|Fanie Fourie’s Lobola by Nape ‘a Motana|
|Thursday, 07 February 2008 17:00|
Fanie Fourie’s Lobola is, without doubt, unlike any book I’ve ever read. And not only because it’s written from an Afrikaner’s perspective (by a Sepedi man). Not only because it tackles the subject of inter-racial relationships with humour and candour. But because it is filled with the richness of an African traditional storyteller, only told in English.This is most likely because it was originally written in Sepedi, and then translated into English by the author, Nape ‘a Motana, who retained much of the original colour and flavour in the language usage. What does this mean? Flowery descriptions, emotions bordering on melodrama and plenty of emphasis on ‘this beauty whom the gods of Afrika had undoubtedly blessed with splendid dimples.’ But somehow, it isn’t distracting, and simply adds to the book’s appeal.
This is a classic love story in many respects – Fanie Fourie is a straight up and down Afrikaner seun dating a nice Afrikaans girl when he is ‘bitten by the louse and bedbug of love’ and falls in love with Dimakatjo Machabaphala, who is going out with a flash township man. They both separate from their respective lovers (with all the difficulties that entails) and begin the tentative process of dating cross-culturally. There are misunderstandings and upsets, advances and retreats, various dates described in detail and, eventually, an engagement. And this is where the story diverges from the traditional love tale, as lobola negotiations come to the fore and the wedding celebrations take over.
Fanie Fourie’s Lobola is at once a commentary on interracial relationships, an insight into modern-day Sepedi opinions on marriage and an outsider’s view on how Afrikaans white men live. Throw in the (at times) hyperbolic language of the storyteller, peppered with Sepedi words and phrases, and you have a melting pot of a novel.
But one which manages to charm, nonetheless.You can’t help but care about Fanie and Dimakatjo, and hope that they will somehow succeed in their love, despite the many obstacles in their way. And with a climactic wedding to end it all off, Fanie Fourie’s Lobola is the kind of book that will leave you smiling (if a little nonplussed.)