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Pan Macmillan

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Khaya Dlanga Tells Emma Sadleir About “The Woman Who Didn’t Know Her Place” at the Launch of To Quote Myself

Launch of To Quote Myself

You could call Khaya Dlanga a momma’s boy. He’d probably break out in a wide grin and agree with you because, as social media lawyer Emma Sadleir pointed out at the launch of his memoir, if it wasn’t for his mother Dlanga wouldn’t have been where he is today.

“Your terror of your mother was what got you here in this fancy pants house in Westcliff,” the author of Don’t Film Yourself Having Sex said at the launch of To Quote Myself at Glenshiel, a grand historical house in Johannesburg.

Launch of To Quote MyselfTo Quote MyselfDlanga grew up in a small village in the Eastern Cape. Since he can remember he was terrified of his mother who was so glamorous, fierce and beautiful – “the woman who didn’t know her place”. Her father had wanted a boy, and raised her to herd cows and wear pants. The whole village once came out to see her ride a horse and continued to talk about it for years to come.

Dlanga’s father went to Johannesburg in search of work and found himself a girlfriend. When she realised he wasn’t coming back, Dlanga’s mother went to work in East London to show him that she could make it on her own. The news of his father’s death reached their ears on the day of his sixth birthday. “You make the point very poignantly that he died but left a long time ago,” Sadleir said.

Launch of To Quote MyselfEducation was the most important thing to Dlanga’s mother, and she sent him to school when he was pretty young. When she found out that a teacher had given him 13 lashes for no reason she pulled him out of that school.

But despite his mother’s strength of personality, Dlanga adds that their life was by no account a fairy-tale. “We lived in a typical four-room house, we didn’t have what you would call electricity,” Dlanga said and recalled how embarrassed he felt about his clothes smelling like paraffin.

In one of his new schools the principal decided that 12-year-old Dlanga was too young for standard five (grade seven). His mother told him that if he did really well in his tests he should go to the principal with proof that he was too smart for his grade. The 40-year-old white man scared him, but not as much as his mother did. The audience was in stitches as Dlanga reconstructed the conversation he had with the principal, who was amused by his bravery but refused his request in the end.

After school Dlanga told his mother that he’d applied to attend the AAA School of Advertising but never heard back from them. Instead of giving up, his mother put him in a taxi to Cape Town to go and find out what happened to his application. He managed to convince the registrar to allow him to apply and this lead to volatile years in his life where he was homeless, penniless, sometimes hopeless, but never short of luck.

Launch of To Quote Myself“I think you need luck before anything else,” Dlanga said. He was lucky that his mother was such a fierce supporter of his education, that the registrar believed his story, that he got his first advertising gig despite the hiring freeze at the time. He became a YouTube celebrity during a period when social media was still new and unexplored and he was offered the opportunity to interview Barack Obama before he became the president of the United States.

Sadleir said that Dlanga’s ambition and desire for success is so great that even though he’d won seven Loeries he was devastated that they weren’t gold.

Sadleir said one particular scene in the book left her in the fetal position. During a rare visit to the beach, Dlanga’s mother fell on the rocks and was knocked unconscious. Even though Dlanga was crying and shouting white people carried on walking past him and wouldn’t stop to help. Later in the book, in a triumphant contrast, a grown-up Dlanga hears that he has won a gold Cannes Lion and starts screaming in the middle of the road. An old white man shouts from his balcony, “Why are you so happy?” and Dlanga replies that he has won an advertising award, not thinking the man would know what he’s talking about. Instead the old man calls down again, “Is it a Cannes?” Dlanga shouts “yes!” and the man says, “My wife says well done!”

At the end of the discussion Sadleir admitted that she’s had a Twitter crush on Dlanga, who is “ungovernable on social media”, and gave him a copy of her book as a present. The two authors signed their books while the audience drank wine and nibbled on snacks.

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Annetjie van Wynegaard (@Annetjievw) live tweeted from the event using #livebooks:



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Posted by Pan Macmillan South Africa on Thursday, 9 April 2015


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