Posted on May 08, 2018
Niq Mhlongo, acclaimed South African writer of 3 novels and 2 short story collections, recently visited the University of Pretoria to launch his second collection of short stories, entitled Soweto, Under the Apricot Tree. The Meet Your Writers series, organised by the Department of English in collaboration with the Department of Library Services, is an initiative which regularly brings various South African writers into the university space to engage with the students and staff.
Mhlongo entered the Merensky Library Auditorium at the University of Pretoria on a cloudy Wednesday afternoon, donning his trademark flat cap and armed with his latest collection of short stories. He was met with inquisitive faces, and an attentive silence into which he spoke with ease about his most “recent love”, short stories. He then alternated between reading excerpts from some of his short stories – “Roped In”, “Avalon” and “Soweto, Under the Apricot Tree” – much to the delight of the listeners, who were immediately struck by their vibrancy, relevance and humour. Mhlongo answered questions about the excerpts, their details and his writing process. Finally, upon being asked about the title of his collection, Mhlongo stated:
“When people were forcibly moved from places like Sophiatown to townships like Soweto, the Apartheid government planted two fruit trees in each backyard – peach, plum, apricot – which became the place where all the stories were told, beneath the trees … The roots of those trees represent my identity, and the identity of many people in the townships, because they heard, witnessed, and knew everything. So, I started wondering, if the apricot trees of Soweto could talk, what stories would they tell? I think that this collection is an attempt to answer that question."
Following the session, refreshments were served and Mhlongo’s novels and short stories were available to be paged through or bought. But – as usual – the real treat was that the opportunity to engage with one of our most prominent local writers was free of charge.
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