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‘So did you, like, bang Brenda?’ – Bongani Madondo chats about his new book Sigh The Beloved Country

Bongani Madondo

 
Sigh The Beloved CountryWriter, biographer and culture critic Bongani Madondo was at the Hard Rock Cafe in Sandton recently for a discussion of his new book Sigh the Beloved Country.

The conversation focused on a selection of topics from the book, and the subject of women dominated the evening.

70 per cent of the current book was about women, Madondo said.

“The greatest percentage of the people who obsess me, that I’m particularly interested in, the people who create magic – whether it’s song, dance, ideology, raising our children, breastfeeding white people’s children, doing everything for us – for me the centre of this world is African women. I try to figure them out,” he said to a rapturous audience.

Madondo has previously written a book on Brenda Fassie, the late South African icon, titled I’m Not Your Weekend Special.

In his new book, which runs to over 500 pages, Madondo includes an eyebrow-raising chapter titled “So Did You, Like, Bang Brenda?” – a question he says he was often asked by awestruck teenagers.

Image courtesy of Taji Mag

 
The event, which was billed as a discussion on women and the role they play in “transforming the media and branding industry”, morphed into something slightly different.

Madondo spoke of his childhood aunts and uncles, who he says went to great lengths to wear the most fashionable clothes of the time. Yet, for all their joviality, the aunts would be crying at the hands of the uncles later on. This and his watchful nature is what led him to writing, revealed Madondo.

“From a very young age, I was more like a peeping Tom. Someone who wanted to keep quiet, watch and listen,” he said.

As a failed law student and architect wannabe, Madondo turned to writing and journalism as his storytelling outlet. This led him to stints with City Press, among other local publications, as well as international publications such as The New York Times.

Madondo also talked about the “need to create a new language”. This was after he rejected the word “artsy-fartsy” to describe his miscellaneous artistic projects. “I prefer being labelled as a storyteller instead,” he said.

On the question whether journalists who occasionally appear on TV and radio turn out to be more successful than their media-shy colleagues, Madondo said: “I don’t like the word ‘famous’. It’s about the impact journalists have on society that matters, not appearing on a soapbox.”

Lungile Sojini (@success_mail) tweeted live from the event:

 
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