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WRITING

Monday, 03 April 2017 22:38

Soentjie's Song

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1 The drought was grievous.   It clung to men’s hearts and hung from their faces.   Silence lay heavy.   No chirp of crickets.   No bird calls. Nothing, nothing at all moved in that heat.   The ground baked hard and crusted open like a scabrous sore.   No seeds groped down to seek rooting in the red earth changed to sand. The thorns had turned from white to black. The land was dying. Soentjie, alone, who lived far beyond the agterdorp, didn’t know it.   If you followed the footpath past the last of the salt bushes, there you would find her.   There she…
Monday, 03 April 2017 22:33

How Are You Brother? Amen.

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How Are You Brother? Amen. It was 4p.m when the yellow van arrived, and I was glad. The Sunday breeze was slightly tinged with the suburban chill of 4pm. The Jacaranda serenading us with the purple truth of Sunday. The marquee I had organised for the Sunday lunch also looked slightly shrivelling, as if also impatient, and suspicious. I was nervous. What if the yellow van did not come? What if…? I pondered and wondered in the labyrinth of guilt and my own madness. Checking my watch now and then for the time. The yellow van did arrive, and I…
I have discovered I prefer to walk with it tucked safely beneath my descending aorta – to me, it is the last bit of comfort a dying man will see.   Some avoid it at every cost and I – like them – lock doors, pay insurance, stop at red lights most times.   Every chance it gets, it punches me into its satnav and with claws out cruises like one lost, finds me like one sent –   I would have tried to hide in the days before my voice broke, but now   I take it in daily…
Friday, 31 March 2017 15:13

Peripheral

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She pays attention but she doesn’t see. She has an astigmatism her contact lenses don’t correct. She can’t use her camera properly, can’t see well enough to align the split screen or clear the micro-prism ring. It is hit and miss whether her photographs are in focus. It is hit and miss whether they are well composed. A photograph of hers appears on the front page: teenagers at a mass funeral to bury protestors shot by the police. The teenagers wear khaki clothes and black berets; they carry wooden machine guns with AK-47 painted on the barrels. A photographer discusses…
Wednesday, 29 March 2017 18:05

The Art of Aldous

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Fool? Nutter? Brucker? Thus I have been christened. It will have to do; it might as well have been any other way. However, a small request: would you mind if we just shortened it to FNB? I find it so much more becoming but I guess you will let me know if that chafes you in any way, you have been so vocal about everything else that has.      Captain I am in your service, in no way did I mean to offend. If I came across as authoritarian, it was only because you needed galvanising, but allow me to…
Tuesday, 28 March 2017 08:09

Ten honest thoughts on why i left her

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One – She wore her nakedness too well, it scared me. Two – Her breasts were a monument; a single one covered my universe whole - it terrified me. Three – Maybe if she was less beautiful I would have stayed. Four – She was the type of woman Papa warned me about: “The woman you’d never imagine squints on a toilet seat,” he said. “You will never make a wife of her”  “Find you an ugly one, boy” Five – They told me beautiful women have appetites of hearses, they will eat you!  I believed them.  Six – She had…
Wednesday, 22 March 2017 17:11

Some things about this year.

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1 Charity remains the most violent And lasting Form of colonialism.   2 No gift comes without A future request.   3 When people say, it is From the Lord, know that They will be asking something Of you soon.   4 The people that hated Fidel While he was alive Will still hate him When he is dead.   5 There will always be One impimpi One Judas One family member One flesh and blood Like you   6 Newspapers say state capture Began under Zuma. History shows state capture Began in 1652 When van Riebeeck arrived. It’s also…
Tuesday, 21 March 2017 14:45

The Deliciousness of Lucerne

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Winner of the Deon Hofmeyr creative writing prize1. If there’s one thing I hate most it’s being interrupted mid-beer. I’m sitting outside at MaBliksem’s on an upturned crate under the bluegums holding communion with my medicine when the messenger arrives. He’s a short young white man in a suit. All the patrons shift at the prospect of being interrupted by such a serious-looking fellow mid-beer. MaBliksem emerges from the shack she operates the shebeen from and shouts, ‘Moegas!’ Her hands are on her hips and you know she means business. When she calls you like that, unless you’re in bed…
Monday, 20 March 2017 10:16

