Phumlani pikoli

What is in for our young people? What is their struggle for? Have they found their identities? Do they know their direction? These are some of the questions that Phumlani Pikoli pursues in this novel.  The novel revolves around the lives of Nthabiseng and Xolani whose parents are politically connected. In varying ways the two try to find themselves in a confusing, overwhelming world. The questions of race and acceptance are crucial in the story. It is a story that shows that young people are helpless in the world they live in; they cannot change their circumstances and the people they meet.

The strongest point in the book is the language usage as Pikoli manipulates the languages spoken by his characters with ease.  The characters use language to build the story and language itself becomes a character. Understanding the language enables one to follow the story. But the action is swift and the reader needs to read closely to understand and follow the decadence in which these young people live. The youth is in a licentious world and they are bound to make mistakes. The reader also needs to follow the backstories carefully or they may lose the plot. Nthabiseng has to question her own identity several times like when her friends question the way she speaks Setswana in a Wimpy outlet. This calls for the search for her identity in a “white space”.  Pikoli here traces the conflict black children have as they grow up and they are forced to learn the euphemistically, “modern ways” otherwise assimilate whiteness.

Pikoli creates the scene where we see the revelry of young adults who drink themselves to sleep. Are these the Cursed Children of Ham that Xolani contemplates about? Like Nthabiseng Xolani has to explore the question of race and identity. While Nthabiseng has a white father, Xolani has a white girlfriend. As these young people try to assimilate in a new society Zweli the uncle was a freedom fighter and is disappointed that the young ones do not appreciate his efforts as a freedom fighter.

Pikoli captures a number of ironies in the” new South Africa”. The black youth is alienated from their own in pursuance of Western life. But they are repelled by the Western culture as well. This is the double alienation. Pikoli is successful in this novel because he pursues topical themes whose story is set at the background of #RhodesMustFall and #FeesMustFall. He explores culture as he explores the dissipation of the young people. Phumlani Pikoli asks deep questions about the pitfalls of Rainbowism in South Africa.