“My Maths Teacher Hates Me!” by Paul Ugbede


My maths teacher hates me. He asked me to find y. I mean, how can I find y, something missing a long time ago? My brother and sister had tried to find it. Uwodi had searched for it when she was in class six. Then Atadoga also searched for it during his time in class six. My siblings, very brilliant, top of their classes, those children. But they are children no longer. Uwodi works in the bank at Kaduna and Atadoga is in the Army, a colonel now. They have both found happiness, but they couldn’t find y.

My maths teacher, he came to class yesterday very angry.

‘x2+3y =1. Find y’

I was not surprised. This had been the question for many years, the question that defeated my siblings in their respective class six. I had memorised it. I had waited for it. And it came, not in my class six, no; my class four. I mean, bearded man just walked into the class, straight to the board.

x2+3y=1. Find y.

Fine! I was not going to beg. That will give him the pleasure he wanted. I was determined to find y, for the family name. Well, secretly, it was to prove to Mama that I was better than Uwodi and Atadoga. They used to come home with big books; piles and piles of them. They will search and scribble and search and scribble. The defeated look on their faces always says it all. I was going to prove that I was better, that I had done what the two of them combined could not do. I mean, I was tired of being beaten by Mama’s long cane, tired of being called a block head, tired of being looked down on by hard to please Mama.

I went to Aunty Mona, down the block. Aunty Mona also taught maths in an All Girls’ school and was as bright as my Maths Teacher. She is the same age with Mama but they are not friends because she’s more beautiful and mama is always complaining that her husbands are too many. Mama does not like us visiting her.

“I really want to find y Auntie. Can you tell me where to see it?”

She looked at me queerly, touched the rim of her thick lens glasses. A dry smile showed behind those goggles.

“You can use the four figure table.”

The four figure table! I never thought about that and I knew my brothers never thought about it either. Where can I lay my hands on a well made four figure table?

Suraju the carpenter two streets before mine is the best carpenter in Akanampa.

“The table I have here has already been bought.” He said impatiently. “Come back tomorrow!”

“At least something small?” I begged, “something I can use for my assignment? We are submitting tomorrow.”

He grumbled and gave me a table, a little wooden thing with four sides. I searched all around it, turned it upside down, really shook it hard. Suraju was looking at me, a puzzled stare.

“What are you looking for?”

“I’m trying to find y.”

“Why what?”

“Just y.”

He turned his back to me and began to plane a wood.

“You can’t find ‘just why.’ You need to know which why.”

“So they are many y?”

“Of course! And each why has an answer. But you definitely will not see it in a table.”

“But Aunty Mona said it’s in a four figure table…”

“If it was there, you’d had seen it wouldn’t you?”

I went back to Aunty Mona. She was very surprised.

“Did you search it very well?”

“Yes Auntie. I turned it around, searched it inside out.”

She looked at me again. That dry smile is still there. “You may use the Almighty formula.”

“She means prayer.” Pastor Ichem explained. He is the General Overseer of Holy Ghost Pumping Church International, a wooden ramshackle close to our house.

“I’ll pray for you but you need to give an offering first.” He looked at me, hunger in his eyes.

“You have fifty naira?”

I gave him the only money I had, a dirty twenty naira bill. He quickly put it in his pocket. He prayed with me, a short spittle filled twenty naira worth of prayer, asking God Almighty to give me the wisdom to see why at the appropriate time.

God answered his prayer- through Mama Amanyi. She saw me rummaging through a refuse dump. She laughed a high pitched laughter when I told her what I was looking for.

“It is not called Wai. It is called Uwai.


“I used to have two. Some school children from Nevasity came the other day saying they wanted to dance with it and I gave them one. I think I can find the other one somewhere.”

I went with her to her house at Pato, besides that puddle full of pigs. She gave me the wooden bowl covered with sooth.

Finally! I have found it- in the most unlikely places-I found y. I have beaten my brothers! I took it home and washed it clean.

Following morning, I went to Maths teacher’s office and submitted my Uwai. Apart from mine, there was none on his table. So I was the only one who found it? I was so proud. In the afternoon, maths teacher was standing in front of the class, eyes smouldering, my Uwai in his hand. “Who submitted this?” He asked.

“Me sir…it is not called y sir, it is Uwai and…’

Twak! Twak! Twak! The sting of his cane surprised me rather than hurt me. Instead of anger, I felt sorry for him. The pain on my neck only revealed to me the pain in his old heart; the humiliating pain of a little boy finding what he had searched for all his life.

My Maths teacher hates me…but I forgive him.

