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African Renaissance

Sola Osofisan’s masterpiece ‘Blood Will Call’: A bowl of green apples, and a book review

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“And as imagination bodies forth the forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing; a local habitation and a name.”-William Shakespeare

‘Blood Will Call’ is a beautiful book that promises the planting of the seasons faded out with the elegant winter, complex, and complicated summer, spring, and autumns, escapism, hurting, and wounded lives.

People who have to take stock of the exit route out. There’s abuse, there’s mediocrity, there’s average, there’s people living on the edge, addicted to the void of waiting, the darkness of existentialism, the apron strings of the kitchen, the reincarnation of ghost, illusion, and apparition. Don’t think of me as volcano, the woman seems to say, the girlchild, clouds wherever they fix their eyes.

There is legacy.

But there are also proponents for change, grief-stricken hearts, impoverished, disadvantaged, and marginalized circumstances. There is forgiveness, tenderness, vertigo, karmic accounts, and debts that have to be paid, and the analysis of scandal, and love story. Rituals of innocence, and wisdom to keep them company. I always wonder about the writer’s routine. Just the thought of this writer hurt me.

I thought of the writer’s anguish, in much the same way I thought of all the characters in the book, their anguish. It played a major role for me. Then came their sadness in a supporting role. Is the writer a morning person, an afternoon person, or an evening person? Do they write into the lonely hours of early morning? What was the object of the writer’s affection, the subjects they framed so imaginatively?

For not the first time in my life, when it came to reviewing a book, I ran away. I danced away from the writer’s vision for his book. This book was a crazy love, and the people in this book didn’t often obey the laws of human nature, or the rules of the game, or know when to say please, or thank you. This book was a boat journey into fire, a river of fire, the flames licking at the canvas of my bare feet.

It was a crossing into the divide of sleeping, and dreaming, thought, and meditation, prayer, and vision. You see the writer’s mind at work, a filmmaker’s vision, a poet’s meditation, a short story writer’s dreaming away. So, the book is acrobatic, intense, hectic, and there’s conflict, and drama that never leaves the page, but you get taken from point to principle, from one identity crisis to the next.

The women have an uninhibited desire for courage, savvy, sass, even when they are at their most vulnerable. They are armed with intuition, persuasion, greatness, supernatural memory, and desire. I paid critical attention to these women, these mothers with their large haunting eyes, they’re not party people, they’re not beach people, they’re people who go off to war every day of their lives.

Yet, there’s something beautiful about them. In their pain, their humiliation, the drudgery of their lives, they take you from the beginning of this book of short stories to the end, and you are wanting them to overcome their circumstances through any means necessary. And I think to myself, this is a Frantz Fanon, Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Ben Okri writing here. What now of the valley we’re in.

We’re dreaming that our books, our pen, our sword if you will, will hit the mark, will hit the ground running, and there’s the belief that our books will fascinate audiences, and we dream as Africans from the east to the west in poetry, we write our novels, and short stories in poetry, we envision that now is the time. The plausible time for the possible, and impossible, the time for Africans not to be soft targets.

It is difficult for African novelists, and short story writers to publish their books. The world has gone gaga over Nigerian female writers, but where are the male writers. They’re there. It’s just that favor, and increase has yet to work for them in the same way that it has for someone like Chimamanda Adichie. Sola Osofisan, I don’t think that you really understand what you’ve done. You’ve changed everything. I see African on the screen of my mind. I see Nigeria on the screen of my mind.

The writer taught me that God will put entities in your path either to obstruct you, destroy you, sabotage you, destroy you, or uplift, empower you, and make you selfless, giving, gifted visionary. The book is a journey. The book is a spiritual journey. Sola Osofisan has a destiny, a kingdom, and in these pages, I took a knowledge from, lessons from my father, stories from my mother. There’s personal fulfillment here on these pages.

There were chapters from my childhood. Things I didn’t want to remember, but I remembered the lesson. Don’t waste the pain. Kill your enemies with kindness. Things happen in life. Things happen in Africa.

Mostly negative things happen to women, and girl children in Africa.

But they wake up in the morning, the country is still there. There’s a truly wonderful feeling in the air for me right now. Sola Osofisan is Herculean, an Aristotle-in-the-making.

Anybody who writes is creative, but few writers, creatives are historians, researchers, perfect illustrators at interpreting the past injustices of their country. I don’t need the world to love me after eight books. I have the same message for Sola Osofisan. Go on, comrade. Don’t quit, compatriot. Write as if you are living on the edge of the world, as if it’s the end times. Don’t give up your passion.

