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I’M DROOLING OVER: Tina Bester’s Chocolate Brownie Cheesecake Tart

choc-cheesecake-tart

Tarts-Cover_webTarts

Tina Bester

Quivertree Publications

Review: Lesley Byram

There are few things more exciting to me than a visually stimulating recipe book. Don’t even bother showing me one if there aren’t photographs accompanying the recipes. First, I need to see if it’s tempting enough to try and second, what it’s supposed to look like when I’m finished.

Which is why I love Tina Bester’s cookbooks. Not only are her recipes simple and delicious, they are always incredibly well-illustrated – thank you Quivertree Publications. Of course it helps that she’s known as the Queen of Tarts and many of her dishes lean towards the sweet side of the scale.

This book, her sixth, is about making the most of seasonal produce for both sweet and savoury tarts and it’s organised by season for easy reference.

Tina’s books are very user-friendly and, apart from the basic conversion tables, she’s also included a variety of crusts and pastries for you to choose from:sweet shortcrust, savoury shortcrust, chocolate, rough puff, well-behaved (good for just about anything), sour cream, cheddar-cheese, almond and cream-cheese.

When I mentioned her in my previous blog this recipe immediately sprang to mind. It’s one which took my breath away when I first flipped through the book and whenever I pick it up it’s where I get stuck. I have made this several times, only once with the chocolate pastry and as one large cake. The rest of the time, I’ve made it as cupcakes.

It’s surprisingly quick and easy and looks far more impressive than the minimal effort required.

One could ice the cake or cupcakes with cream cheese icing but it’s not necessary and, apart from covering up the lovely marbled effect, would possibly make it too rich.

If you’re making cupcakes you can be quite generous with the cheesecake. The first time I made them I used the cheesecake sparingly and ended up having to make a second chocolate mixture to use it up.

They will keep for a couple of days but are absolutely amazing when they’re very fresh and, unless you are baking for two, there are unlikely to be any leftovers anyway.

Bonus: There are two bowls to lick!

choc-cheesecake-tartChocolate brownie and cheesecake tart

A gorgeous-looking tart that will make any special occasion
that much more memorable.

1 quantity chocolate pastry (see recipe below this one)

Brownie

350g castor sugar • 150g butter, melted • 4 large eggs • 100g flour • 70g cocoa powder
½ teaspoon salt •  teaspoon baking powder •  teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Cheesecake

90g castor sugar • 450g cream cheese • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract • 1 large egg

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Press the chocolate pastry into a heart-shaped tin
and bake it blind for 10 minutes. No need for baking paper and beans with this pastry.

To make the brownie mixture, combine the sugar and the melted butter in a bowl and mix thoroughly with a whisk. Add the eggs and mix well. Fold in the dry ingredients and mix to a smooth batter. Pour the batter into the prepared tart shell, reserving half a cup for marbling the top.

To make the cheesecake mixture, beat together the castor sugar and cream cheese with electric beaters until very smooth and light. Add the vanilla and the egg and mix until smooth. Pour this batter into the centre of the brownie batter, keeping it away from the sides of the tart. With a teaspoon, carefully spoon the rest of the brownie batter around the top of the tart. Run a butter knife through the pools of brownie batter for a marbled effect. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Cool completely on a rack and then remove the tart
from the tin.

Serves 6-8

Chocolate pastry

110g butter • 100g sugar • 1 large egg • 1 large egg yolk
225g flour • 25g cocoa

Process the butter and sugar together in the bowl of
a food processor and while the motor is still running,
add the whole egg and the yolk. Add the flour and cocoa
and blend into a dough. Wrap the pastry in clingfilm
and refrigerate until needed.

Eighth Day: Music Poetry

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Spoken-word poems and poems that employ music—its powers, its rhythms—these are some of the richest, most evocative poetries that describe the indescribable and eschew the page. MOIRA RICHARDS shares five collections that have music at their hearts.

AngSeeing Birds in Church is a Kind of Adieu

Arlene Ang

Cinnamon Press, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-907090-06-6

A black-gowned cellist bows a stormy wake for a white shrouded image of herself, half sucked into (half spewed from?) a heavy Pandora’s box-like chest/coffin. The cover of Ang’s fifth book alerts me to the unquiet read that follows.

