Podcast by The Cheeky Natives
Podcast by The Cheeky Natives
Mphuthumi Ntabeni: Broken River Tent
Written about the life and times of Maqoma, the Xhosa chief who was at the forefront of fighting British colonialism in the Eastern Cape during the nineteenth century. The story is told through the eyes of a young South African, Phila, who suffers from what he calls triple ‘N’ condition – neurasthenia, narcolepsy and cultural ne plus ultra. It is touted as an entrancing novel that marries imagination with history in a foray into the rapidly growing genre of historical fiction.
Phila, who returns from his architectural studies in Germany has to learn to rediscover home. This is done through Maqoma’s historical telling, as they both visit places of biographical relevance to both their lives. It is told in a sequence of interconnected events. As a book of historical literature, it flirts between the borders of fact and fiction, even rattles a historical cage or two.
This layered story traverses multiple locations and time periods, flitting from the Eastern Cape, Robben Island and contemporary South Africa. Using the voice of a people traditionally marginalised, it offers a historical perspective from those deeply affected by the Frontier Wars while battling with modern-day legacies stemming from this hosiery of subjugation.
Mputhumi Ntabeni has previously claimed not to be a writer in terms of a career, but his extensive work in writing The Broken River Tent is evidence to contrary.
Although difficult and flawed, the two characters easily generate empathy. Phila is well educated, sophisticated but emotionally immature while Maqoma comes from beyond the grave as the ancestor to bring historical perspective and wisdom.
Exploring themes of mental health, religion and estrangement. Mphuthumi is at his finest demonstrating why this book is a national award winner.
He sat down for a long-awaited conversation with Dr Alma-Nalisha Cele to discuss the book, the themes and all the characters. The conversation is filled with deep reflection of the importance of historical fiction.
Follow him on social media
Sarah Ladipo Manyika: In Dependence
“Today, she’d brought him daffodils to brighten the room. ‘Women can bring men flowers too, you know.’ She smiled, sensing his hesitation as she arranged them in an empty milk bottle. Already, the buds were opening and adding a bright splash of buttery yellow to his room. She placed them next to the neat stack of books and papers and then picked up the one that was marked: A Handbook for Students from Overseas. She studied what he’d underlined and smiled as she read aloud from the section on Habits and Customs. ‘It says here that when two people meet and they wish to save themselves from the embarrassment of silence, they usually talk about the weather. Did we talk about the weather when we first met?’” - Sarah Ladipo Manyika
Sarah Ladipo Manyika was raised in Nigeria and has lived in Kenya, France, and England. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, and taught literature at San Francisco State University. Sarah currently serves on the boards of Hedgebrook and the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco.
Letlhogonolo Mokgoroane sat in conversation with Sarah to discuss her first novel In Dependence. The book has sold over 1 million copies worldwide. Man Booker winner Bernardine Evaristo describes this debut as ‘A beautiful and ambitious novel’. The novel spans over several decades starting in the early sixties, where we meet Tayo Ajayi in Nigeria on his way to England to study at Oxford University on a scholarship. While at Oxford he discovers a whole generation excited about a new and better world. He meets a number of young womxn but he is fascinated by Vanessa Richardson, a daughter of a former colonial officer. Their love story, which spans over four decades, is a bittersweet tale of many twists and turns, and the universal desire to fall truly, madly and deeply in love.
This debut novel is stunning. The storytelling sublime. The writing is ‘clean as bone’. The characters are written in a delicate and complex manner. Sarah tells the history and its nuances with skill and care.
This conversation explores the love story between Tayo and Vanessa, through the decades, across continents and with opposing forces. The love story allows us to reminisce about the music throughout the decades as well as the political conversations of that moment. In the conversation, we discuss interracial dating, race and the politics of geography. We talk to the complexities of contemporary Africa, patriarchy, feminism and culture. We speak about Sarah’s literary influences including the great Toni Morrison. We take a short pause to discuss her sophomore novel Like a Mule Bringing Ice-cream to the Sun’
This conversation, like the book, was delicious, rich and filled with lightbulb moments.
