The JRB presents an excerpt from Mubanga Kalimamukwento’s short story ‘Mastitis’, published in Now Now: The 2023 Doek Anthology.
Now Now: The 2023 Doek Anthology
Edited by by Rémy Ngamije
Doek Arts Trust, 2023
by Mubanga Kalimamukwento
If I die right now, my husband will discover my body tomorrow morning propped up by two pillows, the silk of my nightdress glued to my skin with sweat. Every morning, Daliso tiptoes from the spare bedroom back into ours. He takes his three-minute shower, puts on a slim-fit suit and matching tie, and creeps out of the room in silence as if he’s leaving a mistress instead of a wife he’s only had for a year. We reconvene in public spaces––over the kitchen table, in front of the television, or separated by the centre console in our shared red Fit.
If I am dead when he creeps back in tomorrow, will he notice?
Will it shock him to find my eyes agape as they’ve been all night? With the room etched perfectly in my pupils like chalk on a blackboard. Will he stop in the middle of patting his hair down and peer through the tiny eyes of the mosquito net hanging over Baby and me? Or will he shuffle on the other side of the mesh, past the mound of our dirty clothes peeking out of the washing basket to the wardrobe, and dust a jacket from the hanger like usual?
Will he just leave us here?
The blue light of my phone flashes. A reminder of the unread messages sitting in my WhatsApp inbox. The ‘My condolences on the death of your mother. ☹’ texts blinking with the ‘Congrats on the baby, please send pictures!’ ones.
My head is a heavy bag of sand crushing my neck, unappeased even by the empty bottle of Tramadol accusing me on the bedside table.
But: I am not dead.
It’s been a week since my mother passed. Since her sisters trickled down the pebbled path of my parents’ yard, dropped their handbags onto the half-moon welcome rug on the verandah, flung themselves to the floor, and wailed ‘Waicha!’ into the tiles. As though out of the glazed ceramic Amama would answer them: ‘Ma!’
Seven black squares in December to mark the amount of time elapsed since Baby was born and plunged me into motherhood. Seven long days since a match was lit in my gut and started searing through me from the inside out.
The old wooden clock in the sitting room announces 2 AM with two teeth-grinding chimes, as though I need any more reminders of my wakefulness.
But sleep is worse.
The night before Amama’s burial I tried, foolishly, to plan my dream, hoping I could trick sleep into being bearable again by replaying my last private conversation with her––the one when she’d promised me children drew husbands closer to their wives even in the worst marriages. Amama had said this with the certainty of someone who’d lived it.
She’d even sworn it, flicking one forefinger towards heaven. As though that was why they’d only had me. Not, like the family gossip went, because Amama got married too late––thirty-five, took another five years to conceive me, and then her womb dried up. Not because my father was already fifty-three by then, widowed, childless and on his second wife. And yet, I had believed her.
In slumber that night, a nightmare clawed at me instead of Amama’s balming words. Her limbless head bobbed in a black vacuum, scolding me:
—Ah-ah, iwe, feed your child.
—Take a shower; you are starting to smell.
—Get out of that nightdress and put on some proper clothes.
—Comb that hair. You’ll scare away your poor husband.
—Truth-God, Zaliwe, husbands don’t like dirty wives.
—He’ll leave you.
I could have told her: Daliso doesn’t care if I am draped in a sweat-stained nightie or squeezed into a bandage dress and stilettos. Fikuti or flowing Brazilian weave—it doesn’t matter to him.
Instead, I’d bitten down my responses, glad to see my mother again, even if only her face was alive, even if it was just a dream.
The next morning, when I awoke with a bloodied lip from where my teeth had sunk into my skin I was grateful the ache in my chest had migrated to the swollen cut.
Now, I run my tongue over the lip, no longer puffed up or black, and sigh. God. In my arms, Baby continues to fuss despite my endless rocking. She rubs her tiny fists against her lips, twisting herself in the fleece of her romper, kicking against the jagged wound across my abdomen.
