An offhand remark at her mother’s funeral took veteran South African journalist, Nomavenda Mathiane, on a journey into the past — the story of her grandmother, who survived the Anglo-Zulu war. It is a story about how a young girl rose above the horrors, not only of war, but the destruction of her culture and way of life. We’re told not to judge a book by its cover, but this one is haunting, and I’ll admit it played a part in my decision to review it. The story is told in an unusual way, in the first person, as if her gogo, Nombhosho, is telling it herself. It is a powerful method of writing, giving back Nombhosho the agency that was taken away from her during her life.
1879, the year in which I grew up faster than I could shout my name. That year was the one in which we experienced events and encounters that no one, particularly a child, should ever witness. Itwas also the year my people lost everything their land and fields and were reduced to being vagrants and beggars in the land of their birth.I am the daughter of Mqokotshwa Makhoba, one of King Cetshwayo s generals of the iNgobamakhosi regiment, he named me Nombhosho, which means bullet. He said I would come out of any situation fast and unscathed, like a bullet.
I spoke to Nomavenda about how the pain of writing the past, but also how important it is to explore one’s personal history.
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This interview was first played on PowerFm 98.7 on 20 November 2016.