|Coconut by Kopana Matlwa|
|Thursday, 09 July 2009 17:00|
Readers outside South Africa may not know why the title ‘Coconut’ is such an eye-catching one, but all South Africans will know that coconut is a slang term for a person who is black on the outside, but white on the inside – just like a coconut.
Enter Ofilwe, one of two heroines in Kopana Matlwa’s debut novel. Ofilwe is rich and pampered, living in a wealthy white suburb and rapidly losing any remnants of her culture. Fiks, her counterpart, is an ambitious waitress from the township who serves Ofilwe’s family their weekly Sunday brunch. Both women are struggling to find a sense of identity in a new South Africa that doesn’t define race as clearly as it once did, but still adheres to an unwritten racial code.
The novel, which won the European Union Literary Award in 2007, is a fascinating glimpse into an all-too-common issue, made even more interesting by the fact that the author is herself a priviledged black woman. The book is divided into Part One and Part Two – Part One belongs to Ofilwe, and tells the story of a displaced young girl through conversations, diary entries, and narration. Part Two is the story of Fikile, or Fiks as she likes to be known, through conversations and thoughts. The writing is honest and vivid, although at times a little immature – the author started writing it straight after high school. That said, it proves that Matlwa will be a talent to watch in future years.
Recommended for anyone wanting a glimpse into the mind of a segment of the New South Africa.