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Interview and Excerpt: Zakes Mda Discusses His Memoir, Sometimes There is a Void

Zakes Mda

Sometimes there is a VoidThe website of NPR’s On Point programme features an excerpt from chapter 1 of Zakes Mda’s memoir, Sometimes There is a Void. Presenter Mike Pesca also interviewed Mda, who spoke about growing up in South Africa and how the country is changing.

Listen to the interview:

From Sometimes There is a Void by Zakes Mda:

The smell of life is back on the pink mountain. Human life, that is, for other forms have always thrived here even after we had left. Before our return shrubs and bushes flourished, but their fused aromas highlighted an absence. The air was too crisp. Too clean and fresh. In spring aloes bloomed – hence the pinkness – and wild bees busied themselves with the task of collecting pollen for some hive that would invariably be located in a cleft of a dangerous-looking sandstone cliff. Now we have tamed the bees, and are keeping them in supers that dot the landscape. Bees have brought us back to the mountain.

Decades ago my grandfather’s estate sprawled out on this mountainside.He, Charles Gxumekelana Zenzile Mda, was the headman of Qoboshane Village in the Lower Telle area, named for the Telle River that separated Lesotho from the Herschel District of the Cape Province in the Union of South Africa. A headman was the chief of a small village, and my grandfather was given that position by his brother-in-law, Edwin Mei, the original headman who pursued a better career as an interpreter at the magistrate’s court in Sterkspruit. Edwin also gave Charles a huge chunk of Dyarhom Mountain where he planted vast orchards and built houses for his wife, Mildred Millicent Mda, who never forgot to remind everyone of her true royal breeding by repeating at the slightest provocation: Undijonge kakuhle, ndiyintombi kaMei mna. Don’t mess with me, I am Mei’s daughter.

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