I have been caught up on the trend of Africans writing their own stories and trust me it’s such a beautiful thing. It is such an authentic experience for me to read an African narration forged by an African with a few words in vernacular to emphasize points especially those phrases that lose meaning when translated. I take pride in knowing that I have written a few ‘stories’ of my own. Unfortunately, I haven’t written anything in vernacular (well, at least not yet), so thought it befitting to throw in my own one liner and call it an African proverb. I prefer to tell my stories in one line and I think I am pretty darn good at it because I am one cheeky girl who always has what they call “clever answers” at the tip of my tongue. It is my preferred style of writing and I would love to hear about your style and take to your personal writing.
Before I go on a tangent and write a blog about me, my ‘work’ and my “clever answers”, let me focus on the main thing…
So initially I wanted to write a blog on the two trending books in South Africa and discuss the writers war in my article before choosing a favourite – Dominoes by Somizi Mhlongo and From A to B by Bonang Matheba. This theme was going to be my “Pièce de Résistance”, the chief dish of my literary meal, until I got lost in the characters and swallowed up whole by the stories each had to tell and how they told it.
So instead of creating a review about the two literary antagonists (and ex bff’s), I am going to provide a review of each book separately.
Dominoes came as a recommendation from one of my book club members mainly because everyone took an hour to read the book. I loved reading Dominoes – it was an effortless and idiot-proof read, which lots of South African’s could relate to, which added to its popularity.
Side note: if you have a reading target for the year, I would suggest you add this book to your cart (thank me later).
I love the title of this book and I love that he defined the title for us in a way that left no room for assumptions (and you know what assumptions do – they make an ass of you and I). Brian Temba’s hit single, Dominoes, inspired the book’s title and I now understand why it is a perfect fit because it sums up a story of breaking down walls, barriers and stereotypes… Somizi Mhlongo’s story is that of the proverbial walls falling like dominoes.
I can name the date, time and place of the morning I began reading this book – I was having such a bad morning; I did not want to go to the gym, I just wanted to be in bed, and I thought Somizi’s story could be a good pick-me-up. I finished it that very morning and still made it to work with enough time to make some brekkie. As I mention earlier it was an idiot proof read however, I felt it to be an unsatisfying quickie. All I could think of as I went through the day was, “size does matter!”. Size matters because it allows you to narrate your story properly, it allows you to connect with the reader and for your reader to understand your journey as a writer. I am a huge Somizi fan and I love his story but the speed of the book left a bad taste in my mouth.
We can talk about size the whole day but what I loathed the most about the book was his June 16 memory mentioned in the same speed as his fall out with Bonang. I think that if you are going to mention such a historic event and mention that you were there, it would only be befitting to hear the story from a Somizi point of view. Also, considering Sarafina, a movie about the events that led to the 16th of June, is one of the most iconic South African movies and represents the iconic role played in the movie by Somizi, I feel like he gave an aeriel view of the event that made June 16 so trivial. One can argue that it wasn’t that type of ‘party’ but if you are going to open a bottle of bubbles, you need to pop the cork. You need to go the full nine yards…
Now that I am done with my rant, I will dive into the content within the book – Somizi’s story and his unbreakable spirit. Somizi’s story is a story most African can relate to. It’s a story most Africans will appreciate. It’s a story that will challenge most Africans to introspect.
“There weren’t really that much of guidance and role models. We didn’t have anyone to look up to who was educated. So I looked outside for inspiration”.
I sobbed when I read these lines; I sobbed because I am fortunate that I had and still have role models growing up but I realised that I am not paying it forward, I realised that I am not being a good role model. I started asking myself if I am spending time giving the younger generation guidance or am I just perpetuating the problem. Somizi is definitely an outlier because he had the wisdom to look outside for inspiration which I commend him for, but not everyone has that type of wisdom. This challenged change in me more than anything and I hope that once you have read the book, the spirit of change spurs within the depths of your souls, minds and hearts. Guidance was a common theme in most of the chapters of his book. When he was down and out, he mentioned guidance because he was trying to keep up appearance which, in retrospect, he deemed unnecessary. He also emphasises the importance of guidance when referring to the new celebrities, e.g. Babes Wodumo and stresses that talent is only one slice of the cake, and if mismanaged, the amazing talent will result in a downfall. I personally think that good guidance nurtures an unbreakable spirit.
As I read some of the lines in Dominoes, I realised how fickle life can be and how we actually don’t have infinite time with our family or friends. For instance, when Somizi left for Broadway I don’t think he ever imagined that he will never dance with his father again. I don’t think that when he couldn’t go out for drinks with Lebo, he knew that it was going to weirdly save his life, and death would rob him of a friendship like that. This got me making a list of people I need to have a conversation with in 2017 because the only thing that’s certain in life is death.
Somizi, I take my hat off to you for saying NO. I think a lot of the South African ‘soldiers’ fell because they couldn’t say no. I mean Brenda Fassie was such a legend, I think if she had offered me drugs I would take them in a heartbeat. I mean if I tried to walk in your shoes I would have taken those drugs for a lot of reasons with one of them being that maybe doing drugs with a legend would allow me to gain favour with her especially after she called you boring. I am in awe at the fact that you stood your ground. You just redefined NO for me and I think a lot of Africans especially aspiring artists have a lot to learn from this.
Somizi also touches a lot on failing, doing it all over again and staying ‘humble’. I mean this guy was accused of sexual assault, he lost a lot of things but he rose above it and everything that he touches professionally sparkles… He is all over my screen and radio because he chose to fail forward and displays resilience every single day…
A philanthropist by night and a marketer by day. She is always keen to listen and learn.
I remembered when Pepsi and I were discussing a concept for the article and how controversial and exciting it would be to write about the ‘book war’ between Somizi and Bonang. I am glad you have shared a more positive outlook. This has made me realize that each book could have it’s own space. Well, at least I will draw that conclusion with conviction when we get to read your opinion on Bonang’s book. No pressure 🙂