Opinion: Meeting The Wife Writer

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By Nondwe Majundana

When I met Dudu, as I do meet numerous people as a sommelier, it was over Pinotage, and she was already a star. Maybe that’s what drew me to her or her to me. No. I am sure the fact was that I was the only available bar at a packed Conhill event just before Covid-19. As she walked over, I vividly remember thinking, I must be looking into a mirror. I don’t know how I look or sound outside of the times I’m in front of the mirror. But I thought I probably looked like her and her mannerisms. Her voluptuous figure – snatched at the waist with a belt- yet with a little cleavage showing of her busty chest. Her quirky style – dressed up but to look down- SO ME. Her dark lipstick to match her inner goddess, just the right shade of mauve. Sis understood the assignment. She wore a full head of long luscious dreads that can only be achieved by someone with patience. She swayed through the crowd with a grace I hoped I had.

While she fit in perfectly in the artsy rustic downtown Joburg crowd, at times I thought she must be a celebrity because while she walked alone there was always someone greeting her. She had a cute bag that I immediately approved in my head but gripped it so close to her that it took me out of the spell of staring as I remembered my environment. Downtown Jozi! Little did I know that bag would bring us closer later.

I was introduced first to her pretty smile and then her manners as she tried to decipher the red wine offering. A discerning wine connoisseur. I like. She had never heard of African Sips or Sesfikile wine. Very normal. I pushed on to upsell about the unique black owned brands that she was tasting and then she let slip that she is also a black entrepreneur who writes for a living.  Say no more. She is my twin. She wanted a particular wine but settled for my Shiraz and bought a bottle. By now I was already captured and left my stall to ask her where her stall was so I can see her book. She said it was a series. That she wasn’t at the festival to sell. I don’t remember if she had a copy of the book or showed me on her phone. I was now utterly impressed. Note to self. Get that Hlomu Series. There are girls like us, self-publishing and in mainstream retail? I was here for all of it.  

I’m all for online purchases but I am a conventional library girl. I like to see books. Like a kid in a candy store. Read the back cover and decide if the story interests me or not. Without this I wasn’t convinced if I wasn’t going to read another self-help docu-story. A pet peeve of mine. Yes, everyone can write but can you write fiction? That separates the men from the boys for me and to be honest, I was already a fan a whole 5 years after the true fans were at the height of the Hlomu saga. Now the book adapted behind the new hit series The Wife. There are four books in the series, and she has since authored more. I have yet to read any.

With all my customers there is always what I call a wine dance. When they come to top-up their glasses. That’s when we laughed and danced the night away and forgot we were struggling writers. Struggle and writers are synonymous in this country. Creatives are pushed to obscurity because of lack of support. I knew she wasn’t a struggling artist as she paid me. Over and over till she ran out of cash, and we had to transact via her phone and eWallet. I guess she enjoyed the vino. I enjoyed the company of a star that night under the African stars in a former black woman’s prison. I suddenly had a poignant thought that we were jailed as well. That our ideas are capped to small time events such as these. That no matter how wonderful your talent and self-published you are, reaching mainstream success takes a gruelling 7 years because of lack of support for women of colour in the arts. It suddenly hit me that as I was trading in wine at Constitutional Hill. Women of colour just a few years earlier were jailed in that particular jail for daring to trade in liquor according to the liquor act of 1927. For daring at all. It’s always the audacity for me. It was at this point when we surrendered to the music that tragedy struck. We shouldn’t have let out guards down. The slick finger petty criminals had found a way into her bag and stole her phone. We emptied that bag in and out searching every crevice and every hidden compartment. Out popped the lipstick, the tampons, the book, the makeup, and all other necessities that make a woman, a woman. This could have been my bag. Same same but different. What concerned me more was she needed to take an uber on her phone. Bag lady was going to miss her bus. What an anticlimactic ending to meeting myself. 

I had to get out. She inspired me to not give up writing. 

Shortly after the encounter and just before the lockdown at the peak of the Covid-19 fears, while others stockpiled on toilet paper and essentials. I hit the bookstore and thought, I would prefer going out reading. Darn it. Clearly there were other like minds and when I asked for the entire series, I was told it was all sold out. Yaasss, Queen! I demanded to see the manager and deigned my best Sandton accent to lay a complaint. What a mess. He only had “Mess and Iqunga” from the author in a little corner shelf for black writers’ series. I’ll take it.  Loved the wine glass reference on the cover page. Two more bookstores and disappointment later I resolved to wait reading till I get my hands on her very first born. Another pet peeve is reading any book outside its chronological order. 

The wait has been so worth it. When I binged on the three released episodes, I was vindicated. She is a star. What a way to show off one of our own. Unique, real, and local stories told by a talented pool of thespians. I especially appreciated that unlike all the superfans, I am not clouded by the details of the book yet and I can just revel in the stellar interpretation of the book and handsome Zulu men raining all over my screen. The danger and allure of the characters really holds true the saying “Zulu umuhle futhi uyesabeka”. Loosely translated as Zulu Nation you are scary yet beautiful. The fact that I’m untainted by the facts of the book mean I can enjoy it guilt free. I will read the books in detail and picture Mqhele in my imagination. For now, I am seduced by the Mqhele on screen. 

This is the time to tell authentic stories of love hope and families of everyday South African lives. As told by one of us. What a time to be alive. I’ll drink to that. 

Nondwe Majundana

Nondwe Majundana Bio:

An enthusiastic communications & marketing professional, with several years’ corporate experience in communications, public relations and event management. My blog African Sips, tackles the unique transformation issues in the wine industry while celebrating black owned wine brands. My topics navigate the youth African experience with my personal reflections.

Follow online @Africansips

Education : UJ- BA Journalism | University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business – Business in Wine | Stellenbosch University Business School – PGDP Leadership