Arts + Culture

6 New South African Books to Add to Your Reading List

The most exciting books by South African writers from the first half of 2016.

Winter in South Africa is a great time to snuggle up and get your reading on. Last year, South African literature saw the rise of a new generation of writers releasing their debut novels, from singer Nakhane Touré’s Piggy Boy’s Blues to Panashe Chigumadzi’s Sweet Medicine.

2016 has been no disappointment. Young South Africans are putting pen to paper and telling their own stories. We’ve rounded up some of the most exciting new books by South African writers from the first half of 2016.

"The Yearning" – Mohale Mashigo

Photo: Sydelle Willow Smith

Published By: Pan Macmillan South Africa

Lauded as a “A bewitching addition to the current South African literary boom” by South Africa’s own beloved author, Zakes Mda, "The Yearning" is Mohale Mashigo’s debut novel. Mashigo, who moonlights as Cape Town singer-songwriter Black Porcelain and radio moderator Carol Mashigo, began working on the book in 2006. It tells the story of Marubini, a young woman living in Cape Town, who has a seemingly perfect life. But when her past comes back to haunt her, she must begin a journey of self-discovery and fill a yearning that’s both spiritual and cultural.

“The story of Marubini is really about how her parents loved her so much, they had to hold on to her so tight that they caused some cracks as well,” Mashigo told The Daily Vox. “When I was writing this book, I didn’t know that I had my own yearning. I questioned whether I was living my life the way I want to or living the way my parents want me to. Am I trying to please them or hiding from being a writer? Through this, I realised there were many things that brought me to this point.”

"The Girl Without A Sound" – Buhle Ngaba

The team behind "The Girl Without A Sound"

Published By: Self-published

"The Girl Without A Sound" is a book for black girls everywhere, as author Buhle Ngaba calls it. It tells the story of a “voiceless” young girl on a journey to find her voice.

“The Girl Without A Sound was born out of defiance and as a response to the fairytales we were told as little girls,” the book’s team writes in an email. “Stories about white princesses with blue eyes, flowing locks of hair and an overwhelming awareness of their beauty.”

“More than that, we want it to be a healing balm for all who read it.. For the black female bodies that are dismissed or violated in a white, patriarchal and racist reality...As an act of restoring power and agency to young black girls in South Africa.”

"The Girl Without A Sound" is available for free download as an ebook in English and Setswana. You can also pick up your hard copy here.

"Three Sisters" – Tshego Monaisa

Published By: Porcupine Press

In "Three Sisters," scriptwriter and novelist Tshego Monaisa tells the stories of Millicent, Lesego and Mpho, three women who exist in parallel universes but are all in abusive relationships.

Millicent is a 45 year old housewife living a lavish lifestyle thanks to her husband Paul. But when money troubles strike, Paul becomes increasingly violent towards Millicent. Lesego is a 23-year-old Johannesburg transplant whose life changes when her ex-boyfriend arrives in town. 32-year-old Mpho is murdered by her boyfriend Kgotso, and the question remains whether her mother will avenge her death or let it go.

“In writing this book, my appeal to women is that we open up, let the mask fall and speak about things that are negative and affecting us,” Monaisa told SABC. “If you are going through abuse then speak up, it could save your life.”

"Always Anastacia: A Transgender Life In South Africa" – Anastacia Tomson

Anastacia Tomson. Courtesy of Jonathan Ball Publishers.

Published By: Jonathan Ball Publishers

"Always Anastacia" is the memoir of a transgender woman born into a Jewish family in Johannesburg and raised by her parents as a boy. Anastacia Tomson, who graduated as a medical doctor from the University of Pretoria, tells the story of her transition from being a man to a woman and finally being able to be herself. “I don’t have to hide my disgust anymore at being called ‘boet’ or ‘sir’. I no longer have to tolerate any references to my deadname,” Tomson says in the book. This firsthand account of a South African transgendered life explores the complex topics of gender and sexuality in contemporary southern Africa.

