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John van de Ruit PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 07 February 2007 04:35

John van de Ruit (1975-) was born in Durban and educated at Michaelhouse and the University of Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal ) where he completed his Masters Degree (Cum laude ) in Drama and Performance studies. Van de Ruit has performed in a number of productions and highlights include title roles in Hamlet and Master Harold… and the Boys and appearing in his own play War Cry for which he received a best actor FNB VITA award nomination. He has also been seen in Greig Coetzee's Seeing Red and Athol Fugard's, People are Living There, for which he received a FNB VITA award nomination. He has also starred in an independent film called, I Shot Lucy and an ABC docudrama Global Health, due to be screened in America. In 2013 he appeared in "The Rise of the Insanity League", a sketch comedy show directed by Greig Coetzee. Together with actor Ben Voss he received the Johannesburg Naledi award for best comedy performance for Green Mamba (2004). Most recently, together with Ben Voss, he has been nominated for best performance in a comedy or revue for his performance in Black Mamba.

As a writer, John van de Ruit has won a number of awards including an FNB VITA award for best script and the Noupoort award for new writing, both for his play War Cry. He has also won two awards for his co-writing of Green Mamba. In 2004 he directed, produced and wrote his second full length play Crooked which premièred at the 2004 Hilton Festival. The long awaited Mamba sequel opened in July 2005 when Black Mamba premiered at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown to both critical and popular acclaim. Black Mamba won the Durban Theatre Award (2005) for Best New Script. From May 2006, Black Mamba toured to The Liberty Theatre in Johannesburg, The National Arts Festival in Grahamstown and returned to the Heritage Theatre in Hillcrest before it embarked on a tour to London.

His first novel, Spud, published by Penguin Books and launched nationally in September 2005, became an instant bestseller. The book was also selected for the Exclusive Books Publishers Choice 2005. In 2005 Van De Ruit was a resident artist at The Rhaboobeah Hilton. Spud - The Madness Continues, the sequel to Spud was published by Penguin Books in 2007. In 2009, the "pen-ultimate" book in his Spud series, Spud - Learning to Fly, was published. The final book in the Spud series, Spud: Exit, Pursued by a Bear, was released in 2012.

Spud - The Movie, was released in November 2010, produced by Rogue Star Productions, and stars an ensemble cast including the likes of John Cleese, and local theatre performers and personalities. The second film (based on the second book), Spud 2: The Madness Continues, was released in 2013. A third movie (based on the third book), Spud 3: Learning to Fly, followed in 2013.


Extract from Spud

After a whispered countdown we sprinted as one across the rugby field (the most dangerous part of the expedition) and into the bushes near the bog stream (the stream that encircles the grounds). We then climbed through a barbed wire fence and suddenly the dam was directly in front of us, dead calm and beautiful in the moonlight. One by one we slid into the cool water (apart from Gecko who couldn’t wet his plaster cast), feeling the soft mud squelch between our toes. We swam in complete silence until Mad Dog and Rambo tried to dunk each other. This soon turned into a mad dunking fight with everybody trying to dunk the next person. I managed to half-dunk Simon who retaliated by holding me under the water for about three minutes. Suddenly Boggo hissed us to silence. Across the far side of the dam, a torchlight flickered across the path. And then another and another.  We all stood stock-still in the water, a cold fear creeping over us. Silence. There was a clap of thunder and the wind began to gust with an eerie whistling moan. And then the dogs began to bark .

