From a review of Loose Cannon (2003) by Margaret von Klemperer.
It was back at the end of the fifties that June Drummond parcelled up the manuscript of her first novel - pages and chapters all unnumbered - secured the parcel with colourful, sticky Christmas tape and sent it off to the predominantly Jewish firm of Victor Gollancz.
'I made all the mistakes,' she says. But it hardly mattered; Gollancz accepted the book. It was the start of a long partnership, with Gollancz publishing Drummond's thrillers and romances until the firm was taken over as part of the huge changes that have swept across the publishing scene. Drummond has shown more staying power than her publisher: this year will see her 80th birthday and has already seen the publication by English publishing house Robert Hale of Loose Cannon, her 16th thriller.
In 1998, Drummond decided that she was going to retire from writing. She and her sister moved into a flat on Durban's Berea and she decided to have a restful life - if being a lay minister and playing bridge allowed time for it.
'But I always had the itch to write,' she says. 'It's like an athlete, you still think you can run a marathon at 90.' But, unlike the athlete, she can. Although Drummond says the world she writes about and the world of publishing have both changed, she has proved that she can still write successfully, for all that she refers to her post-retirement writing as her 'second childhood'.
Drummond enjoys both writing and research but admits that the latter can be so interesting that it leads her off into byways that are of no use for the book on hand. But a writer must be accurate.
'I learnt that with my first book. I wrote about some make of car - a Maserati, I think - and mentioned the magneto. As soon as it was published, I got a letter telling me that the car I described doesn't have one. You've got to get it right.'
Drummond was living in London when she started her writing career. She was Secretary to the Church Adoption Society and in her time there saw over 1000 children adopted. She enjoyed the work and used it for the basis of her second novel. It was a time, before the Pill or legalised abortion, when there were many unwanted babies.
Drummond left Britain in 1960 and, over the Tannoy system on the mail ship carrying her home to Durban, heard the announcement of the Sharpeville massacre. As she stepped off the ship, her mother met her with the announcement that a new political party was having its first meeting in Durban that night and that Drummond had better go along. So she attended the first meeting of the Progressive Party and found herself sucked into the politics of the time.
Drummond worked for what was then the Durban Indian Child Welfare Society and found that the divisions within South Africa hindered the adoption work they were trying to do. 'It was very difficult to do it right when fighting injustices at the same time,' she says.
Drummond may have been drawn into South Africa's politics but they were one subject writers were advised to steer clear of. She says her first novel was 'anti-apartheid in a mild, beginnerish way' and as such appealed to the flamboyant Victor Gollancz, a supporter of Africa's freedom struggles at the time. 'But publishers switched off on Africa for a long time; they felt that critics and readers heaved a sigh when they picked up a book about apartheid.'
It was a situation that has taken a long, long time to start changing. And it meant that Drummond wrote about other things.
Drummond is coming up to her half-century of published writing and shows no sign of stopping. She laughs when she says that maybe her forthcoming 80th birthday will bring in more readers.
'People will either say I must be mad to go on, or let's see how she does it.'
And she does it very well.
From The Black Unicorn (1959)
The week before Max St. Cyr died, the temperature touched one hundred and ten in the shade. No wind stirred the vineyards. Extra fire-watchers patrolled the pinewoods above the house. The stable cat crackled with electricity. This weather, unseasonable in the spring of the year, broke in a storm that rushed down into the Constantia Valley with a brilliance of hooves and a whipping wet mane. Steam rose from the fields like a sigh of relief.
Sometimes I think that that week of intolerable heat contributed to Max's death, crystallising emotions that had been boiling up for months. During the past two years I've thought a good deal about the past, wondering where I made my mistakes. I brought Max up, helped to shape his character. I'm old. I can remember-oh, a long way back.
It was sixty years ago when I first came to Arcenciel, and I was sixteen years old. My hard round hat cut into my forehead, and my sister's boots one size too small made each step a torture. I remember how my father took my hand, and said 'Look, Emma, over the door,' and I looked up and saw above the carved fruits and goddesses the motto '?? corps perdu, with might and main.' My father was a quiet man, a scholar who taught in the school for coloured children on the St. Cyr estate. He'd a cool Scandinavian head from his grandmother, but I took after my mother's people, and I think he was afraid the streak of silliness in me would lose me my chance of success.
He needn't have worried. Rebellion throve in the soil of Arc-en-ciel. The first St. Cyr to arrive in the Cape of Good Hope was an outcast, expelled from Catholic France for his Protestantism, from Holland for his debts, and from England for his political miscalculations. He bobbed up in Table Bay about the end of the seventeenth century, and some years after his arrival obtained a grant of land between Constantia Nek and Tokai, in a valley of rich promise, grazed by heraldic beasts, and sweet with strange flowers that grow nowhere else in the circumference of the world.