Follow Sarah on facebook: Sarah Ladipo Manyika
Professor Pumla Dineo Gqola: Feminist Rogue
'While there are many feminist strands, which is to say different kinds of feminism, there are also many core principles. The commitment to actively oppose and end patriarchy is one. The recognition that patriarchy works like other systems of oppression, like racism and capitalism, to value some people and brutalise others is another area of agreement. Like other systems of oppression, it also requires the support of many members of the groups it oppresses.'― Pumla Dineo Gqola, Reflecting Rogue: Inside the Mind of a Feminist
Professor Pumla Dineo Gqola is currently the Dean of Research at the University of Fort Hare. Prof Gqola’s illustrious career spans full-time academic and research positions at several South African universities and other institutions, she started off as a junior lecturer and rose to the rank of senior lecturer at the University of Free State before she joined Human Science Research Council as a Chief Research Specialist. She then joined Meraka institute at the council for Scientific and
As a gender activist, award-winning author and full professor, Pumla Dineo Gqola has written extensively for both local and international academic journals. She is the author of four books including the seminal work “Rape: A South African Nightmare”.
In an impromptu podcast recording, Prof Gqola sat down with the Cheeky Natives to discuss her work as a gender activist, scholar and black feminist. This episode was particularly moving as it was
recorded in Cape Town in the week of Uyinene Mrwetyana’s harrowing assault and murder among that of numerous South African womxn and children. In a frank and powerful conversation, the Cheeky Natives and Prof Gqola sat down to discuss what it means to be a country in crisis, the racialised nature of violence and the nightmare in which
South African womxn are trapped in.
In a wide-ranging discussion regarding her scholarship and impressive publication history, we explored what it means to be a renegade and pioneer and yet belong so deeply to one’s self. The politics of self-ownership for Black womxn who are feminist activists is an entire thesis.
Follow her on Twitter @feminist_rogue
Dr Ainehi Edoro-Glines: Brittle Paper
African literature is changing’ - Brittle Paper
Brittle Paper is your go-to site for African writing and literary culture. Brittle Paper brings you all the latest news and juicy updates on publications, authors, events, prizes, and lifestyle. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram (@brittlepaper) and sign up for our "I love African Literature" newsletter.
Brittle Paper states that ‘the current generation of African readers are driven more by their tastes and passions than by allegiance to some abstract political idea. They are young, open, and unconventional in their interests. They are social media savvy and dependent on mobile technology for media consumption. This has led to the popularity of shorter writings—flash fiction, online story series, and digital imprints of mass-market novellas. The obsession with realist fiction that defined older generations has given way to an avid interest in speculative writing—fantasy, science fiction— but also in experimental narratives, pulp-fiction, and other offbeat genres.’
And as a result, Brittle Paper became a literary project designed to adapt African literary culture that is dynamic and adaptable.
Dr Ainehi Edoro-Glines is the founder and Editor of Brittle Paper, a leading online platform dedicated to African writing and literary culture. She is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she teaches and researches on African literature, political theory, and literature in social media. She was named by OkayAfrica as one of its top women in African literature 2018. While in the stunning Madison, Dr Alma-Nalisha Cele connected with Dr Edoro-Glines and discussed her life goals of bringing African literature to the front and what it means to build our own platforms for critical engagement with African literature.
Of course, the discussion would’ve been incomplete without delving into “that” essay. Her current book project is titled “Forest Imaginaries: How African Novels Think.” She also writes essays and commentaries about contemporary African literary culture in mainstream publications such as The Guardian and Africa is a Country. Dr Edoro-Glines is profoundly influenced by the literary icon, Chinua Achebe. Her life goal has been to bring African literature to the forefront, and more specifically to bring a fresh perspective to the study of the late Nigerian novelist's work. Her article on Things Fall Apart is forthcoming in The Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Enquiry.