Her poems are of bereavement and anguish; her poetry, turbulent, surreal, beautiful. I can’t stay long here – confronted, too vividly, by old pain I’d thought grown over with protective scabs. But I can’t resist returning – this poetry, an affirmation that death, as part of life, is magnificent too.

 

 

DeliveryRoomBeyond the Delivery Room

Khadija Heeger

Modjaji

Nineteen years since our emergence from the delivery room, South Africa and South Africans too, are as imperfectly perfect and as brimful with possibility as any teenager on the verge of adulthood. Like teenagers, we rail at what disappoints us, not yet sure of the extent to which we actually hold the power for change; like teenagers, we struggle to find our own true, rather than conferred by others, identities. Such is the stuff of this collection, first part of the trilogy, Separation Anxiety.

This performance poet’s poems remonstrate, repudiate and, sometimes, keen. Her words, written for speaking aloud, swell and recede along irregular line lengths and, with repeatings of sounds and phrases, wind a sinuous rhythm through the pages.

A sad yet optimistic love song for us and our not-yet-adult country, and I look forward where the poet takes us in the next part.

 

VanitasVanitas

Jane McKinley

Texas Tech University Press

How does a poet survive tragedy? Teenaged sister dead in car smash… This poet, at the open graveside, listens and ‘In seven notes of Bach, she has enough / to live. The boxwood sings.’ She stops writing poems; learns to play the oboe.

After ‘thirty years of silence, of images clutched / wordless in darkened corners of her mind’ she lays aside her instrument to write once more. She writes the music of that sorrow; memories threaded through with Mozart, with opera and especially, with Bach who lost a young wife and ten young children to death.

‘I gather up small pearls of Bach / … / an oboe’s dying phrases echo pain. / I linger at his Stammtisch, sipping tea.’

 

ConfidentConfident Music Would Fly Us to Paradise

by Carol Levin

MoonPath Press

Playing on life’s stage, cast as supernumerary (non-singing performer) for an opera company and subsumed in the flamboyant and sublime, is the poetry of Carol Levin’s fourth collection.

Whether girl with the giggles slid into a burlap sack doubling, at her mother’s behest, as the dead body of Rigoletto’s Gilda, or grown woman dancing the role of a Grace attendant upon Tannhäuser in the grottos of Venusburg, it is the spaces in the sounds the poet explores. The grander the music, the more profound the silences it communicates – as imaged in a poem describing the exquisite prelude to Das Rheingold in which Wagner “sets you adrift / on an inhale of the baton.”

And finally:

Wena

Ntsiki Mazwai

African Perspectives

ISBN: 978-0-981439-81-5

Before reading the poems in this collection, you’d do well to log onto the poet’s website, www.ntsikimazwai.co.za and listen, first, to the few sound tracks uploaded there. Hear Ntsiki Mazwai’s poetry performed to the mesmerising rhythms of music, get a sense of her work as performance, learn how you might read Wena out loud inside your head.

We’re none of us ignorant about what life serves up to South Africa’s women, whatever their ages, and this is a young poet who says, “I don’t write quiet storms.” Her collection of poems, the celebration of a spirit determined to triumph, refuses too, to be read in quietude.

 

REVIEW: How Much Is Enough?

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IMG_20150211_133500How Much Is Enough?

Andrew Bradley, Arun Abey and Andrew Ford

Zebra Press

REVIEW: Karin Schimke

Money.

Say the word and wait. Sooner or later, an emotional response rises.

For some, the emotional response takes a little longer to surface. For others, the anxiety or glee or bitterness spills out immediately. “Money” is a heavily loaded word in every possible realm of our lives. In the conversations we have with ourselves when we need or want something that we have to purchase in order to have. In our intimate relationships and those with our children or our parents. When we think about retirement. When we have a major domestic crisis. Every time we have a bad day at work. And in our social and political relationships – especially in South Africa, where poverty and affluence rub up against one another daily.

That money and our emotions are inextricably entwined is not a new concept, and yet the idea has not found enough traction in our day-to-day dealings with our wealth, however small we perceive that wealth to be.

It is this idea that the authors of this accessible financial how-to book explore at some length: that the average person they see in their work as financial advisers do not make any connection between money and feelings.

They exploit the cliché “Money can’t buy happiness”, turning it on its head to show that happiness might, in fact, be the starting point for increasing the wealth you already have.

Bradley, in an interview, said that he and his colleagues had observed that while investment markets performed well, most investors failed over time and that behaviour was the primary cause of destroying personal wealth.

