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Discovering blackness, feminism in 'Collective Amnesia'

Entertainment
An extract from Collective Amnesia reads: "Reincarnation. The mirror spits your grandmother back to you. Her determined eyes. Her machete mouth. Her howling courage. You are third-generation. Messiah."

Kicking off the show with a short reading from her book, Koleka Putuma stood in front of eager literature lovers at the Market Theatre on Tuesday night for the last Joburg leg of her Collective Amnesia book tour.

Poet Lebo Mashile together with Putuma and journalist Milisuthando Bongela were part of the panel discussion.

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The cover of Koleka Putuma's book Collective Amnesia. Picture: Supplied

“My blackness wasn’t something I necessarily understood until I encountered whites. For a long time I only looked at blackness and the race. I had to make sense of what is feminism to me and to my mother,” said Bongela during the discussion.

While the discussion was driven by the panel, members of the audience also got a chance to share extracts from the book.

Bongela said the book was filled with reflections of oneself. She said the book was a memoir of histories that had been forgotten and ignored in South African society.

“I grew up with Paula White, Christian inspiration and all the Christian books, and I encountered all the books on consciousness and blackness two years ago. We don’t only read by text. We read by absorbing, observing.

“When we talk about another type of text, I was reading the ways my family navigated their marriages, work and children, their households and then themselves. We come from communities where we raise each other,” added Putuma.

“If you’re a black woman in this country, you either get killed fast, or you get killed slow in a span of a lifetime,” said Mashile, talking about how tough it is to be a black person in the country.

“Putuma is exploring the model for South African literature. This book is going to be a lifeline for so many women who follow her work. The work of black women saved my life,” said Mashile who was enlightened after reading books by the likes of Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison.

Putuma’s exploration of blackness, womanhood and history in Collective Amnesia is fearless and unwavering. The 24-year-old is based in Cape Town and aims to take the reader into nostalgia with her collection of poems.

She is claiming her space and her stance in the world of literature.

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