I’ve discovered the African Renaissance in Sola Osofisan, his brave world, his artistry, his flawless writing, profound technique, and style, and there’s chaos, hysteria, spiritual sensitivity that he brings to his writing. It is dazzling, and sure, hectic, and pure, as he describes the landscape of life, of what matters, mapping it all out for the reader, and it seems as if I have waited forever to read a book like this. There’s conditioned thinking, church, indoctrinated religion, theologians that are still there.

From the first page the characters hover in plain sight like the music of the night. They are anointed, and enigmatic (nurturers, caretakers, products of neo-colonialism that awaken others to insight, loneliness, curbing their enthusiasm for the disgruntled, the downtrodden, miserable pain of their lives). There is something frightening about the reality and non-reality of these stories.

How these people are blessed by their enemies even. The stories are filled with movement like dance, moving rhetoric that represents the unseen system, and a country that is as captivating as a symphony orchestra. I think of the aspects of almost prophetic vision that the people in these stories have. Forgive them. Forgive Sola Osofisan for taking you there. When you’re exhausted, take a break, inhale the aromas of the food cooking on the fire, exhale the happy days that these people will never have.

You just know that you are in the hands of a master-storyteller. More than imprint burned on brain, more like a ghost. I miss you more than most on some days, just thinking of the very thought of you. The book came to me in blooming flowers, in energetic silhouettes, in evolving waves, in vibrations, marking its intelligence in rotation in fulltime observation, great expectations of greatness in study.

Yes, the awareness of something evil is also out there asking for the taking. We live our lives in denial. That denial has become a pastime whenever we are figuring out the hurting in our lives, who was involved with the hurt, why’d it has to impact us so, hit us so hard.

I love this writer who displays in one heart the fugitive spirit of humanity, in one soul survival, and endurance, and fear and anxiety in the rural wilderness of the countryside in Africa. This is not an African book by far. It is a Nigerian book.

Nigerian creatives are using every story that they’ve heard from childhood, that has doors that lead to intimacy, and frustration, that navigate you towards health, and homesickness, a basket case, and the decay found in the wild. Camp out in ‘Blood Will Call’ but don’t get too comfortable. Soon a forcefield will hit you. The man you don’t want to marry, risk, adventure, and radiance. You can never predict the direction in which this writer goes. It is not the weather.

This writer eats the crumbs from our masters’ table, the dust of the colonial masters’ until it feels like home, with his angel tongue. I am a writer who understands the anatomy of loneliness, and the explicit, controversial, seed-language of blood. The book will grant you a revolutionary kiss on the lips, it is intellectual-magic, on so many levels political, breaking and un-breaking diplomacy, negotiation, and reconciliation.

Now a few words about Sola Osofisan, the writer of ‘Blood Will Call’.

In Africa, in tales of folklore, in the tradition, culture, background, heritage of oral storytelling, passing stories from one generation to the next, there is always a woman involved. Now we have a man. Not just any man. We have a maverick-extraordinaire who knows when to make a gracious exit in-and-out of these relationships. He’s conscientizing an entire generation.

Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominated shortlisted and longlisted poet Abigail George is a recipient of four writing grants from the National Arts Council, the Centre for Book and ECPACC. She briefly studied film, writes for The Poet, is an editor at MMAP and Contributing Writer at African Writer. She is a blogger, essayist, writer of several short stories, novellas and has ventured out to write for film with two projects in development . She was recently interviewed for Sentinel, and the BBC.

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African Renaissance

The YCCC and How It Changed the Future of South Africa

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This was the pre-apartheid education that we received when we were still at school. I was 13, 14 years of age at the time of the promulgation of the Group Areas Act in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, which then led to the forced removals and people literally being ‘dumped’ in the Northern Areas of Port Elizabeth. Dr Neville Alexander came to Port Elizabeth on two occasions. The YCCC-organisation (Yu Chi Chan Club) was primarily based on guerrilla warfare as is expounded by the leader of the Chinese Communist Party Mao Se Tung. It elucidates in his long walk to freedom, as well as his account in the new democracy as is expounded by his books and writings. These ideologies played a key role in formulating policy in the fight of guerrilla warfare against the Nationalist Party government. It is imperative to mention that the textbook for the organisation was Guerrilla Warfare by Che Guevara which was slavishly followed by discussions in the organisation. Other books included Partisan Warfare by Lenin, as well as Das Kapital by Karl Marx.

