Summer fruits and Mhudi. I had a very draining morning, with a fussy baby and a pile of laundry to get through. Baby is finally taking her nap. 🎉 Mhudi has been on my #tbrlist for a while now and so far I'm loving every page I turn. A review will follow once I'm done. #mhudi #africanliterature #bookstagram #instabooks
I am deeply sentimental and I also believe in signs and the like. A little over a month ago I lost my grandfather and I often mention how my love for reading stems from being raised by both he and my late grandmother. They were both avid readers and they read everything, my childhood home has so many books and each time I find gems that i didn’t know they had.
The week after my grandfather’s funeral I was in Exclusive Books with my daughter, I didn’t intend on buying any book, I was at the mall for a pair of black formal pants. The quick turn into the bookstore was to just quickly browse what they had. I found this copy of Mhudi by Sol T Plaatje tucked between Zakes Mda’s Little Suns and another book I can’t quite remember. I immediately knew I had to get it. It had to be a small smile from above.
Here’s a short backstory; Mhudi was one of those books I came across as a confused child reader who was still enjoying her Sweet Valley High books and books about while fences and ross gardens in American suburbs. I had no interest in books by African writers especially ones written many many years ago. It was special to my grandfather because of the author’s relationship with Kimberley, his hometown. Mhudi and Rathaga were also displaced after Mzilikazi attacked the Barolong and found each other. Similarly or not so similar, the romantic in me wants to relate this to my grandparents- my grandmother a Mosotho who followed her husband to a new country where they started a new life.
I don’t remember what happened to that copy of Mhudi and I hope I some day find it. I bought this book for a few reasons; I believe it was a sign, a comfort of some sort, secondly I’m wiser now and I read much better books haha and because my friend Eunice wrote some nice words about it this one time and couldn’t stop raving about it.
Mhudi was completed in 1920 and published ten years after. It tells events that happened a century before its publication, the 1830s. It’s a story of the Tswana tribes and how they lived and plotted revenge after King Mzilikazi attacked the Barolong. Mhudi a maiden Barolong woman meets Rathaga after the attack and together they form a bond. Mhudi is described as brave, independent and opinionated. She is not afraid to tell her husband her concerns and her opinions. A true leading woman.
The book is however not just about Mhudi and Rathaga’s escapades, a recurring theme in the book is land. Mzilikazi after leaving Shaka travels acquiring land from the smaller tribes he comes across. The Barolong lose their land to Mzilikazi and later to the Boers. I find that the movement of the tribes and where they eventually settled is very interesting and it is something i would like to further look into.
The book is about friendship and love despite the odds. It is a love story embedded in a historical recount of the Difacane wars. Rathaga develops a friendship with one of the Boers, Phil Jay. The friendship grew with time even though it was looked upon by the other boers who believed that they should never get that close to ‘kaffirs’.
In the book Mzilikazi is not just a warmonger chief but he has a soft spot for his wife Umnandi. A woman who reveals the soft side to her husband. Mzilikazi’s one true aim seems to be to turn the Matebele into one of the most powerful tribe in the land.
Mhudi is an African story that shows life before colonisation. It is a classic that holds so much history. I remember asking someone about it a few months ago and they described it as a love story, something which however true is not what I took away from the book. It is a recount of displacement and war and survival against all odds. I would recommend it to anyone. I now hold Mhudi and Kintu in the same regard, books that should be read. Necessary reads.