On our Lists the week: Louisa Mvemve, Barbara Boswell and Made in America


Grace by Barbara Boswell: More than five months ago, a fellow intern put me on to this book. I immediately got a copy and put it in my work bag with the hopes of reading it ASAP. But over the months other books, lunchboxes and mail have hidden the book until this past weekend. Right now, I’m four chapters deep. I’m right in the middle of the 1985 State of Emergency in Cape Town — in a house with a 14-year-old Grace, her beautiful, distant mother and her abusive father — as she watches her parents’ love turn into habitual domestic violence. Boswell’s ability to sing about and paint pain on paper is a sight for teary eyes. So if you see me on the train, in the taxi or at the mall with stars in my eyes, you know why. (ZH)

The Letters of Louisa Mvemve by Catherine Burns: Never in my life have I been so tempted to drop everything and go back to school. Louisa Mvemve would make an amazing subject of study. Athambile Masola, who is doing her PhD on the poet Nontsizi Mgqwetho, put me on to her. Mvemve, who lived in different parts of South Africa and was most active between 1915 and the 1930s, was a self-made healer, midwife, herbalist, diagnostician and innovator of cures. She made, packaged and sold her own herbal medicines, and sent countless letters to the governor general and other figures of colonial authority stating who she was and what she wanted, thus archiving her work and her cause — which was to see indigenous medicinal practice taken seriously by the custodians of science. (MB)


Touch the Floor by VanJess, featuring Masego: This is an old-school groove that reminds me so much of the unnamed house music we used to burn on to our computers from CDs or USBs in the early 2000s. Their sound reminds me of, and would go really well with, the band Disclosure. (ZH)

OJ: Made in America: I’m revealing my age here, but I remember the exact day in 1995 when the OJ Simpson verdict was announced. In the home I grew up in, you could see the television from outside the house, thanks to the floor-to-ceiling sliding door. Standing on the verandah, my mind focused on something else, I turned my neck towards the screen beaming the CNN broadcast after hearing the eruption of his supporters, most of them black. Just as we would cheer for Sir Curtly Ambrose and crew instead of the South African cricket team in high school, it was easy to cheer for OJ then, and not just because lawyer Johnnie Cochran had won us over. To watch Ezra Edelman’s eight-hour documentary is to empathise with why the jury, mostly black, did not deliberate during the trial — and to learn, in retrospect, why OJ did not deserve our solidarity. (KS)

The Lists were compiled by Milisuthando Bongela, Kwanele Sosibo and Zaza Hlalethwa

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