Arts / 28 September 2019, 3:30pm / Tanya Waterworth
Durban - Writing about the ANC/IFP war in the ‘90s was an emotional roller-coaster for author Zanele Dlamini, 33, who walked away the winner for her novel Wounds of Ignorance at the city’s One City, One Book Award last week.
The book is a novel set in 1992, when 12-year-old Simo starts secondary school, but then he gets swept up in the war. Two decades later, Simo’s secret past threatens his love life and “like cancer it crawls up his skin and he must find what he longs for - forgiveness”.
Dlamini said the book, which was first released in 2017, deals with a number of themes, such as relationships, love, war and forgiveness, during that bitter period between the two opposing political parties, in KwaZulu-Natal.
“It was a fragile story to write. It was a difficult story to write.
"I did extensive research, which involved speaking to people who, I was told, would never speak about that time. I also read a lot about that period to make sure that the story fitted the timelines.
“It was very emotional and I immersed myself in the characters,” she said.
It took her about two years to research and write the book and, at the time, she was working as a medical technologist, so she would write whenever she had a spare hour or two.
“I did shift work, but I would always try to get some good writing done on a Friday evening, into the Saturday, when I had more time.”
Dlamini grew up in a village in Ixopo and, in 1994, their family moved to Port Shepstone to live with her grandmother.
“The war was very bad at that time,” she says, adding that she finished her primary education at a boarding school in Harding and, for high school, went to Our Lady of the Rosary Secondary School, in Wartburg, where she also boarded. Both her parents were avid readers and, by the time she was eight years old, she was trying to read authors such as Sidney Sheldon.
“My mom was reading Memories of Midnight by Sidney Sheldon and I kept trying to read it but the words were difficult, so she would read and tell me the story,” she says.
Dlamini went to the Durban University of Technology, where she studied to be a medical technologist.
“My mom was a midwife and we were always being told at school to study maths and science, so a medical career was an obvious choice,” she says.
In May this year, she decided to take the plunge and become a full-time writer.
“It’s only been a few months, but I feel happiest now - writing fulfils me,” she said.
Her first book, Plumeria, was a story revolving around three women, who make New Year resolutions to discover who they are, while Wounds of Ignorance deals with far more complex content.
“Wounds of Ignorance was always the book I wanted to write. I think Plumeria was the practice run and, as the first book, I learned where mistakes could happen.”
She said writing Wounds of Ignorance highlighted for her the importance of healing.
“Some of the stories I was told were from men, who would have been boys at that time.
"After that war, some of them had no purpose in life. Some turned to alcohol and did not deal with the trauma that was caused. Many had to also leave their homes at that time. I think we need to talk about it without feeling as though we are walking on eggshells. I’ve been contacted by a number of people who have read Wounds of Ignorance and I hoped it helped them to heal by reading it,” she said.
Dlamini’s latest book, Chronicles of the Huggist, was released this year. She also writes children’s books.
The One City, One Book initiative was started by eThekwini Municipality last year, with the aim of promoting reading and a love of books.