On the day he laid the foundations of his farmhouse, there was a storm, and when it passed he saw that a rainbow stood across his land, ending, it seemed, at his boundary. He called the house Arc-en-ciel. The years added lustre to it, the St. Cyrs became important economically, politically, and socially.
Their motto was well chosen. I came, in my squeaky boots, to a home where it was considered normal to live ?? corps perdu; to seek knowledge, to govern, love, fight and laugh with all one's strength. Any small rebellions I might have raised were small grapes in those vineyards.
1959. The Black Unicorn. London. Victor Gollancz 1959. Northern Miner. London. Victor Gollancz. 1961. Thursday's Child. London. Victor Gollancz. 1962. A Time to Speak. London. Victor Gollancz. 1964. Welcome, Proud Lady. London. Victor Gollancz 1964. A Cage of Hummingbirds. London. Victor Gollancz. 1965. Cable Car. London. Victor Gollancz. 1967. The Saboteurs. London. Victor Gollancz. 1968. The Gantry Episode. London. Victor Gollancz. 1969. The People in the Glass House. London. Victor Gollancz. 1971. The Farewell Party. London. Victor Gollancz. 1973. Bang Bang! You're Dead! London. Victor Gollancz. 1974. The Boon Companions. London. Victor Gollancz. 1975. Slowly the Poison. London. Victor Gollancz. 1976. Funeral Urn. London. Victor Gollancz. 1979. The Patriots. London: Victor Gollancz. 1979. I Saw Him Die. London. Victor Gollancz. 1980. Such a Nice Family. London. Victor Gollancz. 1982. The Trojan Mule.. London. Victor Gollancz. 1985. The Bluestocking : a novel. London : Victor Gollancz. 1989. Junta. London. Victor Gollancz. 1990. Unsuitable Miss Pelham. London. Victor Gollancz. 1991. Burden of Guilt. London. Victor Gollancz. 1992. The Imposter. London. Victor Gollancz. 1993. Hidden Agenda. London: Victor Gollancz. 2003. Loose Cannon. London: Robert Hale Ltd. 2004. The Meddlers. London: John Hale Publishing. 2006. Old Bones Buried Under. London: John Hale Publishing. 2008. Countdown Murder. London: John Hale Publishing.
Wednesday, 07 February 2007 04:18
John Dube (1871 - 1946) was born in the Inanda district and was the author of the first historical novel in Zulu. The novel is entitled Insila kaShaka (1930) and was translated into English in 1951 as Jeqe, the Bodyservant of king Tshaka.
Dube was a founding member of the South African Native National Council (later the ANC) and in 1914 led its deputation to Britain to protest against the Native Land Act. He later resigned the presidency of the Congress. Known to his countrymen as 'Mafukuzela', Dube exercised great influence, and was moderate in his views. Dube established the newspaper Ilanga Lase Natal in 1903.
Inspired by the American educator, Booker T. Washington, Dube excelled as educationist, politician, editor, artist and publicist, and was successful in unifying the historical vision of the African people. His democratic nature as well as statesmanship were evident in his belief that despite the oppression of the African people by the Europeans, blacks and whites would eventually be able to live together under a democratic order.
From Jeqe, the Body-servant of King Shaka.
Love has a strange power, for, instead of both the women being condemned to death, Shaka only wanted to kill the one whom he did not love. But he knew that the chief induna would not consent to this; he would say that if one was to be killed, both should be killed. So the king sent out messengers to summon the fathers of the two women. The medicine was burnt. When the fathers of the two women arrived, Shaka ordered the chief induna to tell them the whole story.
When they heard it, they replied, ‘Sire, what can we say? Let the Child of Heaven do unto his dogs as seems good to him.’
Shaka told the fathers to take their daughters home and punish them. However, a few days afterwards Shaka’s favourite was ordered to return. The other woman never appeared again at the royal kraal.
But fear had entered Shaka’s heart: he felt he was hated by his own people, and was terrified of witchcraft. Fe made him a prisoner in his own hut and he was startled by trifles. He had no desire to converse with his councilors in the cattle-kraal. When the most powerful chiefs of the country came to do homage and to discuss military affairs, he refused to see them. ‘Is the kind sick,’ they asked, ‘for he will not show his face to us?’
