Hope, forgiveness in the Belly of Fire

HEART-WRENCHING and beautifully crafted short stories and poems about racism, poverty, xenophobia, women and child abuse, hope and forgiveness are in essence the gist of Belly of Fire.

The authors of the short stories are all South Africans or citizens of the world who have chosen to make South Africa their home.

Although the writings are fiction, they give the reader an insight into the lives of the different communities in South Africa.

One of the stories, Nirvana, is set in India and is about a beggar, but again, the theme is universal, or at least common in the developing world.

All the stories grapple with real, everyday issues that face ordinary people - stories that we read daily in newspapers, see on television and even experience in our daily lives.

For example, Candlelight Dreams tells of a primary plot of a shack fire that destroys an entire informal settlement in KwaZulu-Natal, and a secondary plot about a young woman who is going through her own struggles with her boyfriend.

The young woman, Samia, who works for an NGO, a young couple and an old grandmother who live in the squatter camp, have built up a strong friendship through the work they do in their community.

When the fire, a common occurrence in the camp, breaks out due to a fallen candle, Samia comes to help. In the process of assisting the dis-empowered, she herself is comforted by the young woman and the granny who have lost all their possessions in the fire.

The other five stories in the compilation are all true South African tales too. Amid the pain and the heartache, the writers bring hope with a feel-good message.

The 13 poems interspersed between the stories are hard-hitting and also demand answers to questions that the reader must reflect and ponder over.

Like the short stories, some of the poems show that despite all the pain and hardship we encounter, there is light at the end of the tunnel.