As one we launched ourselves out of the water and bolted for the fence and the rugby field. The guards must have released their dogs because suddenly their barking and growling was all around us. Rambo was shouting and Mad Dog was trying to shoot the dogs with his catapult. It sounded like he hit one because there was a horrific squeal. Despite the cast and sling Gecko leaped over the barbed wire fence like a springbok and scorched through the bushes like a man possessed. We all galloped across the rugby field, through the rose garden, into the crypt, up the stairs, into the chapel, back down the aisle, up more stairs and into the gallery. Finally through the window, along the roof, through the dormitory window and into my bed, muddy feet and all. And then – dead silence, barring the sound of heavy breathing, the odd sniff from Gecko’s bed and the rumble of the thunderstorm. In the distance we could hear the guards whistling for their dogs. After about five minutes of silent panic, there was laughter and excited chatter. We all knew that we were safe, we’d made it, and we hadn’t been bust. Excited personal accounts of the adventure flew around the dormitory, stories of dog chases, each more frightening than the last. By the time it got round to Rambo’s turn the guard dogs made the Hound of the Baskervilles look as threatening as a three-legged poodle with false teeth. Gecko was convinced that a savage German shepherd had bitten him on the arse. After we all inspected his bum with the aid of Vern’s torch, it was decided that he had fallen foul of Mad Dog’s catapult and had not been gored by a rectum-eating dog. Mad Dog denied the charge and Gecko refused to believe it had been a stone. It was only after about half an hour of wild storytelling that we realised that we were short by one member. Fatty was missing. Rambo reckoned he had been caught by the guards, Simon said he was probably hiding somewhere. We tried to remember where we last saw him. I remembered trying to dunk him in the dam but after that.

Mad Dog offered to go and find him, but once again Rambo insisted that we all go. Poor Gecko’s eyes nearly popped out at the thought of having to repeat the process. For the second time we scrambled out of the window and onto the now very slippery tin roof and there we stopped. Our mission was complete. Well, nearly. Vern’s torch lit up a gigantic backside half-covered by shredded blue underpants sticking out of the chapel window. Fatty had got stuck coming back through the window. (Not sure why he was reversing through the window in the first place.) After some hushed cackling and a few cruel comments, we set about trying to free Fatty. After the seven of us pulled his legs (excuse the pun) for some time, Mad Dog decided that the only way to free Fatty was to push him forward back into the chapel (work that one out). Unfortunately, the big guy just wouldn’t budge. With every push and prod Fatty groaned in pain and to make matters worse, it began to pour with rain. An emergency dormitory meeting was held to solve the Fatty problem. Mad Dog offered to rip the entire window out. Simon offered up his hair gel to lubricate Fatty and slide him out. Mad Dog suggested tying a rope to Fatty’s foot and then attaching the other end of the rope to the school bus, which would drive off pulling Fatty out. After exhausting all other options it was decided that we would work in shifts, two people per shift and the rest would sleep. Myself and Vern took the first shift.


2005. Spud. Johannesburg: Penguin Books.

2007. Spud - The Madness Continues... Johannesburg: Penguin Books.

2009. Spud - Learning to Fly. Johannesburg: Penguin Books

2012. Spud: Exit, Pursued by a Bear. Johannesburg: Penguin Books.


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Rick Andrew PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 07 February 2007 04:26

Rick Andrew (1947 - ) was born in Johannesburg, and moved to KwaZulu Natal in 1966 and has lived there ever since. Rick introduces himself thus: "From 1977 to 1995 I painted, using the medium of Acrylic on canvas, and I concentrated on the landscape. I held several one man exhibitions in Durban and Johannesburg. My interest in the landscape was to record its uniqueness, and personally, to find some sense of belonging or identity. In 1996 I stopped painting and concentrated on writing since I was involved in an M. Tech. thesis. To offset the objectivity required by the masters, and partly as a kind of therapy, I wrote an account of my experiences in the South African Defence Force (SADF) in 1976. I was surprised and pleased that it was published by Penguin in 2001, under the title of Buried In The Sky, and has been reprinted twice. For the last three years I have been writing a movie script set in Durban with a focus on the lives of three students. Recently, however, I have begun to realise just how big a difference there is between literature and a movie script."


