ESTELLE SINKINS reviews Pride and Prejudice – The Gerald Kraak Anthology. African Perspectives on Gender, Social Justice and Sexuality (various authors, published by Jacana Media)
THOUGHT-provoking, funny and poignant sums up the collection of short stories, photography, poetry and journalistic work, which makes up the inaugural Gerald Kraak Anthology – Pride and Prejudice.
Each of the works was a winner or finalist in the Gerald Kraak Award, which was established in 2016 by The Other Foundation and the Jacana Literary Foundation.
The book opens with Poached Eggs, a short story from the joint winner Farah Ahamed, from Kenya, which deals with one woman’s way of dealing with her husband’s domestic tyranny.
After marrying Jaffer, Nuru finds her life turned upside down. Her husband expects her to keep to a strict routine and isn’t interested in letting her work, drive a car or enjoy any of the freedoms she once had. Nuru’s response to the situation is unique, witty and guaranteed to leave you with a smile on your face.
Many of the stories in the book deal with LGBTI issues across the African continent and in particular countries like Uganda and Nigeria, which are extremely hostile to those in the gay and trans-gendered community.
These issues are explored in different ways. In Dilman Dila’s Two Weddings for Amoit, lesbian lovers have to subvert the system to be together in a sci-fi tale, based in a world ruled by an oppressive religion; while Amatesiro Dore’s, For Men Who Care, offers a complex and thoughtful insight into a part of elite Nigerian life and how buying into certain brands of patriarchy can be deeply damaging.
Love, betrayal, acceptance and ideas of gender are also explored in two stories by Nigerian writers, Otosirieze Obi-Young and Olakunle Ologunro.
Obi-Young’s You Sing of a Longing tells a story of a young musician and his struggle to accept himself and his sexuality. This story of love and betrayal is poignantly beautiful and lingers long in the mind.
Ologunro’s The Conversation is at times shocking but delivers an important insight into issues of domestic violence, family acceptance and the complexity of gender roles in Africa.
Amongst the 14 submissions in the anthology are a series of photographic studies, covering everything from sexuality to albinism.
Justin Dingwall’s collection ‘Albus’ uses beautiful models to represent people with albinism and the resulting images are breathtaking. Albinism is also at the heart of Sarah Waiswa’s work in ‘Stranger in a Familiar Land’, which places her subject in everyday situations.
Photographer Julia Hango, meanwhile, asks important questions about power through the use of naked models; and Dean Hutton uses his images to talk about bisexuality, attraction, age and race.
One of my favourite non-fiction works in Pride and Prejudice is Beyers de Vos’ A Place of Greater Safety, which covers homelessness, poverty, attraction and violence in the LGBTI community in South Africa.
The piece centres on a young man called Peter and a small haven in Cape Town, the Yellow House, which is a beacon for those in need of refuge. It is written with a real empathy, but, like the author, you can’t help but wonder what the future holds for Peter and his friends.
The anthology also showcases poems by South Africa’s Sindiswa Busuku-Mathese and Tania Haberland from Mauritius and an academic piece by Ayodele Sogunro from Nigeria.
Gender activist, Sisonke Msimang, one of the judges in the competition, had this to say about Pride and Prejudice: “In the current political environment, we are hopeful that expressions like the ones we have chosen – that do not shy away from pain and are deeply inventive – find their way into the public consciousness.
“We think Gerald Kraak would have smiled at a number of these entries. Above all, we have aimed to stay true to his love of fearless writing and support of courageous and grounded activism.”
I couldn’t agree more – and I urge you to read this book.