In the book, which is packed with memorable anecdotes, the authors tell the story of Isaac Newton who was a keen share investor. The story starts well enough for him with a certain investment and he seems to make all the right decisions, but then he’s influenced by fashion, acts rashly and loses a great deal of money.

Even rational thinkers, even Newton, a respected scientist, is influenced by emotion.

In this book, layer by layer, the authors show that money can’t bring happiness, but that happiness can bring money. Drawing strongly on psychology and the vast amounts of happiness research that is available, the authors construct an argument for working on the self before working on the money.

Once they have shown how emotionally charged money is, they begin to colour in their arguments about why happiness should be the starting point of wealth work.

They show, in fairly broad brush strokes, what exactly “happiness” is and how it can be attained, referring to a great number of well-respected researchers in the field. They demonstrate how behaviour towards and around money can be changed, just like eating and exercise habits can be changed. And they also address in simple and easy-to-understand terms, actual investment.

I have a fairly firm grip of, and have done quite a lot of reading about, happiness and I have a general interest in psychology, so while the first part of the book did not hold any major wow moments for me, I am quite convinced that the straightforward manner in which the authors tackle that complex area will have a great impact on many readers who are not au fait with the science of the human mind and how it affects behaviour.

But I am less comfortable with the language of investment – to the point where I get edgy because I’m convinced I am not going to understand the jargon – so I was pleased to get through the “technical” chapters with great ease and with a much better understanding of investment than before. The authors must be lauded on being able to write in such a straightforward way without sounding patronising.

Also valuable is the chapter entitled Kids, Money and Happiness. It contains simple ideas that had never occurred to me. I realised that, while I have nurtured an open relationship with my children on social, political and sexual matters in order to prepare them for the world, I have been oddly coy about money.

Reading this book, I realise that it is learned behaviour that I can unlearn and that if I do unlearn this behaviour, my children stand a better chance of having an easy relationship with money.

And an easy relationship money – where you feel in control, where you understand what you have, what you want and how you can get – is the beginning of the kind of wealth that means some freedom from the anxieties about what exactly “enough” is.

Eighth Day: Love poetry

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Love and poetry go together like a bard and his red, red rose—and no better way to enjoy Valentine’s month than with a little lust, eroticism and reminder that neither are reserved for the young or heterosexual. MOIRA RICHARDS shares her thoughts.

Schmailo#specialcharacters

Larissa Schmailo

Unlikely Books

As the titian-haired faun on the cover suggests, Larissa Schmailo’s collection limns the life of a lover—a lover who is a lusty lover of life too. The opening piece catches the first 12 Fibonacci numbers and finesses them into giddy remembrances of an octogenarian’s most significant birthdays. Then, as Fibonacci sequences do, the pages of poetry spiral with the 89-year-old, ever outwards, or perhaps inwards, towards her infinity.

Stream-of-consciousness narrations, witty footnoted asides, plays with parentheses and fonts, prose poems, list poems— they all fill in on the special character(s), subject of the book. The last section introduces the once successful poet, Ritar (“Ritar had had her 15 minutes of fame, many times over”), bottomed out, no longer “wave… disturbance in space-time… Cambrian explosion of creativity.” But she is still in control of her own infinity. Schmailo’s poetry sucked me into/out of its golden spiral.

TwoWhiteBedsTwo White Beds: Millie and Sam

Laura Cherry

Minerva Rising

ISBN 0989574547

This discreet, pocket-sized chapbook, winner of the publisher’s “Daring to be the Woman I Am” contest, comprises eight poem letters sent to “Dearest Millie” by Samantha at intervals during the year running from June 1882 to June 1883. All but one, perhaps two, were ever posted. Interleaved between them, are seven first-person musings by the respectable Miss Millicent in which the poetry touches on the unexpectedness of their love, on their self-imposed separation and their eventual decision to live a life together.

A deliciously period piece, subtly erotic through its imagery of full-blown peonies, perfectly ripened fruit, and feastings on oysters by young women who, outwardly, will present themselves to the Victorian English world as merely two of those ubiquitous “harmless maiden aunts / arm in arm along the boardwalk.”

