Novuyo Rosa Tshumba's The King and I follows the life of two friends Nana and Sipho and how each turned out differently in the end. It also shows that being from a poor background isn't necessarily a recipe for success as has been captured in numerous stories and numerous African movies. And that sometimes people from seemingly rich, or somewhat endowed, background do succeed even if they are helped by their parents' wealth, name, or position or some sort of combination of these.
Nana and Sipho meet in a university in South Africa. Sipho is a Zimbabwean whose father is into politics whilst Nana is from Ghana. Sipho is better off than Nana and can afford to use a car on campus. They live all the lives students live: heavy drinking among others. Nana lives with Hannah, a Sudanese girl. These friends, like most students on campus, are political aware and have been influenced by Karl Max. They talk of socialism, African consciousness and Nana dreams of becoming the next Kwame Nkrumah who will lead Africa to unity. They are part of several demonstrations and the two can demonstrate on their own provided the issue of protest borders on socialism. When a Political Science student is awarded a prize for his essay African Despots - The Dynamics of a Failed Socialism, the two are there to demonstrate against it until they are soaked by the rains. What is between them is a kind of brotherly love, each being the other's keeper but mostly Sipho doing the keeping.
When they graduated each went his way. Sipho, the narrator of the story, stayed in South Africa and even though his father had been set up for a fall and had subsequently lost an election, he was able to find him a job in the Zimbabwean Embassy in South Africa as an attache of sorts. Nana, having returned to Ghana, seemed to be doing well. He has found a job and was rising through the ranks. When Sipho was about to marry he sent him several mails but there was no response. Then he heard he had been dismissed amidst an embezzlement scheme. Later, Sipho heard of sightings in the drug-peddling areas of Johannesburg. It was not long that the heavy-clothed Nana appeared on his doorstep in muddy shoes and coughing up bloody phlegms. Staining his wife's carpet, Sipho felt uncomfortable in the presence of this junkie who was once his friend. Asanda, Sipho's wife, was so infuriated that she had to walk him out. But Nana begged for a place to spend the night as his residence was far away, or so he claimed. In the morning, Sipho recognised that Nana had left already and so have certain stuffs in the household.
One thing about this novel is that it breaks convention. Far too often, it is the privilege who turn out to be doing drugs whilst the poor keep their focus and achieve their aim. This piece shows that in most cases this is not true because it is the rulers' children who turn out to be rulers, across the world. If Bush's son became a president after he was gone, and Eyadema's son succeeded him, Ali Bongo's son succeeded him and Laurent Kabila's son succeeded him, then no one can argue that Novuyo's story does not depict reality.
About the author: Novuyo Rosa is a Zimbabwean writer currently living in South Africa who has had short stories published in several anthologies including the African Roar 2010 and The Bed Book of Short Stories. She was the winner of the Intwasa Short Story Competition 2009. (Source: the anthology)
Read more about the author here.
Read more about the author here.