Famous for 5 minutes – Zukiswa Wanner: The politics of art

2014-04-19 14:00

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Acclaimed author Zukiswa Wanner has a new book out called London – Cape Town – Joburg. Charl Blignaut called her up

When I called you the other day, you’d just arrived in Joburg from Nairobi via Durban and you couldn’t really talk because you were at a political rally ...

It was interesting. The person who picked me up from the airport invited me to a shisa nyama where her friends were drinking. Inside, there were ANC colours everywhere.

They had a band playing all the struggle greats. Then the Gauteng ANC secretary-general went on stage and got booed by some guys who turned out to be from the EFF. So he just did a few slogans. After that I said I wanted to interview him. I asked him why I should vote ANC.

And?...?what did he say?

He said: ‘Are you from Gauteng?’ I said: ‘Yes, my heart is in Gauteng.’ He spoke about infrastructure. I said: ‘I am a writer, why should I vote for you? You’re not good at handling the arts. You don’t make sure there’s enough local content on radio and TV. Isn’t it supposed to be 40% on radio? There are not even a lot of local books in the libraries?…?I’ll see you at a jazz festival but not at a book launch.’

He said if I invited him he’d come to the launch of London – Cape Town – Joburg next month.

You’ve said both your previous novels, The Madams and Men of the South, are about identity. What’s the new one about?

Identity. It’s about a couple – a black man and white woman – and their biracial child. And the child’s uncle, who’s coloured but militant about how black he is. He pushes his identity on the child.

I’m interested in how you see South Africa. I mean, you have a bit of an outsider perspective. You’re a pan-African bastard. Born in Zambia to a South African mother and a Zimbabwean father ...

[Laughs] I am a pan-African bastard – in a good way. But in my heart, South Africa is my home. Still, it’s true, everywhere I am, I am a bit of an outsider looking in. I have insights into people that maybe the locals don’t see.

Are we overracialised?

It’s inevitable. There’s still a lot of unpacking we’re doing. Unless we start engaging on a more than superficial level, we’re going to keep having these problems.

Ndumiso [Ngcobo] said it best: ‘You can’t claim to have black friends or white friends when you never visit them or do stuff together with the kids. Maybe

you have lunch together because you’re the only two who want to go for lunch in the office. But you don’t really know them. We don’t want to know.’

So do you know how you’re voting yet?

I don’t know who I’m voting for. Not ANC. Not EFF. Not DA or Agang. I don’t know who I’ll throw my vote to. Everybody needs to court me. They must call me to a rally and they must include my books in their goodie bags, and then I’ll vote for them.

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