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Niq Mhlongo

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

WAY BACK HOME LAUNCH April 2013

The launch of WAY BACK HOME by Niq Mhlongo
I’m relieved now. Yes I am. Recently I announced the publication of my third novel, WAY BACK HOME by Kwela. On the website, www.nb.co.za/books Kwela, (NB imprint and my publisher) has confirmed the release date of WAY BACK HOME. If you visit this website you’ll find the release date, which is the 20th of April 2013; the price (R195), the format- soft cover 224 pages. There is also a blurb and design cover. These are some of the answers to some of the questions that were posed on my Facebook and twitter accounts post recently. Your responses to my post about the book release were really amazing, I must say. I’m sorry I didn’t have some of the answers about the launch then. Some of my readers, I understand (about eleven of them) even phoned Kwela directly to find out about the launch date. Yesterday on the 25th of March a got a call from one of my friends who was on his way to Sakhumzi Vilakazi Street in Soweto with three of his friends for the much anticipated WAY BACK HOME launch. I had initially indicated to him that the launch would be on the 25th of April although this was not yet confirmed. Because he so much wants to read this book, he had thought yesterday was the 25th of April. Hade bra Thabo, eintlik it is a month from today skhokho sam’.
My publisher and I have decided to launch Way Back Home in Sakhumzi Restaurant on the evening of the 25th of April 2013 at 6PM. The Restaurant is situated along the world famous Vilakazi Street, between Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu’s House and former President Mandela’s house in Orlando-West: (May I say their former houses since both of them no longer live there?). The street as you know has a great history of its own. Besides the fact that it was named after Dr. Benedict Wallet Vilakazi (poet, novelist, educator), the first black South African to receive a PH.D, the first black South African to teach white South Africans at the university level (Wits University), Vilakazi Street is the only one street in the world to have housed Nobel Prize winners (Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu and former President Nelson Mandela). This street has also housed one of the most famous authors, Niq Mhlongo who also lived there for about nine years. That was even before he set foot at Wits University or UCT. He was still an aspiring Chinua Achebe wanna be. Around that time, there was no Sakhumzi, Nambita, etc. Computers had no mouse then, and Steve Jobs was probably still in high school somewhere in The US of the A. Ngudus of Castle Lager, Hansa, Lion Lager, and Black Label were bought at R3. 50C at the local Spanish Inn; or at R3 at Niq Mhlongo’s neighbor called Bhakabhaka (he was an ardent fan of Orlando Pirates FC). Niq Mhlongo conceptualized Dog Eat Dog while looking out at the window of his room that faced Vilakazi Street. I’m afraid there was no Castle Lite beer then, which is now abused by the youth in the townships. By then, the researchers in Stellenbosch did not even dream that one day they might discover fraudulent meat products of donkey, water buffalo, and horse in our sausages and dried meats. I mean, Niq Mhlongo used to walk along Vilakazi Street when sent to buy real, organic T-bone at Makhedama Butchery near what used to be Maponya Mall- along the Khumalo main road. As I said, when Niq Mhlongo was still living in Vilakazi Street, there was no such thing as Sakhumzi Restaurant. The only sad attraction was former President Mandela’s house as well as Mama Winnie Mandela’s house opposite-(which unfortunately or fortunately, most tourists find interesting). By then the tourists would come on a buses and just stare at us from the windows, and only got off at the two houses. Nowadays tourists are clever, as they even ride on bicycles around Orlando West Streets. Some even sleep at the mushrooming B&B’s around DiepKloef Expensive- I mean Diepkloef Extension. Also, when Niq Mhlongo was still a resident of Vilakazi Street, there was no such thing as the Hector Petersen Museum. The only structure that existed by the Museum was the Uncle Tom’s Hall. Niq Mhlongo used to board the taxis to Joburg right at the same place where the Museum is now. There used to be long queues in the morning snaking towards the Museum. I hope you now understand why he is launching his third novel in Vilakazi Street on the 25th of April 2013.
Talking about the launch; I’m very excited that the book I’ve been trying to create since 2008 is now out. Yes, it took me that long. It was easy to tell the story orally as I shared it to those who cared to listen to my gibberish. Like they say, everyone has a beautiful story in their heads that they would love to share with the rest of the world. The challenge is getting it out of the head and put it out there in the way that everyone can access it. Sitting down, and typing my story that I already knew from the begging until the end was a mammoth task that took me about six years. The story was written in different parts of the world that I have travelled, USA, Brussels, Paris, Wales, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Amsterdam, Spain, Oslo, Botswana (at sister dearest’s house), Maputo, Lagos, Nairobi, Lusaka, etc.