Cloves&HoneyCloves & Honey

love poems

Athena Kildegaard

Nodin Press

ISBN-13: 978-1935666363

Kildegaard set out to write a love poem every day for 365 days – I’m inspired now to try and do the same. Then she revised and selected a quarter of the untitled poems to craft an ode to a three decades long, happy, marriage. Divided into four sections, matching the seasons of a year and drawing often on the images of nature, each became my new favourite as I read on through this celebration.

Understated eroticism and long-ago new beginnings in the poetry of spring; a languid sense of repletion suffuses the summer; the poems of autumn marvel at good fortune, recognise its ephemerality; and at the last, poems in which winter’s freeze is held at bay as two fifty-year olds (children grown and flown) divide and share the small chores and routines of their domestic life.

LiesThese are the lies I told you

Kerry Hammerton

Modjaji Books, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-920397-22-7

I’m a sucker for a great cover and, happily, the insides of books usually deliver on their outside promises. This, with its hot pink letters lying flat on their backs, is no exception. The poems run page over page to create a lusty tale of seduction, sex and falling in love; and heartbreak and love again and … well, you didn’t think I’d give away the ending?

Hammerton’s poetry tells the stories poets have told since back when – stories we never tire of living and reliving especially when told new. Her light, sometimes witty, sometimes understated control of words, make this telling deliciously new.

 

I’M DROOLING OVER: Sarah Dall’s Salted Caramel

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Cover_ For The Love of Baking -Sarah Dall HRFor the Love of Baking

Sarah Dall

Struik Lifestyle

ISBN: 978 1 43230 256 6

Review: Lesley Byram

Recommended retail price: R250

Just one look at the cover of this book and I knew I was going to love it. A dark chocolate fondant, topped with pomegranate rubies and accompanied by raspberries, oozing salted caramel, with the first spoonful resting tantalizingly on the plate just waiting to be savoured. Now that’s how you catch someone’s attention.

For the sweet-toothed, it’s like Christmas on a plate 365 days of the year, starting with breakfast and ending with actual Christmas.

Dall shares her love of baking with other enthusiastic bakers regardless of their level of experience and shares her hard-earned tips generously, so you don’t have to make frustrating and costly mistakes yourself.

At the launch of her book at the Cooks Playground, Dall demonstrated some recipes the average baker might find daunting, including Rose Delight Macaroons. Ooh, brave girl, I thought. We all love to eat them but I, for one, have yet been brave enough to tackle them, particularly after Queen of Tarts Tina Bester, who also made macaroons at one of her book launches said “I hope these turn out okay.” I thought, “Yikes, if she’s not confident after the many thousands she’s made, what are my chances?”

Sarah’s turned out perfectly – even though they had been piped by all the novices attending her launch: crunchy (not hard) on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside.

Here, however, is the recipe for her Salted Caramel. It’s astonishingly quick and easy, absolutely delicious and uses affordable ingredients. Plus it makes a great gift. The results can vary from light in colour, thin and runny and perfect for drizzling over ice-cream, to thicker and darker, the colour of peanut butter, which you can spoon from the jar. It can keep up to three months and can be frozen in a jar or a sealable container.

Salted caramelcoffe_KS

(Fridge)

Makes 350 ml

100 ml golden syrup

75 g butter

75 g Demerara sugar

75 g castor sugar

125 ml double thick cream

15 ml Maldon salt

To make the sauce

Heat the syrup, butter and sugars in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the cream and salt. Return to the heat and simmer for 
2–3 minutes. Pour into sterilized jars and set aside to cool and thicken.

Author’s tip: The caramel will keep for up to three months. It can also be frozen in the jar or a sealable plastic container.

StruikLifestyle-logoWe have one copy of Sarah Dall’s For the Love of Baking to give away, courtesy of Struik Lifestyle.
To win a copy of Sarah Dall’s book, write a comment on our Facebook page or on the blog post and send us an email tonotnowdarlingct@gmail.com
You will be notified by email  if you have won and we will ask for your delivery address so that the publisher can send you your prize.
This competition closes at midnight (South African time) on Sunday 8 February 2014.
Penguin Random House logo_high res

 

REVIEW: Inspired

inspired_bicycles_logo

Inspired_300dpi_Final1Inspired

Jennifer Lindsey-Renton

Macmillan

ISBN: 9781770103801

REVIEW: Sue Townsend

South Africa is blessed with the number of people who care deeply about their country and its fate, particularly since 1994.  The Gordon Institute of Business Science (under the auspices of the University of Pretoria) has commissioned this collection of conversations between Jennifer Lindsey-Renton and a variety of successful South Africans.  The aim is to inspire others to emulate these successful people and in so doing achieve their own potential while uplifting the nation as a whole.  As Professor Nick Benedell (the founder of GIBS) says in his introduction: ‘[T]he key differentiator of successful countries in transition comes down to a potent mix of institutions and leadership.’

