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COVID-19, global rag Africa’s you literary guns

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2020 showed all of us flames. The world underwent a series of traumas that saw us changing the ways in which we exist. We need to heal, more so now because our pain runs deep. Yet, instead of most us using this time to reconnect with ourselves, we are still busy doing this and that – most of us trying not to die of starvation (instead of COVID-19). The benefit of this global lockdown (or slowdown) has been that a few of us have managed to get back to things that fulfill us; and for me, that is writing.

The responsibility of curating a publication was not an easy one, especially because I have not
done it before; but because I relish a good challenge, here we are: a full edition on our hands.
In this edition we go into the heart of Mohale Mashigo’s work. This edition is not in any way
academic or intellectual. In fact, we wanted to avoid this because I work for an academic, I am a student and I did not want curating this edition/issue to feel like work. So I opted for the road most treaded, which is the easiest to navigate.

This edition is for every reader – you can read it for your mother or your kids! The quality of work herein has not changed. We have managed to collect work from a diverse group of writers and collaborators, most of whom are familiar names at BKO ….

Mpush Ntabeni reminds us why this global pandemic should give us new energy for the new year in his stort story Street on Crutches. BKO’s regular book reviewer and contributor is Rolland Simpi Motaung – no relation to me. His review on Prof Tshilidzi Marwala’s Closing the Gap is timeous and apt.

PJ Mofokeng’s Q&A with Mohale Mashigo opens the path to the author’s writing, while Ngozichuka Chukura reminds us that art in Africa can be found in even in the simplest, most mundane objects.

Ncebakazi Manzi’s take on Chike Edozien’s Lives of Great Men is a perfect example of how fiction
slips itself into our real lives. Her ability to write comparatively places our experiences of
displacement and shifting existence of poverty and landlessness into sharp contrast and relevance.
Tumelo Moleleki’s piece reminds us that as women, we still do not enjoy most freedoms that are
enjoyed by our counterparts. She asks relevant questions about women’s survival – especially in the
midst of a global pandemic of these unprecedented proportions.

Sabata-mpho Mokae is a hard-working writer and intellectual and this time he shares his work in
progress – for the first time. He is a proponent of writing in African languages and in this issue he paves the way for us through his ground- breaking transcreation (translation) of Mariama Bâ’s So Long A Letter to Setswana’s Dipogisego. I am not only excited about this piece because it is written in Setswana. What excites me about it, is his brevity – to take such a big chance with his writing. To
translate is one thing; to transcreate is another. Bâ’s classic ‘novel’ (or a long letter that
reads/is written like a novel) is a challenging book. It deals with women issues, Islam and a
completely different world of characters and context. That is where Mokae takes on the challenge –
to bring all those complexities to his language of Setswana. And this is another way of broadening
the reach of our languages. This is how we build a new body of work as Africans.

We get to sample the work of our featured young gun; Mohale Mashigo in her High Heel Killer and
Mutshidzi. Seventeen. Going on eighteen. She flexes her incredible talent on this issue and we witness her star rising. As we release this issue, she would be concluding her stay in France where she was a resident author. We are grateful for her contribution to BKO.

It is clear to me that writing – or creativity in general – is spiritual and no other writer shows it the way that Mohale Mashigo does. Her story and spiritual experiences mirror those of many women in the continent and she is our torch-bearer in this perpetual search for our roots and our purpose.

Re a leboga. Ke leo lerato.

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