This took a lot of preparation and in-depth discussion groups took place based on these classic writers. It was imperative that these books were simplified and applied to the unique situation in South Africa. Dr Alexander and Ali Fataar, the then banned member of the executive of the NUM (New Unity Movement) came to Port Elizabeth to do exploratory work in creating fertile political groundwork for establishing the NEUM (Non-European Unity Movement) groupings. They visited areas like Korsten, Schauderville at night where they held underground discussion groups on the non-collaboration and the ‘Ten-Point Programme’ which at that early stage were very important and relevant documents. These were lengthy discussion groups which took place throughout the night. However, it crystallised into a solid branch of the NEUM (Non-European Unity Movement), Korsten branch. Further exploratory work was conducted in the area before these two stalwarts could return to Cape Town.

As a young student (16 years of age) we had the opportunity of meeting with people of the calibre of Dr Alexander at a very early stage in our political careers. This took place while we attended the CPSU (Cape Peninsula Students Union) group at our residence in Lloyd Street, Cape Town. This group grew rapidly as more and more progressive students became interested in the finer progressive political ideologies of the CPSU. We met regularly every fortnight and the discussions took place until the early hours of the morning. The topics included Bantu Education, Coloured Education, Bush University, Students Representative Council issues and the like. We also organised regular meetings on camping trips on Table Mountain where extensive politicisation took place on advanced political ideologies such as capitalism, imperialism and world ideologies of the day. We became acutely aware that our home got the attention of the security police. However, this did not deter us from becoming acutely aware of the intrusion of capitalism and imperialism and the like. It was at a very young age that I became involved in student politics which has its origin in political activity.

The forced removals, the Group Areas Act, the political upheaval caused havoc amongst particularly the young who were influenced by teachers who belonged to the Anti-CAD (Anti-Coloured Affairs Department) and the TLSA (Teachers League of South Africa). The city was ablaze with political activity which in a short space of time demonstrated deep into the youth. This needless to say was influenced by political youth in the Western Cape. What was affecting the students in the Western Cape was, alas, also affecting the students in the Cape, particularly Gqeberha. At times, the situation became extremely volatile and out of control. Organisations like the NUM (National Unity Movement), Anti-CAD (Anti-Coloured Affairs Department), TLSA (Teachers League of South Africa) reigned supreme. It was also apparent that the ratepayer’s organisations which were formed to fight against the rapid erosion of management committees.

Many public meetings were held with F.A. Landman and Dennis Brutus (vice-chairman), who were at pains to point out the disadvantages of the Group Areas Act. Many groups were formed which included the ANC, the PAC, the Unity Movement and allied groups were mobilised. It became apparent that the Group Areas Act was not going to go through a very easy passage. The organisations were not unified in their actions and this gave the opposition deep inroads into progressive thinkers. As a student group at the University College of the Western Cape we were invited to SOYA (Society of Young Africa) meetings in the Mowbray Minor Hall on a Sunday afternoon. For the first time we witnessed serious altercations among the members of the NEUM (Non-European Unity Movement), and this included Dr Neville Alexander and Dr Kenny Abrahams.

The topic of discussion was on Angola and the chairlady of the meeting Miss Wilcox clearly did not understand her mandate. Dr Neville Alexander and Dr Kenny Abrahams tackled her on the political aspects of FRELIMO Liberation Front of Mozambique). It appeared that two factions had now developed in the meeting. It was really a fisticuffs kind of thing. It appeared as if Dr Alexander and Dr Abrahams were at loggerheads with the present discussion leaders of the main group. The matter came to a head when the chairperson asked Dr Alexander and Dr Abrahams to leave the meeting. However, before that could take place Dr Abrahams announced to the meeting that all those who believed in democracy would leave the meeting. I was one of the Western Cape students who felt urged to leave the meeting with Alexander and Abrahams, which we did and met again at No. 2 Swiss Road in Lansdowne for a follow-up meeting. Officially, at this meeting there was information about the YCCC (Yu Chi Chan Club). Dr Alexander and Dr Abrahams felt no animosity which the meeting gave them as they left.

