Book Review – Little Suns

by Zakes Mda (Umuzi)
ISBN 9781415209042

Zakes Mda’s latest historical
novel is based on the assassination of Magistrate Hamilton Hope in 1880, by the
amaMpondomise army in the Qumbu region of the Eastern Cape. The consequences
led to the exile of Mda’s family to Lesotho, and changed the history of the
Eastern Cape irrevocably. 

Mda’s skill is that he delivers
his unflinching account of how Hope attempted to bring the tribes in the region
under British rule by telling a love story of enormous power. 

His protagonist is Malangana, a
hot-headed young groom to King Mhlontlo, who falls–unsuitably–in love with
Mthwakazi, a young San Bushman girl. In the wars that follow, they are
separated. But her memory drives him to seek her out once more, some 20 years
Reading this felt as though I
could be sitting with the author, around a fire, sipping “Queen Victoria’s
Tears” (the strong Brandy of the colonialists) and listening to a story filled
with imagery, emotion and many lessons. 

I found it hard to look at how
disrespectfully Magistrate Hope treated the amaMpondomise people, their beliefs
and culture. But I was completely engrossed in this tale of love and
transcendence. And it has made me think very deeply about the past and where we
are in South Africa today. 


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