I’m grateful to everyone that contributed to my story. I remember Gogo Nompi at Vilakazi Street who shared the Izangoma/spirit songs with me. Every time Gugu went home I would request her to ask Gogo Nompi for some of the songs that appear in the book. Bra Mandla Langa somewhere in Joburg, Bra Papi in Kliptown, Wonderboy Peters at the Long Bar in Braamfontein, Lucas Ledwaba at Xai Xai in Melville, my 2009 MA creative writing class mates at Wits University, my drinking partners at both Chi, Bohemian, and Post-grad Wits Pub called Pig, my former students at NEMISA- my friends, all of you were part of my research; whether you are aware of it or not. Also the two police men who arrested my friend for drinking and driving, and make him sleep at the Moroka Police Station-you were part of my research.
Please come in numbers. All of you are welcome. I know most of you might not be aware that I didn’t go to the launch of my first novel Dog Eat Dog. Ask Andre Brink and he will tell you why. Recently in February when we met with Andre in Brazzaville as guests for the Etonnants Voyageurs, we even laughed about it. This is how it happened. I’m sure after reading this you’ll understand why I am not a great fan of Golf Day, even if it’s done for charity. In 2004 I was working for Fairlady Magazine (Naspers) in Cape Town as an intern journalist. On the day of my launch (I can’t recall the exact date-but somewhere around May), I was assigned to work on some Golf Day story that featured Natalie du Toit story (swimming champion) as a guest of honor. I was held in some posh Golf Course in Paarl-about 80KM or more from Cape Town. You know how golfers are; they take their time hitting that small ball into a hole. So I sat there from 6AM watching some uninteresting people dressed in white like pimps as they fallowed and hit a damn small white ball with clubs.
Dog Eat Dog launch was at 6PM and Andre Brink was scheduled to introduce my first book. I was happy that a man of his caliber was going to mention my name, and looking forward to calling him by his first name, not professor. Oh, what an honor! Imagine feeling. Picture yourself calling President Mandela by his first name, Nelson in front of a big crowd just to show people that you’re in his league. And now visualize him responding with that smile on his face.
Okay, at half five in the afternoon my panicking poor Kwela publisher kept calling and calling. Unfortunately the golf pimps were still hitting the goddam ball, and watching the action was like watching the paint drying in Soweto room. Idiots! Why don’t they just pick the damn ball off the grass and throw it into the nearest available hole, and the game is over-I swore under my breath. Shame, my poor publisher, they must have spent fortunes for this launch, I thought. Mind you, this was my first launch and I was still a virgin in the world of Andre Brink and literature as a whole. It was also before my mind was corrupted by the likes of Zukiswa Wanner, Siphiwo Mahala, Fred Khumalo, Ndumiso Ngcobo, Sihle Khumalo, Angela Makholwa, Thando Mqolozana, Kgebetli Moele, Cynthia Nozizwe Duduzile Jele. Together we have coined a definition of a Publishers- Someone who screws a writer both day and night time. There goes my royalties because of the golf pimps, I started to get worried. Well, I convinced my publisher that the golf would be over soon.
What will they think of me disappointing an old powerful man like Andre who had written more than thirty books? The question lingered in my mind until the golf presentations were over at about six. And shit, I had to plead with the Fairlady driver to drive me to The Centre of the Books-A distance of over eighty kilometers (could be more). On our way to Cape Town, the Jetta’s wipers broke. It was drizzling. We had to drive at forty kilometers per hour because of the damn malfunction wipers, and we did so until the rain cleared somewhere near Bellville or something like that. By the time we reached the Centre for the Book at about seven-forty, my very own first book launch was over. I bumped into Andre on the door on his way out. Of course he was not aware that I was the Niq Mhlongo that stood him up, so it was easy for me to pass him without saying hello and goodbye.
Niq Mhlongo is here! My publisher tried to shout above the din. Those people that remained to eat and drink the wine were absorbed into their own private small talks. James, my editor then (now publisher), and Annari, my publisher then, tried in vain to tell the dining and wining audience that I was the author of the book they had come to launch. People started looking at their watches. African time, I thought they were thinking; he’ll be late even to his own funeral. Fortunately they listened for less than five minutes to my apologies. Then they went back to their glasses. Some empathized with me by saying ‘shame’.
I guess now you understand why the launch of WAY BACK HOME on the 25th of April 2013 is important to me. I’m even tempted to sleep in Orlando West just so that I don’t have a car breakdown, a golf day, or something. I HOPE YOU’LL BE THERE TOO.

 

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