, and he remains steadfastly independent of political organizations in the country.

The Fonlon-Nichols award was established in 1992 to honor Bernard Fonlon and Lee Nichols for their own contributions to both African literature and freedom of expression. Past winners include Rene Philombe, Werewere Liking, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Nuruddin Farah, Nawal el Saadawi, Niyi Osundare, Assia Djebar, Abdullatif Laabi, Wole Soyinka, Pius Nganda Nkashama, and Tess Onwueme. This year the award was publicly presented at the 36th annual conference of the African Literature Association March 10 - 14, 2010 held in the University of Arizona, Tucson.

Monday, March 1, 2010


(Above) D.H Lawrence

Eighty years ago (March 2, 1930) the great English writer D H (David Herbert) Lawrence breathed his last after a 20 year writing career that had produced excellent (if controversial) novels, plays, poems and essays. Lawrence is now considered one of the all-time greats of English literature.

Hey! Many of you might be wondering out there. What’s all this about? Is this not supposed to be a blog for black African literature? Why the tribute to Lawrence? The answer is simple. African literature has been influenced from inception by the English classics; authors like Shakespeare, Smollet, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Emily Bronte, and DH Lawrence. Hence we can not say African writing has existed in a vacuum.

Prominent African writers like Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Njabulo Ndebele, Mirriam Tlali, Tsitsi Dangarembga etc have always confessed how much English works shaped, or influenced their work. As regards DH Lawrence in particular he has had a major influence on Ngugi wa Thiong’o (on the latter’s admission) with Ngugi producing African classics of his like A grain of wheat, and Petals of blood. Ngugi always said he loved how Lawrence “entered into the spirit of things”

Additionally, DH Lawrence always identified with the “masses” so to speak. Throughout his writing career he was targeted, with some of his works banned, seized by authorities. Lawrence came from what many black Africans cynically refer to as “the lowly classes”; but more accurately he was from the working class. He enjoyed travelling, and mixing with “underdogs” ,people who he believed had not been corrupted by industrialization or materialism.

As Africans, we know only too well how many of our distinguished wordsmiths have suffered inexorably at the hands of the powers that be. For many, they have had to endure stints in jail - I have in mind great writers like Ngugi himself, Kofi Awoonor, Jack Mapanje and the indomitable Wole Soyinka. Lawrence, whilst alive was many times moved to despair.

It is not the scope of this very very brief article to discuss Lawrence’s literary works. Suffice it to say that his style was original, instinctive, fluent and powerful. His famous description of the “rainbow” is an example:

“And then in the blowing clouds, she saw a band of faint iridescence colouring in faint colours a portion of the hill (the) colour gathered, mysteriously, from nowhere, it took presence upon itself, there was a faint, vast rainbow. The arc bended and strengthened itself till it arched indomitable, making great architecture of light and colour and the space in heaven, its pedestals luminous in the corruption of new houses on the low hill, its arch the top of heaven.”
(from The Rainbow)

DH Lawrence published novels like Aaron’s Rod, Kangaroo, Lady Chatterley’s lover, The Plumed Serpent, The Rainbow, Sons and Lovers, Women in Love. He published some ten volumes of poetry including Birds, Beasts and Flowers, Last Poems, and Pansies.. Among his non-fiction or essays were Studies in Classic American Literature and A study of Thomas Hardy
- O Bolaji

* Bolaji is a black African writer who has published imaginative works like Impossible Love (2000), The Ghostly Adversary (2001), People of the Townships (2003), The subtle transgressor (2006), Tebogo and the Haka (2009), Tebogo and the epithalamion (2009) and Tebogo and the pantophagist (2010)

Monday, February 22, 2010


Bloody Corpuscles

A poem by Hector S Kunene

I relate to the story is so hard to be told
Victims mould their minds to be bold
Behold now penises and vaginas
It’s no more tomatoes and bananas
A spade is a spade
How dare you live so reckless!
How dare you lions die like fools?
How dare you let the man in white estimate your last seconds of breathing
Failing to be a boy yet claiming to be man
Or Failing to be a girl yet claiming to be a woman
Just because your mindset is stimulated by a three letter word-sex
More often confused by a four letter word-love
Failing to scrutinize the true meaning of words
Psychological dryness influencing the guilt consciousness of bodily acts
It’s too much acceleration that leads to a preventable trauma
We are in a comma yet disguised by the cloud of ignorance
Let us rain those tears that we hold back
Let us die bold when the time comes
Let the upcoming generations find the clean path to march on
Let them respects us for our deeds instead of verbal diarrhea
Let them know the truth that will set their minds free
Let us shape the new privileged world for the unborn
We can A spade is a spade
Bloody corpuscles

* A poem from the riveting collection: Through the tunnel to be published soon by H.S Kunene

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Lewang Mogale, a store clerk at Pelonomi hospital in Mangaung has published his first book, titled, Where to? The book was published by New Voices Publishing in Cape Town.

