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Here are 5 Contemporary South African Books by Queer Writers You Need to Read

These daring books by queer writers describe the intersectionality of identities in LGBTQ culture.

Representation matters. In the same way that the voices of Black and African writers have been necessary in revolutionizing the world of literature and pushing back against dominant Eurocentric narratives, it has been equally important to witness the rise in stories that speak to the lives and experiences of queer people.


The works of writers such as Chinua Achebe, Es'kia Mphahlele, Tsitsi Dangarembga and Buchi Emecheta have undoubtedly produced seminal works which have cast African Literature into the spotlight.

5 Books by African Writers You Need To Read This Summer

However, the work of writers such as the late Binyavanga Wainaina and even a contemporary such as Romeo Origun, have endeavored to go further and reconcile what it means to be African and queer against the backdrop where so many having portrayed the two as mutually exclusive identities. This also extends South African writers, of course. For far too long, queer people have been excluded from literature and prevented from telling their own stories in their own way. The tide is turning and the past two decades have seen the steady increase in the number of works produced by queer people—and it's been yet another glorious revolution.

From the works of the late K. Sello Duiker to one of South Africa's most successful poetry books by Koleka Putuma, here are just five (there are plenty more) books which center the narrative of queer people.

'Collective Amnesia' by Koleka Putuma

"How many abortions have fallen out of your mouth while counting the men in your life?" These are among the first words that the reader is confronted with in Putuma's debut collection of poems. Her exploration of womanhood, Blackness, queerness, traditionalism, trauma and everything in between has been so incredibly compelling that Collective Amnesia is the first poetry collection to have a 9th print run in the country. The collection has even been translated into Spanish and adopted as reading material for students across the country. Women protesting against the rampant gender-based violence in the country have often used Putuma's words, "I don't want to die with my hands up or legs open" as an impassioned plea to have their voices heard. One of the many notable poems, No Easter Sunday for Queers, was developed into a theatrical production which was showcased at Joburg's Market Theater back in August of this year. African Books Collective has rightly described Putuma's work as "incendiary poems [that] demand justice, insist on visibility and offer healing."

'Queer Africa: New and Collected Fiction', an anthology by MaThoko Books

Queer Africa: New and Collected Fiction is a South African collection of 18 queer stories by writers from all over the African continent which was published by MaThoko Books, an imprint of the Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (GALA), a center for LGBT culture and education in South Africa. This evocative collection of stories which portray queerness in varied settings has been described as a celebration of the "diversity and fluidity of queer and African identities, offering a sometimes radical re­-imagining of life on the continent." Back in 2014, It was awarded the Lambda Literary Award in the "Best Anthology" category and has become influential in the teaching of queer theory at a number of universities in South Africa.

'The Quiet Violence of Dreams' by K. Sello Duiker

The late Duiker is one of the greatest South African writers there ever was. He was a writer that was unafraid to plunge into the abysmal depths of human emotions and write them on paper as genuinely as he felt them. Before he died, he published Thirteen Cents and The Quiet Violence of Dreams. The latter was a raw and haunting book that followed the life of its main character, Tshepo, a young university student who is troubled by his mind after a past traumatic event in his life. He delves into the world of sex work and grapples with his sexuality, spirituality and what seem to be mythical powers in his possession. It is admittedly a heavy read which transports the reader to a place that is both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. South African writer Siphiwo Mahala described Duiker as being "to literature what Steve Biko is to politics, both having died at the tender age of thirty but leaving indelible footprints in our collective memory."

'You've Got to be Gay to Know God' by Siyathokoza Khumalo

The contents of this book is as provocative as its title. It is in part a biography of sorts which sees Khumalo describing to the reader personal accounts of what life was like as a young boy trying to figure out his sexuality at a same-sex school. Additionally, the book provides commentary on a number of important topics including religion, politics, sexuality and patriarchy. Speaking in an interview, Khumalo says the book was supposed to be a "nice, polite book for Christians about the Bible" and spoke about queer people finding meaning in the same organised religion that often condemned them. It is an honest and unapologetic work that has been praised by some and criticized by others because of the uncomfortable conversations it confronts directly and unflinchingly.

