Mbe Mbhele’s and Mpho Matsitle made their debut on Thursday, 27th April 2016 at the Rutanang Book Fair in Potchefstroom, South Africa. The two books are published by South Africa’s Sankara Publishers.
Mbe Mbhele and Mpho Matsitle called “the terrible twins of black literature” by some were the stars as they introduced their new books, both short story collections, to the public at the Madiba banquet hall. Mpho’s book Celibacy and Other Cute Little Things was billed as a more positive book with uplifting stories while Mbe’s book Crazy Father and Other Crazy Lies was said to be darker, showing the underbelly of the life of a black person.
The launch was done in the form of a panel discussion which was moderated by Andile Mngxitama. Andile asked the two writers questions about their experiences both as they wrote their books as well as their experiences that influenced their writing. Just like their books, the two writers are as different as day and night in their worldviews. Mpho was the more cheery one with his sunnier view on the life that people live in South Africa which thus influenced him.
Mbe saw things differently. He saw that it was difficult for people to do anything that was as crazy as love as black people were under constant attack in the lives they currently lived. That was one brother who was conscious about the how it is to be black in this world. He reminded one of James Baldwin stating how difficult it was to live as a conscious brother in the US. He refused to take the bait of one of the audience who asked if he was just doing political pronouncements in his work suggesting that classifying his work and style would be left at the door of critics and academics.
With the back and forth between moderator and writers with the help of the audience, the questions as you would expect that is about decolonising literature had to move in a different way. That was a vigorous discussion that was had afternoon sometime getting quite heated.
Their publisher Andile promised to find a way of getting the two books across the continent as this decolonising literature project isn’t just a South African one.
With the end of the panel, readers were asked to avail their books to be signed by their writers and I noted one Fortescue Helepi of African Flavour Books getting his copies. I suspect that South Africans can get copies of this book at African Flavour Books (I hear they deliver). The rest of us will just have to wait. Chop Chop, Sankaras Publishers.