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JAIL BIRDS AND OTHERS (article first published : 2005-04-4)

Written by Muthal Naidoo and produced by Botsotso Publishing, Jail Birds and Others will be launched by Adams Campus Bookshop at the Time of the Writer Festival on April 6 at 18h30 on the deck of The Wellington Tavern at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre. Guest Speakers will be Rose Mokhosi of Young Basadzi Projects and Durban poet Marie Pete. There will be a performance by Enact!, a Durban production company headed by Yugan Naidoo .

Jail Birds and Others is a collection of eleven short stories mainly about South Africans , which examines the complexities of life faced by ordinary women living in diverse cultures. In fact, the clash of cultures provides the vortex for almost all the stories and their refusal to adopt sentimental endings is exemplified by the title story Jail Birds. Set in the early 1990s, soon after Mandela’s release, it traces the relationship between an Indian political prisoner and a semi-literate African prison wardress whose seemingly mundane exchanges and prejudices do not lead to grudging intimacy or affection.

A hallmark of the stories in this anthology is turning relationships on their heads, forcing the reader to re-evaluate conventions: a widow whose idealisation of her dead and once ‘important’ husband leads her into a bitter and destructive relationship with her wastrel son; a daughter who can’t soothe her aging mother’s senile paranoia; a white Afrikaner politico who feels superior to her background for rejecting it and shows her liberation by neglecting her children, sleeping indiscriminately with black activists and smoking dagga; a domestic worker who sees through the trap of polygamy when she miscarries and the dead baby trapped in her fallopian tubes comes to symbolize her fate.

These and other stark characters comprise some of the figures that populate Muthal Naidoo’s South Africa – a society convulsed with pretension and contradiction.




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