The headmen now hit upon a plan to dispel the moodiness of the king. They sent for all the best musicians in the land, those who played on reeds and flutes and all stringed instruments. Day after day they practised in the men’s quarters till the harmony was perfect. Then one day they assembled in the cattle-kraal to play within the hearing of the king’s apartments. It was their aim to entice the king to come out and enjoy the music.
When the sweet sound of music came to the king’s ears, he cried to Jeqe, ‘What do I hear? What are they doing in the cattle kraal?’
‘Your dogs, sire,’ he replied, ‘have come to play to you. They hope you will come out and listen to their music.’
And indeed the king left the gloom of his cattle hut and listened and rejoiced in the music, and the cattle-kraal was filled to overflowing.
Then the kind said, ‘Why did you delay so long to give me this great joy?’
And the people answered, ‘O Black One, we do our best’ we are always thinking how we may please you.’ All this time the court ladies were impatient to come and listen, so the chief induna pleaded for them and the kind consented.
And now the music was over, but the king remained and spoke graciously with the people and their hearts were filled with joy.
Two poems written in praise of John Dube by H.I.E. Dhlomo
Great son of streams and valleys African! Mafukuzela! thou of warrior frame; Whose rare achievements proved the Black Man can! You thought and taught and wrought us into fame. Not scars of war alone adorn your brow; For Beauty, Song and Fire of vale and hill, Of our rich idiom - how the gods endow! - The pages of your story wondrous, fill. Blest leader, thou, to fight and midst the glist Of battles fierce - great scholar, author, sage - Find time the Muses fair to serve. Our mist Of ignorance you raised, Light of our age! In pangs of birth we stood when he began; Twas dark! God spoke! and there arose this man!
Fuze by H.I.E. Dhlomo (For John Langalibalele Dube)
Pray, poets of our Race play softly on Your harps! Lay down your shields for he is gone! Pipe dulcet songs of praise to God upon Your tender strings as Fuze passes on To join immortal throngs of those who strove With tears to serve both God and Man; who wove A rope of golden deeds to heaven that men Might climb and the celestial gates open. How shall we sing him songs himself who sang Immortal songs whose echo mountains rang? How tell his praises with our limping rhyme Who wrote sweet rimes upon the sands of Time? The glory of our land - deep vales and mountains; The pageantry of flocks gathered near fountains; Of fragrant flowers and herbs, of worms that glow At night while angels bring us sweet repose From strife; amorous birds that build their nests Mid strains of music; the ancestral guests, Pied snakes, that speak of our reincarnation And urge us on to fight for liberation; Deft scenes of beauty where the weeping willows Weep not, but sing lost harmonies; where swallows Bring rain; where fantasies of mingled splendour Of starry nights, sweet sounds, perfume and colour, Of lizards, bees, blue seas, and winds all sobbing, And waterfalls, green fields, and birds all soaring, Combine to make this clime a Paradise, Ah me! Alas! polluted by the guise Of those who as they mouth of liberty And Christian law, shape laws of slavery!.... These glories of our land in book and word He caught and sang his people to begird And make them boastful of their land and Race, And wolves who sneer disdain with pride to face. Oh weep! Mafukuzela great is dead! The giant who pained through laborious years To woo for Africa the place that's hers. Weep not! for a golden circlet crowns his head! Weep not for him. He lives! He speaks, is free! This day he has ascended to the sphere Of immortality. The atmosphere Of hate and colour, sorrows, calumny, He does not breathe. He is at rest, lives free. Tis we must weep who suffer slavery; Who on travail hang as upon a cross! Who dwell amongst men who think the Cross but dross. Oh weep! Mafukuzela brave is dead! Weep not! for victory adorns his head! A nursling in the arms of God, he sings! Where grave thy victory? Where death thy sting? He now belongs to the immortal few Who on the Tree of Time their names did hew With blades of beauty, pain and noble deeds; In service to their people and their needs; Such Shaka, Aggrey, Khama, Hannibal And many more who answered to Life's call; His work and efforts and his name and fame, Forever in our midst will be a flame Inspiring us to fight for liberty, An echo and a rod to make us free. Oh weep! Mafukuzela wise is dead! Weep not! for pearls of genius alight his head! Great Guardian of our shattered Eden fair! The Snake of Wrong you challenged without care! Like lovers' kisses so upon our lips Thy name - which even Death cannot eclipse! Corruption, hate, now stride our politics; Where Fuze won by deeds, some climb by tricks. He battled with clean arms of sanity, Where now we suffer shafts of crudity; The Ego and the shout are all today; The Nation thirsts - while pygmies prance and play! Of Bantu freedom - he the Morning Star! Who kept us not afar, but led us far. The Kings of deeds rise immortal from their bones. Vain men of wealth shine only while they live, But those who achieve, through ages will survive. They doubly live who of themselves doth give. But power mad fools lie dead while yet they live. Genius endures. Wealth, power and fortune, change; The works of beauty remain passing strange; For genius teaches that all life is one; Works of achievement cry, Thy will be done.
