(Article in Daily Dispatch Weekend Post - January 3, 2015 - Written by Mphumzi Zuzile)
“I have always been aware that I could write. I had seen glimpses of this ability in the past, when I would write a poem or a short play. But I never could follow through with it, until now.”
“This intensified phase of writing started on Facebook. Between 2012 and 2013 I was producing one poem a day and posting these on my wall and, in no time, I had written well over 100 poems. That was when I decided to pull all these poems together into a poetry anthology manuscript.”
Nkasawe’s first book, Journey of the Heart gives a fairly detailed account of who he is and what his life has been like.
Born 48-years ago in 1966 in Cofimvaba, he was educated in a number of rural schools in the Eastern Cape, including Ncorha Junior Secondary School, Main Mission Junior Secondary School, Sabatha High School, and Falo High School. In 1985, he dropped out of school and left for Johannesburg to live with his aunt's and this is when he took a range of menial jobs including a labourer at various housing construction projects around Soweto, a security guard in the industrial areas around Johannesburg and a shop assistant.
Between 1988 and 1991 Nkasawe moved between Cape Town and Hermanus in the Western Cape and then he returned to Falo High School in 1991 to complete his matric.
After obtaining his matric certificate he left for Cape Town where he enrolled for a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Cape Town. In 1995, having obtained a BA with honours in history, he joined the University of the Western Cape to do a Master of Arts degree in history, which he completed in 1997.
Speaking to the Daily Dispatch this week, Nkasawe said of his love for writing, “I guess it has something to do with wanting to tell my life’s story.” He first toyed with the idea of writing an autobiography, but the idea seemed to “too grand, too presumptuous and too premature”.
“But if you read my poems you will see that they are autobiographical anyway.” Turning his attention to his books, Nkasawe said he has written three – a poetry anthology called Journey of the Heart and two novels called The Death of Nowongile and Pieces.
All the books were published last year by Kwarts Publishers.
Journey of the Heart is essentially my life, my experiences, my views, my politics, my likes and my dislikes.
The Death of Nowongile on the other hand was directly inspired by the 2013 16 Days of No Violence Against Women and Children campaign.
“I had first intended to write a poem about the campaign, but then the story grew big in me. I think also the death of Madiba, which effectively cancelled the campaign in midstream, gave me the momentum to take the story further. Pieces is my third offering and it has recently been published as an e-book.” The book is available in digital format at Kwarts Publishers, Kalahari and MyBooks.
It took Nkasawe on average about four to five months to write each of the books. “The writing process was intense. I still remember that I finished the first draft of the manuscript of The Death of Nowongile on Christmas day in 2013! ” Journey of the Heart is an anthology of poems which attempts to tell Nkasawe’s life story, and to express his own perspective of the world, poetically.
The poems pay tribute to ordinary men and women who have done and continue to do extraordinary things to make ends meet.
Major themes in this regard include the tough rural conditions under which many people were brought up, and how these conditions have in turn contributed to shaping and forming one’s character as an upright moral citizen.
A number of poems also address the exploitative migrant labour system in South Africa, especially from the impressionable perspective of children, as well as the disintegration of the African family unit. They talk to the allure of urban areas and how they promise relief from the destitution of rural areas, and the resultant abandonment of homes and children in search of work.
The Death of Nowongile is a novel that tells the story of an ordinary woman whose violent death at the hands of her husband unlocks dark and long held family and community secrets. Set in the rural areas of the Transkei in the Eastern Cape, the novel gives an account of a week of turmoil in the families of Jongeni and Mzauliwa and in the tribal clans of amaBhele and amaMpinga as they deal with the aftermath of the death of a daughter, and a wife.
The story recounts the abuse and violence to which Nowongile was subjected to almost all her married life. It describes the chain of events that are set in motion, including the resulting conflict between the clans involved and the mobilising effect this death has on the women of Qwebeqwebe and other surrounding villages. It tells of a community rebellion against prevailing cultural norms.
The story is set against a backdrop of post-liberation South Africa and in its narration it reflects on the quality of life of the people living in rural areas, especially in terms of institutions of state that support life and provide services in rural areas. But the core of the story is about spousal abuse and how cultural practices sometimes serve to perpetrate it.
Pieces is a crime novel whose essence is the harrowing depths to which sophisticated and highly mobile international crime gangs may sometimes go in order to achieve their objectives. This is a book that explores in dramatic fashion the ease with which good men and women can be tempted with money and become corrupt and complicit in crime.
The novel also lays bare the exploitation of South Africa’s open democratic system by organised gangs, including the perverse use of the country’s health system. In a simple yet poignant narrative, Nkasawe explores the parasitic relationship that sometimes exists between organised crime and state institutions.