“If man would return to their homes things would go better in this country,” said Sindiwe Magona at a recent festival attending a theatrical performance of Mother to Mother.
Well versed in the stories and customs of the amaXhosa Magona explores in her latest novel Chasing after the tail of my father’s cattle the profound love of a father for his daughter. This remarkable story is set in the rural Transkei where the way of the ancestors need to be respected, the ghosts of the past roam in an out of rondavels, cattle means wealth and glorious mountains welcome peace. But if is also a place where other forces claim possession (Customs of old vs modern life, ancestors vs the religion of the whitefaces, inheritance rights, liberation of woman, patriarchies).
In her struggle for liberation Magona not only advocates black woman power. She is critical of institutionalized patriarchy in the religion of whitefaces as in the customs of old that hold people bonded. She does not paint a cheap caricature of naming and shaming but embraced what makes one the most human. What some characters lack other complete. Where the sisters of the church come to pray at the bereavement a group of poor women from the village make sure there is enough firewood to keep the new widow going. It is just one of the many subtly worded threads of the story. But a father that leaves his inheritance and cattle to his daughter is unheard of. Chasing the tale of my father’s cattle is hunting tale of coming to terms with such an extravagant sacrifice of love and whether a community can handle this. As gossiping tongues go cluck cluck cluck and old traditions do not give that place to women and daughters.
If Ubuntu could be imagined in a novel than this South African story is a must read for those who want to live it as well.
Sindiwe Magone, Chasing the Tails of My Father’s Cattle (Seriti Sa Sechaba, 2015)