Dr Alexander was described as a dark horse by my father. As with all leaders, the maverick visionaries and profound thinkers, brilliant intellectuals, and having the primitive wonders of both wisdom and intelligence, for these men ahead of their time their faith was shared only by their comrades in the struggle. These stalwarts have taught me that it is the tendency of every man, woman and child of every race, of every faith to embrace every other man, woman and child of every race, and of every other faith. Indeed, it is rare. Indeed, it is exceptional when it happens. Language is a bridge. The language is not of love, but of respect. It is the flesh and blood of mother tongue language that divides us. It is respect that conquers self-pity, arrogance and narcissism. There is no one identity. Yet there is one moral code. Multiculturalism has changed the order of history, moral ambiguity, cast a spell on the doctrines and phenomena of religion. In humanity, in this human world, these leaders have taught us purpose on earth, the awareness of self, lack of ego and the finding of our identity in existential relativism, pedagogical and counterfeit phenomenology. Multiply achievement and you get the candy shop of the poetic horrors of over-abundance, the romantic weariness of decay and the complex strength of popularity.

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African Renaissance

Truth and the third wave of the pandemic: To be vaccinated or not to be vaccinated

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Photo: Atharva Tulsi/Unsplash

I have endured the worst possible case scenario. Being locked up in a mental institution for six months while in my late teens, early twenties. Even though I was of sound body, mind and soul. I am 42 years old now and I haven’t come all the way back from that experience. Everyone wrote me off when I returned home to Port Elizabeth as Gqeberha was known in those days but worse was to follow. Inhumane treatment from those closest to me, rejection from society. I was taught that I had a mental disability and would never be able to work again, hold down a steady job or earn a monthly income. I was told in no uncertain terms that I had to now live on the fringes of society since I would be unable to make a positive contribution to society. For twenty years this continued. I had to all intents and purposes not only given up on myself, my personal success, development of my potential and fulfillment and engagement in a relationship that would lead ultimately to my future happiness. The goal of marriage and having a child, bringing children into the world and raising a family was not only put into the distant past, I thought that it would always be non-existent for me.

I would spend my time listening to sad music, love songs on the radio and wonder why it was not me caught up in the scenario of having a relationship with the opposite sex. I sank even further into the pit of the hell in f despair and hardship. I virtually had lost control over my life, received a disability grant which I did not spend on anything which I personally needed. Family considered me to be the proverbial black sheep of the family. When I got angry at the way I was treated I was certified. My rights were taken away from me. I was verbally, mentally and emotionally abused. I did everything in my power to be loved and accepted by both my maternal and paternal family which is why I believe so strongly today in dismantling the stigma that surrounds issues concerning mental illness and depression mania, euphoria and elation (however mild or all-consuming it might be). At this late stage of my life I have become an advocate for mental wellness. To stop the fight and curb the alienation and isolation of sufferers of mental illness. I want people from all walks of life to realise that people with mental illnesses can enrich our lives and can make a positive contribution to society.

I myself have always sought solace in writing. I have found it to be an instrument for change and therapeutic as well.

I have firsthand knowledge and experience of being called anything from schizophrenic to being diagnosed with bipolar mood disorder and because of the heavy psychotropic medication I have taken over the years I have had a host of illnesses presenting themselves. Chronic fatigue syndrome, insomnia, an underactive thyroid, chronic kidney disease, gout and heart disease. These diseases manifested themselves early on in my life before the onset of middle age when they would be more prevalent in someone who would be prone to these sorts of illnesses because of not living a healthy lifestyle.

I take each day as it comes now and live in the moment. I have my good days. I have my bad days. I have a mean temper and constantly have to watch what I eat, watch what I say and how I react to people who treat me as him I am a second class citizen because of everything I have been through in my life. Truth be told I always knew I was different. The depression started in childhood for me. I was always an overachiever. I would come home in the afternoons after school but no one ever helped me with my homework, told me either that they were proud of me or believed in me or loved me for that matter.

Everyday I am a work in progress. It is tough dealing with moodswing but that is the currency I deal in and the territory that borders my sense of self-control.

I have been called many names. None of them pretty or lovely. I have had zero support from my immediate family and my estranged family has complete written me off and washed their hands off of me thinking there is nothing they can do for me. This has been very hurtful and even has made made me feel quite suicidal over the years and in my hour if need, my hours of silence, pain and collective trauma I turned to God, prayer and meditation in my hour of need. At the time of the outbreak of the pandemic I got corona and was admitted to the psych ward at Provincial Hospital here in Gqeberha. I had no medical aid and was once again at the mercy of the system but I survived hell and that harrowing experience again to live to tell the tale of how to overcome the impossible, to live and to learn, to remain humble and kind even in the face of adversity and cruelty.

