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Tumi Morake modelled her public persona on her mother, a charming and contentious woman who used her big, bold voice to say what others were afraid to utter. It’s the personality that Tumi took on stage in the mostly male space of stand-up comedy, and the one that gave her the courage to join a white, Afrikaans radio station and comment about apartheid on air.
But there’s only so much you can find out about Tumi from the stage, the screen and the internet. And Then Mama Said… is the voice of Tumi in private, as well as a behind-the-scenes perspective of a pioneering South African star who has been both deeply loved and viciously hated by her audiences.
Tumi gets frank about the race row at Jacaranda FM; the Jaguar car accident that cyber bullies said she deserved; the body-shaming she endured on the set of Our Perfect Wedding; and her tumultuous relationship with her beloved husband. Throughout her story, she carries the voice of her mother, and with it the indispensable life lessons that made her who she is today.
In August 2016, following the announcement of the results of South Africa’s heated municipal election, four courageous young women interrupted Jacob Zuma’s victory address, bearing placards asking us to ‘Remember Khwezi’. Before being dragged away by security guards, their powerful message had hit home and the public was reminded of the tragic events of 2006, when Zuma was on trial for the rape of Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo, better known as Khwezi. In the aftermath of the trial, which saw Zuma acquitted, Khwezi was vilified by his many supporters and forced to take refuge outside of South Africa.
Ten years later, just two months after this protest had put Khwezi’s struggle back into the minds and hearts of South Africans, Khwezi passed away … But not before she had slipped back into South Africa and started work with Redi Tlhabi on a book about her life.
How as a young girl living in ANC camps in exile she was raped by the very men who were supposed to protect her; how as an adult she was driven once again into exile, suffering not only at the hands of Zuma’s devotees but under the harsh eye of the media.
In sensitive and considered prose, journalist Redi Tlhabi breathes life into a woman for so long forced to live in the shadows. In giving agency back to Khwezi, Tlhabi is able to focus a broader lens on the sexual abuse that abounded during the ‘struggle’ years, abuse which continues to plague women and children in South Africa today
It is not easy. Having a dream, having talent and being faced with a world that wants you to have neither – it is not easy.
This is not an easy story. This is a book about difficult odds, about cruelty, about broken families and addiction. This is also a story about hope. This is a tale of bravery and the undefeatability of the spirit of South African women. This is a story about football, but it is a story about so much more. This is a tale about the fearless women who carry the sport on their back, told through the eyes of the best player on the African continent.
This is the story of a little girl who rose out of the tough streets of Mohlakeng and went on to become a champion of the world.
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