This collection focuses on the leadership aspect, and, in particular, interrogates the leadership traits of the various people interviewed.  Binedell goes on to say the ‘…all leaders essentially learn to lead in two different and equally important ways.  The first is the have to find their own rhythm and come to terms with their own values; they have to understand their own style and the contribution they can make.   At the same time, that style and approach have to find fertile ground at the right place and at the right time.’  As I read, I was reminded of Michael Young’s satirical take on modern society (written in 1958!) which suggested that you need intelligence rating, qualification, experience, application, and a certain calibre to achieve status. In a word, one must show merit to advance in the new society of tomorrow.  His notion is now often taken to be in praise of ‘meritocracy’ when, in fact, he was deploring meritocracy – favouring as it did the people who are luckiest in their genes and health; family support; education and career opportunities so that these people reap the largest reward.

A common thread running through these stories shows that this is seldom the case.  Carol Boyes explains that being ‘…in the right place at the right time, and … how important of word-of-mouth is for any business to grow’.  Robbie Brozin (he of Nando’s fame) tells young entrepreneurs that they think they are working for themselves but they are always going to have partners like the bank, an investor, your wife or your clients.  However, if they have a product, they can be master of their products destiny.  Bobby Godsell’s father was a boilermaker and his was a working class upbringing but he was an intelligent, curious child and encouraged by his parents to have an open, tolerant outlook on life, with values that he could subscribe to.  Wendy Luhabe’s family were forcibly removed to Daveyton when she was eight; her parents encouraged her to be the best she could be.  Other influences were her schooling at Healdtown in the Eastern Cape and leaving South Africa in the 1970s to study at the University of Lesotho.   Then there is Herman (named Highman because his grandfather decided he was going to be special!) Mashaba – the boy with holes in his shoes.  Brought up by his extended family in the rural areas after the death of his father, he comments that ‘I was fortunate to have teachers who liked me and made time for me.’ This is the man who eventually used his intelligence and street smarts to found and develop the Black Like Me brand and built the Phatsima Group and Lephatsi Investments ‘…a leading non-racial entrepreneurial and socially responsible company … at the forefront of the economic empowerment of previously disadvantaged groups in South Africa.’

Another thread that runs through all the conversations is the determination of these remarkable South Africans to empower and uplift others.  Herman Mashaba has vowed to spend the rest of his life fighting discrimination; Yogavelli Nabiar was brought up to value being liberal, generous and open-minded. These values have stood her in good stead as the creator of the Enterprise and Development Academy at GIBS where she has focused on her mission to assist those from disadvantaged (why do we still write ‘previously disadvantaged?) communities to improve their lives and those around them through entrepreneurship.

Most of those profiled have also led fairly active political lives, but not all.  Sport stars like Francois Pienaar have set up charitable trusts (his is Make a Difference – MAD) which raise funds for bursaries and academic mentorship for academically gifted young South Africans. All of those who remember that World Cup final in 1995 will be amused to learn that he would simply like ‘6’ to be on his tombstone.

Now we come to the ‘unfortunately’ part of this review.  Having given a taste of the conversations recorded here it must be noted that each conversation follows the same formula (clearly the identical questions were asked).  The writing is pedestrian and, at no point, is there any analysis nor are any conclusions reached.  I expected more from an institute such as GIBS.

REVIEW: Congo – The Epic History of a People

congo-map

CCongo – The Epic History of a People

David van Reybrouck

Fourth Estate

ISBN: 9780062200112

REVIEW: Sue Townsend

A potted history of the largest country in Africa would read thus: the 15th century Kingdom of the Kongo at the mouth of the great Congo River is “discovered” in the 1870s and proclaimed as the personal possession of King Leopold 11 of Belgium. It is “set free” when it becomes a colony in 1908. In 1960, under Patrice Lumumba and Joseph Kasavubu, it gains sudden independence. The two factions start fighting and murder and mayhem ensures. In 1971, Mobutu Sese Seko africanised the Republic of Congo to Zaire, and in May 1997, Laurent Kabila renamed it the Democractic Republic of Congo.

