Children of Paradise by Mbulelo Vizikhungo Mzamane
University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 30 September 2011
Lewis Nkosi, doyen of African letters, called the 1950s the 'fabulous decade'. It was a decade that threw up some of the most remarkable political struggles of African people against European oppression - from the Defiance Campaign to the women's anti-pass march, bus boycotts and the adoption of the Freedom Charter at the Congress of the People in 1955, which became the blueprint for change in South Africa. These events form the backdrop to the quirky narratives. Set in the vibrant community of the (now extinct) Brakpan Old Location outside Johannesburg, the stories bring to life the seminal moments of the period. The charm and humour of the collection is provided in plentiful supply by its small narrator, Baba Boy. He offers an unusual (often hilarious) eye view of the unfolding events - and of the eccentricities of the character cast of courageous Congress women, such as Grace Rasekaola, MaMtlane and others, who took part in them. Children of paradise celebrates, above all, the resilience of people who chose to be not victims but 'creative fighters' against a system that sought to dispossess them of dignity and humanity.