Open letter to South Africa’s students‚ universities and government‚ represented by Minister in the .
In case you've ever wondered why Nataniel paints his face, this book might be the only way you'd ever find out.
But who can blame him? I guess if you also thumbed through the family album and saw a man seated on the right of a picture, a man you thought "looked like a boxer with a small child on his nose", and someone told you that was, in fact, your great-grandmother, you'd also resort to paint. Wouldn't you?
Nataniel says: "I was not upset or angry. I did not think long and hard. I went to the chemist, bought a bag full of make-up and painted my face. Twenty years later I'm still painting. And people are paying to see it."
This happened "When I was 20".
Or does it bother you that his wardrobe seems to extend to only one long coat?
Or, like me, has whoever he kisses ever been a preoccupation of yours. He kisses a man in Hong Kong, a Free State-born South African who has gone east not Down Under, and Nataniel justifies it with his top-drawer humour - in rugby men sleep on top of each other all the time!
This has given me a window into the persona of Nataniel, the singer/songwriter/entertainer.
He's always been, in my view at least, South Africa's answer to Boy George or, when I really tried to localise him, a Somizi Mhlongo with a bit of education and class.
When I Was tells the story of this man; this human being, with the simple beauty that could make many autobiographies readable.
It starts from "When I was 7" until "When I was 23", and each little essay is a story of his life or how he saw life. It is hilarious.
A colleague who has been to see Nataniel perform tells me that I haven't actually been scintillated by a performer until I see this weirdo.
I have a date pencilled in my calendar!
He says the book is "dedicated to the seven ladies who came to dinner at my house on December 15, 2002" - and he mentions them by name, yet the book is a monument to his loneliness. He pretty much preferred his own company from an early age. Many members of the extended family came to live with them in his youth, like Aunt Pearl "the plump woman with dark eyes, enormous breasts and a voice like traffic". But you can tell they were really not adding spice to his life, he loathed them.
Like his cousin Rupert!
He wasn't good with buddies either. Why did he speak to the new boy at his school, Kelvin Booyens, who had the sort of halitosis Nataniel describes as "the breath of a three-hundred-year-old wolf?"
"I had just started puberty and was temporarily insane and going through a friendly phase."
The book is just fab (this is how I'm sure he'd say it.)