Mohale Mashigo kicked off day six of the Afrolit Sans Frontieres Virtual Literary Festival on Instagram Live on Saturday, March 28, 2020.
The Afrolit Sans Frontiers Virtual Literary Festival is an initiative from writers of African origin curated by Zukiswa Wanner. Sixteen writers from 10 African countries are sharing their work from 15 different cities in English, French, Lingala, and Portuguese to a global virtual audience online over eight days. Since the festival started on Monday, audiences have interacted with Richard Ali Mutu in Kinshasa, DR Congo, Leye Adenle in London, UK, Rémy Ngamije in Windhoek, Namibia, Hawa Jande Golakai in Monrovia, Liberia, Maaza Mengiste in Zurich, Switzerland, Mukoma Wa Ngugi in Ithaca, New York, USA, Nozizwe Cynthia Jele in Johannesburg, Yara Monteiro in Alentejo, Portugal and Bisi Adjapon in Accra, Ghana.
The first session for Saturday was by South African award-winning singer-songwriter, novelist, and former radio presenter Mohale Mashigo. Her debut novel The Yearning was shortlisted for the Etisalat Prize for Literature in 2016, and the South Africa Literary Awards and won the University of Johannesburg Prize for South African Debut Writing 2016. It was longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award 2018. Her work with South African comic series Kwezi was shortlisted for the Nommo Awards 2019.
Mohale started by introducing herself, her debut novel The Yearning, the short story collection Intruders and some of her other work. She picked a racy passage from Manoka, the first story in Intruders, which was followed by a half-hour session where she spoke about several topics. Throughout the session, to our amusement, the whiskey-swigging singer-turned-writer kept being asked to sing for those assembled which eventually seemed to get on her nerves.
On her own work, she wrote her debut novel The Yearning after leaving Grahamstown and moving to Cape Town in 2005. She didn’t like her colleagues at the advertising firm she was working then so she used to open a word document and play around. Whatever she was writing ended up becoming the book that introduced her to the literary world.
She was set to have a new novel out this year, all that could share was that it involved a love story and a war, but with what is happening she expects it will likely come out next year. She also spoke about her work with the Kwezi comic, which she is a writer for, which has fans waiting on the next installment. The Covid19 situation had affected the production of the comic but she hopes that it will be out in June. She also shared that one of her books was being translated into French and she was supposed to travel to France later in the year to lecture about it and her other work.
With the “Afrofuturistic Sextualities “being her discussion topic, she engaged with the audience of a couple of dozen about writing sex. It was hilarious and revealing as the conversation veered between Afro-futuristic vibranium dildos, the future of “sexulative fiction,” “Clit lit” or women-centred fiction, and other imaginary topics. The future of writing sex would be very interesting as even now people can’t stop touching. A question came from Germany asking whether there are stories of queer love in South African writing today. Queer love is in many books, she said, South African writers are producing other stories including her own The Yearning. They are no longer just writing Cry The Beloved Country.
She also responded to a question about the argument that South African writers were accused of the “hyper-local” focus. She rubbished that claim stating that all books are hyper-local whether it be Crime And Punishment (by Fyodor Dostoyevsky) or Purple Hibiscus (by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie). She believed that criticisms came from people who were actually asking “why are you not writing about Apartheid?” Her concern right now is to go out to festivals across the continent like Abantu and Ake Festivals to meet other writers.
On work she has produced she would love adapted for the big screen, there are three stories from her collection The Intruders that she felt would be great.