Follow Brittle Paper on Twitter and Instagram (@brittlepaper) and you can also visit their website www. brittlepaper.com
Nicole Dennis -Benn: Patsy
“Just two years shy of thirty, Patsy has nothing to show for it besides the flimsy brown envelope that she uses to shade herself from the white-hot glare of the sun. the envelope contains all her papers — from birth certificate to vaccination records. But most importantly, it carries her dream, a dream every Jamaican of a certain social ranking shares: boarding an airplane to America. For the destination, and for the ability to fly.” – Nicole Dennis-Benn
Patsy is a book that chronicles the life of the protagonist Patsy, who leaves Jamaica to chase the America dream. Her leaving for ‘green pastures’ means leaving her daughter behind. This shock is a wonderful plot device as it forces readers to examine their socialised understanding of motherhood and what ideal mothering looks like. Throughout the story, we were taken on a haunting journey that both answers and asks questions about those who make the pilgrimage for a better life and those who stay. This is an immigrant story but not for the western gaze.
In a true reflection of her prodigious talent, Nicole confronts difficult themes with grace and humanity asking the readers to push themselves beyond their ideas of what it takes to make a difficult decision.
In a poignant, thoughtful and exciting podcast, The Cheeky Natives sat with the brilliant Nicole Dennis-Benn to explore the themes of isolation, abandonment, immigration, the ‘American dream’, racism, homophobia and the challenges of being Black, alive and queer in any space.
In some parts, this conversation was an exploration of the weight it takes to be a difficult woman making selfish decisions and in many other parts, it was excavation on the intersection of race, sexuality, immigration and the weight of becoming.
Nicole Dennis-Benn is a brilliant writer giving voice and documenting the untold stories of the ‘undocumented’. In this conversation, The Cheeky Natives excavated her politics, writing and what it means to hold the weight of an entire community’s expectation.
Her previous debut was ‘Here comes the sun’ which was heralded as exploitation of racism, sexuality and other difficult themes. She continues to do the important work in her sophomore novel. Fresh off her second visit to Open Book Festival in Cape Town, The Cheeky Natives were thrilled to have this conversation before the launch of her latest work in Johannesburg.
A review in the New York Times affirms that “You’ll come to know Nicole Dennis-Benn’s characters as intimately as you would a lover. They are refined in their humanity and depth.”
Vanessa Govender: Beaten but not Broken
“This is my story. This happened to me. Who he is, is irrelevant. He could be the boy next door, a street sweeper or your son – he could be anyone. I refuse to make this story about him or who he is. He is no different from any abusive man. His name is irrelevant. What he did though, is relevant. What he did to me – over and over again – is very relevant.” – Vanessa Govender
Beaten but not Broken by Vanessa Govender is a harrowing story. In recent weeks, we have seen the resurfacing of conversation about Gender-Based Violence following the deaths of a number of womxn, killed by men. Gender-Based Violence in South Africa is alarmingly high. It is reported that a womxn dies every 3 hours. In this memoir, Vanessa recounts her own experience. Vanessa writes: “This is South Africa. My story is one of hundreds of thousands of women, many of whom are silent and don’t have the courage to speak out because they are simply too afraid. I know their fear. I’ve known it, lived with it all these years, following me, hanging over my shoulders, filling my head.”
Vanessa Govender grew up in a conservative Indian community. This community ostracised Vanessa because she was dark-skinned. The colour of Vanessa’s skin meant that she was the victim of childhood bullying and often low self-esteem issues that followed her into her adult life.
Vanessa gives us a glimpse of the brutally that took place while she was in a relationship with a colleague in her years as a journalist. She recounts the beating, the sexual assaults and the rape that took place.
In this story, Vanessa brings to light that class and fame does not necessarily protect you from the brutality of intimate partner violence. The story retells the dark years of the violence and how often many people were complacent in assisting Vanessa.
The memoir allows tells a story of healing, of love and hope. We challenge Vanessa on the idea of nonracialism and ask her how it works in the world, where race has polarised almost every fabric of society.
This conversation was challenging and heart-breaking in many parts but also very necessary to bring to light the horror of Gender-Based Violence.