The book attempts to address teenagers about intriguing topics their parents are uneasy about discussing with them; like sex, adolescence, peer pressure, relationships, love etc.

Mogale said: “When my book was published I felt like I had won the lottery. I was happy the knowledge I have will be shared among the youth of the country as my book is read at libraries, book stores, book clubs and the like,”

The author explained that it took him more than five years to complete the book. “In the early stages of writing, I did not plan to publish,” he vouchsafed. “By early 2009 some of my friends read my manuscript and praised it to high heavens, urging me to publish. Such friends include Mpumi Mthombeni from Witbank; Thabo Setone; Martin Tshimola, and Israel Monaisa from Rustenburg. I’m grateful to them for spurring me on,”

Yet Mogale dithered, despite all this advice from friends. “I did not listen to them (initially); then I read a Bible scripture, Ezekiel 3: 16-21. It was like God was saying ‘if you don’t share what I told you, you will be accountable for the mistakes of others. Then I decided to publish my book!”

His creative talent was unearthed while he was at Lethabong location in Rustenburg. “At that time I was the director of the Katlego Amateur Theatre Group”

Mogale resides in Phase Two In Mangaung where he lives with his wife Mafako and their two sons, Tumiso, and Bonolo. The book Where to? makes sterling contributions to the genre of Motivation. “It seeks to elevate the lives of all to greater heights,” the proud author states.

- F Qoopane
* Qoopane is author of books like A Poet abroad, Memoirs of a Cultural Activist, Reneiloe-Mpho’s story, and City of Roses and Literary icons

Friday, January 22, 2010


Chinua Achebe at 80

By Joseph Lefuo

There can be no doubt about it: the celebrations will cascade on, the drums will roll, as Africa celebrates the 80th birthday of Chinua Achebe, who many consider as the greatest novelist black Africa has ever produced. Achebe, who will be 80 later this year, wrote Africa’s all time most famous novel, Things fall apart (1958)

It is a novel that has delighted and moved the world for decades. But the author (Chinua Achebe) published other excellent novels – like No longer at Ease, (1960), Arrow of God, (1964) A man of the people (1966), and Anthills of the Savannah (1987). Of course there was a 20 year gap between A man of the People, and Anthills of the Savannah, which has been attributed to Achebe being “traumatised” by the Nigerian civil war (in the late sixties).

Achebe is an Ibo (or Igbo) from the eastern part of Nigeria. The Ibos were mainly the disenchanted people of eastern Nigeria who tried to form their own country or republic: “Biafra” precipitating the Nigerian civil war which ended in 1970. From his writings it is clear enough that Achebe was very much a Nigerian in spirit before the war (this is not to suggest that he is no less a Nigerian thereafter, as can be ascertained from his honest, earnest book of essays The Trouble with Nigeria)

In his novel, No longer at ease, for example, young well educated Obi regards himself as both an Ibo man, and a Nigerian. There is nothing wrong in being proud of one’s tribal origins or Mother tongue (Ghana’s Kofi Awoonor has demonstrated this in his works too). In Achebe’s A man of the people, national (Nigerian) politics loom large too, whilst still paying tribute to ethnic origins. Like Wole Soyinka (a Yoruba and a proud Nigerian too) Achebe’s works often assume a national and international dimension.

Things fall apart has been acclaimed as a classic as the author (Achebe) re-creates a pre-colonial, proud society with elaborate, intriguing customs complemented by a fluent, expressive language. If we contrast this work with Camara Laye’s superb work The African Child, the dispassionate approach by Achebe to his own first novel puts him in a special class. When an author tries to be “neutral” a work is often more powerful, and many critics, eg, hated the tone of Ayi Kwei Armah for example in Two thousand Seasons. Achebe’s work shows a highly intelligent, dispassionate author at work.

Achebe’s language in his fictional work shows that he is very much at ease with his mother tongue. Whilst writing in English he goes out of his way to convey the particular authentic atmosphere of the (often) people at grassroots level he is writing about; even as regards “Pidgin English” he gets the inflections and jokes right. Hence, his global acclamation as a great writer

There is the tendency to harp on Things fall apart as the author’s greatest work, and it must be said that many of such observers have probably not read all of Achebe’s works of fiction. It is a matter of taste, but I personally believe that novels like Arrow of God and No longer at ease (both also written by Achebe) are perhaps better than the original classic (Things fall apart) Certainly Achebe’s re-creation of the past and the sweep (even co-incidence?) of pivotal events in the society is more powerful in Arrow of God. Many critics frowned at A Man of the people, but it’s a brilliant work too, castigating political corruption, and also a satire – before Armah’s The beautyful Ones are not yet born.

But all this show how great a writer Chinua Achebe is. His books are read all over the world. Like in his works, Achebe in real life condemns negative things, including bad leadership, but at the same time he has a gentle, sagacious sense of humour. No praise can be too much for this wonderful son of Africa! We wish him all the best as he clocks 80…