When did you realise you had a passion for, and a gift with words?
I began to write when I was in primary school, perhaps at the age of 14 or so. This engagement was most enhanced when I got to secondary school, because our teacher, Mr Phefadu, insisted that we be readers of literature and his teaching of literature was most inspiring as he made the characters, places, history and culture come to life when he taught.
Would you say your time in prison and in exile had any bearing on the writer you are today?
When did you realise you had a passion for, and a gift with words? I began to write when I was in primary school, perhaps at the age of 14 or so. This engagement was most enhanced
Not really. I am a writer because I wanted to be one and because my grandmother believed, against all the odds laid out by my family, that I am a writer. When everyone was asleep, she and I would sit sipping tea and talking about what I wrote. I read to her. She asked questions. Disagreed. She commented, she recommended. I recall that when I read the poem What’s In This Black Shit she was very shocked that I could write that type of poem. She had taught me to be polite, to respect, to refrain from swearing, but there I was, ready to swear in public. She was very gentle when she gave me advice. “You have only one heart and one liver,” she said, “Don’t get them burst by hatred and bitterness, for hatred and bitterness are poison. Don’t allow them into your body.” I remember her saying this. She wanted me to tone it down. I refused and published it as it was. However, I was very alert to what she had said.
What inspired the story Rumours?
Rumours is inspired by the lives of fine young men and women, members of MK, with whom I worked, and the elders who mentored us as young fighters. There were some among them whom I emulated, like the late Magaca and Mshoshovi.
What would you like your readers to get out of this book?
I hope that African readers commit to emancipating the African voice, and that non-African readers enter into dialogue with us through this voice so we can engage about humanity.
How have you managed to merge the work you do (writing, Freedom Park) with your calling as a traditional healer?
Politics, bongaka (so-called traditional healing), literature, painting, sculpture, dance, music, cinema, photography… all of these are an integral part of my creativity. By them, and through them, I stand as a citizen of the world.
Does the current disconnect that youth have with their tradition and their desire to be more Westernised worry you?
I am worried by some of the American and Western nonsense and rubbish which is thrown at us through the TV and other forms of communication. We cannot accept that mono-knowledge, mono-culture and mono-language are the domain of the world. Surely many Americans and people in the West would agree with me that as human beings we thrive in the context of diversity. That is how the world was created and that is how it is.
What was the motivation behind the national monument Freedom Park?
Freedom Park is a commitment to peace and freedom, for which so many people fought for in South Africa and throughout the world. We hope that it is one of the contributions to a forward movement by human beings in the world.
In your opinion, do you think there is still a place for activism using the literary arts in this current day and political space?