I try again to quiet her: ‘Shhh.’ I slip the strap of my nightdress down my shoulder and bring Baby’s face to my breast. She finds the tip of my nipple with her mouth. Her eyelids flutter as she unclenches her tiny palms and her little body relaxes. My nipple burns when she suckles, then tightens when she releases it. Slowly, her mouth forms a tiny upside-down U which wrinkles her chin as if I am draining bile into her.
I shift my weight on the mattress, move Baby away from my scar, and groan. ‘What do you want from me?’
Every morning I bathe this child in a basin of lukewarm water. I seal the moisture in with Vaseline and pat her down with Johnson’s powder. I swaddle her in blankets and rock her until we both grow weary. But I know if she could answer me, Baby would probably say: ‘Milk.’
The one thing I cannot give her.
The nurse had assured me when she discharged us: ‘The more you feed her, the faster the milk will come.’ And Google tells me not to worry because ‘it can take up to four days for milk to come in for first-time mums.’ Even my mother-in-law, petite as she is, front as flat as her back, had wisdom to share. ‘Two weeks,’ she exclaimed, illustrating the length of time by wagging two fingers in my face. ‘I had no milk for two long weeks, now look at Daliso.’ She looked up at her eldest son, beamed, and said, ‘He grew up to be a giant!’
My breasts have disregarded it all—the nurse’s smiling promises, Google search results, Daliso’s proud mother. They are just two swollen glands weighing my chest down. Balls have formed inside them. The tension has spread into my neck and shoulders, throbbing in unison with my pulse.
I let my eyes close and watch stars dart across the inside of my eyelids. I hold my breath. For one-tenth of a minute, it’s only mosquitoes buzzing around us, crickets singing outside, rumbling music in the distance and on the other side of the bedroom wall, Daliso’s uneven snoring––the newest soundtrack to our marriage. When I exhale, Baby wails.
Yes, if I died right now, Daliso would find my arms still a pendulum.
I glare down at the child—the one who killed my mother by being born. Although when the memory comes into view, as it does now, I cannot tell which came first.
Was it my mother falling, or the belt of pain tightening around my abdomen until Baby was pulled out of me?
Amama and I had been shopping for chitenges in Saffique. One moment we were picking out the fabric from the wall of hanging cloth for post-delivery outfits, because, as Amama kept reminding me, ‘You must still look beautiful for your husband even after you have your children,” and the next she was splayed across the linoleum floor clutching the left side of her chest. Then everything turned black.
When I came to I was looking at a water splotch fanning out from muddy brown to the white of the rest of the ceiling. My torso was covered in a faded blue hospital gown and a pile of blankets but I was shivering. I pinched my nose against the sting of disinfectant, methylated spirits, and blood. My mind spooled backwards––my body on a stretcher, being lifted into a van, a distant voice asking me to say my name, someone holding me up, a needle cold against my back, tingling, numbness from the waist down, a baby, wrinkled, bloodied and screaming.
A nurse came into view, white cap first, starched uniform next, then the yellow bundle in her arms. I shook my head at her slowly, my gaze falling on the cannula sticking out of my left hand. I was still two weeks from my due date.
‘Where’s my mother?’ I demanded.
Instead of telling me, the stupid woman smiled, tucked her head into her neck, and said, ‘Both you and the baby were under a lot of distress. But, we thank God, the doctors were able to deliver your baby safely. It’s a girl.’
She made as if to place the bundle on my chest. I recoiled, scrambled around the bedding, frantic until I found my stomach. My heart began to pound. I held the deflated flab of skin and felt the stretch marks crawling in every direction until my fingers met a tender spot beneath my navel and a crooked line of raised stitches that I didn’t have before. I narrowed my eyes at the nurse. ‘That’—I jabbed the air between us—’is not mine.’
She clicked her tongue. ‘This is your first time, ehn? Don’t worry. You’ll have a boy next time.’
