While most might associate Mamelodi with old infamous lyrics Banyana/Majita ‘a Mamelodi ‘arata di Social. It is safer and more enriching to quote MoAfrika Mokgathi Mvubu when she said “Re bana ba Tshwane fela ga re tshwane” which encapsulates the rich diversity of this township.
A week ago I attended Mamelodi’s first ever book market which consisted of poets and published authors. Founded by 11 young people who are writers, publishers and readers. The book market was almost postponed but as one of the founders Phindile Nqana said “We can’t fail to start.”
Among the attendees was Mamelodi legend, author of Evasive State and Mamelodi: Reflection of a Lifetime, Ntate Aubrey Magase. He shared with us a very brief history of the township and Pretoria at large. Published author MoAfrika spoke of the importance of editing your work and not losing the essence of what you were writing about when someone else edits your work.
Godfrey Mnisi the Founder of Afro Zwanaka, a literature house in Soshanguve, had two of his books on display at the Market stalls. “One of my books, Cosmology of Success talks about dreams under the moon, must compliment Dreams under the sun, which loosely translated means ‘what you dream at night must be complimented by actions during the days'” he says.
“It’s beautiful that black people are writing themselves into existence, the challenge is that we don’t know how or where to sell our books or advertise them. The culture of buying books in the townships needs to be emphasized by having a consistent number of book markets being hosted in townships. There is no doubt, my people are writing …we need to start buying books and actually read them. We’ve already started, we can only go up from here” says Godfrey.
While strolling around the stalls I met Khutjo and Kgothatso Swafo, an interesting team of siblings from Soshanguve. The pair run a stall called Parks & Read. They go to public parks where most children in the townships play at and gather them around, introduce themselves and share books, stories and take turns in reading to them. “We rotate around Soshanguve at the moment; we visit one park 10 times before moving to the next one. We love working with kids and what better way to do it while helping them advance their reading skills, we read books of all South African languages” Khutjo says. Their business is only a year old.
Our Townships are truly fortunate to have spaces such as Mo’s Coffee Shop as an art friendly space and gives Mamelodi residence a platform to showcase their talents. The coffee shop will host the up-coming market next month.
It was English South African writer Sheila Fugard who in 1991 said “The Writing scene in South Africa is quite extraordinary. A flood of raw material by a population which was silenced for so long, a really necessary outlet. Poetry, workshops, theatre and short stories abound but no novels.”