Mohale Mashigo tackles futuristic tales

Mohale Mashego transfers the magic to her second book.
Mohale Mashego transfers the magic to her second book.
Image: Mduduzi Ndzingi

TITLE: Intruders

AUTHOR: Mohale Mashigo

PUBLISHER: Picador Africa

REVIEWER: Karabo Ledwaba

Dressed in a warm fuzzy jersey in the first heat wave of the season, award-winning author Mohale Mashigo made an interesting sight after arriving in Johannesburg from a cold Cape.

A ghost of a smile appeared on my face as I realised the vibrant author was also like the intruders she wrote about in her book filled with futuristic African tales of protagonists and heroes that do not seem to quite belong.

"I grew up in a house with no books," the Soweto-born writer said.

But she said she was lucky enough to have a father who realised her interest in reading and bought her interesting magazines to try and quench her thirst for literature.

"I first started reading books in school when I would take books out from the library. The first time I read a book about black people was when I read The Color Purple.

"When I read Nervous Conditions, I realised that black people that are like me can also be in books," Mashigo said.

Mashigo's first book, The Yearning, became a best seller and was met with critical acclaim.

Her second book, Intruders, tells the stories of unlikely protagonists like Manoka, who finds out she's from a long lineage of mermaids, best friends who stick together even after one of them turns into a brainless zombie and the story of Nolwazi Botha, who kills her husband because of the generational effects of apartheid medical warfare.

Mashigo said this story was born when she met an apartheid mercenary that was proud of what he did in apartheid.

"I just kept thinking that you could be in a queue at Checkers and be next to someone who used to murder black people," she said.

Intruders is 182 pages of pure magic. The book is a wonderful introduction to reading futuristic tales with African protagonists.

Mashigo successfully humanises stories of people who would otherwise be called witches in our communities.

Mashigo said her book is separated into three parts: the good, the bad and the colourful because she is unable to stick to the structures of paragraphs.

I figured that this was a good reflection of her personality as she has never been one to follow the rules.

"When I moved to Cape Town, I worked in advertising and I hated everything about the job. I started writing my first book [The Yearning] at work instead of doing my job."

The 35-year-old author said she is inspired by the likes of Zakes Mda, Tony Morrison and Tsitsi Dangarembga.

"It's so funny to be friends with one of my inspirations. He [Zakes Mda] read my first book and encouraged me to get it published," Mashigo said.

I read Intruders in one day. I hope that Mashigo will turn some of those short stories into a series of books. We need our own unlikely super heroes.

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