I kissed my teeth. What a complete idiot! Amama had held my hand at the twenty-week appointment. And when the sonographer had said, ‘Congratulations, it’s a boy!’ Amama had clapped and said, ‘Boy or girl, a child is a blessing,’ dropping her voice on the third word as though if she said it too loudly the technician might change his mind and say girl rather than boy.
I had even said ‘Amen’ sealing it with a prayer. That grainy image which had flickered on the little screen in that office was my child. My son. Due on 1st January 2018. Not what this nurse was trying to pass off.
‘Where’s my phone?’ I snapped. ‘What’s the date?’ My voice was shaking.
‘Nineteenth of December,’ she said softly, handing me the phone.
Something calcified in my throat like a half-chewed, raw sweet potato. The acrid taste spreading across my tongue.
An entire day?
‘Where is my mother?’
This time, the question crawled out, unsure if it wanted to be asked or even answered, and then the tears came.
The nurse glanced down as though the answer was buried in the blanket. When she looked back at me her eyes had glossed over. Gently, she placed the bundle on my chest and slowly backed out of the room.
I steadied my fingers over the keypad and dialled my mother’s number. An automated voice answered: The mobile subscriber you have dialled is either outside the coverage area or has their phone switched off. Please try your call later.
—Have you eaten?
I texted Amama anyway. Because why else would she have fainted? Saffique wasn’t even that packed when we were there—it was only nine in the morning.
When my phone buzzed the message I clicked open was from a cousin whom I’d last seen at my wedding.
—My condolences, cuz. MHSRIP.
I slumped back and lay there, motionless until my husband arrived.
Daliso clasped my palm in his and said, ‘Babes.’ Five little letters, strung together to liquefy my insides. He hadn’t called me that since I told him I was pregnant. I remember thinking for a fleeting moment how I’d tell Amama she was right. That babies could thaw resentment back into love.
‘Yes, babes?’ I whispered back.
He fiddled with my fingers, pursed his lips and then said. ‘Mum passed away.’ He didn’t say, your mum, so I wrapped my fingers around his and hoped. I watched his lips move until I caught the sympathy in his eyes when he told me that my mum had a stroke. ‘There was nothing more they could do,’ he said, wearing the pity-you expression of an American sitcom doctor. ‘I’m so sorry.’
They could have saved her!
And just like that: love, frozen again.
He didn’t resist when I shook him off.
My mother? Who walked to and from Kamwala Market every day just for the exercise? The same mother who had replaced sunflower oil with olive and refined breakfast mealie meal with roller meal?
‘No,’ I corrected him. Not Amama.
‘Sorry,’ he muttered.
Daliso averted his eyes and lifted Baby from my chest. He rocked her a while, glancing beyond her head, into the purple cloud of jacarandas hanging outside the hospital window. He mumbled something about needing to assist with Amama’s funeral arrangements, get our house ready for Baby, and call off work. Gingerly, he placed Baby back in my arms and walked soundlessly out of the room.
Right then, as loudly as if he’d said the words a thought planted itself in my mind, as crisp as Daliso’s soles clicking away: It’s not that he doesn’t want a girl, it’s that he doesn’t want a child—not this one, or any other.
Why else would he suddenly be behaving this way? Clenching when I rub my hand down his arm or slip my tongue between his lips when I kiss him?
It was either that or—?
I wrapped my arms around myself, warding off the unfinished thought.
From the spare bedroom Daliso punches our shared wall. ‘For fuck’s sake, Zaliwe!’
‘Some of us have work in the morning. Shut that baby up!’
It’s the most we’ve said to each other since Amama passed. He says it like he is the only employed person. As if, before Baby, we didn’t ride our little red Fit into town every morning. Like I didn’t have a half-circular office at the Cairo Road Branch of ZANACO where I sat on most days sealed off from the long queues of customers behind glass and air conditioning. Like I didn’t have a golden placard which said ‘Manager’ glued to my door. Like he is the only one who supervises a team of five, whose office orderly curtseys when he walks into a room.