Pepi's Awakening

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When Pepi awoke from what she thought was a short nap, she was surprised to see what appeared to be a thick layer of dust on the dark, square wooden coffee table not two feet away from the sofa on which she lay. There was a weak beam of late afternoon sunshine piercing through the living room window, cutting and exposing a stream of infinitesimal dust particles floating, erratically but slowly, as if in a rhythmic randomness, in the open space between the ceiling and the floor. With her head elevated, resting on an arm of the sofa, Pepi squinted,…
Friday, 10 March 2017 23:15

A vision of nothing

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I am oddly contentjust riding round insmall circles vocalisingvague unwords at myselfmy fairy wheels semireliably affixed by mysometimes present fatherand the bullies all offelsewhere doing importantstuff I have absolutely no idea of my significance orvalue or intelligence or net worth butif I just continuepedalling roundand round and losingmyself in this nothingness that underpins reality Iwon't feel small or misunderstoodone day I may writea poem about a bicycleor a symphony about sunshine or a novel about that wheelbarrow or even think upmy own theorem aboutthe nature ofcircles but for now I am just happy ina distant removedway to be alivetoday okay…
This year’s version of Berlinale Talents has ‘Courage: Against All Odds’ as its slogan, a reference to the odds filmmakers must overcome to produce their work. Itch spoke to some African participants to get their view on the state of play for emerging filmmakers from the continent.   “I worked in Lagos for 18 months, and I soon realised I wasn’t able to tell the stories I wanted to tell,” so begins Ulan Garba Matta, producer and screenwriter from the small town of Jos in Nigeria. “Being in a small town, I can do things at my own pace. I…
Wednesday, 08 March 2017 03:58

Sawubona

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literally translated to mean ‘i see you’   following with the eye  the stream filling mind with water  with this in mind as a form of greeting may we never move past each other without some form of acknowledgment 
Wednesday, 08 March 2017 03:42

live (on prime time television)

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 “dubula lenja!”splattering all over the lens, SABC news crew left bewildered, his words were so violent that they hurt delivered with such a ferocity that they alone felt like the crime. As the words left his mouth,it was in the heat of this moment that armed robber had not noticed the camera still rolling.
Thursday, 02 March 2017 19:51

If one were to look

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If one were to look backon how the present resulted,there would be a track of wheelson the throat of kindness. Forthe lump that shrivelled had seena dream with eyes wide openof inflexibility finding elasticity,and for the concession of risingsynonymy, there would beharmony from tonguesthat would learn to hold downthe truth in its various versionsfrom colliding with a barrelof incendiary beliefs. We worryabout a future of obscurity,becoming orphans to sensitivity,and rage words to stone-setdemands about rights. Ifgovernance was a pieat a bake sale, there wouldn't beenough slices for sampling. Ifcontemplation was the night's air,there would be for some,but diplomacy hoisted on…
Thursday, 02 March 2017 18:30

