If Zodwa WaBantu and Nthikeng Mohlele stroll into a jam-packed auditorium, who will hog the limelight?
Apologies for asking the obvious. Obviously the masses will glamour for the former while oblivious of the latter. It’s a no brainer that Zodwa will be inundated with selfie requests while Nthikeng would go about his business without much fanfare.
Her who has been the epicenter of merriment at dance floors needs no introduction owing to her uncommon talent of flaunting what Nicki Minaj and her Mama gave her. Away from the limelight, Nthikeng has also had a few serenaded and marinated courtesy of his superb talents.
“Who is this Nthikeng Mohlele guy?” asked Madimetja Mashishi, reclining into a couch at yourstruly’s apartment.
“Nthikeng Mohlele is South African literature’s best kept secret,” I declared triumphantly placing Nthikeng’s books – Rusty Bell, Small Things, Pleasure and Michael K, his latest, on the coffee table.
“Why must he be kept a secret?” asked Mashishi, an avid reader as he landed on a random page in Michael K. “Oh, I see he has a way with words. We need more African authors like him out there.”
Nthikeng is the latest literary sensation breath of fresh air on the South African literary platform with unmatched style and substance riddled with potent poetic prowess. The award winning author crafts creativity in a manner that augment vocabulary and stretches imagination. In his work, he has the apt ability to summon the past and future into the present in ways that only he knows how. Though he boasts virtuoso writing gift, Nthikeng doesn’t only show off his sublime skill of the highest order but he also challenges his readers to think. One moment his writing strips you of fear and compels you to want to dive into the pool of love, where you are coerced to swim or sink. The next he has greedy and heartless corrupt elements against the ropes weighing strongly on their conscience for dubious dealings.
Like the conductor of an orchestra, Nthikeng arranges words to the extent that the same phrases and expressions dance off the pages to the delight of readers, who can justifiably claim Nthikeng writes books that are hard to put down. That Nthikeng studied literature at University of Witwatersrand can be clearly seen with the depth and swag displayed in his craft.
The Novelist, who was born in Limpopo but was partly raised in Tembisa, is not one to pursue fame though his book – Pleasure was winner of the 2016 University of Johannesburg Main Prize for South African Writing in English and 2017 K Sello Duiker Memorial Literary Award.
“It reminded me that literature and the arts in general aren’t popularity contents,” Nthikeng told Destiny Magazine reflecting on his literary prizes. “Those blessed with an artistic streak often have to grapple with very serious and profound affairs. However it can be light-hearted fun too. Literary prizes have humbled me, made me resolve to do better and grow as a thinker and writer. Above all they have taught me never to take anything for granted.” Nthikeng is up there with South Africa’s cream of the crop. Think of him as the modern Zakes Mda. Yeah, that giant.
“Wait a minute,” a young lady cautioned when I was introducing Nthikeng with a copy of Micheal K. “You can’t just be out here comparing people to the legendary Zakes Mda.”
Maybe she might have a point but if it were football, for me, Nthikeng would be Lionel Messi with Mda as Maradona.
Nthikeng’s emergence as a genius of the noble art of literature gives glimmer of hope that the lights will not dim on a craft in need of life in South Africa where reading is not as lit as the slay queens and black Twitter.