In 2007, Paul Ugbede attended the Royal Court International Residency Programme for emerging Playwrights in London, United Kingdom. He also attended other creative writing programmes: British Council New Writing in Drama programme (2007-2008), Chimamanda Adichie/Fidelity Bank Creative writing Workshop (2008), BBC Radio Trust writing for the Radio Workshop (2010) and the Writivism Short Story writing workshop (2014). His works have appeared in the British Council Anthology of new plays, Writivism 2014 anthology and wosa online. He is the author of ‘Mr Chairman Sir!’ a play and Director of International Centre for Playwriting Development in Africa and resides in Lagos, Nigeria.

“Friday Night” by Chumisa Paquita N



Have I really spent all of Summer without you? We have not seen each other since last November … That time of the year when all the backpackers arrive in Cape Town. It was the same month you found out why your jeans wouldn’t fit anymore and you unexpectedly left for home a day after. I hope you and the one growing inside you are happy and well. And I hope you know that even though your silence is hurtful, I still think about you. You also missed my birthday, but whatever, I can no longer be angry with you for trying to be responsible.

It felt more worthwhile for Zizi to be writing a letter to Sindiswa than to be at yet another party. She had recorded a voice reminder on her phone and written in her notebook more than once, reminding herself to think of Sindi. It was three months since they had spoken, or at least since Sindi had communicated with Zizi. Putting pen to paper felt more real and appropriate for this kind of overdue communication. Touching the paper was like getting closer to the relationship they used to have.

As the Maharani incense wafted around her room she momentarily thought of how the smell had become so familiar in just a few weeks. Now she could not sleep without its scent fortifying the thoughts that would lull her to sleep – secretly selling her grandmother’s peaches during summer holidays, future travels, photography excursions to remote towns, romanticized erratic relationships. The moonlight came in perfectly through her window; it shone a light on one of the walls, allowing her to see the large map of Africa she had posted up on her wall. On the day she’d brought it home she put small red crosses on the countries she wanted to visit and a more noticeable red heart next to Zimbabwe. “Africa’s only liberated country”, she would always think to herself.

On nights like this she memorised the cities, small towns and capitals of each country, looked up images of the major cities and made ever-changing lists of the reasons why each country was important to visit. Nigeria; “to learn Yoruba, visit The Shrine, for the music and the ambitious men and to read a Nigerian book in Nigeria”. Zimbabwe; “just to see for myself”. Cameroon; “for its authentic film industry, the art scene and to meet the people who belong to it”. Burkina Faso; “to walk in Sankara’s land”.

Have you noticed that European and American travelers can be called “tourists, ex-pats, backpackers” and other polite terms while African travellers are plainly labelled as “foreigner”, even on our continent? Or maybe we Africans are never just travelling. You and me noticed everything and that’s why this city drove us crazy. And yazi tshomi, it still drives me crazy.

In the four months that Sindi had been away, Zizi had moved out of her father’s house to share an apartment with her friend Khanya. She had become delirious with the idea of freedom. Delirious because just knowing that she can do whatever, whenever, was much more exciting than the actual realisation of this freedom she did not even know how to define. This delirium was caused by living in a space that expanded and contracted as and when she needed it to. Unlike the stuffy, sanitised Northern Suburbs of Cape Town, the city centre was more welcoming of her mistakes and learning.

It hardly ever stifled her questioning, but when it did she thrived on the challenge of deciphering the origins of her thoughts. Thoughts about race and politics that back in the old neighbourhood felt taboo even in her head. The myth of the Rainbow Nation. The myth of equality. The sheer lie of what Cape Town is, or is not. She was in (White) Liberal Land now, some kind of flashy Bohemia where her thoughts were allowed to become spoken words – even if they were too extreme or radical for some of the people who heard them.

Zizi’s phone buzzed.

“Do you want to split for a banky?” a text from Khanya. She calculated, 100 bucks for drinks in case we end up going out, fifty bucks for anything extra, and quickly replied before she thought about it any longer.

“Cool. I’ve got 50 bucks.” Khanya arrived home with the banky of ganja and a bottle of Pinot Noir, her favourite since she was buying. Zizi rolled three joints, two for now one for later, while Khanya spoke about her day at work. Khanya’s job at a glossy women’s magazine always provided stories that they could fill moments of silence with. They felt the same way about most women’s magazines – oversexualised, non-journalistic, white-gazey fluff. Khanya hated her job because they never took her input seriously. The editors expected her to speak on behalf of the black market yet when she did they questioned her insight.

Zizi was brief about her day, mentioning the chicken livers she cooked for lunch and figuring out their faulty kettle. She meant to deter Khanya from asking about the interview she went for in the morning. She had left the over-polished office of a corporate event company still feeling the odd, limp handshake she was offered as a final sign of rejection.

