My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Men of the South is my first contemporary African read and what an introduction.
Zukiswa Warner brings the lives of three men in the Southern Part of Africa together and explores different circumstances they face that bring them together.
Mfundo, Mzilikazi and Tinaye are somehow connected by a strong headed doctor, Sli who happens to be the cog in the story.
Men of the South doesn’t have such distant themes and helps present them in their intricacies. There are issues of homosexuality, feminism, manhood, xenophobia, and politics.
There is a bias in how the different themes are looked at especially homosexuality, feminism and manhood. We have three men, one an artistic soul waiting for his big break (Mfundo), another a gay man trying to find love (Mzi) and another a Zimbabwean in South Africa trying to get a better job and salary in a foreign land after getting a very good education (Tinaye).
I definitely found Zukiswa’s portrayals of these men extremely romantic. When Mfundo loses his job while living in Sli’s house, his actions become so extreme of a man that I wondered, can a man really be that close to his daughter to the point of wanting to not work and be a wife?
For Mzi’s monologues about homosexuality in South Africa, I saw Zukiswa trying hard to plead the case for gay love. She was as if trying to answer all questions that homosexuality faces in an anti-gay Africa. It was definitely hard reading the chapters where she addressed it however, perhaps she shared well about the issues gay men face.
Tinaye’s situation was one of the more serious ones given by the time the novel was written there were issues of xenophobia in South Africa. And the time I read this book was a few months after a second occurrence had happened.
Here is a learned Zimbabwean of UK education trying to make a living in South Africa where he comes to be looked at as a man taking away the jobs of the natives. He decides he will marry to sort out his situation.
In his attempt, he makes a woman he doesn’t love pregnant after falling deep in love with Sli.
It’s written in a light hearted manner and allows us to look at serious issues without being dimmed in heart.
My issue is I felt they were written with a bit of hyperbole and extra romanticism. Tinaye’s ease with his women. Mfundo’s effeminisation, Mzi’s love affair. Perhaps this is how reading shocks us with other people’s circumstances.
Nonetheless, hyperbole aside, it was very enjoyable. Zukiswa knows how to use the first person to her advantage. I couldn’t help but be present with each of the characters she embodied. That is why even though uncomfortable about the gay parts, I got a glimpse into some of the issues they face like when she said “meat bags”.
The suspense was not badly done either. The chapter endings always left you wanting to open the next even when sleep was banging on your door!
In all, I can say it was an enjoyable read even with it’s uncomfortable bits.
I just finished my third book in the 2015 African Reading Challenge on Kinna Reads. More to come!