Author: Siphiwo Mahala
Publisher: Jacana Media
Year of publication: 2011
Number of pages: 243
Genre: Short Story
Number of stories: 12
Jacana Media-published African Delights is the second book from Pretoria based South African writer Siphiwo Mahala. His first was the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal Press 2007 book When a Man Cries about a man who is player who has sex with a woman who turns out to be his daughter.
African Delights is a short story collection which has been divided into four segments: The Suit stories, White Encounters, The Truths and African delights. Each of the four segments has three stories each.
The first section is called The Suit and had three stories; The Suit Continued, The Dress That Fed The Suit and The Lost Suit. The second section White Encounters has three stories as well, Bhonti’s Toe, So Many Truths and White Encounters. The third section of the book is The Truths and the stories here are The Truth, The Other Truth and So Many Truths. The final section African Delights has The Queen of the Highlanders , African Delights and The Best of African Delights.
Some of these stories are brilliant. Take for instance two of these in the first section which was inspired by the legendary story written by legendary dude Can Themba (Kenyans will be shocked to learn that this name is pronounced Can Temba not themba, conversely the South Africans called their guy Albert Luthuli “Lutuli” so we should actually be calling one of our most famous streets Lutuli road) who wrote a story called The Suit. In this story, a man finds his wife having sex with a stranger, the stranger who promptly jumps out the window and runs for his dear life. Unlike in porn when a person finds his lady having sex with a friend and opts to join in, in real life when you are busted you run.
The husband who has been cheated on goes crazy. Instead of getting physically violent he decides to be mentally abusive and torture his wife by insisting that the suit of the man who left in a huff is a guest and she has to treat it as one. This includes setting a place at the table for the suit, giving it a meal and the like. It doesn’t end well.
African Delights gives a reboot of the famous story from Mahala as well as Zukiswa Wanner. Mahala starts with his story The Suit Continued with an explanation of what happened to the naked man after he ran away without his suit and how coped with the madness that followed. Wanner’s story The Dress That Fed The Suit looks at the motivations of the lady that was caught pants down and how she copes with being a philandering wife and her husband’s reaction that leads her to the end of her line. The two stories are considered to be among the top twenty stories since South Africa got democracy twenty years ago so you know they are good.
Without a doubt my favourite segment of the book was the Africa Delights section. In the three stories we meet three characters; Mokoena a South African business man, Zodwa his wife and Simba the handyman of the Mokoena home. The tales are told from the view of the ancestors of Zodwa a beauty queen who ends up as a trophy wife. She also has a critical role is setting up a business called African Delights which is meant to pimp flesh to the visitors to South Africa during the world cup in that country in 2010. She also has to be generous with some of the clients at the instruction of her husband.
As part of her job she has to have sex with his client Baer Schweinsteiger German administrator who promises tenders to her benefactor/pimp for the upcoming world cup happening in South Africa. When she does have sex with him the act proves to be quite disturbing for her and amusing for me as a reader because of his demands.
“I’m in Africa. Chirp like a monkey. It’s an adventure. I want to feel Africa” says Schweinsteiger.
In spite of following his instructions and chirping like a monkey she finds out on the TV later that the man had been fired for the corruption allegations.
The only thing that she has going for her is that she had fallen in love with the aforementioned Simba . It doesn’t go so well for her at the end of it all.
The one flaw I see in the book is the section called The Truth which makes references to his previous book When a Man Cries. While it is well written it does not stand alone so anyone who has not read that book will have a problem following the narrative.
Well written and funny are the two reasons why you should buy this book. To fully enjoy it you need to have read the writer’s preceding book When A Man Cries.