Before Baby we used to be friends: Daliso and me. We’d get drunk together, stagger out of Chicago’s Bar giggling at nothing. We’d leave our car in the Manda Hill parking lot and overpay a taxi driver to take us back home. I should have known from the way he’d collapse into bed with me, both our sweaty clothes still on, and fall asleep without even trying to have sex with me.
I’d assumed when Daliso bent me over and slipped into me once a month he accepted that what followed marriage would be children. I’d been arrogant enough not to believe that I was more than a veil for what he really wanted. Never seen myself as just the convenient best friend he married to silence his mother’s ‘When will you marry?’
‘Want to trade places?’ I shoot back at him through gritted teeth.
When he doesn’t answer I want to jump out of the sheets and slap him. But jumping requires strength and my eyes are starting to sting, blurring the room into a rain-grey cloud. I imagine Daliso sprawled across the bed we’d been preparing for Amama to sleep in while she helped me with our child when the time came. In my mind’s eye I see his feet hanging over the edge, his mouth slightly open, drool collecting in his stubble. My hand reaches for Daliso’s side of the bed, tracing the slight impression of his head in the pillow. If not for the weight in my arms, I’d lean into it just for the faint notes of citrus from his shampoo which I know still linger there.
If not for the weight in my arms Daliso would be asleep there, sleep-talking in chopped up sentences.
‘… don’t tell …’
‘… secret …’
The afternoon when I called my husband from the bathroom stall at work, with my underwear still hanging around my ankles, and whispered ‘I’m pregnant’ breathlessly something shifted between us.
‘Oh? That’s good.’ His muted reply conveyed that it was everything but.
A boy, Amama had sworn, would snap him out of whatever nonsense was making him distant. ‘Every man wants a junior.’
Are you sure? I want to ask Amama now. Instead, I croak the first half of my mother’s name, ‘Ama—’ and the rest of it dies in my throat. She would know what to do.
The little green tent which had been pitched in-between my mother’s petunias and the sprawling mulberry tree to mark her death has now been folded and packed away. The fire which told neighbours there was a funeral is now ash, swept away with the dirt. The fight between my father and my mother’s family about the burial site is over. A priest stood over the open grave, prayed for her eternal rest while she was lowered into the ground in a coffin the same brown as her skin, glowing the way she would when she slathered herself with glycerine. The mourners have all returned to their lives. They’ve probably buried their black vitambalas under prettier headscarves. I must now gather what is left of me, rummage a smile for people when they ask how I am doing, and nod. ‘Nili bwino.’
The funeral rites are over. My grief must trail behind it, like the convoy of cars that tailed each other from Kamwala to Memorial Park Cemetery. It must sink itself into the damp earth along with Amama’s gleaming coffin.
Baby howls again.
Her father fists the wall demanding silence only from her. I bring Baby to the pit between my breasts, stifle her voice with my chest, and pull off the net. ‘Shhh,’ I say, slipping into my pata-patas. We tiptoe past Daliso’s closed door. I push the living room door open with my back, Baby wriggling in my hands.
This part of the house gets more sound from outside. No one has told our neighbours that it’s 2 AM or that my husband, who has work in the morning, needs sleep. Fireworks are shooting into the night, the Black Eyed Peas blasting out of their speakers.
Christmases past, Daliso and I would be hosting the neighbourhood party. Me, smiling under the haze of too many bottles of Savanna, waving Daliso off as he whispered something into my ear. Him, walking into the house with his lifelong best friend, Matthew.
Tonight, I catch the sound of tyres humming over the tarmac road. Conductors are yelling— ‘Mukwela’—as minibuses make their rounds through Shantumbu Road for whoever is crazy enough to be walking in Chalala at this hour. I flip the light switch and squint.
Stiffly, I walk over to the window.