Drinking wine and smoking in the kitchen was always the best part of Zizi’s nights. The prelude to new experiences that she would start imagining while they listened to Fela or Phillip Tabane or Outkast or a mix of everything because they disagreed on what should be played next.

So I’ve been freelancing since you left and now that Summer is over, I’m doing a lot less shoots – which means it’s job search time. I’m stuck between self-righteous self-pity for not being where I planned to be at twenty-three and being totally disgusted with my laziness. On a good morning when I’m high, I might give myself a brief pat on the back and tell myself that one day I’ll be the most respected and acclaimed photographer out of this vast continent.

The wine finished and they decided it was time to go out. Zizi put the third joint into her bag and they left the house. They walked silently to their usual spot, Bassment. Khanya was hoping to see her on and off again man Tendai, Zizi was just hoping to experience something enlightening.

Bassment smelled of the Maharani incense Zizi loved so much, wood-floor polish, pure tobacco and good intentions. It was a compact jazz bar that seemed to stretch as much as it needed to, to fit whoever wanted to enter. On big nights when a popular band was playing, the narrow building never seemed to be full enough; it expanded to fit the people and the energies they brought. This place had its own rules and its own unique crowd of painters, writers, musicians, filmmakers, photographers and dancers. Zizi always thought of Bassment’s regular crowd as the loose ends of the city, just like herself; people she could complain to, about the absurdity of Cape Town.

Khanya separated from Zizi soon after they entered the building. Tendai had pulled her to the dance floor. Zizi caught the bar lady’s eye. Comfort nodded in salutation and raised an empty wine glass, Zizi nodded and smiled. The whole building was vibrating.

It was one of those nights that a movie would depict as a night of a full moon, when everyone transforms and transcends into their true selves in what feels and looks like an underground charismatic church service. A night that would only end after sunrise, after the band had performed an hour over what they were booked for and the DJ had sufficiently tired out his congregants with an electrifying, heavy playlist.

One young woman was in a trance on the dance-floor. Her strapless, vintage dress kept slipping down to reveal her breasts. She wore braids that reached down to her waist. Each time she jumped, the braids covered or exposed her breasts. After the second slip no one even paid her attention. She was part of a sequence of movements and her stomping was only part of the greater piece. Everyone would think about it the next day and remember that it was beautiful and necessary.

Bassment is exactly the way you left it. If not, then it’s probably better. As you might expect I still go there for questionable reasons (sometimes). Questionable in the sense that I would leave my dark room on a still night and carry my wistful mood to the doors of Bassment, just because of the thought of Kwesi. I scold myself Sindi and try to stop myself. But my willpower is low when I haven’t felt his gaze for some time.

Sindi had been there on the night that Kwesi and Zizi met outside the entrance of Bassment. He was in Cape Town from Ghana for an artist’s residency and was considering making his stay more long-term. It was a Tuesday night, one of the calmer nights for the club. Zizi and Sindi were standing outside enjoying fresh air when Kwesi greeted them and walked into the building.

He said, “Good to see you,” and gave a brief nod as he respectfully put his right hand to his chest.

By the end of the night they were sitting on a mattress on the floor of his studio, drinking ginger and honey tea. Zizi and Kwesi spent almost everyday of the next three months with each other in Kwesi’s studio – talking, painting, taking photographs, and making love. She was the one who caught him burning one of his paintings during a bout of self-doubt, she had helped him come up with the title of his exhibition, and on the night that his exhibition opened, she noticed how much Kwesi revelled in the attention, contrary to the bashful man she knew. If his art were a person, it would have a fist raised to the sky.

Then one afternoon, she found him and a blonde woman on the mattress in his studio, lips locked and heedless.

Zizi positioned herself on a bar stool in a corner, Comfort timeously placed a glass of their house red in front of her. The spot gave her a good view of the dance floor and the main door. As much as the mood promised memorable images and conversations, Zizi didn’t quite feel like she would make it to the end of the night. Not unless Kwesi walked in.

“Hey sister,” an American accent broke her gaze from the DJ.

Zizi flinched as if the words were a dirty hand trying to touch her. She took a sip of her wine and looked away. “Excuse me, is this seat taken?” the voice asked. “No.”

The woman sat on the stool next to Zizi. She looked at Zizi and grinned.

“Hi, I’m Alexis.”

“I’m Zizikazi.” They shook hands.

“Wow, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to say that!” Alexis said as she giggled.

Zizi took another sip of her wine and waited for the next affliction.

What do your friends call you?”


“It’s a really pretty name, though.” Alexis bit her lip nervously then smiled before ordering a local beer.

