In the Xhosa language, Ndabazabantu means ‘he who knows all the gossip about the enigmatic, as well as stories of the people of his town or village.’ The character was first created in the author’s collection of short stories, Children from Exile and other Stories. Ndabazabantu’s stories are refreshingly innocent, dramatic and poignant, and most of them hark back to a simpler lifestyle experienced by black folk living in the platteland – small country towns – from the 1950s to the 1980s.
Of course, the unsavoury antics of apartheid regime do not escape Ndabazabantu’s satirical and occasionally scathing tongue. But this is not an angry book of recriminatory rhetoric. The author has chosen mainly to reflect on how these people made most of their lives under trying circumstances, and the stories focus on the culture, humour and pathos experienced by those check and jowl in the township known as uMasizakhe.
In this collection, the author delves into a wide variety of themes, including culture, religion, anti-Christianity and beliefs in ghosts, mermaids and the tokoloshe.
Several of the stories hark back to the author’s previous collection, Camdeboo Stories, providing further details and explanations. This is best seen in ‘Concert in the Church Hall’ where the origin of the conflict between the uncle, Kleynhans, and Charlien is explained. While Stories of Ndabazabantu can be enjoyed on its own, if the reader has read Camdeboo Stories, a total picture will emerge. Could Stories of Ndabazabantu then be classified as a sequel to Camdeboo? I will leave this to the reader and critics.
The character and versatility of Ndabazabantu starts to mature in this book. He delves deep into cultural issues such as the dowry, and demonstrates that this is not solely the practice of Africans alone, but is rather a world-wide phenomenon