'Black Bull, Ancestors and Me' by Nkunzi Zandile Nkabinde

This memoir tells the story of Nkabinde who is held in high esteem because she is a sangoma (traditional healer) but also treated with contempt because she is lesbian. It is yet another work that speaks to the challenges and discomfort that come with intersectional identities especially when one of those identities is still considered "unAfrican". The book details a number of the traditional practices and rituals that sangomas engage in as the healers in their communities while also describing the hardships and indignities that Nkabinde herself endures because of her sexuality.

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Nnedi Okorafor attends the 70th Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 17, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)

Nnedi Okorafor's 'Binti' Is Being Developed Into a TV Series at Hulu

The award-winning novella is coming to a screen near you.

Binti, the acclaimed book by award-winning Nigerian-American author Nnedi Okorafor, is being adapted into a TV series, set to premiere on Hulu. The Hollywood Reporter was the first to break the news.

The three-part, science fiction novella will be adapted for screen under the studio Media Res. The script is being written by both Okorafor and writer Stacy Osei-Kuffour, who has previously written for Watchmen and The Morning Show amongst others.

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Here are 10 Recent Books from Black South African Women Writers That You Need to Read

These 10 books have both shifted and unearthed new narratives within South Africa's literary world.

A few years ago, we celebrated the eight most influential Black South African women writers during Women's Month. The list featured the likes of Miriam Tlali, the first Black woman to publish a novel during Apartheid, Sweet Medicine author Panashe Chigumadzi and beloved poet Lebogang Mashile. We now bring you our selection of ten literary gems by various Black South African women writers which have shifted and even unearthed new narratives in the South African body of literature.


This list is in no particular order.

​"Collective Amnesia" by Koleka Putuma, published 2017

It is unprecedented for a poetry book in South Africa to go into a ninth print run and yet, Collective Amnesia has managed to do just that. The collection of poems, which compellingly explores religion, womanhood, Blackness, queerness, traditionalism, trauma and everything in between, has also been translated into Danish, German and Spanish. The winner of the 2018 Luschei Prize for African Poetry, Collective Amnesia has also been adopted as reading material for students at various institutions of higher learning across the country. It is a truly phenomenal and unrivalled first work by Putuma.

"The Ones with Purpose" by Nozizwe Cynthia Jele, published 2018

Jele's book centers themes of loss, grief and trauma. After the main character's (Fikile) sister dies from breast cancer, it is now up to her to ensure that certain rituals are performed before the burial. The Ones with Purpose highlights a lot of what Black people refer to as "drama" following the death of a loved ones. It highlights how often Black people are often not given the opportunity to simply grieve their loss but must instead attend to family politics and fights over property and rights. It also speaks to how, despite the rift that loss inevitably brings to Black families especially, togetherness also results because of it.

"These Bones Will Rise Again" by Panashe Chigumadzi, published 2018

Drawing from Audre Lord's concept of a biomythography in Zami: A New Spelling of My Name as well as Alice Walker's essay In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens, Chigumadzi's These Bones Will Rise Again explores the history of Zimbabwe's spirit medium and liberation fighter Mbuya Nehanda during the Chimurenga, Zimbabwe pre- and post-colonization and the Mugabe-regime. The book also pays homage to her late grandmother. Chigumadzi's commitment to retelling lost narratives in Zimbabwe's complex history is a radical act in itself in a world that seeks to tell the country's stories through a lens that centers any and everyone else except Zimbabweans.

"Reclaiming the Soil: A Black Girl's Struggle to Find Her African Self" by Rosie Motene, published 2018

Just as Matlwa's debut novel Coconut explores the cultural confusion and identity crises that result in Black children raised in a White world, so too does Motene's book. In contrast, however, Reclaiming the Soil: A Black Girl's Struggle to Find Her African Self is instead a non-fictional and biographical account set during Apartheid South Africa. As a young Black girl, Motene is taken in by the Jewish family her mother works for. And while she is exposed to more opportunities than she would have had she remained with her Black parents, hers is a story of tremendous sacrifice and learning to rediscover herself in a world not meant for her.

"Period Pain" by Kopano Matlwa, published 2017

Matlwa's third novel Period Pain honestly pulls apart the late Nelson Mandela's idea of a rainbow nation and non-racialism. Through the central character Masechaba, the reader is shown the reality of a country still stuck in the clenches of racism and inequality. Xenophobia, crime and the literal death sentence that is the public health system are all issues Matlwa explores in the novel. It's both a visceral account of the country from the vantage point of a Black person without the privileges and comforts of a White person as well as a heartfelt story about how even the most broken continue to survive. It's the story of almost every Black person in South Africa and that that story is even told to begin with, and told honestly, is important.

