A lover of dreams

2008-06-18 00:00

WHEELS on the Soul of My Shoes. It makes a catchy title with its echoes of Paul Simon’s great song, Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes, but there is more to it than that. On the cover of Musa E. Zulu’s new book is a Val Adamson photograph, showing Zulu’s wheelchair — the only way the paralysed motivational speaker, writer and artist can get about — with a pair of smart, two-tone Crockett & Jones shoes on the seat.

It is a striking juxtaposition, one that symbolises the paradox of Zulu’s life. On the one hand he is outgoing, energetic, always busy, but on the other he has been confined to a wheelchair since he was involved in a car accident 13 years ago.

Wheels on the Soul of My Shoes is Zulu’s second book, following his The Language of Me which was published in 2004. “I didn’t want this one to sound like The Language of Me,” he says. “People fell in love with that one and I knew there was still more to be said. I know the audience for motivational messages, and those people wanted to hear more.” Since the first book, his second daughter, Ziyanda, has been born, and Wheels on the Soul of My Shoes marks that event, as well as letting people know that he is still “cruising happily”. He describes the volume as a “reflection and celebration”.

Open and forthright, the book is not so much a further chapter in Zulu’s chronological journey as a consideration of things that are of importance to him — his family, his work, his art, his poetry and his views on how to live life to the full. “You can’t keep secrets if you are going to break away from being categorised and stereotyped,” he says, explaining that his paralysis has forced him to be truthful. “I am human, and have never fooled myself that I am above my problems.”

For him, the interaction that comes with his motivational speaking is a wonderful way to motivate himself. The public platform and the give and take of debate are the way he recharges his batteries. “Writing and art are the draining part. Then I need to reflect on my experiences and uncover them for other people.” That is the lonely process while the motivational sessions are explosive, drawing on Zulu’s energy but also giving energy back to him. There is a chapter in his book that deals with this interaction.

He never prepares his presentations, but allows the audience to drive the process. He says his wheelchair intrigues people, that it always sparks something, and, as he says, he has been given the gift of words to take it from there.

Inside the back cover of the book is a DVD — Rainbow Colours in Black and White, which is also the title of one of the chapters. The DVD shows how Zulu creates an artwork, from a simple shape on the first day to the completed work on the seventh. The graphics were created by Johan Pretorius of Camera Connection, and provide a fascinating insight not only into the way Zulu works but also into the thought processes that go into his work.

Zulu says he reinvents himself on a daily basis and when I ask his wife, Jabu, how easy it is to live with someone who does that, they both laugh. “She manages me,” he says. “I can’t just explode off in another direction. She makes me settle down.” Looking back over the last 13 years, the time he has spent confined to a wheelchair, Zulu says the best moments were meeting Jabu and the births of their two daughters, Swazi and Ziyanda. “Paralysis splits you into what you are — in a wheelchair — and who you are — the person — and you need someone who balances the two.” Jabu and their children do that for Zulu.

• Wheels on the Soul of my Shoes by Musa E. Zulu is published by Nutrend Publishers. Following last weekend’s launch at the Cape Town Book Fair, it will be launched at StarGazers at 6 pm today. To attend the launch, phone Jim Benson at 033 347 3566 or 076 074 4726.

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