Book Chat: Fred Khumalo and Wayétu Moore

Lola Shoneyin moderated this book chat between Fred Khumalo’s, author of Dancing the Death Drill and Wayétu Moore, author of She Would be King. She asked each author to read from their work and share more on how they came about the writing.

Fred Khumalo said he was basically writing parts of South African history which had been ignored or not paid attention to out of fear. There were at least 20,000 South Africans who even fought the war without arms or guns, playing roles in logistics and lost their lives. Interestingly, the Germans did not discriminate, they shot at everyone, but when the war was won these 20,000 weren’t remembered, because of their black bodies. In response to the international uproar, the government said the men were just cooks in the war, that was why they weren’t given medals or any form of honour. He talked about pockets of history which did not exist according to mainstream books and media, and the fact that these parts were erased made the situation a double tragedy. He was glad that more of these stories were coming out now, thanks to the confidence and tools black people now have to tell their stories.

Wayétu Moore shared that her story came from visiting Liberia more and more, and being inspired to have books for Liberian children to see themselves in. She shared that the Liberia her parents talk about from the 70s is very different from the Liberia she experiences today, there are more conversations on the effects of war and romantic elements of humanity and culture in the context of these wars. She said black bodies have always been in touch with the supernatural, so she wove in stories from the local superstitions in her country, traditional stories that were regarded as real until colonial history came and branded them as uncivilised, undignified and indecent, even though the religion it brought had a prophet ascending into heaven on a flaming chariot or a man being swallowed by a whale for three days. She shared how in visiting Liberia with the story, she was affirmed by her grandma that these kind of stories really did happen, the people were real.