"Always Another Country" by Sisonke Msimang, published 2017

Msimang's memoir details her political awakening while abroad as well as her return to a South Africa on the cusp of democracy. Hers is not an ordinary account of Apartheid South Africa and its aftermath but rather a window into yet another side—the lives of South Africans living in exile and more so, what happens when they eventually return home. Admittedly, it's an honest account of class and privilege. Msimang describes the tight-knit sense of community built between families who were in exile and acknowledges that many of them came back to South Africa with an education—something of which South Africans living in the country were systematically deprived. It is an important addition to the multitude of stories of Apartheid-era South Africa, the transition into democracy and the birth of the so-called "born-free" generation.

"Khwezi: The Story of Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo" by Redi Tlhabi, published 2017

Redi Tlhabi's second non-fiction work tells the story of Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo, the woman who accused then President Jacob Zuma of rape back in 2005. "Khwezi" as she became known throughout the very public trial, was a symbol of the many women subjected to the abuse of men in positions of power. Similarly, she was treated as women like her are so often treated—ostracized by the community and forced to leave and start anew elsewhere. Tlhabi's account of Khwezi's life was a courageous one and one that tries to obtain justice despite the court's decisions. Although Khwezi died in October 2016, her memory continues to live on in the hearts of many South African women who refuse to be silenced by the dominant patriarchal structure. For that alone, this work is tremendously important.

"Intruders" by Mohale Mashigo, published 2018

When one thinks of African literature, stories of migration, colonization, loss, trauma, culture and traditions usually come to the fore. As a result, Afrofuturism or speculative fiction is a genre that is often sidelined and the stories therein left untold. Intruders is a collection of short stories by Mohale Mashigo that unearths these stories in a refreshing manner. From mermaids in Soweto, werewolves falling in love with vampires and a woman killing a man with her high-heeled shoes, Mashigo centers the proverbial "nobody" and pushes against the narrative that Africans can only tell certain kinds of stories but not others.

"Miss Behave" by Malebo Sephodi, published 2017

There is a reason why Sephodi's Miss Behave has resonated so strongly among women across the board. Drawing inspiration from Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's adage that "well-behaved women seldom make history", Miss Behave documents Sephodi's journey to smashing the stereotypes peddled by society in its relentless prescriptions of what women can and cannot be; can and cannot do. Naturally, she's labeled a "misbehaving" woman and hence the title of the book. Sephodi also explores themes of identity and gender issues while allowing women the opportunity to take charge of their own identities despite societal expectations. A book that wants women to discover their bad-ass selves and exercise agency over their lives? A must read.

"Rape: A South African Nightmare" by Professor Pumla Gqola, published 2015

This book is both brilliant in the way it unpacks the complex relationship that South Africa has with rape and distressing in the way this relationship is seen to unfold in reality. Rape is a scourge that South Africa has not been able to escape for years and the crisis only seems to be worsening. Written almost four years ago, Prof Gqola's profound analysis of rape and rape culture as well as autonomy, entitlement and consent is still as relevant today as it was back then—both a literary feat and a tragedy. There can be no single answer to why South Africa is and remains the rape capital of the world, but Rape: A South African Nightmare is by far one of the best attempts thus far.

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Bobi Wine Supporter Allegedly Killed by Ugandan Police During a Demonstration

The death comes after chaos ensued when the Ugandan police fired teargas and live ammunition to disperse a crowd of Bobi Wine supporters.

One person has been reported dead after Ugandan police reportedly attempted to disperse a crowd of Bobi Wine's supporters, according to the BBC.

The incident took place yesterday in the capital city of Kampala where the musician-turned-politician was planning to resume his consultative meetings at the Pope Paul Memorial Community Centre in Ndeeba, a neighbourhood in Kampala.

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Stormzy, YBN Cordae, Ari Lennox and Col3trane Added to Rocking The Daisies 2020 Lineup

Stormzy, YBN Cordae, Ari Lennox and Col3trane will be performing in South Africa during this year's edition of Rocking The Daisies.

Rocking The Daisies is celebrating its 15th year of existence this year. The popular music and lifestyle festival recently announced they have added four new names on the bills—UK's Stormzy and Col3trane alongside US rapper YBN Cordae and the singer Ari Lennox.

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