Cosmo's Return

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Cosmo was released from prison after three years. Talent, called such because he was a former soccer player of great renown, met him for the first time in the week that the ex-con resurfaced into societal life. But Talent had also recently returned to the Hollow City; he loved this name for the Pietermaritzburg where the mist lifted late and departing vehicles crept up steady inclines to reach the wide runway to the coast or the highway to Johannesburg.  Talent had been away for over a decade and half, playing soccer at Durban Callies, a top pro club based in…
An elaborate classical Roman arch frames Raphael's School of Athens (1509-1510), behind which three more arches advance towards a vanishing point; focusing the viewer's attention on the two central male figures. The man on the left, pointing determinately upwards to the sky — the celestial realm — is the ancient Greek philosopher, Plato. He casually grips a book, his own oeuvre, inscribed Timeo, and looks commandingly at the younger philosopher, Aristotle, standing next to him. Aristotle holds his oeuvre, Etica, and in contrast to Plato he splays his right hand out, gesturing towards the ground beneath him — the terrestrial…
The future of Africa does not belong to obsessions with power and sloganeering like “Down with the West, down with the detractors, down with this and that.” Neither does it belong to the worship of lavish lifestyles and BASHES. When bashes are held amidst a flood of awful unemployment figures and poverty and general suffering of the citizens, then any decent African citizen is bound to feel offended or to raise EYEBROWS. No amount of sloganeering and posturing and pretense or indeed silencing or wiping away of dissenting voices will rescue Africa from the socio-economic woes of the DAY. The…
Depression has long been misunderstood in many African communities—especially in men. Usually attributed to misfortune or witchcraft, its destructive effects are visible on families and communities. A young South African photographer visually examines the relationship between the illness, the afflicted and the affected in a poignant series of images.Cape Town-based photographer, Thembela ‘Nymless’ Ngayi’s recent project The Great African Horror, is a series of monochrome portraits depicting African men’s struggle with depression.“When one of my peers committed suicide in 2002, the community was quick to say that he was “bewitched” because he was a straight-A student,” says Ngayi. “No one knew he…
Hajooj Kuka's delicate treatment of the plight of the people of Sudan's Nuba Mountains and the Blue Nile, Beats of the Antonov, offers a rare and sensitive look at the anxiety of communities dancing on the edge of a blade and the music through which they seek to keep their identities and culture intactOne is never at peace with oneself when in the midst of an identity crisis. The internal tug-of-war that transpires between opposing elements vying for some kind of superior legitimacy is recipe for dis-ease. In many ways, Sudan’s north and south offer symptoms to this malady, a…
Monday, 30 January 2017 20:04

Torrents

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As I made my way into the family compound, I was accosted by Gogo, my vicious, envious, contentious, odious paternal aunt. "Look at the time you are coming home," she said. "Are you not ashamed that your mates are straddling babies, but you're strutting around with a back-pack?" The events of the day had somehow made me immune to her venom. I turn and walk away from her... I should have stayed in bed. It was a Monday morning and I had woken up with a throbbing head, a relic of the infernal weather that surrounded me and the constant…
Thursday, 26 January 2017 12:56

Broken Teeth

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Shielding her eyes from the rising sun, the mother trudges up the hill. This isn’t the first time they meet face to face. The sun smiles brightly while the mother ducks, placing her forearm over her forehead. On the other side of the hill, the pastor readies his house and Bible for the spiritual cleansing. The mother, his regular visitor will soon knock on the door. Iridescent light flits to one side of the prayer room where a roaming torchlight gliding along the bare cement floor has met the fractured glass panel of the podium. The same type of light…
Monday, 17 October 2016 22:37

The Running Man

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If you happened to be seated in the third coach of the 10 o'clock train heading west,  watching the luscious green countryside flash by, you most likely would have missed a young fellow lost in his notebook seated towards the aft of coach three by the name of Isaac Richard Alberts. You surely would have missed his bushy eyebrows as they furrowed beneath his neatly unkept mop of hair. Or rather, he fancied it neat.Isaac was lost in the realm of a rather strange new science, you see. In truth it wasn't very new at all and Isaac used this…
Monday, 17 October 2016 17:21

10 Characters

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Nurse Marie Her lapel is a little faded and her lipstick slightly smudged in the corner of her mouth. “It’s an easy job,” she says, as her needle sucks up an ampule. “You get to meet all kinds of people.” She likes doctors who don’t wear shoes and laughs when she remembers a doctor calling another doctor a clown. “He said: that clown?” and she laughs again. She’s curious about alternative medicine, but when the homeopath said she must crush the pumpkin pips on the full moon she never went back.  Betty The big woman’s getting ready for her pedicure…
Monday, 17 October 2016 16:51

gogogo is in love

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REMEMBERING HERE an excerpt from "A Long Story Short", an unpublished novella   It was not always as contaminated, the nature of the resentments that sprouted between Father and me as is the fog of confusion that is Finetown.   1980 I am born on a midnight when all the lamps in Father’s shack refuse to catch the flame of his lighter and so Father ends up collecting wood out in the yard and sets an iridescent brazier down at the centre of the shack floor, smothering us all to near death. Mother says, It cannot be the ugliness, coughing.…
Sunday, 16 October 2016 19:38