1907. Practical Christianity Among the Zulus. In Missionary Review of the World. 20, 370-373.
1930. U-Shembe. Pietermaritzburg: Shuter and Shooter. 1930. Insila kaShaka. Durban: Marianhill Mission Press. 1933. Ukuzi-phatha Kahle. Durban: Marianhill Mission Press. 1951. Jeqe, the bodyservant of king Tshaka. Alice: Lovedale Press. 1996. A Zulu Song Book. Durban: Killie Campbell Africana Library.
Author Map (Ohlange)
Wednesday, 07 February 2007 04:17
Kessie Govender (1942 - 2002) was born in Durban. His grandfather Veeraswami Govender came to South Africa from Poolioor in South India as an indentured labourer. On gaining his freedom he bought land in Cato Manor and started a market garden. Govender's father, Mariemuthoo, was a bricklayer, and when Govender left school at the end of Grade 10, he became one too.
He was introduced to the theatre by his cousin Ronnie Govender. By the early 1960s, theatre in South Africa meant mostly white theatre staging classics such as Shakespeare and bedroom farces. It bore no relation to the lives of most South Africans, it didn't reflect indigenous language or humour, and it had nothing to say about the issues of the day. Few, if any, resources went into theatre that was not white. To remedy this, Ronnie Govender and a small group of others brought the eminent Indian director Krishna Shah to South Africa to run a clinic. The result was the Shah Theatre Academy, which ran workshops to encourage and train young actors and writers to fill the gap in the local drama scene. Among the first to attend was Kessie. The fact that the academy existed to help create more enlightened drama did not mean that it didn't have its fair share of backbiting and snobbery, and Govender was looked at askance as an untutored upstart. When Ronnie chose him to fill the lead in his play Beyond Calvary, there was no end to the hissing. "How can you put this monkey on stage?" demanded one furious speech and drama graduate who had coveted the role. Kessie, never short of confidence in his abilities or his cause, went storming ahead regardless, and drew the first of many accolades from the local press.
In the 1970s he began writing and directing as well, to fill the void of suitable pieces on issues he felt needed addressing. "So much was starting to come to the boil, politically, and there was so little available that expressed the situation, so I got down to it and began writing and staging my own plays," he recalled in an interview. His first - and one of his few real commercial successes - was Stable Expense, after which he named his Stable Theatre. Money was definitely not one of Govender's driving passions, and he made so little of it that those who knew him never ceased to wonder how he managed to keep body and soul together, let alone support a wife (whose teacher's salary was invaluable) and two children.
Despite this, he was always ready to help some struggling artist get a bite to eat or pay for transport. And, no matter how pressed he was, he always made time to read scripts brought to him by young hopefuls. A number of would-be actors and writers now working in mainstream theatre owe their start to Govender. He died of a heart attack in 2002 and is survived by his wife, Jayshree, and two children. In 2013 Stable Theatre honoured Govender by presenting a revival of his first play, Stablexpense, in 2013.
(Adapted from Chris Barron's "Working class hero of theatre for the people" Sunday Times. 3 Feb 2002)
from Working Class Hero - a stage play in two acts
Period - 1976. About three months before the Soweto uprising. Location - A building site in a suburb close to Durban.
People in the play
Frank: Unskilled builders' labourer (African) Jits: Bricklayers' chargehand (Indian) Siva: Artisan bricklayer (Indian) Anand: Third year law student at University of Durban Westville (Siva's brother) Grievenstien: Building Industry Labour inspector (White)
Stage or performing area to depict a building site. Scattered about are builders' scaffoldings, a medium sized ladder, a doorframe, motar boards, bricks in piles and packed in stacks. A few empty cement bags lie crumbled. The action and props are permitted to spill outside the allowed conventional working space. Entrances and exits of characters are decided to suit chosen venues. The play is a continuous performance without scene changes, there is a short tea break for the characters on stage, during which time the audience is free to do as it pleases. Stage props are listed on the last page of this book.
