Reviews – Books

Review: A Reckoning with East Africa’s Colonial Histories – Abdulrazak Gurnah’s ‘Afterlives’

AiW Guest: Florian Stadtler.

German colonial history remains little explored in fiction. Since the 1880s, Kaiser Wilhelm II, grandson of Queen Victoria, had the ambition to secure what was then termed Germany’s ‘Platz and der Sonne’, its place in the sun, Von Bülow’s infamous phrase in praise of Germany’s expansionist colonial policies. In popular historical discourse of German colonialism, attention tends to focus more on Deutsch-Südwestafrika…

“Such noise and screams and blood”: A Review of Abdulrazak Gurnah’s ‘Afterlives’ (2020)

By AiW Guest: Judyannet Muchiri.

In the wake of a bad dream, one of the protagonists in Abdulrazak Gurnah’s Afterlives, Hamza, laments: “such noise and screams and blood”. These words keep resounding when one thinks about the disruption caused by colonialism in Africa – how our grandparents and ancestors must have felt with the arrival of those who set themselves up as colonial masters.

Review of “Paul Mpagi Sepuya”: ‘between desired object and desiring subject’.

Sepuya’s portrait photography, described by the artist as ‘queer modernism’, disrupts the conventions of traditional studio portraiture, to become a site of homoerotic social relations: a space where the roles of artist and subject are constructed and contested. The book exposes Sepuya’s play with artifice and performance as it outlines the development of his visual practice, cataloguing how he uses his own body, and those of his intimate circle of friends and lovers, in ways which challenge notions of power and authorship. Deeply connected with the written word, he found in texts and literature a way to make sense of this ‘gap of language between desired object and desiring subject’ (p.14), the very gap in which his practice is located.

The Fragile Beauty of Mangaliso Buzani’s “A Naked Bone”

In 2019, Mangaliso Buzani’s A Naked Bone won the African Poetry Book Fund’s Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry. In a subsequent interview published in Africa in Dialogue, Buzani recalls how, upon hearing the news, he quicky phoned fellow poet and New Brighton resident, Mxolisi Nyezwa. This phone call is one that is particularly apt because when you read A Naked Bone there is, hidden within Buzani’s remarkable and dreamlike poetry, a touch of Nyezwa. There is a fragile sort of beauty that poignantly captures a deeply personal suffering.