I doodled your name by force

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I doodled your name by force. Yes please. I was not going to be that girl who'd pass through her teenage years without ever doodling a boy's name in a notebook when she's supposed to be concentrating on something else. I'm not normal but then again I couldn't accept to be that abnormal. So on that day when we walked to the taxi park and I sighed at the mere touch of your fingers on mine, it felt special, yes, in a way only a very clammy hand can. I did my best not to wonder what had you touched…
Friday, 14 October 2016 14:27

Mostly about a Beetle

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Ken’s red beetle 1963 – I am three years old. I pose against the beetle in the way I have seen my mother do. Fat legs in shorts, frilly top, slops and sunglasses. I am not smiling. We have done a very long journey to visit the cousins in Zambia. I am the only one in the photograph. It is small, black and white and has frilly edges. The cousins have television. I can’t believe South Africa is so backward. It’s the first time I see TV.Cecil’s white beetle 1965 – I am small enough to fit in the dogbox…
Thursday, 06 October 2016 02:51

Sir Churge, Father Obsolescence

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There’s an old proverbial postulate that the commercial competitive market model seeks to create the best possible goods at the lowest possible prices (now, I have always wondered why a product that normally costs one-thousand dollars would be abated to a two-hundred dollars sale. Is it true that the business horse is as loyal and compromising to customers as it appears to be, or was that good’s firsthand de facto price, in fact, two-hundred dollars. Interestingly, the commercial mouthpiece calls this mode of business a discount sale or customer appreciation, however, if we were to be unadorned and give this…
Tuesday, 04 October 2016 11:08

Kinoti's Flower Bud

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A green writer is one in constant motion. This motion is in the state of mind: seeking ideas, inspiration and appealing to the yet to be discovered reader of their works. This barren earth must be watered with optimism. Writing is not for the faint-hearted, as Kinoti came to discover when he first made a stab at writing. The words moved hazily into the subconscious. They could not form substance and neither could they be tangibly penned down into a coherent thing on paper. Kinoti searched in the libraries and devoured books by famed writers. There was diversity in theme,…
A shortish life in 15 shortish paragraphs   1.       Birth From the start it was all hard work. Later her blue-eyed brothers and sisters made it sound as if they had the time of their life in the hospital visiting mother and child - having never seen such a thing before they endlessly entertained themselves by flushing things down the toilet. But she knew that it wasn’t all happiness because she thought she remembered a cold misty day when Ma walked into the sea with her belly ripe with herself and stones in her pockets. Luckily a random old man looking…
Friday, 30 September 2016 23:44

A Cry for Help

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I come from a long line of great worriers. My earliest memory is of Father, the morning paper spread out before him, tearing his hair out. He was concerned that Aunt Mildred's tea party at the Union Buildings would be interrupted due to the fall in the gold price.His outburst resulted in a fresh surge of nail-biting on my sister's part, and I promptly wet my nappy in sympathy. The Ugandan au pair, Jane, was possibly the only sane member of the household, and had long ago realized that all of this madness would pass as the day wore on.…
Friday, 30 September 2016 11:26

Tom and Flo Go to the Races

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By the time they reached one hundred kilometres outside Kamieskroon, on the way to Cape Town, the rhythmic tikketu-tikketu of train meeting track had burrowed into Flo’s bones.             Her anxiety about the trip had her up at three in the morning and with all the extra time Flo had baked six loaves and prepared padkos. From a tin box she pulled a sandwich, soggy from the tomato that had leaked its juice all over the bread.             “Yirre, Flo, I keep telling you – put the tomato on the side. I can put it on myself when I want…
Thursday, 29 September 2016 14:49

Commuting in Jozi

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Coming from Polokwane, a small town in Limpopo, Johannesburg is a big city to me. It is a congested, confusing, concrete jungle compared to my somewhat clean, airy and less congested city. The taxis in Polokwane are in better shape and the taxi drivers aren’t so bad.  I’ve been knocking on heaven’s door every time I ride in a taxi.  This is no joke. I find myself clutching my handbag and saying a little prayer for God not to take me away just yet. To and from work, it’s a constant battle with the grim reaper, knees bumping into the…
Wednesday, 28 September 2016 09:58

