/ 29 November 2019

The Portfolio: Lidudumalingani

The Portfolio: Lidudu'malingani
The writer says his work in fiction, non-fiction, film, television and photography are woven together by a sense of poetry (Delwyn Verasamy/ M&G)



The first thing I recall writing was a poem and so I want to believe that everything I have created since, in whatever form it disguises itself, is a sly move to return to poetry. I work in multiple genres — fiction, non-fiction, film, television, photography — which are woven together by a sense of poetry. The way into one discipline and to another is not carefully plotted. In the process of writing a short story, a script for a film emerged, a non-fiction piece became fiction, a sentence created a photograph.

At the heart of my work is what I choose to leave out. This is physically illustrated in framing a photograph. I have written a single sentence over a period of more than two days, just to get to its most meaningful and beautiful form.

I have framed a shot and then continued to stare through the viewfinder so that the shadow could move an inch to the right or a subject walking past is at a specific place in the frame. That is the only relation between all of these for me, imagined or factual, text or visual — the moment in which a sentence, a pose, a shadow, movement, an emotion, is at the perfect instance. That moment is the difference between an incredibly beautiful piece of art and one that hurts the eyes.

It is in the rewriting that the carving of a piece into a genre happens. Even then, there has been stubborn fiction that has stuck itself into the non-fiction, and vice versa. There have been photographs that, in a single frame, contained multiple worlds, both real and imagined. In all the work I create, whether it is categorised as fiction or non-fiction, I want it to have a sense of the imagined and factual, the obvious and the hinted.

I am also not convinced that I want the reader to easily tell the difference. I want them to read and assume that everything has been imagined or that it is all true or that it is both. This returns me to poetry. Nobody reads poetry and considers that some of it is not true. All of it is true, even when Saul Williams says, in his poem Children of the Night, “And out of the sun’s gates come little girls in dresses of fire/ wearing pigtails of braided smoke which stem from their moon-cratered scalps.”

It is all truth.