The curtains are up before the audience enters the theatre. (preferably there should be no curtains) The house lights are low. The stage or performing area is to create the impression that the place has not yet been cleared and made ready for a performance.. This is to stimulate the audience to feel as curious intruders rather than detatched spectators. There is no set, and as there are no conventional chairs, actors would have to improvise their comfort needs. An incomplete raked brickwork corner of a building stands starkly out of place. Words from the song 'Working Class Hero' are heard as the houselights are lowered. Performance lights to indicate early morning. In the diffused light FRANK wheels in barrow of bricks and tips them randomly. Turning his barrow he exits. Reloads and returns. He stops close to the pile of bricks but does not empty the barrow. Leaving the barrow, he walks to an already packed stack of bricks, on top of which is a partly eaten unsliced half loaf of brown bread and a chipped mug of tea. Picking up the bread he takes a bite pulls the cement bag over the paint container, seats himself on it, continues eating and sipping tea. At the end of the song, lights fade in gradually to normal visibility.
(Enter Jits. He is carrying a kit bag in one hand and a newspaper in the other.)
FRANK : (as Jits walks past him.) Yebo Baas. JITS Ya(barely acknowledging Frank.) (walks to a stack of bricks) What time do you start work'? FRANK : Dala Baas, long time, must be sometimes apas six. JITS : Then what you still sitting on your arse for? (removes tea flask from kit bag.) FRANK : Awa ngidila iblekfasti Jits. JITS : Is Temba coming today? FRANK : Angazi. I dunno.He was sick Friday JITS : Ya I know that story. Every Friday he's sick, and every Monday he's absent. Right then, you better mix the daka.(pours tea into cup.) FRANK : Ow xovile gaate. That time I'm getting up I'm mixing the daka everything. JITS : Then come on, move it with the bricks man. What you waiting for? (reaches into pocket for cigarettes.) FRANK : (empties barrow, exits.) (sounds of bricks clattering into barrow is heard offstage.) JITS : (it's his last cigarette, he squashes the packet and flings it away, looks towards Frank and calls.) Frank, (receives no response, shouts.) Hey Frank, you bastard. FRANK : (above the sound of bricks thrown into barrow.) Yebo Baas. JITS : Get me a packet of cigarettes. FRANK : (offstage) In' Baas'? JITS : Lo ugwayi man, you bloody shit. You got cement in your ears what? FRANK : (enters with barrow loads of bricks. stops his barrow and removes bricks by hand, after packing some of them into a stack, he walks to Jits, collects money, looks down at the money in his hand.) Ow Jits borrow me one rand please. JITS : What one rand? One rand, one rand, one rand. What do you think I am'? Your father or something? Do you know how much you owe me? FRANK : Ow siza Jits, I want to tenga some inyama. JITS : Well use your own money, you got paid last week. FRANK : Ow Jits, siza bo, hambisile mall ekhaya. JITS What's that? FRANK : I'm sending the mall to the farm. I'm never going to the farm, musbe three months. I'm sending the money for my wife and my children. JITS : Hey shit man, that's your wife and your children, and I hope you're not blaming me for any of them. FRANK : (walks towards barrow, takes a few steps then turns around as if a new though has struck him, walks back to Jits.) Hey Jits, shiya zonke le zinto leaving it all that one rand everything and giving it me only one twenty cents. JITS : Alright, take it from the rand. FRANK : Ow Baba, wanyisiza kakhulu (goes down on one knee in mock gratitude.) JITS : You just give me back my money, that's all. FRANK : Not to worley Jits. I'm giving it back your money. (resumes packing bricks.) JITS Hey, how much you taking there now? FRANK : Twenty cents. JITS : Didn't you say that you were going to buy meat? What meat you going to buy for twenty cents? You don't take fifty cents and say you only took twenty cents. You hear? FRANK : You mus'nt think I'm a lobber Jits. I'm getting it a inyama for the twenty cents. I'm going there by the butcher, I'm saying there by him, I ley wena, the baas he say lie want the amadogbones for twenty cents. When I say that, lie say, Which baas? I say the baas for the building. Ow when I say that, he pick it all the nice, nice amathambo and he gimme lot, lot inyama. (pause, scratches his head in puzzlement.) Ow, hey Jits, I don't know why he give the baas's dog, lot, lot ama bones, goto that time I say that it is for me, he give it me leetle bit amabones, no inyama nothing. JITS : Maybe he doesn't like you. FRANK : How he can saying he don't like it me, He not knowing me nothing (pause) (as if it suddenly dawns on him) Noo. He know that the baas is a Mulungu, he get flightened. But me? I'm clever me, anything I want it, I say the Baas he want it, the baas he want it. JITS : Alright, alright, leave all that and get my cigarettes. FRANK : Awright