But there is so much more to the history of this fascinating, complex country which straddles the middle of the continent from the west coast to the borders of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania to the east; Angola and Zambia to the south and ‘French’ equatorial countries (Congo-Brazzaville, Cameroon, and Central African Republic) to the north. And Van Reborouck has done this story proud.

Van Reybrouck is a Belgian cultural historianarchaeologist and writer, holding a doctorate from Leiden University. His father spent five years in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as a railway engineer immediately after independence and the Congo inveigled itself into Van Reybrouck’s blood as a child and suffused his dreams, just as it did with millions of his fellow countrymen. His love for the country runs through the book, breaking through the horror and regret in passages about music or forgotten heroism or simple humanity.

Van Reybrouck chooses to tell this story in his own phrase,  from “the bottom up”.

The majority of the book comprises the testimony of ordinary Congolese, dramatically brought to life by his masterful prose. Opening with 128-year old Nkasi who was alive when the first white traders and missionaries trudged into that immense forest, through Jamais Kolonga the man who dared to ask a white woman for a dance, Zizi Kabongo the cameraman who captured Muhammad Ali and George Foreman’s ‘Rumble in the Jungle’, Ruffin the child soldier, Masika Katsua the rape-victim and many more tell their country’s story. A few “good” Belgians also contribute, most memorably the personal tailor of dictator Mobutu Sese Seko talking of his former employer as “a nice person”(!). Van Reybrouck weaves his way through the dark comedy with poetic agility. Personal stories, memory and philosophy are intercut with breathless factual narrative – lyrical and at the same time authoritative.

The previously recorded history is short, dramatic and one-sided. In 1874, The New York Herald and The Daily Telegraph of London financed Henry Morton Stanley, a Welsh explorer and journalist, to travel the length of the Congo River from the source to the coast. Stanley finally arrived at the river’s mouth on the Atlantic coast in 1877. He was subsequently financed by King Leopold II of Belgium who wanted a large slice of Africa and got it the Belgian way: Congo would be a free trade buffer between other colonial interests. Some villagers rose against the whites because they were white as bones therefore they must have come from the land of the dead. Suspicion of Europeans persists to this day. Traders and missionaries followed in Stanley’s footsteps. A third of the early Baptist missionaries died in the field and it was the Catholics who mostly won out. Catholic schools, Scout troops and sports clubs provided the basis of the Congolese elite and French became the operating language.

Leopold got it right – Congo was a treasure trove of raw ingredients for the rapidly industrialising world. For example: Dunlop’s invention of the inflatable rubber tire created a demand for Congolese rubber. The profits went to build Belgium at the cost of Congolese lives. Murder was casual. Since bullets were in short supply, there was a habit of cutting off the hands of those who had been shot as proof that a bullet had been used to shoot a person and not been wasted on an animal. It was worse than slavery: not quite genocide or a holocaust Van Reybrouck says, “but it was definitely a hecatomb.” And then there were the horrors of the first and second Congolese wars, and, more recently, the entry of China into Congo.

Along the way, we learn that “Belgian colonialism contributed to the spiritual dimension of reggae” by helping to return Ethiopia to Haile Selassie in 1941, and that Mobutu’s pathetic attempt to launch Africa’s first ever space rocket in 1978 produced only a “parabola of soot”.

The depth of research; the passion; and the inventiveness in Van Reybrouck’s writing are a perfect delight to all who care about Africa. Seamlessly translated from the Dutch by Sam Garrett this is a masterful work.

 

 

REVIEW: Memory Against Forgetting

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memoryMemory Against Forgetting

Ranjith Kally

Quivertree

REVIEW: KARIN SCHIMKE

If you know your journalism history – or just any South African history – there are certain names that conjure (perhaps a little too romantically considering the social political circumstances) the golden era of the journalist. The era correlates with the the magazine Drum’s heyday.

Todd Matshikiza. Jürgen Schadeberg. Nat Nakasa. Henry Nxumalo. Can Themba. Richard Rive. Bessie Head. Arthur Maimane.

They were Drum. Drum was them. Photographer Peter Magubane is quoted as saying that the Drum newsroom was “a different home; it did not have apartheid. There was no discrimination…it was only when you left DRUM and entered the world outside of the main door that you knew you were in apartheid land. But while you were inside DRUM magazine, everyone there was a family.”

