About a year ago NERDAFRICA was an African literature book store run from the boot of my car. If you were to ask me what the best thing about the venture was, I’d say my interactions with customers. I raveled at all the new people I’d meet at market’s, at parking lots, in corporate buildings. They’d tell me about books they had read, books I knew nothing about. Books that were out of print, books that were once banned. The human experience, that’s what I enjoyed most.
At different points in my life I have learned and relearned the art of coming into oneself, of hiding away, of closing things out… that of silence. Books, like Zahara’s guitar, would always be there waiting for me to come home from a day at school where I had been bullied, from a visit to a boyfriend who had been cheating, from work that was unfulfilling. I found comfort in books at an early age, I lost that comfort when I went into adulthood, and found it again when adulating turned out to just be overrated.
When the NERDAFRICA blog came back to life earlier this year, I had hoped to boast of coffee dates I’d go on with authors, with readers, with humans who shared a similar interest. We would sit, for hours on end and talk about books that influenced their own work, about the courage in writing your own story, and perhaps about little things in our own lives that were relative. I did not expect that the latter would happen immediately, but it did, when I met Ayanda Xaba.
I came across Ayanda’s book on Tumelo Moleleki’s page some time back, and after I did an interview le aus Tumi for the last newsletter, I asked Ayanda to coffee so I could interview her. After almost a month, and some tragic events in-between, we met at the Newtown Junction. Although we would eventually sit down for food at a new bakery in Braamfontein (not the best thing to do I tell you, getting food at a bakery), I first had to go around Johannesburg burning bridges that still stood months after my sudden relocation. Ayanda was gracious enough to accompany me.
Ayanda’s book, Ulala: The Journey of Discovery, (which I am ashamed I haven’t as yet read) is a mystery thriller which follows a young detective to the Mgabaye village to solve a case of multiple killings believed to be the work of a ghost. “If you love a good tale that is told well, then this is the book to get.” This is what aus Tumi had to say of the book in her review.
We spoke much, of a many, many things. We spoke very little of books, her book in particular, which defeated the entire purpose of the meeting. We spoke of lives lived, people loved, decisions made, we even spoke of living in Durban, which I still prefer to Jo’burg. There was something more than acquaintance between us, what we were was more than an interviewer and interviewee. We were two women who had lived separate lives, which were essentially the same. Our womanhood broke down barriers built by expectation.
Even with my books at my bedside, I have come to realise that coming out of myself sometimes takes going out and having actual interactions with people, meaningful conversations that go beyond the subject of the day. I’ve met many friends over the years, and lost many more when I’d go into hiding. It feels good to know that I can now use books to start speaking again. It feels good to be able to not just hide behind their pages, but to share with other people, other readers, and build friendships.
Tumelo is a wolf that breathes aether…