Loneliness, abject poverty, homelessness can either kill you or make you realise that you are powerful beyond measure and I have realised that I am powerful beyond measure.

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African Renaissance

Thoughts From the Frontline

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Photo: Keenan Constance/Unsplash

“Hip/Hop, Trap. I would describe my music as different, unique, compared to what I hear in the music industry in South Africa. It is a different sound of genre based on hip hop. In my downtime I listen to artists like Mexikodro, Playboi Carti, Diego Money, Pyrex Whippa, Lil Gotit and Sahbabii. In my life my family has been and still is a major influence, I just want to see them happy and stress free. I want to be successful so that they can spend the rest of lives living comfortably. I chose music because I believe that it is something I’m good at. I wouldn’t call myself a musical genius, or say that I’m talented musically because I’m not but, I have taken the time to learn everything that I know today, I started as a rapper, but now I am a producer as well, a very good one if I should say, I mix and master vocals, well I try to. It is still something I am learning on a daily basis and I believe that one day if not soon, I will understand that aspect of music. The guys who I record with are so gifted at what they do, we really inspire each other to take it to the next level. I would be lying if I said that I inspire myself, well maybe I do, I don’t know, however what I do know is that we can go to the next level together because nowadays you rarely see a duo or a group of rappers in the South African music industry, there are 4 of us in our group including others who aren’t full time as yet, I think that makes the odds better for us to take it to the next level as opposed to being a solo” SUPREME ZEE, CEO OF Holidae Don’t Stop!

“What inspires me to take it to the next level is basically my daughter, Family and my everyday experiences growing up and living in Westbury losing friends and family to gang violence had a huge effect on me since a young age I’ve been through hell and back if I may describe in short and I’ve realized, to make it out you really need to dig deep. This is also one of the main reasons why I started writing music. I love Music, it is my passion that is mainly why I chose to make music, ever since a young age I’ve just been through the worst writing music and articulating every word I write is therapeutic. Manifesting and having faith in God has carried me through. Major influences in my life remains God, my baby girl, my family and obviously my Team Holidae Dont Stop! We always encourage one another to do our best we definitely do bring out the best in each other and I’d say the beats that supreme Zee creates brings out the best in me personally and it’s also one of the major influences in my music career it’s only elevated since the moment we started. In my down time I listen to All types of music mostly Gospel & HDS. I would describe my music as being one in a million very versatile, real and unusually different from the usual and it has an unorthodox flow and style to it so you can literally expect only the best” TheGR8ACE, CEO and co-founder of Holidae Dont Stop!

My inspiration comes from knowing that I have a God given talent and my friends (HDS) and family that motivates me day to day to do better. I chose music because as a hobby it is something I love doing which started out in high school where I had friends that used to rap over beats and I’d just stand within the circle and listen to their rhymes and it became to amuse me when I found out that there are people in my community creating their own music, whereas in 2019, I linked with the crew Holidae Dont Stop! and it has been a wonderful journey ever since! Learning and growing at the same time. My mother has played a role as one of my biggest inspirations including friends (HDS) have been a major Influence in my life, for they always pushed me to be a better me. Not giving up on me and providing not bad advice but love and positivity. I’ve been in difficult situation in the past and I am just trying to make a better standard of living for my family, my friends as well as my community (Westbury). In my down time I listen to various genres like Rock, Rnb, Hip/Hop, Rap, Emo Rap. I would describe our music as Western Plug for it derives from Hip-hop with an offbeat including 808s and guitar and piano samples that Supreme Zee (Producer) recreates and when hearing the beat, I can automatically put my heart on it.” Bando -recording Artist at Holidae Dont Stop!

 To conclude this, we are all from Johannesburg South Africa as one of our members spread across as far as Cape Town, temporarily. Our member who are not full time are – Leiph Camp (Splaash66) Stock broker, Razaak Benjamin (Glock) Salesman and Marion Reyners (Marion The Great) Facilitator. “Our music is Bold, Iconic and timeless” TheGr8ce. Our crew is based in Jozi (Johannesburg) although we do not have a manager as yet. Our follow up record will sound similar to the “Western Plug tape” that we have recently released, followed by 3 singles. Plug is a genre that derives itself from Hip-Hop and our next single will drop in 2 weeks. The link to our music is on all platforms and the Love and support would be much appreciated. We literally wont stop! –

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