Meeting Kasiobi

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Few things have evoked my empathy like the evening I spent with a beautiful man named Kasiobi who has lost an ability that I take for granted every day. He is a friend of a friend and we had recently just become friends on Facebook. After I had done everything I had to do that day, I invited him over. He arrived later than I expected. At some point I concluded that he had decided not to come after all. But at a few minutes to five, I got a text from him saying he was at the bus stop,…
Monday, 26 September 2016 16:54

The prisoner

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The clink-clink of chains along the corridor of area 354 is indicative of the approach of a prisoner. A prisoner is approaching and I am on outpatient duty, on TTOs: to take out. Each of us gets a TTO day; all of us except for Jacquie, the head of the dietetics department in the hospital. Being on TTOs means that you are responsible for attending to all of the patients that enter the dieticians’ office on that particular day. Everyone: new patients; follow-ups; bookings. You need to attend, direct, or counsel, depending on the circumstance. My TTO day is a…
Friday, 09 September 2016 22:46

Listening at the edges

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1.   I hid in the church after they left. Some of the stained glass had been broken, and the plain sunlight bled into the coloured shapes around the pew. The dust smelled like tired earth. I felt my body go limp, unwilling for the moment to obey me. I could see the church doors standing open, onto blinding sunlight. I smiled to myself. No one knew what I knew. It wasn’t important for other people. “What’s that Dunne? You’re ready to retire?” I’m in an office. The sounds of typewriters fill our rooms. “Yes, on my way out! Hallelujah.” I…
There will be a waffle weave on the back of her thighs when she stands. Does she care? Does she give a shit about anything in this place? So hot, even as the sun begins to rest to her left. Casting out a light that makes elephants ephemeral as they move to the waterhole below. The baby cries. God, why does that sound squeeze at some biological sinew just behind her belly button? Why doesn’t it do the same to him? Make him jump up. Check the baby. Is she wet? Hungry? Just tired? Has she pooped – again? Elephants…
Friday, 22 July 2016 17:45

Welcome to Heartland Territory

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The morning was damp, cool and grey. Olivia walked across a field that changed haphazardly from the gold of dry grass to the black charred remains of a veld fire. She put her parcels down for a moment, reached up with gloved hands and removed her scarf, tucking it between the handles of the handbag that hung from her left shoulder. Her cheeks were flushed. She picked up the parcels again and resumed her journey. Beneath her feet, small clouds of black dust puffed up when she walked across patches of burnt grass. She could see the faint mist of…
Friday, 22 July 2016 17:44

Dreaming of Guitars

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1   At the last show I play, the crowd chants my name. It’s not the type of attention I’m used to. I think the short speech I give is stilted, but I speak sincerely, and sincerity usually comes through. Although I leave out some important information. “Playing in a rock band is every kid’s dream, and I’m incredibly grateful I got the chance,” I tell the crowd. I am grateful, but I long ago realised that it’s not what I want. Every kid thinks they want to be in a band, but the reality is that for guys like…
Friday, 22 July 2016 17:43

Bruce Lee Is Alive In Soweto

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Most days we are playing tops, spinning and chatting aimlessly. But three times a week we rush back home. We quickly change into our tracksuits, grab something to eat and then head off to church, about two kilos walk. It is shorter by car but none of our parents owns cars. Along the way, we pop inside Maponya’s for fatcakes and snoekfish. We are not going to church to pray, to be steered towards the right path or to seek divine intervention. Instead, my best friend Ronnie and I are learning the science of self-defence. Not that I have problems…
Friday, 22 July 2016 17:37

Little Eden

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Every December, my family took a trip down to Plettenberg Bay. We stayed with our family friends, Cimone and her son, Riedwaan. This year, my father booked a chalet deep in the Plett valley, far away from the buzz of the town, in a place called Little Eden. I think he also wanted to give Cimone and Riedwaan a break from their lives, so they joined us. The chalets in Little Eden were far apart. It felt as if we were staying in a lonely jungle. Flowers traced the chalet entrance. My best friend Shannon came too and I could…
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