Let’s Talk Text: Sibongile Fisher

I met Gratitude Fisher in 2013 in drama school. She was late for the first day of class and I offered her the empty seat next to me. After break she smiled and presented me with a Fizzer, which I opened immediately and savoured. She was the girl who dropped Thomas Sankara in the middle of a conversation like he was her favourite uncle, she was woke before woke was a thing, a quality we, her class mates, took intervals at liking and disliking.

She was a well-seasoned poet already at the time and the effort she put into her work silently encouraged me to put some effort in finding the thing that would be the tool with which I change the world and today I have committed myself to telling African mythology, or like the Nigerian myth, Why the sky is far away, says, …’to retelling tales of adventure.’ So here’s a story.

When I saw the Facebook post that announced Sibongile Fisher as the 2016 winner of the Short Story Day Africa Prize for Short Fiction, the memory that accompanied the pride I felt was one I recently shared on Facebook.

It’s 2013, we’re in a Theatre and Life class with Irene Stephanou, I’m sitting across KG and the look on his face says, ‘How slow can the hours go?’ His favourite class is mime because it allows him to amplify his craziness. Some of the guys are contributing their half-baked opinions to the discussion. Mahlatsi and Lindani are taking turns turning the whole thing into a sketch and Reneilwe is rubbing her chest. We’re in the middle of a discussion and it is heated, Cada is making a joke of the whole thing and I’m laughing my ugly laugh, until Gratitude Fisher says, ‘You know what I learnt recently? That I don’t need to explain myself to anyone.’

What followed the memory was a Whatsapp message to a friend asking if she saw the great news, someone we know is winning. The truth is, when one black women wins, she doesn’t only win for herself, she wins for the whole generation. Her win becomes a generational victory. It rewrites history in bold and that is why I celebrate Gratitude Fisher.

I had a few questions to ask and she took time to answer. So here we go.

  • Lidudumalingani Mqombothi said, “Wining is really exciting as it will promote my story to a wider audience.’ Besides awards and competitions, what else can be done to shine the light on writers who are producing really good stories?

There are many online literary magazines that are open for submissions at various periods in a year. Submitting to these publications can help a writer reach a wider audience. It also helps one improve their writing as most of these platforms provide feedback. When you submit and make your work visible, then you are likely to be recognised. It’s easier said than done, but it needs to be done anyway.

  • Should young writers carry the burdens of the past?

I firmly believe that people should write what they like. I don’t think it should be a rule however it is nearly impossible to be black and not carry the burden of the past. I don’t think young writers should be forced into some form of activism but when you are young that is when you are at your most useful so it would be wise to take into consideration your past as it is the direct result of your present.

  • What is the thing that black female writers are not unlearning fast enough?

I don’t know. I never speak for masses. However I need to unlearn self-doubt.

  • If your story was to be adapted into a film, what is the one thing you’d like the adapters to keep?

When adapting a literary piece for film, the script writer focuses more on character motives and leaves out literary nuances. I want those kept. I want the devices to translate in the dialogue; I want the audience to experience the narrative how the reader experienced the story.

  • Are the writers of your generation saying enough?

I think they are saying what they must. My generation is changing the face of African literature. My generation is changing structures and forms, playing with language in a way that suits them. I don’t think we are saying enough until we start doing enough but I do think we are saying what we must.

FIVE Current Things

  • What are you reading?
    1. I am obviously reading Migrations, which is the 2016 anthology of short stories from SSDA. I am also re-reading Paradise by Toni Morisson and I am always reading essays and short stories online from Offing Magazine, Brittle Paper, Enkare Review and Granta Magazine(to name a few). I also check into Safia Elhillo’s blog to read her poems atleast once a week.
  • What are you eating?

I am currently bed ridden from eating too much chocolate (Easter eggs) this past Easter weekend. I can barely keep anything down. So I’m avoiding food.

  • What are you learning?
  • How to mother a toddler
  • How to be a better friend
  • How to be a better lover
  • What are you doing?

I am watching and reviewing documentaries for an international film festival. I’m also writing and reading.

  • What are you listening to?

All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ by Joey Bada$$. The album is on repeat.

To keep up with Sibongile Fisher’s greatness, follow her on social media.

T: @gratitute_f | IG: @gratitude_fisher | F: Gratitude Fisher

You can also follow her blog here,

W: https://writtenwithgratitude.wordpress.com/


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