Selected Work

From Buried in the Sky (2001)

Leaving Pietermaritzburg in December of 1975 I was pursuing a dream. I saw myself as a minstrel in a green jacket. My hair was long, touching my shoulders, and I was standing under the night sky of the Wild Coast, my guitar in my hand.
It was time to break free.
As art teacher at Maritzburg College, a wide gap had been forming between the restrictions of the job and the needs of my soul. I was tired of working to the background music of cadet bugles and the cane flapping the backsides of boys in grey flannels. I had had three major disagreements with the headmaster, who was a mathematician. After our short, formal, and rather strained encounters, each time I was left feeling that he did not believe the study of art to be a worthy academic pursuit. I believed that art was life itself. However, he was the headmaster, confident and composed, though I noticed a momentary tremor in his eyes when he saw the small ruby earring in my left earlobe. I was turning into an alien right there - in the corridors of those sacred rugby precincts.
I resigned, fitted out a Combi, and hit the road with my wife and small daughter.
We left in the rain about a week before Christmas, and headed south, performing at various hotels along the coast. I have memories of thick, muddy flood waters powering to the sea beneath the bridge at Port St Johns, moonlight on the waves at Coffee Bay, and halls packed with Christmas dancers at Kei Mouth and Morgan's Bay.
In the ablution blocks of campsites along the way I would invariably catch the news on someone's portable radio. It was not good. The South African army had penetrated deep into Angola. In some of the newspapers there were pictures of armoured convoys in an empty landscape. Something serious was going on, but press restrictions limited our knowledge and made it difficult to build up a picture of the situation. However, it seemed like war - the real thing - on the international chess board of power.
Like a dark rolling cloud, this news pursued us on our journey.
For the month of February we worked in East London at the Sportsman's Bar in the Queen's Hotel. Food and accommodation were supplied. We used to play the cocktail hour and the evening slot from eight to twelve, with a fifteen minute break in each hour. Gill and I both played guitar and sang, some cover versions and some of our own compositions.
On slow nights a few travelling salesmen sat watching us, sipping their drinks. At the end of a set we might receive a note with a request, or the offer of a drink. We'd look across the room and our latest patron would wave us over to his table. Usually he would feast his eyes on the singer - my wife - hardly pretending any interest in me.

[ ... ]

I was reading a paperback of the letters of Vincent van Gogh, and there was a passage in one of his letters to his brother Theo that I pored over continually. I wrote it out in my sketch book. It put into words the kind of vision that I found inspiring, but was unable to articulate at the time. Van Gogh was quoting from Philosophe sous les Toits by Souvestre.

... Your own country ... is everything that surrounds you, everything that has brought you up and nourished you, everything you have loved - those fields that you see, those houses, those trees, those young girls that laugh as they pass, that is your country! The laws that protect you, the bread with which your labour is repaid, the words you speak, the joy and the sorrow that come to you from the people and the things among which you live, that is your country! The little room where you used to see your mother, the memories which she has left you, the earth in which she reposes, that is your country! You see it, you breathe it everywhere! Figure to yourself the rights and the duties, the affections and the needs, the memories and the gratitude, gather all that under one name, and that name will be your country.

I was always disturbed by the phrase 'The laws that protect you'. Apartheid put a fence between me and the others - those excluded by the Whites Only signs. It kept me in a kind of exile. This was my country? Was this my country?

[ ... ]

The small print on my call-up papers stated quite matter-of-factly that failure to report for duty would render the addressee liable for six years' imprisonment.
My situation became an interesting case study at the Hard Rock late night discussions. A young hippie couple whose father (on the girl's side) was paying for their passage to England said that I had no choice but to leave South Africa. To stay would mean prison. To go to the border with the SADF would be to side with the racist regime and to go against all that was moral and right.
However, it wasn't easy for me to leave the country. I had a wife and child to support and very little ready cash. Besides, I didn't want to leave my country. I wanted to live in it. Learn about it first hand. I wanted to play music. Find the stories and tunes to express the truth of our experiences. Despite the evil in the land, people were living here, and neither hope nor acts of human kindness ever ceased. I wanted to see change and beauty. I wanted to see my country bloom.
I didn't know then that the seed of the future was germinating in silent determination on Robben Island - some three kilometres away. Staring beyond the bars of his little cell. Staring through the mountain ... A deadly and unflinching vision for justice ... Nelson.



