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Drawing on the true history of ‘Farini’s Friendly Zulus’, a group of men who were taken to Britain and then to America as performing curiosities, the novel opens in 1885 in wintry New York City.
The protagonist, Mpiyezintombi, simply called Em-Pee by the English-speakers, loses more than his name in this far-off foreign country; he is seen as little more than a freak-show act – though he is not kept in a cage like the beautiful Dinka Princess, with her gold-painted papier-mâché crown and fur cape. For EmPee, it is love at first sight, but the caged woman is not free to love anyone back: she is the property of Monsieur Duval, proprietor of Duval Ethnological Expositions.
And so begins one of Zakes Mda’s most striking stories, one that depicts terrible historical injustices and indignities, while at the same time celebrating the vigour and ingenuity of the creative spirit, and the transformative power of love.
In an already-great pantheon of Mda love stories and classic gems, this may be his most powerful work yet.
Kristin Uys is a tough Roodepoort magistrate who lives alone with her cat. She is on a one-woman crusade to wipe out prostitution in the town for reasons that have personal significance for her. Although she is unable to convict the Visagie Brothers, Stevo and Shortie, on charges of running a brothel, she manages to nail Stevo for contempt of court and gives him a summary six-month sentence.
From Diepkloof Prison, the outraged Stevo orchestrates his revenge against the magistrate, aided and abetted by his rather inept brother Shortie and his erstwhile nanny, Aunt Magda, who believes mass action will force the powers that be to release Stevo.
Kristin receives menacing phone calls and her home is invaded and vandalised. Even her cat is threatened. The chief magistrate insists on assigning a bodyguard to protect her. To Kristin’s consternation, security guard Don Mateza moves into her home and trails her everywhere. Nor does this suit Don’s long-time girlfriend Tumi, former model and successful businesswoman, who is intent on turning Don into a Black Diamond sooner rather than later. And Don soon finds that his new assignment has unexpected complications which Tumi simply does not understand.
In Black Diamond, Zakes Mda tackles every conceivable South African stereotype, skilfully (and with the lightest touch) turning them upside down and exposing their ironies, often hilariously. This is a clever, quirky novel that captures the essence of contemporary life in Gauteng and will resonate with all South Africans.
Camugu, recently returned to Johannesburg and disillusioned by the new democracy, moves to the remote Eastern Cape. There, in the nineteenth century, a teenage prophetess commanded the Xhosa people to kill their cattle and burn their crops, promising that the spirits of their ancestors would rise and drive the English into the ocean. The failed prophecy split the people in two, with devastating consequences. One hundred and fifty years later, the two groups’ decendants are at odds over plans to build a vast casino and tourist resort, and Camugu is soon drawn into their heritage and their future—and into a bizarre love triangle as well.
Winner of the M-Net Book Prize
An acclaimed novel by a leading South African author. It is the story of a professional mourner, whose odyssey takes him from a rural village to the outskirts of a contemporary South African city. It is magical, harsh, and funny. The style of writing is new and exciting, using transliteration for example.
Amagama Enkululeko - Words For Freedom: Writing Life Under Apartheid is an anthology of short fiction, poetry, narrative journalism and extracts from novels and memoirs which frames local literature as a lens through which to engage with South Africa’s past. The collection was put together and edited by Equal Education.
With a foreword by Zakes Mda, and a mixture of famous and seemingly forgotten struggle writers, this anthology of poetry and prose opens a window onto the ways ordinary, everyday life was shaped by the forces of history.
The background is the notorious 1971 case in which nineteen citizens of Excelsior in the Free State were charged with breaking apartheid's Immorality Act, which forbade sex between black and white. In an extraordinary alchemy of words into art, Mda tells the story of a family at the heart of the scandal ? of Niki, the fallen madonna, Popi, her daughter by an eminent white citizen of the town, and Viliki, the betrayed son, and of how they come to terms with the repercussions and find resolution in surprising ways.
By turns earthy, witty and tragic, this energetic novel deftly handles issues of racial identity, rape and revenge. It is also a brilliantly observed study of the inner workings of small-town South Africa, and the changes rural communities have undergone.
In a remote mountain village in Lesotho, the beautiful Dikosha
lives for dancing and for song, setting herself apart from her
fellow villagers. Her twin brother, Radisene, works in the lowland
capital of Maseru, struggling amid political upheaval to find a
life for himself away from the hills. As the years pass, Radisene's
fortunes rise and fall in the city, while Dikosha remains in the
village, never leaving and never aging. And through it all, the
community watches, comments, and passes judgment.
As Zakes Mda's fifth novel opens, the seaside village of Hermanus
is overrun with whale-watchers--foreign tourists determined to see
whales in their natural habitat. But when the tourists have gone
home, the whale caller lingers at the shoreline, wooing a whale he
has named Sharisha with cries from a kelp horn. When Sharisha fails
to appear for weeks on end, the whale caller frets like a jealous
lover--oblivious to the fact that the town drunk, Saluni, a woman
who wears a silk dress and red stiletto heels, is infatuated with
Who is Zakes Mda really? And how did he achieve recognition in so many creative spheres? Sometimes There Is a Void, a disarmingly candid account of the life of Zakes Mda, provides us with some answers.
In this memoir, Zakes weaves together past and present to give an intensely personal story of his development in life, as an artist, musician, film maker and beekeeper, and the events and people who shaped him. Forced to follow his father into exile in Lesotho at fourteen, Zakes becomes an exponent of fast living, frequenting shebeens to escape the confines of parental discipline. He involves himself in politics during his exile, and we see the ANC and PAC as they grow. We also witness the development of his musical and artistic talents from an early age, a little ahead of his literary gifts. Zakes eventually obtains two master's degrees from Ohio University and a PhD from UCT, and writes his first novel in 1993. Based in Athens, Ohio, he works as a professor of Creative Writing at Ohio University.
His contribution to South Africa's social and cultural advancement remains undiminished, both in his humanitarian efforts and his active involvement in the development of indigenous theatre through his work with local playwrights.
Two very different women meet during a long wait to buy subsidized rice and discover they have more in common than their poverty; an old man and a child share a last loving waltz; a cynical, disabled gangster learns humanity from a committed social worker, and a young girl finds her missing father and her role in the political struggle. This collection of stage plays, one radio play and a cinepoem, captures the essence of Zakes Mda's method as a dramatist- a slow but intimate process of revelation (on the part of the characters). It is an artistic cooperation of the most pleasurable kind.
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