Shared cultural experiences in “London Cape Town Joburg” by Zukiswa Wanner
London Cape Town Joburg begins where it ends. You have a suspicion of what happens but confirmation and the detail only appear in the last chapter. All through the book, the question lurks – did I read the intro right? How is this going to play out?
Told through the eys initially of the two main characters, Martin and Germaine, alternating chapters, a third voice is added through the diary of their son Zuko when he becomes old enough to write. It’s a cleverly woven tapestry bringing diverse cultures together – Irish, Black British, Black South African, White South African, White British, Muslim, Indian, investment bankers, ceramic artists, politicians, businessmen, heterosexual and bisexual persons are all brought together seemlessly as Martin and Germaine’s lives come together and their love deepens and settles as long-married couple love tends to do.
Zukiswa’s ability to capture the societies she’s reflecting is spot on. I haven’t lived in Cape Town but visit it annually – yes there are generalisations but only someone who has lived in South Africa with South Africans will know the annoying habit that South Africans have of kissing people hello on the mouth. I can’t count how many times I’ve had to wipe slobber from my face after greeting some family members (now deceased). I only give one instance here, but there are numerous scattered throughout the book.
For all its sadness, this was an uplifting read. Perhaps if enough people read it, and take on board the underlying message, the vestages of difference and racial superiority might finally disappear. The experience of shared cultural experiences goes far in bringing about an understanding and tolerance not found in more exclusive societies. By chance, having met Zukiswa in Rwanda briefly when I happened to be at an Huza press event she was guest of honour at, her multi-cultural outlook clicked immediately. This is a strong feature throughout London Cape Town Johannesburg. This book gives me hope for the future (I’m one of those who avoids reading/watching sci-fi – if mankind can think it, mankind will no doubt do it and generally it’s a world of violence).
My plan had been to buy the book when I was next in South Africa, but the chance to buy it in Rwanda and to meet the author was too tempting and I’m pleased I did. I had been grabbed by the title and planned to review it alongside Heidi Holland and Andrew Robert’s From Jo’burg to Jozi, but both deserve to stand alone. I’m very conscious of where and when I read impacting on how I view a book. I read London, Cape Town, Joburg in Cuba – some distance from all three cities mentioned, away from the emotions and the different influence they each exert. Zukiswa asks the question throughout the book – why can’t people just accept others for who they are? Was the strength of this question enhanced by the Cubans who no matter their shade all see themselves as Cuban? or was I more conscious of people living in harmony because I’d read London Cape Town Johannesburg? I leave it for you to decide.
Lovely photo of Zukiswa with Wole Soyinka, two great authors.
Who are they?
* Chinua Achebe + Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie?
* Wole Soyinka + Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani?
* Wole Soyinka + Zukiswa Wanner?
* None? pic.twitter.com/IihnsFDjt2
— Abantu Book Festival (@Abantu_) 23 June 2017