2001. Buried in the Sky. London: Penguin Books.

Shabbir Banoobhai PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 07 February 2007 04:25

Shabbir Banoobhai (1949 - ) was born in Durban and lived there until his move to Cape Town in 1995. Of necessity he shared the fate of the larger black community of South Africans, and his poetry reflects that struggle. He has also identified with victims of oppressive regimes elsewhere, including the Balkans, where he travelled with a journalist friend on a mission to Sarajevo in 1992. One of the central poems of his latest volume, Sarajevo, for which he received the 2001 Thomas Pringle Award for poetry, records this experience. Shabbir Banoobhai's poetry is interwoven with spiritual, political and personal themes. Douglas Livingstone said of his first volume of poetry: ' An obsessive and talented poet, a precocious master of the word and a fine lyricist to boot, almost every line of the work was subliminally ignited by the ancient great Islamic poets. He shares their prime qualities: sensuality, passion, brilliance of imagery, a holistic approach to nature, and of course, love of God.' Banoobhai's mystical writing has become more clearly directed against narrow-minded and exclusive religious thinking, perhaps influenced by South African society. He has a personal website,, where he writes philosophical meditations, some of which were published under the title Lightmail (2002). His personal poetry is chiefly for his two daughters and his wife, a teacher of Arabic, and for his friends. After his second book was published in 1984, he did not publish again (though he continued to write) until 1999 when he brought out, as a private publication, a book of brief poems and spiritual reflections, Wisdom in a Jug - Reflections of Love. In 2002 he also published Inward moon outward sun, which was launched at Poetry Africa in the same year. Banoobhai has continued to publish prolifically, both in print and on his personal website. These publications include Book of Songs (2004), If I could write - Ramadan letters (2006), Water would suffice - Reflections of love (2007), and A mountain is an upside down valley (2008).

Selected Work

from Inward moon outward sun (2002)

yesterday you left the sun behind it did not set
it simply burst like a grenade deep inside your mind

you left the mountains that you loved you would not have left but they crumpled
under the bombs meant for you

you left your village and your family but that's not true
like your freedom they were taken forcibly away from you

you drank water from a stream that was dying saw the reflection of the sky looked for yourself and found a dark rain-cloud drifting by

it was then that you left the sun your village and your family behind searched out the door of death blew it up and stepped in

yesterday you left death behind
the sun is back, mountains really do not die
other villages will grow, other families return
to live in, love, the land you softened with your blood

your eyes are begging-bowls not even the sun can fill they are like the dark spaces that inhabit the universe they devour the light of your people all laughter, even its memory, is gone from their land

in you the song of their struggle
has become a dirge of bones being crushed ploughed into the ground - to blossom into sunflowers in sealed-off courtyards

when you approach, even children are embarrassed
the morning hastily retreats behind clouds that promise but deliver no rain - those who have vanquished you no longer bother to notice your outstretched hands.



1980. Echoes of my other self. Johannesburg: Ravan Press.
1984. Shadows of a sun-darkened land. Johannesburg: Ravan Press.
1999. Wisdom in a Jug - Reflections of Love. (private publication).
2002. Inward moon outward sun. Durban: University of Natal Press
2002. Lightmail. Durban: Africa Impressions.
2004. Book of Songs. Johannesburg: Wits University Press.
2006. If I could write - Ramadan letters. (private publication).
2007. Water would suffice - Reflections of love. (private publication).
2008. A mountain is an upside down valley. (private publication).

2009. Lyrics in Paradise. Cape Town. Peter Strauss Publishers

2009. Dark light - the spirit's secret. Cape Town: Shabbir Banoobhai

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