Literature

Listen to the Cheeky Natives' Interview with Nthikeng Mohlele, Author of 'Michael K'

The author speaks about his novel, the writing process and his favorite writers.

Nthikeng Mohlele is a South African author who has thus far written five novels. His novel, Michael K, is a response to fellow author JM Coetzee's Life and Times of Michael K.


Nthikeng Mohlele sat down with Dr Alma-Nalisha Cele, co-host of the popular literary podcast, Cheeky Natives, which interviews Black authors about their bodies of work.

In the interview, he spoke about many things including his recent work, Michael K. Veteran novelist, playwright and poet Zakes Mda, described Mohlele's Michael K as "a work of reflective intensity, re-imagining character from JM Coetzee's world of stark and sparse prose".

READ: In Conversation: Zakes Mda on No Story Being too Taboo or Sacred to Tell

JM Coetzee's novel tells the story of Michael K who sets out to take his ailing mother back to her rural home. However, she dies during the journey. Michael K is left alone in an anarchic world of ruthless armies. After he is captured and imprisoned, he escapes and attempts to live as best a dignified a life as he knows how.

Speaking on his response to Cotzee's novel in Michael K, Mohlele says:

"I think Michael K is the representative of the unsaid and the misunderstood. He functions primarily as a very metaphorical figure from where I am sitting. But it also speaks to a very silent thing, which is the interdependence of generations of thinkers and writers."

In addition, Mohlele also speaks about the writing process and the inspiration behind Michael K, the importance of young readers and writers reading contemporary works as well as some of his own favorite writers which include Niq Mhlongo and Zukiswa Wanner.

Asked about the myth of Black people not reading or buying books and the sometimes exclusionary world of publishing, he responded:

"There are commercial considerations, publishers are in business. There are policy issues in terms of your arts and culture department. I believe, humbly, that a lot needs to be done in terms of the promotion and support of the arts and policy that will enable writers to enter mainstream publishing. On Black people not buying books, that is untrue. That is a reckless statement. Black people read. I was taught by Black professors who referred me to a whole lot of other Black people."

Mohlele also shared a list of five books he would recommend to a young 16-year-old to read. His list included: Things Fall Apart by the late Nigerian great Chinua Achebe, Detained by the veteran Kenyan writer Ngugi Wa Thiong'o, Kaffir Boy: An Autobiography by South African writer Mark Mathabane, the poetry of the late South African Professor Keorapetse Kgositsile and the works of the late Zimbabwean writer Dambudzo Marechera.

You can purchase Michael K here.

READ: Meet the Dynamic Lawyer-Doctor Duo Behind the Riveting Cheeky Natives Podcast


Listen to the full interview below:



Still from Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim's TED Talk

Watch Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim's  TED Talk on How Indigenous Knowledge Can Help Fight Climate Change

The Chadian activist—and one of OkayAfrica's 100 Women 2020—says traditional knowledge, as practiced in her native Mbororo community, is one of the keys to combatting climate change.

In a new TED Talk, climate activist, geographer and one of OkayAfrica's 100 Women 2020, Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, discusses the role that indigenous knowledge can play in combatting climate change.

During the 13-minute talk, Ibrahim emphasizes how the exploration and acceptance of various knowledge systems–including those that fall outside of the scope of typical scientific research–can add to our understanding of ways to protect the environment. "I think, if we put together all the knowledge systems that we have -- science, technology, traditional knowledge -- we can give the best of us to protect our peoples, to protect our planet, to restore the ecosystem that we are losing," says Ibrahim.

Keep reading... Show less
Photo by Gallo Images/Brenton Geach.

South Africans Condemn Police Brutality During National Lockdown

A number of videos have emerged on social media allegedly showing the intimidation and assault of several Black South Africans by law enforcement.

South Africa recently began a nationwide lockdown in an effort to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has been deployed across the nation to aid the police in ensuring that the rules of the lockdown are upheld. However, disturbing footage has emerged on social media allegedly depicting law enforcement agents assaulting Black South Africans.

Keep reading... Show less
Image by Sabelo Mkhabela.

This Is What It Takes for South African Musicians to Succeed Abroad

Jeremy Loops, Shimza, Moonchild Sanelly and GoodLuck discuss what it took to build their names overseas.

Disclaimer: The conversation which this piece makes reference to took place before the COVID-19 pandemic hit South Africa.

"I said it for 10 years that I'm going to work with Beyoncé, and everybody laughed for those 10 years. And I said it with conviction. Today, I'm on a Grammy-nominated album [on a song] with Beyoncé right now," says Moonchild Sanelly referring to the song "MY POWER" in which she's featured in alongside Busiswa, Nija, Yemi Alade, Tierra Whack and of course Queen B herself. The track is a fan-favorite from the Lion King: The Gift soundtrack album curated by Beyoncé. Moonchild is pulling out these receipts to elaborate a point she just made about self-belief which helped her build a career that's recognized globally, a feat very few South African artists have achieved.

A few of those artists— Jeremy Loops, Shimza and Juliet Harding (a member of the versatile electronic band GoodLuck)—are on the podium alongside Moonchild during the Midem Africa Conference in Langa, Cape Town towards the end of February. The four musicians are in conversation with Trenton Birch, musician and founder of Bridges for Music Academy, sharing their secrets to breaking into the highly competitive and advanced music markets of mainly Europe and the US.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.

popular.