For The People

Before There Was Us

On the 25th of April, Sol Plaatje University (SPU) hosted the book launch of “Before there was us” by actress, producer, screen playwright and author, Mokopi Shale. The evening was opened by Creative Writing lecturer, Sabata Mokae, who also engaged in discussion with Shale about the novel as well as the challenges of the creative process itself.

The intimate but lively audience gathered in the university’s retail space while hanging on to every word as the colourful and hilarious storyteller, Shale, sidesplittingly delved into her character. Didintle Sechele’s experiences of losing her “lipginity,” of falling in love with a man who turned out to be gay and her experiences of loss, love, sex and self-love.

“The challenges of writing about South African characters in English is that so much meaning is lost in translation. “My characters are real, they say “gore”, they say “angithi”, they say “ke go rata ka lerato laga Jeso” meaning that they love with the love of Christ (referring to a cheater justifying his cheating by saying that he loves everyone as God loves everyone),” says Shale.

The novel tells the story of Didintle Sechele and her humorous and often tragic journey that she goes through trying to find her true and lasting love.

“Like real life human beings, all the characters we see on our screens have a back story, they have a past, they have reasons why they act the way they do. Before There Was Us, is a labour of love both literally and metaphorically because I took the backstory of Zinthle Malinga, who was originally called Didi Sechele, and turned it into a romance novel. Basically, all I wanted was to document a journey to a self-love that asks for no permissions to do what needs to be done in order to find happiness” Shale concludes.

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