"Writing What We Like: A New Generation Speaks" – edited by Yolisa Qunta

Yolisa Qunta, editor of "Writing What We Like: A New Generation Speaks"

Published By: Tafelberg

"Writing What We Like" is a collection of works by young and emerging South African thought leaders. The book offers a glimpse into a range of topics affecting South Africa, and boasts contributions from the likes of singer Simphiwe Dana, comedian David Kau and Sivuyile Ngesi. “In this country I feel oftentimes we don't engage each other” the book's editor, Yolisa Qunta, told SABC. “Maybe we can start having conversations on how to make South Africa better.”

"I’m A Different Mess Than I Was Yesterday" – Msizi E. Nkosi

Published By: Self-published

"I’m A Different Mess Than I Was Yesterday" is the true story of TV and radio producer Msizi E. Nkosi and his journey from humble beginnings in Kwa-Zulu Natal to dropping out of varsity and still making it in South Africa’s cut-throat entertainment industry.

Courtesy of Mohale Mashigo.

Mohale Mashigo's Electric Afro-Futuristic Offering, Intruders, Centers the Story of the Nobody

Mohale Mashigo on telling stories about the 'insignificant people' and learning to navigate mental illness without shame.

Born-and-raised in Soweto, Mohale Mashigo comes from a family of storytellers but never really thought she would write, let alone about Black people, until she read the works of Tsitsi Dangarembga and Zakes Mda. Like so many Black kids, she didn't know that a writer was something she could be. Mohale has since gone on to produce bestsellers including The Yearning and Beyond the River and even a comic book called Kwezi. Her most recent work, Intruders, is a brilliant body of speculative fiction, a genre that is still overlooked in South Africa. It includes stories of a mermaid in Soweto, a woman who kills a man with her high heeled shoes, werewolves falling in love with vampires and even an apocalypse. Mohale is the recent winner of the Vodacom Journalist of the Year 2018 award in the category of multiplatform.

We caught up with her to speak about Intruders, being a writer and navigating mental illness in a way that makes her feel supported and still able to celebrate her victories.

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'Word to the Womyn of Colour' is a powerful storybook of Black womyn’s magic and creative prowess.

For Palesa Kgasane, a never-ending pursuit to curate African stories finds one of its platforms in Mzansi Moodboard.

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Still from Burna Boy's Tiny Desk concert video via NPR.

Watch Burna Boy's Mellowed-Out 'Tiny Desk' Concert

Watch the 'African Giant' run through some of his hits like 'Gbona,' 'Ye' and more for NPR's Tiny Desk concert series.

Burna Boy is the latest artist to grace NPR's famous Tiny Desk.

The Nigerian "afrofusion" star took to the set for a mellowed out performance of four of his biggest tracks. Getting straight to business, the artist opened his set with a toned down rendition of his single "Gbona" before heading into the socially-aware "Wetin Man Go Do." It's much calmer of a performance than we're used to seeing from the artist.

Next he performs a funky version of "Dangote," before rounding his set out with his magnum opus of sorts "Ye." He's backed by the band The Outsiders and vocalist Christina Matovu throughout.

Burna Boy has had a stellar year, releasing his seminal album African Giant, performing at Coachella and winning several awards—including 'Best African Act' at the BET Awards—in the process.

Check out his full Tiny Desk performance below, and revisit a recent Tiny Desk performance from British-Nigerian rapper Dave from last week and check out Burna Boy's okay acoustics performance of 'Anybody' from August.

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Simi in "Selense" (Youtube)

Watch Simi's Beautiful Music Video For 'Selense'

Premiere: Simi shares the upbeat new video for "Selense," a song about time which draws inspiration from classic highlife.

Nigeria's Simi comes through with the new music video for her recent single, "Selense."

The song, which sees her sing about using your time and years on this earth preciously, gets a beautiful new video that follows Simi's verses about different characters who may or may not be spending their hours in the best way.

The upbeat new music video, which was directed by Adasa Cookey, is getting premiered here on OkayAfrica today.

"'Selense' is a song about time," Simi tells OkayAfrica. "The song draws inspiration from classic African highlife. A timeless classic that is perfect for all seasons."

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