There are many ways back home. In South African novelist Niq Mhlongo‘s recently published book, Way Back Home, it’s a journey through public and private space, mourning and memory, tradition and modernity, set in a post Apartheid world haunted by the ghosts of liberation, exile and freedom.
In his article by the same name, published in the April 2013 edition of the Chronic, it’s an investigation into the complexities of death, burial and life after death in the place he calls home. Part memoir, part call to action, Mhlongo details the challenges of home and homeland, love, loss and belonging.
“Where there’s no will, there’s no way to reconcile the dead and the living. All across this Mzansi of ours I have attended funerals of people who died without leaving any inkling of where they wished to be buried, or how they wanted their assets distributed; preparing for death is not a priority among my kind, regardless of poverty or wealth. For a lucky few, this has not been a problem, but I’ve witnessed many, many instances in which a lack of clarity has led to brutal family squabbles over the control of a deceased person’s afterlife – including, very recently, in my immediate family….”
Read the rest of the article here
“…Then the magic happened. The lady talked to someone in Kikongo. Surprisingly, I understood most of the things she was saying as I felt the language was closer to Zulu. Then I asked her where the river was in Zulu and she answered my question in Kikongo. I understood completely. I then realized that we are actually one people who have been made different by the French and English colonialists….”
Way Back Home – A novel
Niq Mhlongo reads from Way Back Home at the launch of his novel at Sakhumzi’s, Soweto (April, 2013)
Two days before their Public Works tender presentation, Kimathi and Sechaba arranged to meet Ganyani at the Hyatt Hotel again. Kimathi had fully recovered. The prospect of winning the tender encouraged them to buy the overpriced whisky tots at the hotel without the fear of running out of cash. They were also eager to declare their mutual loyalties and drown any differences in alcohol. Ganyani’s presentation was also scheduled for two days’ time, immediately after that of Mandulo. His new business partners, a German-owned company called DMM, had booked him at the Sandton Hilton for four days. Kimathi and Sechaba had asked to meet him in the hope of convincing him to rejoin their venture. They were sitting at the far corner of the hotel bar drinking whisky as they discussed business. George had not been invited.
“It’s never too late to reconsider, comrade,” Sechaba said as he put down his double tot of Johnnie Walker Blue. “We’ve come very far together.”
“I know. But why should I bet on a limping horse, knowing exactly that it’s not going to finish the race, comrades,” asked Ganyani, moving his eyes between Kimathi and Sechaba. “I can’t do that, not even when I know the owner of the horse. No hard feelings, comrades, but this is a business decision.”
Sechaba’s smooth brows became furrowed. He had expected that they would easily convince Ganyani if they became nostalgic.