i am busy reading a book called ‘The Man who Founded the ANC’ by Bongani Ngqulunga.
It is the biography of a man called Pixley ka Isaka Seme [Pixley, son of Isaka Seme] who i never knew before last week.
i had also never heard of Bongani Ngqulunga, although apparently he currently serves as the chief of staff and spokesperson of the President of the Republic of South Africa.
And when i thought of the founding of the ANC it is names like Albert Luthuli and Walter Sisulu and Nelson Mandela that come to mind.
Which is why i am busy reading a book called ‘The Man who Founded the ANC’ as clearly my ignorance is telling.
To Build up and to Break down
When i posted a status this week asking if anyone knew the name Pixley ka Isaka Seme there was very little response, so that made me feel a little bit better.
There are in fact a few different reasons why i am reading this particular book right now.
To Better Learn a more Accurate History of my Land
When we returned from living in America for three years about five years ago, one decision i had made was that it was impossible for me to be removed from the race/reconciliation/restitution conversations happening or needing to happen around South Africa.
At the time i had heard the name Robert Sobukwe, but didn’t know a thing about him and after a very fortunate opportunity to spend a weekend at Robben island i saw the book with his name on in the bookshop – How can man die better, by Benjamin Pogrund – bought a copy and was thoroughly inspired by reading it and getting a glimpse of the leader South Africa largely missed out on. My learning had begun.
i grew up during apartheid and so my formal education did nothing to help me understand much about the real history of South Africa and so a large part of the last five years has been playing catchup through the writings of Biko, Tutu, Chikane, Krog and others.
Reading those who do not look [or think] like me
One of the biggest lessons learnt while in America was received from a challenge to read people who don’t look like you. Up to that point i had largely been reading books by middle-aged white Christian men and never once had the thought of ‘Let me find a book by a middle-aged white Christian man’ – it just happened naturally because of the topics i was interested in and the people i had been exposed to.
So i began to more purposefully seek out women authors and people of colour. At the same time i realised that i didn’t know much at all about the Israel/Palestine crisis which seems to be quite a political hotspot in the world and so i read three books that helped give me at least the start of an understanding of what is going on there. This included reading people from a different religion than i am.
That has largely been my focus since then and it has only felt like something that has benefited me. i don’t necessarily agree with everything i read, but i am being challenged by people who think differently, live differently and see life differently than me. i have learnt so much and been so deeply inspired by so many different authors. This extends to blogs as well,, where during my early days of conscientisation towards race issues, it was largely African-American women who were producing the writing that was educating me, with some exceptions.
It’s also just flippin interesting
Val actually picked up this book for me on our recent Marryversary celebrations trip to the Eastern Cape. What is super fascinating about this book is that it deals largely with the last ten years of the 1800s and the first twenty to thirty years of the 1900s and so it a time frame i know very little about.
It also seems to be written quite subjectively. The author is definitely not trying to make you believe that Seme [as he is largely referred to in the book] was a saint, but at the same time, despite his many and obvious flaws, he is not being made out as a villain either. There is a sense that this young man, who was both extremely gifted and immensely complicated, was a bit of hot mess. Who achieved some amazing things. And made some huge mistakes. What an interesting read.
So what are you reading?
Are YOU someone who enjoys reading?
Physical paper book [sorry trees!] or digital Kindle vibes?
Are you intentional at all about what you read or do you just grab what seems interesting?
When last did you read someone who didn’t look like you?
If you are someone who reads then jump into the comments below and list the last three books you read as well as one book that you would highly encourage me to take a read of…