What would happen—I ask myself—if I just laid her between the throw pillows on the sofa, took the keys dangling on a nail next to the door, and left her there? If I unlocked the gate and answered one of the ‘Mukwelas’ on the other side of the fence, boarded a bus, and allowed myself to be swallowed by the metal jalopy into the blinking lights of Lusaka. Would Daliso finally bring himself to look at Baby’s face long enough to find his reflection in it: sparse brows, high cheeks, and loopy left eye? Would he text Matthew and tell him I’d finally left and invite him over to take my place on the left side of our bed? Or would he give our landlord a month’s notice on our lease and move into Matthew’s high-rise apartment in Kabulonga?
Last month I stalked Daliso there in a blue taxi with windows tinted so dark I had to lean against the black film to see through it. At the end of the paved driveway was our red Fit, glimmering like an invitation for me to enter. I steeled myself to storm in and scream my husband’s name until he emerged from one of the four flats. I’d been ready to tell Matthew to stay away from my husband. But when the taxi driver, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel, asked me, ‘Tingene?’ I shook my head, feeling suddenly stupid.
What kind of a wife lost her husband to another man?
Daliso thinks I am too foolish to know the real reason he moved out of our room. Matthew’s name flashes on his phone screen more often than his own mother’s. Nothing to be suspicious of. Matthew is one of the boys. A brother. Best friends since they met in Grade Eight at Kafue Boys’ Secondary School. They owned matching, red Liverpool FC shirts and ate their pre-game nshima at my table before heading to watch the matches at a bar. Matthew had helped Daliso pick my ruby engagement ring. He’d choreographed the bridal party’s entrance for our wedding. He’d brought a breast pump to my baby shower, wrapped in an electric blue fabric folded to mimic a diaper.
Now, Matthew kept my husband on the phone until Daliso’s battery threatened to die and then some more while it was connected to the charger on one end and Daliso’s ear on the other.
Last Christmas, he and Daliso had emerged from the house, faces gleaming with sweat, hastily tucking shirts into their trousers before they strolled back to the smoking braai to stand with the other men.
‘Babies,’ Amama had assured me as my pregnancy progressed, ‘only take long when they are in the womb.’ Through the nausea, the spitting, and my insatiable craving for roadside roasted cassava, Amama told me, ‘Once he is born, you’ll see. Children grow as fast as you blink.’
I blink down at Baby. ‘Shhh.’ I rock her past the black television, into the dining room, and then the kitchen.
The floor feels unsteady and the stench of meat gone bad expands in the air around us.
Fucking ZESCO! Electricity––but no, we haven’t had a power outage in days.
I rush to open the fridge anyway, expecting slick fruit and greying meat, already counting how much rot this power cut will cost us, but the light flicks on as always, and for a breath, I just stand there, stunned.
Something shuffles in the corner. My body stiffens. My head turns slowly. My straw broom and a long mop are bundled together.
Shit, I hope we don’t have mice.
The swift memory of the time we had them at my parents’ house is enough to sheathe the skin on my arms in a carpet of goose pimples. Ndiyo, Amama called them, even after the Rattex, with which my father laced the moulding of the house, killed them. The smell of their tiny decomposing bodies stank for weeks until we discovered them behind the sack of mealie meal. There was a big one and barely formed one. Mother and child, I’d imagined, which my mother was calling ‘relish’ and insisting that the reason she never got sick was that she was raised on a steady diet of roasted mice and nshima.
My stomach churns. No! If I have mice, I’ll have to catch them another way. I raise my leg and kick one slipper into my palm, then I inch towards the movement, listening for the squeaking of mice. Instead, the broom shimmies out of the shadows into the light, past the table and chairs, towards me.
The slipper drops from my hand. I gasp, squeeze my eyelids together, and shake the image out of my head. But when I open my eyes, it’s still there—the thin handle wrapped in strips of rubber, like line after tight line of black necklaces, wound around a narrow, brown neck. Its thatched-grass body is bent to one side, like a cocked head. I blink, but no hand materialises to keep the object in place.
