Rainbow Nation’s unresolved issues

An interview with Sindiwe Magona on her book, I Write the Yawning Void, the 80-year-old woman who recently graduated with a PhD in creative writing, reflects on why Desmond Tutu’s Rainbow Nation is on a rocky path.

What’s the “yawning void” you refer to?

The void or gap is the invisible but loud and tangible conversation that does not take place in our country (Rainbow Nation).

What is stopping us from realising the dream of being the “Rainbow Nation”, to use Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s now world-famous term? In the heady days of transition to democracy, the stars seemed reachable. When apartheid ended, the dream was that South Africans, coloured, all hues of the human palette, would come together. However, that has not happened.

The void is the issues we avoid tackling honestly, courageously, meaningfully and towards amicable resolution.

What are the pressing issues you address?

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission failed to deliver or make possible any true reconciliation, as that is not realisable without restitution.

Structurally, South Africa remains a country of sharp contrast between the rich and the poor, which, because of its vicious history, translates to white and black … barring a few newly rich blacks (mostly government personnel or connected to the same).

The essays also warn the reader not to rest on her laurels while waiting for social transformation (which has remained an illusion).

So the key pressing issues I address in this book are the twin mountains we have to climb to find our ubuntu – our true liberation: racialism and poverty.

Linked and mutually reinforcing, they give rise to self-hate and vulnerability (such that people can’t or won’t properly take care of themselves or make good choices).

Why the essay form?

I like the essay form for the ease of doing it. The essay, more than all the other art forms, most approximates cordial conversation. For me, writing an essay feels like talking to a friend or colleague.

How did you become a writer?

I became a writer by giving motivational talks and getting constant advice: “You should write that. Write a book.” I started out as a primary school teacher, with the lowest qualification possible. But then I lost my job and it took six years before I got rehired. It was during this difficult time – no support from the government, a single parent of three children all under five – that I resorted to domestic work.

Domestic work opened my eyes, and I gained some sense of how life was lived on the other side of the railway line. Between that and my sense of shame I eventually got it into my head to change my life. There was only one way I could come up with to do that – education.

Follow @SundayWorldZA on Twitter and @sundayworldza on Instagram, or like our Facebook Page, Sunday World, by clicking here for the latest breaking news in South Africa.

  • The interview first appeared in The Conversation


Latest News