Drum was the “other” South Africa back in the fifties, when it was mostly only the lives of whites mainstream media reported on. Drum presented black people not as downtrodden, shackled, the white man’s burden. Nor did it condescend.

What it did was tell stories.

One of its storytellers, until now, was unknown to me. Quivertree publications and Kalim Rajab have plucked the name of Ranjith Kally from the brink of obscurity to reproduce his photographs in a book rich with narrative.

Rajab’s family was friends with Kally. Kally and Rajab’s grand-uncle Kumroo were “on particularly intimate terms” developing photographs together in “our family darkroom, housed within our cinema, the Shah Jehan”. In later years, Rajab’s mother co-authored a book with Kally.  In his introductory essay, Rajab expresses the hope that this book will stand as a “fitting testament to the contribution this fine photographer made to the struggle of ‘memory against forgetting'”.

The title of this coffee table book works well on three levels: it is an act of resisting a great photographer’s threatening obscurity, it is a reminder of what a strange country South Africa’s past is and – particularly poignantly for journalists – a memory of a time when photojournalism rode high.

Now that anyone with a smartphone camera’s filter setting can “be a photographer”, this reminder of the noble, difficult and dangerous art of photojournalism struck me in my nostalgic core.

Photojournalism – as opposed to street or documentary photography – distinguishes itself by being entirely of the moment and connected to current events. It uses journalistic standards of objectivity and contextualisation. But there is a further aspect of it: good photojournalism has, at its invisible heart – the one beyond the image – a narrative.

That this story is captured so quickly, usually under trying circumstances (crowds, violence, threats, carrying clunky and valuable equipment) makes good photojournalism unique and its practioners admirable beyond their often butch and beefy mythology and self-image.

The cover image of Memory Against Forgetting was well chosen. It shows a makeshift court in Mtubatuba where a magistrate of the then Department of Bantu Administration presides over a dispute between chiefs about cattle theft.

The photograph’s composition – with the most powerful person dead centre displayed against a white backdrop so that his black jacket creates a close frame around his supercilious facial expression – is wonderful. The turned-wood legs of the table contrast with both the bare feet of onlookers and the gritty floor of the room. The angle suggests that the photographer is on the floor, looking up at the magistrate, implying to the informed viewer that the photographer too, is “beneath” the magistrate. The expression on the face of the policeman to the left of the magistrate is a study of conflicted, tenuous power. This is the power and magic of good photojournalism – that a single click of a shutter can capture so powerfully and artistically a real moment in time.

There are many other photographs in the book that capture stiller, more solitary moments. Some single-figure portraits are luminescent beyond what could be captured by ambient light, like that of Albert Luthuli standing at a window in his spaza shop in 1960, just after he’d received news that he’d been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Or that of Alan Paton leaning on a garden gate, or of the photographer’s father reading ancient Vedic scripts – an exceptional picture that succeeds in capturing quiet religiosity.

The shot of Sonny Pillay and Miriam Makeba working together at a piano, and the shot of Jann Turner leaning on the shoulder of Fawzia, Rick Turner’s widow, are both saturated with emotion.

Most memorable for me – and a photograph to which I returned several times – is the picture of a woman in tribal dress waiting in the corridor of the Durban magistrate’s court in order to give evidence. She is sitting on the floor. In her lap is a chubby, scrubby haired baby. While the mother’s attention is on the surrounding hubbub, her face taught with expectation, the baby peers directly at the camera.

And this is where photojournalism intersects with art: where it draws the viewer to return again and again to a singular image which, for inexplicable reasons, lead to inexplicable emotional responses.

 

 

REVIEW: Nora Webster

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nora webster cover imageNora Webster

Colm Tóibín

Viking

ISBN-13: 978-1439138335

REVIEW: Karin Schimke

Imagine a novel stripped of drama, of a dramatic arc and of any pretensions towards a rich poetic language, which follows the minutia of the life of a widow in the sixties –  it doesn’t sound very enticing.

Possibly, without prior knowledge of Tóibín’s work, I might, in fact, have abandoned this book for the fact that it seems to plod onwards. But Tóibín is, almost unfailingly, a richly rewarding author to read and even if each of his novels is completely different to the previous one, it is usually a deeply satisfying experience.

Nora Webster lives in Enniscorthy, a small town in Ireland, in the 1960s. She is recently widowed and is the mother of four children, two older daughters, and two boys still at school.

