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Language expert to launch a book during Festival

Date Released: Thu, 27 June 2013 12:59 +0200

Prof Russell Kaschula, the National Research Foundation SARCHhi Chair of Intellectualism of African Languages will launch short story anthology as part of the Wordfest Programme on Sunday, 30 June 2012, in Eden Grove Red lecture theatre. The book is entitled Displaced, explores past and present complexities in South Africa.

He explored these complexities: from land and dispossession in the 80s, to the rapid social changes with the birth of democracy in the 90s, to the ongoing, present-day struggles of race and culture.

Feelings of displacement is an unmistakable theme in today’s frenzied world, especially so in South Africa where past and present complexities are constantly at play in our daily dealings with one another.

The National Research Foundation SARCHhi Chair of Intellectualism of African Languages, Multilingualism and Education, in the School of Languages, Prof Kaschula has long been preoccupied with these themes in his research and writing.

He was shortlisted for the Pen/Studzinski Literary Award for “Six Teaspoons of Sweetness” and received the Nadine Gordimer/COSAW prize for “Two Teas Please.”  The story “Valley of Voices” was selected for the Caine Prize for African Writing; all of which are included in the volume.

“Every human is displaced in some way or another,” he says, citing the examples of physical displacement such as the recent floods in Canada and India, and political instability in countries like Syria. “Displaced traces our shifting identities as South Africans.”

The stories have evolved over 20 years. He tracked the socio-political stagnation that South Africa has undergone through various periods of time. 

The title story, “Displaced” is based on the tumultuous life of Prof Kaschula’s great-great grandfather Christian Kaschula, who was of Wendisch-Sorbian descent and arrived in South Africa in 1857. Set against the backdrop of the isiXhosa cattle killings, the story follows both these narratives of dispossession, conflict and survival.

The early stories are based on his childhood experiences with “Two Teas Please” telling the story of two characters who played together as children and must now negotiate the different worlds they live in.

Prof Kaschula spent the last two years editing and polishing the final product and he is grateful to have had “a ruthless and most helpful critic” in Tim Huisamen, who lectures Afrikaans/Nederlands at the School of Languages. “Now it’s time to release them, they are out of my hands now,” he says.

“Six Teaspoons of Sweetness” is based on a fascinating encounter with a woman who met Prof Kaschula on a flight to East London. She shared the remarkable story of how her father arranged a marriage with an older man, who was abusive. Her story of survival, reinvention and triumph has been brought to life.

The last story “Razor Ribbon” uses the central metaphor of two dogs, Tshaka and Mlungu who belong to two equally racist neighbours. Cutting and topical, stories like these “speak about an atrophied collective psyche which is so race-driven, questioning the need for razor wire to separate our properties and lives from each other”.

Displaced will be launched on Sunday 10.30am in Eden Grove Red lecture theatre. Fellow Grahamstown writer, Siphiwo Mahala will debate some of the topical issues raised in the stories within the works of both these authors.

By Anna-Karien Otto