Matshoba, Mtutuzeli 1950-
MATSHOBA, Mtutuzeli 1950-
PERSONAL: Born 1950, in Soweto, Transvaal, South Africa.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o M-Net New Directions, 137 Hendrik Verwoerd Dr., Randburg, 2194 Johannesburg, South Africa.
CAREER: Writer. Journalist for Staffrider magazine, Johannesburg, South Africa, beginning 1978.
AWARDS, HONORS: Fespaco Film Festival prize, 1996, for Chikin Biznis; M-Net All-Africa Film Festival award for Best Anglophone Film, 1998, Vue d'Afrique Film Festival Grand Prix, and Fespaco Film Festival award for best screenplay, both 1999, and Hollywood Black Film Festival jury award, 2001, all for Chikin Biznis: The Whole Story.
Call Me Not a Man, Ravan Press (Johannesburg, South Africa), 1979.
Seeds of War, Ravan Press (Johannesburg, South Africa), 1981.
Chikin Biznis (screenplay; short film), 1996, expanded as Chikin Biznis: The Whole Story (full-length feature), M-Net New Directions, 1998.
Also author of To Kill a Man's Pride and A Pilgrimage to the Isle of Makana.
SIDELIGHTS: South African short-story and screenplay writer Mtutuzeli Matshoba was born in the black ghettos of Soweto, South Africa, and raised under apartheid. Educated in boarding schools, he eventually became an activist after being inspired by the words of South African leader Steven Biko, and was involved in strikes and other skirmishes with authorities that once resulted in his being jailed. After the tragic riots in that city on June 14, 1976, Matshoba began writing and in 1979, at age twenty-nine, published his first book, Call Me Not a Man, which was banned shortly after publication. A collection of seven autobiographical short stories, Matshoba's book provides readers with a glimpse into the life of a black man in a racist world where black families unable to pay exorbitant rents have their belongings thrown out on the street and disagreements with whites usually end in months of hard labor. As Matshoba notes in his introduction, his intention with Call Me Not a Man is to give his people a voice: "I want to reflect through my works life on my side of the fence, the black side: So that whatever may happen in the future, I might not be set down as a blood-thirsty terrorist: So that I may say: 'These were the events which shaped the Steve Bikos and the Solomon Mahlangus, and the many others who came before and after them.'"
Praising Call Me Not a Man in his review for Africa Today, Robert B. Boeder noted that Matshoba's stories are "full . . . of horror and the authentic voice of black African rage." Calling the author "one of the most talented writers [to rise] . . . out of the anonymity of Black South Africa" during the 1970s, New Statesman contributor Katherine Robertson noted that Matshoba's "sharpness and humour make him a pleasure to read" despite his grim subject matter. Matshoba's written works, which eventually included the books Seeds of War and To Kill a Man's Pride, helped fuel the worldwide condemnation of South Africa's racist policies and the ultimate end of apartheid in that country in 1989.
In addition to his fiction, Matshoba has worked as a journalist in South Africa, joining the staff of the magazine Staffrider in 1978. As the concerns of black Africans have changed in the years since the abolition of apartheid, so too has Matshoba's writing. In the mid-1990s he embarked on a wholly new project, penning the screenplay Chikin Biznis. First intended to be a short film, the screenplay was ultimately produced twice, first as a short in 1996 and then in an expanded version as an award-winning feature film directed in 1999 by Ntshaveni Wa Luruli. "In the past I felt the pressure to be political or to be politically correct," Matshoba noted of his story of a business executive who decides to cash in his ticket to life in the fast lane in favor of raising chickens. As Matshoba added in his remarks quoted on the [email protected] Web site, "It was great to write a slice-of-life piece." Starring noted African actor Fats Bookholane, the film won several African filmmaker awards, and also walked away with the top jury prize at the 2001 Hollywood Black Film Festival.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Matshoba, Mtutuzeli, Call Me Not a Man, Ravan Press (Johannesburg, South Africa), 1979.
Africa Today, June 1, 1981, Robert B. Boeder, review of Call Me Not a Man, pp. 67-68.
Engish Journal, December, 1990, Duda Jankie, "African Literature: Matshoba's Call Me Not a Man," pp. 44-46.
Natal Mercury, January 21, 1982, review of Seeds ofWar.
New Statesman, August 29, 1980, Katherine Robertson, review of Call Me Not a Man, pp. 19-20.
[email protected],http://www.chico.mweb.co.za/mg/ (September 16, 1999), review of Chikin Biznis.*