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Niq Mhlongo

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Archive for the ‘Misc’ Category

Chocolate City

A little mound of disgusting steaming dog shit is what I stepped on as I came out of the crowded Brussels Central Station that cold Friday morning. I had just disembarked the train from the Brussels International Airport with Ilke, my host at the Passa Porta Writers Residence where I was going to spend one month.

‘Shit! Welcome to the chocolate and cheese city, the capital of Europe’ I thought to myself as I pulled my burgundy travel bag to the waiting taxi by the station.

‘Will you manage?’ asked Ilke as I loaded my bag at the boot of the taxi. On my shoulder I was carrying my laptop bag. I don’t think she had realized that I had dog shit under my lime Converse shoe.

Ilke had braved the cold Brussels morning to come and meet me at the airport that day of the 28th of November 2009.
‘I’ll be fine’ I answered while scanning the pavement for a secret place to remove the irritating dog shit. Unfortunately, the taxi driver’s eyes were fixed on me and I was afraid to clean my shoe in case he thinks I had brought the shit from Africa.
‘46 Dansaertstraat …’ that was all I could hear from Ilke, as the conversation between her and the driver was in French.

With the shit still caked on the sole of my left shoe, I sat at the back of the taxi with Ilke. It did not smell much; and I don’t know whether that was because of my blocked nose. But as we passed several shops on the street selling chocolates and cheese, the answer came into my mind. I was thinking that the reason Brussels dog shit didn’t smell much under my foot was because dogs were fed chocolates and cheese, unlike in South African.
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The Xenophobia tag

On the 2nd of July a bunch of South African writers, including myself are going to the inaurguration of the Pan African Literarary Forum in Ghana. Ta to the Department of Arts and Culture for sponsoring the trip until the 18th of July. Before the regrettable and recent ugly scenes of the attack on foreign nationals by some South Africans, i was looking forward to this trip with great interest. Firstly, it is my first trip to the West African country, and Ghana has a great historical significance in Africa -as the first to achieve independence under Kwame Nkhrumah. secondly, I’ll be rubbing shoulders with my most favourite writers such as Chimamanda Ngozi, Kofi Awoonor, Ama Ata Aido, Helon Habila, Binyavanga Wainaina and others. That was what occcupied my mind before the recent xenophobia attacks here in South Africa.

Now after the attacks, it is very embarassing to travel as a South african because what happened have earned us a ‘xenophobic name tag’. Like my favourite cartoonist Zapiro has shown in one of his master pieces in recent weeks, i think that beautiful pay off line of ours- ‘proudly South African’ has been badly dented, and has been turned into an embarrassing ‘sadly Xenophobic’ tag by the recent xenophobic violence. sadly, the people that feel this humiliation are those that travel internationally. We writers find ourselves commenting more on xenophobia during international writers festivals nowadays, than we talk about our own works.
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