Dr. Kopano Matlwa, the youngest recipient of the European Union Literary award, tells a thrilling story in this book.
Set in South Africa, Coconut follows the lives of two principal characters. The first is Ofilwe. The last born in a middle-class, black family of four. She grows up in relative comfort. Good school, big house and more than enough food. One time she overhears her mother complain to her grandmother about her father’s infidelity. Her grandmother’s response was curt: “John is a man and men do these things.”
The other is Fikile. A black girl, abandoned at an early age. Fikile’s aspiration in life is simple – To be white.
She deftly tackles the thematic areas of language, religion, class struggle, racism, sexism and neo-colonialism.
How we, Africans, have been made to believe that the languages of our oppressors are more superior to ours. How we measure our success and intelligence by our mastery of these languages. How we measure our levels of worldly exposure by how much less of our native languages we actually speak.
How we have been made to equate everything white to good and everything black to evil.
How we have socialized our women to believe that they are less than men. That their station in life is to be subservient to men.
How we look down upon the Arts in favor of the Sciences.
Dr. Kopano sounds the subtle yet unmistaken clarion call to all Africans. Her call is simple. Love yourself! She advises, rightly so, that:
“You will find, [dear African], that the people you strive so hard to be like will one day reject you because as much as you may pretend, you are not one of their own. Then you will turn back, but there too you will find no acceptance, for those who you once rejected will no longer recognize the thing you have become. So far, too far too return. So much, too much you have changed. Stuck between two worlds, shunned by both.”
Such wisdom! Such powerful words. So much more herein.