Freedom Writer: My Life and Times by Juby Mayet if forthcoming in mid-October from Jacana Media.
Mayet, who passed away in 2019, was a force of life.
Her autobiography takes us from life as a youngster growing up in Fietas, Johannesburg, through marriage, life as a ‘girl reporter’ for first The Golden City Post, then Drum magazine, and on through apartheid and her resistance to it.
Written in her inimitable style, thumbing a nose always at convention or those in authority, it gives a unique insight into one of the only women writers at Drum—and one who could drink just as hard as Can Themba or Nat Nakasa.
‘It was said that my maternal grandfather, Iederoos Sallie, could stand on the corner of 15th and Krause Street in Fietas, and be heard all the way down to number 22 when he burst into song […] I remember my mother telling me, when I was quite young but old enough to understand, that my father, Moegammat Sallie Sallie, had ridden off on a horse and cart with his half of the marriage spoils, with his mother, Amina, leaving my mother standing on the pavement with me in her arms, in front of Ouma Galima’s house. I was 18 months old, according to my mother.’
At this point it would be prudent to explain that while my mother and father had the same surname, Sallie, they were not related to each other until they married, Sallie being a somewhat common Malay/Muslim surname with variations such as Salie, Sarlie or Saleh. So, the fact that I turned out to be the somewhat weird kind of person that I am cannot be explained by the fact that Janap Sallie married Moegammat Sallie Sallie … Or can it? My own explanation is actually that at birth, I refused to come into this world in the normal fashion and had to be dragged into it with the use of forceps during which operation I most probably suffered some brain damage—not a lot, but just enough to eventually cause me to be the way I am.’
Mayet was born Zubeida Mayet in 1937 in Fietas, Johannesburg. She served in the national executive committees of the Union of Black Journalists and the Writers Association of South Africa, forerunners of Media Workers Association of South Africa.
Read another short excerpt from Freedom Writer, shared by Jacana Media:
‘The matriarch of one family kept ducks and I remember Oemie’s great distress the day the oversized boy Sakkie inadvertently stepped with his great feet on one of the little ducklings. I also remember that Daddy had poultry and that of special interest to me was a foul-tempered cock I named Ismail after my stepfather. This feathered fury took an intense dislike to me, probably because I used to tease him with my attempts at crowing noises as I chased him around the yard. He turned the tables on me and whenever I ventured out into the yard, he would lift his beak, shake his cockle and make menacing noises as he headed straight for me, wings flapping ferociously and his beak opening and shutting threateningly. Dunno what happened to him eventually but I’m sure he got his comeuppance in Mummy’s roasting pan—no less than he deserved after he made me run from him so many times!’