‘Nilota,’ I say as I carefully reach for Baby’s head. Her fontanelle pulses under my fingers. With my free hand I feel my scalp between my unravelling cornrows and, although I feel my skin, hot under my fingers, I repeat myself, ‘I’m dreaming.’
Amama’s favourite disciplinary item, which she yielded whenever I talked back as a child, sweeps closer and stops just short of my feet.
‘You are not dreaming, Zaliwe,’ says the mop shimmying into the light.
The voice is hers. Climbing an octave on the third syllable of my name like she’d spent her whole day laughing and didn’t have anything left in her chords to finish the word. Amama could fill up a room with her laughing voice alone. Where mine was kapenta in a bowl of water, hers was tilapia, large and filling. You couldn’t look away from her if you wanted.
If she were standing where the mop now is her hands would stretch out in front of her. Amama would take Baby from me and sing ‘Auwe’ until Baby slept. If this were my mother my heart would thump steady, my hands would be calm, and my mind would be quiet, not racing in circles inside my head.
The sound of Amama’s laughter spills out of the walls, dances in the air, and shoots through me.
I take a giant step over to the sink. I pull out a baby bottle from the stack where a box of them sit, unused.
I open the tap, fill the bottle halfway and then move it. I run my hand under the tap.
The water turns hot when I swivel the knob towards the red. ‘Ouch!’ I yelp.
‘I’m here,’ the stove says.
Amama’s voice severs what’s left of my doubt. ‘But what?’ There is a lightness to her tone.
She knows all my buts. From the trivial, ‘But, I was still playing’, ‘But, I put enough water in the pot of beans—I did not expect them to burn’, to the grave ‘But, he is cheating, Amama, I know it! I wash his underwear, cook all his food, and give him my body, but he just doesn’t want any of it.’
I place the teat on her mouth.
The ceiling is talking.
The broom rises and smacks my feet, the way Amama would if I entered the house without slipping off my school shoes first. ‘What do you think you’re doing?’
‘I forgot to take my shoes off?’ I say from memory.
Cutlery clinks in a drawer somewhere and takes the shape of Amama’s chuckle. ‘I mean,’ her voice grows tender. ‘I mean, what are you trying to feed my grandchild?’ I purse my lips. ‘She’s too young to drink water, you know.’
I know. I’ve read all the Breast Is Best articles and attended all my antenatal classes. ‘But—,’ my voice hitches nonetheless.
Me or her asking this one?
‘All she seems to do is fidget in her short bouts of sleep and wake up to cry,’ is what I want to say. ‘I’m so tired,’ is what I do say.
Her voice liquifies. ‘Babies cry, Zaliwe. That’s just how they talk.’
Just like her to trivialise this. ‘Truth-God?’ I roll my eyes and place the teat against Baby’s mouth again.
This time the broom smacks both my feet. ‘Ah-ah!’ Amama exclaims. The sound of teeth being sucked follows even though the broom has no mouth. ‘Not that, iwe!’
Now this is the Amama of my childhood, who would stop her sweeping of the yard if she caught me crawling up a mango tree and toss the broom at my legs to force me back down. I scratch the spot the broom grazed—Na funta. I nod. I have gone mad. A cackle rises in my throat, but when it comes out, I am crying.
‘It’s okay,’ she says. ‘I just want to help you, enh?’
I feel for a counter and put the bottle there. The broom and mop swivel to face it.
I say, ‘By starving her?’ and then I say, ‘A child will eat what the mother eats.’ She used to use this phrase on me when money didn’t stretch as long as the days of the month. Those months when she’d tell me to run over to a neighbour’s house to say, ‘Amama sent me to ask for a tomato from you; she will give you back next week.’ Or holding a teacup: ‘Lend us tu salt tungono.’
