All posts by Vuyo Mzini

A Review of An Orchestra of Minorities

By Vuyo Mzini


  • Title: An Orchestra of Minorities
  • Author: Chigozie Obioma
  • Publisher: Parrésia Publishers Ltd
  • Number of pages: 512
  • Year of publication: 2019
  • Category: Fiction

The film, Joker, released in 2019 and starring Joaquin Phoenix, portrays the descent of a simple and harmless man into madness. The primary reason is the ugliness with which the world treats him. In one of the most profound scenes marking a crescendo in his self-expression, he turns a joke into an epic political statement about the fate of minorities:

What do you get when you cross a mentally-ill loner with a society that abandons him and treats him like trash? I’ll tell you what you get! You get what you fuckin’ deserve!

[Joker shoots Murray in the head, killing him instantly]. More…

War: What Is It Good For?

By Vuyo Mzini


  • Title: The Forest Dames
  • Author: AdaOkere Agbasimalo
  • Publisher: Parrésia Publishers Ltd
  • Number of pages: 303
  • Year of publication: 2014
  • Category: Fiction

AdaOkere Agbasimalo’s book, published in 2014 and titled The Forest Dames, is a fictional rendition of events that occurred during the Nigerian Civil War. A reader not resident in Nigeria (and not in touch with continental politics) may initially question the relevance of a depiction of a war from more than four decades ago. Scenes from the book, depicting Igbos fleeing from the northern part of the country to the South East, on account of being persecuted, seem far removed from the ‘woke’ culture of post-2010 consciousness:

The train spilled over with people looking harassed and frightened… They were on their way home. They had escaped from the killing in the city and were now trying to tame their fear.

The train moved on. The next station…fierce-looking men jumped into the coaches and pointed at some of the passengers.

‘You, you, you, come down’.

The men pounced on them, pulling them up forcefully and pushing them out. They never returned… Later, stories were told of how their heads were shattered with heavy iron rods, their brains spilling on the ground. According to the stories, their bodies were dragged to some location and, before long, vultures began to hover around (p 43). More…

Papa Was a Rolling Stone

By Vuyo Mzini


  • Title: I Want to See the Sun Rise
  • Author: Sam Shakong
  • Publisher: Xarra Books Ltd
  • Number of pages: 208
  • Year of publication: 2019
  • Category: Autobiography

Fatherhood is tenuous. At the worst of times, a level of substantiating proof is required to know the true paternity of a child and claim fatherhood. At the best of times, the roles and responsibilities encompassed in fatherhood are merely equivalent to those of being a decent human being: being accountable to dependents; sharing the load of running a household; being a loving and caring individual. And as time has progressed and human societies have moved significantly away from gender normative practices, fathers (and mothers, to be fair) have had to redefine their roles and responsibilities. Sam Shakong’s autobiography, I Want to See the Sun Rise, is an attempt at adding to the contemporary lexicon of fatherhood. The book is equally a heart-warming depiction of Shakong’s discovery of his own parenting style and a moralising manifesto on what makes a good father. More…

Better than Anything: Sally Andrew’s Story of Love and Food

By Vuyo Mzini


  • Title: Death on the Limpopo
  • Author: Sally Andrew
  • Publisher: Umuzi
  • Number of pages: 414
  • Year of publication: 2019
  • Category: Fiction

The first verse of the duet between renowned songsters Natalie Cole and Diana Krall, titled ‘Better than Anything’, lists food items that are good but that do not quite measure up to the feeling of being in love. Alternating each line of the song, they sing:

Cole: Better than cream cheese and bagels, better than honey on bread.
Krall: Better than champagne and pretzels, better than breakfast in bed.
Cole: Better than chilli rellenos, better than chocolate eclairs.
Krall: Better than hot house tomatoes, better than fresh Bartlett pears.
Cole: Better than dining à la carte –
Krall: Or simply gastronomic art.
Together: Better than anything except being in love. More…

Lady Na Master: A Review of Makwala, E E Sule’s Novel of Complexities

By Vuyo Mzini


  • Title: Makwala
  • Author: E E Sule
  • Publisher: Parrésia Publishers Ltd
  • Number of pages: 326
  • Year of publication: 2018
  • Category: Fiction

In a 2013 interview on YouTube with Commonwealth Writers, as part of the publicity for his winning the Commonwealth Book Prize for the Africa region, E E Sule describes the inspiration for his 2012 debut novel, Sterile Sky, as the traumatic background in which he grew up in Kano City at a time of poverty and religious violence:

I keep remembering, in a very dramatic way, in fact it kept coming to me as a nightmare, that [my family and I] were hearing the sounds of death around us.

More…

A Vet Doctor Lives Here

By Vuyo Mzini


  • Title: Sounds of Joy
  • Author: Segun Akinlolu
  • Publisher: EniObanke Books
  • Number of pages: 344
  • Year of publication: 2018
  • Category: Autobiography

Segun Akinlolu is a jack of all trades. Known to fans of his music and poetry as Beautiful Nubia, the man counts music as his first love. This is despite the fact that he has spent a major part of the half century of his life engaged in almost everything but music. He is a historian who reads extensively about Nigeria’s pre- and post-colonial past. He is a writer of fiction and poetry. He has four published collections and three recordings of poetry readings. He is a qualified veterinary doctor. He has also been a salesman of veterinary products, a journalist and a worker in the factory of a Canadian sweet manufacturer. What he is known and loved for though is his music. He is a songwriter and singer of original compositions of Nigerian folk music, with twenty-three recorded albums. The autobiography, Sounds of Joy, performs an exhaustive and sometimes exhausting task of casting a light on all the nooks and crannies of Akinlolu’s life. More…

Grandma’s Hands

By Vuyo Mzini


  • Title: May I Have This Dance
  • Author: Connie Manse Ngcaba
  • Publisher: Face2Face
  • Number of pages: 131
  • Year of publication: 2014
  • Category: Autobiography

Bill Withers, the soulful American singer-songwriter who recorded between the early 1970s and mid 1980s, has a song titled ‘Grandma’s Hands’. In Withers’ characteristic style of simple lyrics and melodies, the three-verse song summarises the love of a grandmother through anecdotes about domestic harmony, musical creativity, resilience, family and humanity. The autobiography of Mama Connie Manse Ngcaba, titled May I Have This Dance, has similar musicality and reads like a long conversation with a loving grandmother. It is peppered with flavoursome anecdotes and delivered gracefully. The wise 84-year-old authoritatively retells the story of a life governed by guiding principles of love, discipline and loyalty to one’s kin. More…