"I don’t Like Black People”- What? Say it Again.
Contrary to popular opinion, which would have you believing that i wake up every morning with an insatiable appetite to chase stray school principals who think getting high on their own supply is part of their perks, i actually am more of a literature fundi than a journalist. I do journalism once a week and literature once a year for 120 intensive days. So, i spend more time figuring out syntaxes than dodging deadlines.
So, with that royal mantle on i trekked to Joburg last week for the 5th instalment of the South African Literature Awards. Well, i am connected to the awards in a cosy way, even though i would spare such details for next time - actually for people who love gossip. Here i was in Midrand’s Gallagher estates on the 8th, surrounded by all this royalty i felt like an eight-years old in a chocolate factory. Writers, reviewers, literature fundis to me are royalty, so don't get it twisted.
However this year's awards didn’t come without some level of controversy. While the adjudicating part of these stellar accolades is as tight as security at a nuclear facility, it was a winner who chose to play Jonah weeks before the ceremony. Acclaimed Afrikaans author Annelie Botes (Thula-Thula) decided to spoil my mood by coming out and saying she does not like Black people. ‘Doesn’t like Black people?”. Botes please, what have they ever done to you? I know the English locked your ancestors in concentration camps and denied them basic human rights. But Blacks. All Blacks ever did was to endure years of torment and brutality while your own people, who you didn’t condemn once killed and maimed them. And now that they survived apartheid you decide to dislike them. Okay Mami, Blacks are not going to disappear simply because some 53-years old Tannie doesn't like them.
That was a blot. The awards ceremony went well. Notable contributors to the South African literary landscape were honoured on the night. Amongst those i can remember by name are Kgebetli Moele (Book of the Dead), Kevin Bloom (Ways of Staying), Mandla Langa (The Changing colours of a Chameleon), Peter Horn, Mxolisi Nyezwa, Karabo Kgoleng, Kobus Moolman etc. I remember these few because some of them are people i have shared conversations with over red wine some godforsaken part of this country in the past.
The event was graced by people larger than me;
Max Sisulu (Speaker of the National Assembly) whose aura can melt ice, retired judge Pius Langa, Minister of Arts and Culture Paul Mashatile, Sol Plaatjie Museum's Sabata-Mpho Mokae, author Siphiwo Mahala (When a Man Cries), Prof Pitika Ntuli (inhloko yemamba! haha), spindoctor Sandile Memela and Ngidi (publisher), and many other important people i shudder to mention that they slipped my memory.
Performances, compeering and entertainment were provided by Prof Kole Omotoso (Vodacommmmmmmm), Tu Nokwe, National Poet Laureate Prof Keorapetse Kgositsile ("an omelette can never be unscrambled"), activist Prince Shapiro and storyteller Gcina Mhlophe. You would have easily spotted very important people in the crowd such as the CEO of the National Arts Council of South Africa (dark like my chocolate) and the Gauteng MEC for Arts, Ntate Maile (bua comrade bua!)
I was there. I came i saw and took the pictures. I want to be critical of things but when things went as smooth as they did, courtesy of well-rounded South African wine and good food (not traditional), who am i to find fault? The next instalment of the SALA is 2011 and you know – Kasiekulture will be there! Ahoy!