Her husband, Maurice, was a teacher, much loved by his students and by the townsfolk and even by Nora’s family. Nora, on the other hand, though respected, evokes wariness rather than warmth. She is a prickly woman, and one senses that the people around her interpret her reserve as haughtiness. She seldom wavers, however, in her duties and diligences within the small close-knit, ever-curious and religiously and politically judgmental community in which she finds herself. And while she finds the constant scrutiny and visits from acquaintances after Maurice’s death tiresome and invasive, it is also because of this community that she finds a way to save herself and her family from ruin.

Nora must make difficult life and financial decisions on her own now, a job she seemed to share equally with Maurice before his death. She is soon employed, for the first time since her marriage, in the office where she worked before she married. While she is a fast and reliable worker, she is also strong-willed and rebellious, standing up to the office bully and also joining a union in what appears to her employers to be an act of disloyalty.

And so, very slowly, unfolds the story of a woman truly becoming herself in the wake of a terrible loss. Using an intimate third person narrator – who provides only Nora’s interior world and its perceptions – Tóibín tells this story without fanfare, tracking a familiarly ordinary life. In it, crises threaten, sometimes break, but are weathered – very much the way real life unfolds.

But this life, again just like our own lives, is played against the backdrop of political turmoil. The Troubles are just starting in Ireland and the country is shaken by demonstrations, gun-running politicians and general turmoil. Nora’s youngest daughter, a quiet, studious woman, becomes politically active, and Nora herself flexes her political muscles. I found Nora Webster an interesting study on how conventional women unstick themselves narrowly defined roles and slowly turn into more whole human beings as they challenge gender expectations in small but triumphant rebellions.

This is the Irish author’s tenth novel and the only thing that has become predictable for me about Tóibín is that each book is completely different to the previous one, but each is reliably good.

REVIEW: The Arrogance of Power: The South Africa’s Leadership Meltdown

arrogance (2)

aThe Arrogance of Power: The South Africa’s Leadership Meltdown

Xolela Mangcu

Tafelberg

REVIEW: Mvelase Peppetta 

For me, politics is more than just mere politics. It can be as much a piece of entertainment as good a movie. At various points in my life, I’ve found myself deeply invested in politics as strange as following the merry-go-round of Japanese Prime-Ministers to small district races in the US.

South African politics, however, are slightly less entertaining.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, our politicians rank right up there with their international counterparts in having hidden agendas, murky pasts, and the ability to stab a former colleague in the back at the turn of a dime. What hampers my ability to enjoy the gamesmanship of South African politics is that South African political skulduggery is something that has consequences on my life and being the person I am, can make me rather emotional.

As such, beyond following what’s happening in the news, I try not to get too enmeshed in South African politics which often means steering clear of books on South African politics.

However, with Xolela Mangcu’s The Arrogance of Power – South Africa’s Leadership Meltdown I thought that it just being a collection of his columns from the past 16 years, it wouldn’t be too distressing.

But, in Mangcu’s own words the reasoning for this collection is because of a “sense of shame about the direction we (South Africa) have taken in the past 20 years.”

I fully agree that in the past 20 years South African politicians have failed us. For me, Mangcu’s decision to publish The Arrogance of Power because of that immediately placed me on guard. It in no way, detracted from how much I enjoyed the collection, just altered the frame in which I viewed it. In saying that he put it out because of a sense of shame, I knew that there was a narrative arc he was building in the columns he chose to include, and those he chose to exclude. It’s not necessarily a negative thing, just something readers should keep in mind.

What I found most fascinating in this collection was reading up on the early-Mbeki years.

I knew the facts of that period, but Mangcu’s collection – as it does throughout – gave a jolt to the memory of what that time was actually like. We now know what an unmitigated disaster Mbeki’s presidency ultimately was for South Africa. But through Mangcu’s columns from that time you remember how hopeful he, and South Africans in general, were at the start of his presidency.

By presenting you with Mangcu’s, generally mainstream, analysis written from the times that became political watersheds for South Africa, the reader is transported back to that time.

That, more than being a narrative driven by a sense of shame, is where Mangcu’s collection is strongest.

It not only reminds of where we’ve been, but also dredges up all the feelings from that time. As I see it, if South Africa is ever to get itself on the correct path again, being aware of both the facts of a particular time and also the emotions from that time, will be key.