FROM THE ARCHIVES OF 2011
Mongane Wally Serote’s new book titled Revelations is all things revealed – romance, friendships, traditions, history, mystique, the struggle for freedom, democracy and life in general.
Published by Jacana, Revelations is a well-written account of the transition of lives of contemporary South Africans.
The poet in Serote is evident. His intelligent use of language makes the journey from apartheid to democracy somewhat palatable.
Bra Shope, a well travelled artist, and his sidekick Otsile, make an interesting combination. Otsile, a former MK cadre who has become a prolific photographer, has many questions on his mind, such as the state of affairs in today’s South Africa and other countries like Chile and Zimbabwe.
In one of the many conversations Otsile has with his partner Teresa, the latter says, “You underestimate the power of the right. You know the right controls the economy, therefore the armies and the media. It’s formidable; it can reduce the important issues you raise to a mental exercise, nothing more.
“Nothing will happen to Pinochet, as nothing will happen to PW Botha. Anyone who touches them will suffer. Justice or no justice, it’s not the choice of victims that matters now.”
Teresa, a former guerilla fighter in the struggle, reinvented herself from being an MK cadre into a lawyer and later a traditional healer.
Her romance with Otsile is fraught with the difficulties experienced by many couples who have been in previous relationships that resulted in children.
When Otsile tells his elderly father, who lives in Alexandra Township in Johannesburg, that he wants to pay ilobolo for Teresa he faces a huge predicament – he has to get his mother’s blessing as he had previously been married to Nomazwi.
“If you go to your mother’s wardrobe, you’ll find a brown muchikisa khiba” (the traditional dress given to a mother-in-law by her newly married daughter). It was given to her by Nomazwi. Are you asking her to remove it?”
At some stage, Otsile suffers an emotional crisis when his friend and mentor Bra Shope withers away and dies.
Both Ostile and Teresa are affected in a bad way. In their quest to find solace for their loss of a dear friend they independently end up seeking out traditional healers to deal with their trauma.
Serote’s brilliant writing takes Otsile through a memorable journey of life. His escapades with Bra Shope transport him all over the world.
They travel everywhere: overseas, locally and to neighbouring states, where Bra Shope exhibits his work and uses his gift of the gab to tackle difficult issues.
All the while, Otsile clicks away taking photos that capture their travels and results in Bra Shope’s exhibitions.
Their inseparable bond ends with the death of Bra Shope; but the questions linger on.
The most poignant one being, was the struggle worth it?
Is this democracy we have in South Africa, what so many people fought and died for?
Revelations is one book you have to read. It is a gem of a story that reads like poetry in motion.
*This book review By Moses Mudzwiti was first published in 2011 under his column “In The Bulrushes”.