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Shameless by Futhi Ntshingila PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 12 April 2008 09:51

Futhi Ntshingila introduces her central character, Thandiwe, in the first sentence of her novel with the words: “Thandiwe has been shot”. And then we learn that Thandiwe is a prostitute, working the mean streets of Yeoville. Her life has been hard after her brief carefree childhood in rural Mpumuza came to an abrupt end with the death of her mother in an accident. And things would only get worse – abuse, poverty and then the destruction of her community by the violence of the late 1980s in KZN.

But Ntshingila has not written a gloomfest here. Her characters – Thandiwe, Zonke who is her childhood friend and narrator, and Kwena, the young documentary film maker who wants to tell Thandiwe’s story – are feisty, determined young women, making their own choices in life and living with, even relishing, the consequences of those choices. Kwena, talking to Thandiwe, says her aim is to tell the stories of South Africa with dignity, and that seems to be Ntshingila’s motivation as well.

First published in The Witness.

The characters are appealing, strong young women. Their lives have been tough, but not without humour, and even if the routes they choose are roundabout, you are left feeling that they will get where they want to go, and reach their undoubted potential.

In places the writing is a little uneven, and the changes in time between present and past are sometimes abrupt, but these are minor faults in what is a novel to be lauded, telling a South African story in an assured, concise voice. Let’s hope we will be hearing a lot more from Futhi Ntshingila in the future.

 
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