‘How?’ One word, but somehow splintered.
Baby’s cry is growing but Amama insists. ‘The milk will come.’
‘Remind your body that your child is waiting to be fed.’ This tone was one Amama fell on when she had used up all her hardness but my stubbornness still refused to obey.
I square my shoulders and glance around the room. ‘Truth-God?’
‘Truth-God,’ she whispers.
I can almost see her pointing to the skies, promising me a final time.
I reach into my dress. Slowly, I bring my breast out and push my nipple into Baby’s mouth, centimetre by painful centimetre until all the black disappears between the pink of her lips.
‘Hold it there.’
‘Keep your fingers on the bottom.’ The soft tone again. ‘And help her keep it in her mouth.’
Baby latches onto the nipple shooting fire up my breasts. The pain rides into my abdomen, forming a fist around my stomach, exactly like those first aches that delivered Baby to me. I wince.
‘Awe! Do not take it out.’
I narrow my eyes, reminding myself that it is me: Zaliwe Mwanza, Mulungushi University Graduate. If I crane my neck I can see the gold edges of the frame of my Best Graduating Student certificate in the living room. I cannot be talking to a broom. I shift my feet. Baby makes a soft sound, an almost gurgle that softens the pain in my gut. I ease into it, pad slowly to the kitchen chairs across the room, and lower myself into a seat.
A release, like finally finding a toilet after being pressed for hours, washes over me.
I sigh, let my eyes close and stay that way until a chime from the clock startles me. As I rub the sleep out of my eyes, another chime rings out, and then a third. In the corner of the kitchen, the broom is tucked in place, unmoving. Baby’s face is still glued to my chest, white pooling in the corners of her mouth. My free breast has leaked through my dress and onto my lap.
- Mubanga Kalimamukwento is a Zambian writer, lawyer, and the author of The Mourning Bird, which won the Dinaane Fiction Award. She won the 2019 Kalemba Short Story Prize and was shortlisted for the Nobrow and Bristol Short Story Prizes. Her work has appeared in the Red Rock Review, Dreamers Creative Writing, the Advocates for Human Rights, Two Sisters, the Menteur, SyncityNG, Overland, and Doek! Literary Magazine, among others. She is an alumna of the Hubert H Humphrey Fulbright Fellowship and the Young African Leaders Initiative. In 2021 her short story ‘Thandiwe’ was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. She is a current MFA candidate at Hamline University.
In this diverse, exciting, and energetic bold collection of short stories, four siblings spend a nostalgia-filled and truth-revealing night in their grandparents’ house before it sold; a couple considers the bloom and doom of their relationship in the Namib Desert; a young mother struggles to breastfeed her newborn infant while confronting uncomfortable truths about her marriage; a post-apocalyptic Windhoek reveals intimate ways of surviving; rain in Northern Namibia brings much needed water and dreaded terror to the land; the life cycle of a frog traces a story of attraction and love; a man reflects on a life lived and potentially lost after a violent encounter; a bar filled with boredom becomes the backdrop for a rumination on time’s passage; fire and anxiety burn without pause—and with great humour—in Cape Town; three portraits of war provide glimpses into the lives lived through and around conflict; two young boys discover the meaning of friendship in a small town; and a protest ushers in new and uncomfortable truths for Namibia’s young and restless generation.
Written with heart, curated with care, and designed with love, the 2023 Doek Anthology features emerging and award-winning storytellers from Namibia, Eswatini, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe that will surely become important voices in African literature.
Produced with the generous support of the University of East Anglia’s International Chair of Creative Writing Tsitsi Dangarembga, the award-winning author of Nervous Conditions, The Book of Not, and This Mournable Body, the 2023 Doek Anthology is an important milestone for Doek as an arts organisation with great ambitions and ongoing projects designed to nurture a culture of reading and writing in Namibia. It showcases the diversity of narrative styles employed by Namibian writers as well as the richness and inventiveness of local storytellers.