Mrs Sindiswa Busuku-Mathese has won the 2018 Ingrid Jonker Prize for her debut poetry collection, Loud and Yellow Laughter. The prize is given in alternate years to the best debut poetry collection in English or Afrikaans.
“Winning the Ingrid Jonker Prize is an honour. It is a significant literary acknowledgement and a wonderful celebration of the collection. There are so many great poets who have won the Ingrid Jonker Prize in previous years, poets that I strongly admire – it's wonderful to be part of that poetic family tree. I'm very grateful to the amazing Prof Kobus Moolman who was my supervisor for Loud and Yellow Laughter. I'm also thankful for the incredible support shown to me by Prof Sally-Ann Murray and the English Department," said Busuku-Mathese, who is a completing a PhD in the English Department on a three-year full-time scholarship offered by the Graduate School.
Loud and Yellow Laughter, which was published by Botsotso in 2016, is Busuku-Mathese's first volume of poetry. Prior to its publication, various individual poems from the collection appeared in local and international poetry journals such as New Coin, New Contrast, Prufrock, Ons Klyntji, Aerodrome, Illuminations and the Unearthed Anthology. She also won second place in the 2015 Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award and her collection was shortlisted for the 2016 University of Johannesburg Prize in the debut category.
“The collection is a personal reflection on childhood," said Busuku-Mathese at the time of the book's launch.
According to her, the poems in the collection are woven together with archival materials such as letters, photographs, scraps of conversations recorded verbatim and found notes. She also uses dramatic techniques such as character lists and stage directions, highlighting the text's re-enactment of pre-existing events between the main characters: The Mother, The Father and The Girl Child.
As the adopted daughter of a man from Yorkshire, Britain and the biological daughter of a woman from Mount Fletcher, Eastern Cape, Busuku-Mathese says her childhood was anything but conventional if measured against traditional standards. Her poetry collection is also a creative memorial to her adoptive father, she says, who passed away when she was only 13 years old.
"The poetry collection looks at family and intergenerational discussions about parenting and childhood in South Africa, as well as topics of adoption and (un)belonging, and generational slippages that arise within families," she explains.
"It is linked to my own background and very personal."
By delving into her mother's and father's pasts and the growth of their relationship – a parenting agreement between two friends – Busuku-Mathese explores her own identity as a South African through her writings by mixing auto/biography, elegy and documentary collage to explore the intersections between history and fiction.
She hopes that the collection will contribute to discussions around various forms of identity in South Africa and help introduce alternative narratives and voices in that space, making them more visible.
"Issues of identity are both social and personal, I think it is an important discussion to have in this country in particular considering how diverse our country is and how varied our experiences are of what it means to be South African. That is a conversation that I believe we are still grappling with and watching unfold as South Africans as we are pulled in different directions. My poetry explores what it means to be brought up in a home that is not stereotypical and to be young and struggling with the liminal space between two parents who represent radically different worlds."
The collection however does not treat the alternative to traditional family structures as abnormal or as a spectacle.
"That was always my intention, to present an alternative to the traditional; a view of a different form of parenting even while I do not want to make it seem strange. The collection affirms that normal is not always traditional and that there are different distinctions of that. At the end of the day, it is my hope that my collection contributes to conversations about our complex forms of South Africanness."
“Sindiswa has exceptional creative gifts and a wonderful appetite for ideas. I believe that inherent talent, hard work and ongoing mentoring will see her go from strength-to-strength as a writer. She's already off to an outstanding start, and we're inspired by her achievements," says Prof. Sally-Ann Murray, Chair of the English Department.
Loud and Yellow Laughter can be purchased for R80 from Botsotso. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org e-mail Sindiswa Busuku-Mathese directly at email@example.com get your copy.
Photo: Mrs Sindiswa Busuku-Mathese recently received the 2018 Ingrid Jonker Prize for her poetry collection, Loud and Yellow Laughter. (Anton Jordaan, SSFD)