She uses all mediums to tell a story – she’s a radio moderator, a writer and a singer.
Mohale Mashigo, who was born Kgomotso Carol Mashigo in Soweto, has been writing all her life. Her first book, The Yearning, won the University of Johannesburg Prize for debut fiction and she’s recently released a book of short stories called Intruders.
DRUM catches up with the Cape Town-based writer.
When did you decide to make writing a career?
I never really made the decision. I still don’t think of writing as a career. My first book was published and I carried on with my freelance jobs. I think books keep interrupting my boring life!
How would you best describe your style of storytelling?
It’s not linear. I really struggle to tell a story from beginning to end. Someone once described it as “lyrical but accessible”.
What do you hope readers will get out of your new book?
I hope they will learn something about the people society considers “nobodies”.
What’s the one thing you wish you’d known about writing before you started?
Writing is fun, editing is hell!
We attended the launch of her latest book, Intruders. This is what we thought.
She looks as if she could be a heroine from one of her stories. With her colourful dreads, which are tied up in two ponytails, Clark Kent glasses and a tattoo of wings adorning her shoulder, Mohale Mashigo is bold, edgy and fun.
As we sit down at Cape Town’s Book Lounge just minutes before the launch of her new short-story collection, Intruders, I can see why she’s causing major waves on the local literary scene. Intruders was born of her desire to write mystical stories about people who don’t conform to societal standards – the outcasts, the homeless and the misunderstood, says the Cape Town author – who’s also an award-winning singer better known as Black Porcelain. “For the past three years I’ve been telling my best friend, Marcee, that I want to write these speculative fiction stories about ordinary people,” Mohale (35) says.
It all started when she was commissioned by a local newspaper to write a short story for Women’s Day. She came up with The High Heel Killer – a tale about a woman who kills a guy at a taxi rank with her stiletto. It’s one of the most impactful stories in the collection, and an illustration of the character graces the cover of the book. The High Heel Killer is a normal, everyday Johannesburg girl but life hasn’t been kind to her.
One day after her heels cause her to trip in a puddle of water and a man makes an unkind comment, she flips out and beats him to death with her shoe. Then she grows wings. This story sums up what Intruders is all about: extraordinary things happening to people who are overlooked by the world.
“It was a slow process putting these stories together. I wanted to write stories about nobodies and make them somebodies,” says Mohale, whose debut novel, The Yearning, hit the shelves in 2016. At the launch, explaining the themes that tie Intruders together – African folk tales and social issues in presentday South Africa – Mohale speaks about one of the more disturbing stories in the book, called BnB in Bloem. In this tale, orphaned sisters who have a track record of fighting mythical creatures are called in after a man is mysteriously killed by a “Vera”.
These are the ghosts of women who were killed by men, Mohale explains. The murdered women get their revenge by coming back in the form of a Vera (a beautiful woman) who stands in the middle of the road, causing the men that killed them to have fatal accidents.
A constant theme in the book is the issue of belonging. The title reflects its characters who seem to be anomalies in a world that has no time to truly see them. From a doctor who made the world’s first baby without a man, to a vampire from Limpopo who cares for her werewolf friend from Cape Town, you can see Mohale has had great fun conjuring her characters into life. It all sounds a bit way out, but it’s not – she’s a born storyteller and has a wonderful way of lacing her tales with pertinent social issues that will resonate with her readers. Highly recommended.