People thought he was a little mad. My mother even used that distinct local phrase, 'He is God's creature'. She never used that phrase unless she thought something was wrong with you in the head. Most folks thought he had the madness that came from reading a lot of books. Too many letters, commas, periods, dashes, and the like, swirling around your brain until you couldn’t think straight. At least that is how I thought of it.
This man didn’t read things like Drum, or Pace, or Bona. No. He always carried one or two thick dust-coated books with yellowed pages, the kind that no one ever paid attention to in the library. At least someone picked up those lonely books, I said to myself the first time I saw him. Every day he emerged from his room carrying these and an old notebook. He would say hello to us as we sat in the sun—barely lifting his eyes from the open book in his hands as he walked by.
Who was he? No one knew. He wasn’t from around here, not really. This is the ghetto; no one is really from around here.
Tiah spoke to emerging writer & winner of our first #WriterPrompt,
Tiah: Why do you write?
MARK: I write because I enjoy creating new things, and writing gives me the chance to do just that.
Tiah: How does writing fit into the rest of your life?
MARK: Writing is an important part of my life. I am currently at school and I try to write as often as I can, especially in between assignments and those impossible-to-finish reading lists professors assign.
Tiah: What themes do you enjoy exploring in your writing?
MARK: I enjoy writing about rustic and township/ghetto life in its countless forms. Sometimes my stories straddle those two worlds, other times I just focus on one. It reflects my own upbringing. I grew up in many townships in the city of Mbabane in Swaziland, but every Friday I got on a bus to my father’s village to spend my weekend there. This went on from primary school until I finished high school. So, in a sense, I am a product of both worlds and that has influenced my writing.
Tiah: What have you been reading, lately?
MARK: Apart from my course reading lists, I’ve just finished NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names. Extremely funny and painful at the same time. Before that I was reading Rachel Zadok’s Gem Squash Tokoloshe (Tikoloshi in Siswati). For real, I am not sucking up. I loved it, even though the tragedy and depression of the main characters left me feeling a little depressed too.
Tiah: What question do you wish I asked? Please answer it.
MARK: What’s the best way to improve one’s writing? Read and write.
Mark Mngomezulu was born and raised in Swaziland, where he completed a B.A in Social Sciences in 2011, at the University of Swaziland. He is currently studying at New York University, for an M.A in International Relations. Some of his short stories have appeared in the first anthology published by the Africa Book Club, A Bundle of Joy and Other Stories. Follow his blog.
#WriterPrompt is a bimonthly event held on Short Story Day Africa's Facebook page. Writers are given a prompt to inspire a 200 word short story. Writers are encouraged to comment on each other's stories, and use that feedback to edit their own stories. At the end of the event, one story is chosen, and the writer features on our website for #WriterWednesday. Read the other stories from #WriterPrompt 30 April here.