Back in the 1990’s when I was a music junkie and would sit by my radio, as if waiting for a secret message via Morse code from across the Atlantic, a new cause was created in South Africa as the country’s new found democratic freedom took over from an oppressive regime. I remember very vividly the fervour surrounding the South African music industry at the time and the “call-to-arms” in support of local artists. As a conscientious young teen (who never did her homework but preferred to read and listen to music instead), I jumped on the bandwagon. As a result Johnny Clegg, Just Jinger, Urban Creep and Qcumba Zoo (remember those guys?) became my local heroes who had my full attention and support.
More than 10 years have passed, and I now feel like a complete hypocrite. As I continue on my literary journey, I feel a sense of déjà vu as the lack of support for local talent comes under the spotlight once again. This time, however, the SA music industry is the least of my worries as my focus has now shifted to South African Literature instead.
It began two weeks when I found out that Cape Town author Lauren Beukes won the prestigious Arthur C. Clarke award (for 2011) for her novel Zoo City. For those who are not sci-fi fans, let me tell you that internationally this is a very big deal. So why wasn’t a big deal made of it here then?
Even the manner in which I discovered this (from a ranting article written by a local music star of all things) is something I attribute to providence. (Look out for my next post)
It was then that I realized with absolute horror, that I do not personally own any books by South African authors. I haven’t even read John van de Ruit’s Spud yet(!).
Have I been so blinded by my bias attitude towards “classic European literature” that I have stupidly snubbed some great books without realizing it? The fact that the movie version of Spud starring the irreplaceable John Cleese was not enough to make me buy the book means I certainly have been blinded. But now its time to rectify this.
Exclusive Books, SA’s leading bookstore chain, is now doing what radio stations were doing a decade ago. Promoting home-grown talent. Their “Homebru” sales feature has got me excited and I will be redeeming myself today. As Seneca once said, we are citizens, not of a single country, but of the world. This does not mean, however, that we should ignore what’s right in front of us.
The one thing I’ve realized on my journey, is that the support and advice of fellow writers can be invaluable. How can I expect support from my fellow South Africans when I don’t even support them?
Forget charity, the road to world domination begins at home 🙂