June 29, 2011

Book Review || Coconut by Kopano Matlwa


Coconut by Kopano Matlwa was a literary wonder - a debut novel about living in the new South Africa - that won a European Union Literary Award. I can't help but think it was just lucky timing...

The novel is about the struggle with identity among the young black people of South Africa. Following the tales of two girls - one who stays in a "white" suburb and another who has grown up in a township - Coconut takes a look at how these two girls struggle with their identities as black people not living as nor wanting to be black people. Divided into two parts, we first meet Ofilwe, who's family is known as "new money" and lives amongst the white people of Johannesburg, and then we meet Fikile, who grew up in the townships but is determined to make herself live like a white person - she even told her teacher when she was in school that when she grew up she wanted to be white.

This need to be superior is one of the main themes of the novel. While Ofilwe's superiority is a reflection of the new class in which her family belongs, Fikile's superiority is the result of a desire to be superior. However, in their quests to be superior to their black fellows, they have forgotten where they come from: they have lost their mother tongue; they wish to be excluded from family gatherings; and they hold their cultural traditions in disdain.

It is sadly one of the legacies of apartheid that the only version of superiority the lower classes see are white people, and this is why they aspire so to be like them. They are seen as happy and rich, while the poor are unhappy and struggling. They wish to absorb this white life, to become white, because this is the only version of success they know. But a result of this desire is being seen by your own people as having a misplaced sense of superiority, while the characters also seem to have a misplaced sense of the superiority of another race.

Although Coconut is a novel that tries to expose the issues of identity in the new South Africa, I found that it lacked a plot or a story, at least until the end when the two characters' worlds join together. Up until the moment when you recognise Ofilwe, there is no tension, and almost no story. It really seems like a bunch of haphazard thoughts and anecdotes handed to us in the hopes that we will make sense of it.

The novel won a literary award, and I have to wonder whether awards are now offered to novels for their subject matter rather than the style and writing talent.
Read More

June 25, 2011

Lightning eruptions

The last volcanic eruptions have made headlines, and not just because of the ash clouds halting global flights.

The volcanic eruption in Chile, and the last two in Iceland, were outstanding because of the lightning. The lightning shows the full scale of the power of nature.

But geologists still aren't exactly certain what causes the lightning. There is an assumption that the lightning is caused by the same process that causes lightning in thunderstorms - something about volcanic dust particles colliding with each other and building up static charges.

However, there is the question of why only some volcanoes produce lightning and others don't. Can you imagine how much power there is in an explosion that it could inspire lightning crashes like these?

Images from MailOnline; AFP; Getty Images
Read More

June 22, 2011

Book Review || Black Skin, White Masks by Frantz Fanon

I've managed to crawl my way through University setwork Black Skin, White Masks by Frantz Fanon, which is a work on the psychology of the man of colour.

Black Skin, White Masks is a dissertation of Fanon's psychoanalytical theory of the personality complexes created by colonialism in the colonialist populations. A lot of what Fanon makes sense, if you know the themes and subjects of psychoanalysis.

His major statement is that the white man has created in the black man an inferiority complex that determines all the ways that these two races interact with each other, even down to white people’s relationships with a person of colour of the opposite sex.

I will admit that it was at times a difficult novel to get through and to understand at times, as I found Fanon rambles on and makes use of obscure extended metaphors and images without any real coherence.

But the essence of the novel is important in that it shows that all humans have an effect on each other, where consciously or subconsciously. Though I believe he has oversimplified the issue, as in stating that the black man can only be defined as “not the Other”, there are some really interesting points, and I think that the thesis goes a long way in trying to ascertain the psychology of the coloniser.

Have you read the novel? What did you think?
Read More

June 17, 2011

So it's not about the feathers

17 June 2011

Recent research has shown that the peacock's feathers are losing their power.

{Image from Wired}

The research flies in the face of years of belief that peahens, and by implication other female animals on this planet, are attracted to the male of the species who displays the most attractive plumage.

However, seven years of research has shown that the number of eyespots a peacock had did not improve a male's chances of garnering a mate - unless the number of eyespots fell below a certain threshold. In other words, most peacocks would mate often, except for the outright losers who had many less eyespots than the general population.

Well, our men will have to look for other ways of impressing us then...
Read More

June 7, 2011

Give me my clothes!

I have wondered sometimes why it is that, while the Star Wars movie is apparently only for "geeks", Han Solo and all the other male characters don't notice that Leia is quite hot.

Well, it seems a "geek" out there noted this discrepancy:

Thanks, Geeks Are Sexy, again. :)
Read More