/ 25 October 2019

Slice of life: ‘I knew I’d be a writer’

(Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)
(Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)



For me, a writer is something that I hold in high regard. I mean, I read people like Oscar Wilde.

For me that person was a genius, and I didn’t think of myself in that way.

I thought of it as an aspiration that would never become something real. Through my schooling years, I loved English. I loved all my English teachers.

My first English teacher was my Mmemme (my granny). “Rigmarole” — that’s her word. She always used to use bombastic English words and I would be intrigued by them and want to know what the hell she was saying.

She used to keep us back during school holidays, because she used to run a crèche when she lived in Matatiele. She was a teacher, and I guess she was idle and bored, so she took it out on us during school holidays. We’d have to come in for lessons.

Even back then I used to think of her as quite mentally colonised — for this respect of the English language. But I have to admit I now have the same thing, not necessarily the English language — English is just the language I have more access to.

But it’s the thing that shows me that I love language and I love words and how words can be strung together. I love how words can have new meaning. I love creating new words. I love seeing the inconsistencies in the English language. I love to play with language.

And I think, looking back, I knew I was going to be a writer. — Nonzi Bogatsu, as told to Franny Rabkin