Marvin Gaye’s ‘Got To Give It Up’ came on, DJ Sello nodded and smiled coyly to himself as his congregants extolled him. Fist-bumps reigned as some people came on to the small stage to thank him personally for the blessings. Surrounded by crates of vinyls, his turntables and the laudation, it was not clear whether he was on a pulpit or a throne. Khanya caught Zizi’s gaze and called her to the dance floor. Zizi shook her head and Khanya rejoined the rhythm of movements.

“Oh my God, I love your hair,” said Alexis.

Before Zizi had time to respond, Alexis had already run her fingers through her hair. Zizi backed her head away and ran her own hand through her Afro as if to check if it was all still there.

“What makes you think you can do that?” Zizi asked.

“I’m sorry, I just wanted to feel it.”

“Don’t you think you should ask me before you touch me?”

“I’m sorry sister, I just wanted to know how it feels.”

“You didn’t make an effort to say my name, you touch my hair without asking and then you call me ‘sister’?”

“I’m just trying to get into your culture. I’m sorry.”

Khanya came to stand next to Zizi, her face gleaming with sweat. Her smile slowly faded as she caught on that this was not a jovial conversation.

“You can’t just get into my culture. Especially not by touching my hair and calling me sister,” Zizi said.

“Come upstairs with me,” Khanya said, “light one up.”

Zizi stood up and took her half-empty glass of wine, leaving Alexis without saying a word or giving her a look. Khanya held Zizi’s hand as they walked up the narrow staircase of Bassment. The upstairs was lit up. Bassment regulars called it The Purple Room. It was painted a dark purple and had mismatched sofas and cushions on the floor. A mural of Sathima Bea Benjamin, her face brooding and shadowed, adorned the wall opposite the stairs. Unlike downstairs, the distinctive smell was not only of incense but also the smoke from different strains of ganja.

The space was lively yet easy going. Small groups occupied different parts of the room; either deep in conversation, smoking, or both.

Zizi and Khanya joined a group, greeted everyone and were soon assimilated into the pace of the room.

Coming to Bassment, Zizi’s mood was already leaden, but the encounter with Alexis weighed her down further. Her sense of autonomy was stolen. Of all the clubs or bars in Cape Town, this was where she was accountable to no one but herself. The experience with Alexis was atypical for Bassment, an aggravating reminder that maybe autonomy didn’t really exist for the black person in Cape Town.

“I’m trying not to be mad so don’t bring it up,” Zizi whispered into Khanya’s ear.

“What happened?”

“The usual, my name.”

Khanya waited.

“Only this time I was called sister. And she touched my hair without asking.”

“Damn. Well, let’s smoke and forget about her.”

Zizi settled against the wall with her almost empty glass of wine still in her hand. The Purple Room didn’t need many people to make it seem full. She felt a serene daze creep up on her as she looked around the room, at the people laughing genuinely and being light about life.

Sindi, this city is too hostile to experience alone. I feel like it forces people to behave in ugly, unnatural ways. Large monuments of men we don’t know tower over us and remind me every day that this city does not belong to us. I can just imagine you say, ‘My friend you can do whatever you want’. Can I really?

Maybe I can do whatever I want but can I say whatever I want?

Can I think whatever I want to think? I don’t know, I’m trying. The only thing I can rely on is a good high. When it gets too complicated I can smoke and feel my mind clear. I start to think of beautiful things like streets void of election banners, trains with no class partitions and a glorious heap of ash – the remains of that stupid statue of a Dutch coloniser that I must walk past every day on my way home.

“Zizi I’m going back downstairs to Tendai. Are you coming?” asked Khanya.

“I think I’ll just get a cab home. I’ll see you in the morning?”

Khanya nodded and smiled. They would probably see each other late afternoon the next day, when Khanya came back from Tendai’s place.

Khanya walked Zizi out of Bassment.

It was still crazy and crowded in the street, the clubs and bars were still a few hours away from closing and the police vans were just starting to become visible.

“There’s your man,” Khanya said, looking across the street to a man who was standing alone smoking a cigarette.

Zizi turned and smiled at him, her heart knocking on her better judgement and her armpits tingling as she willed him to notice her.

“Do you think I should go say ‘hi’?” Zizi asked.

Khanya stayed silent.

“He didn’t tell you he was back in the country,” Khanya said.

Zizi felt Khanya’s eyes on her while she watched Kwesi. The real figure of him and not the lookalikes she had trained herself to ignore. Zizi looked at Khanya. “I’m going to go say ‘hi’.”

Khanya stayed silent.

A woman coming from lower down the street approached him. Kwesi put out his cigarette and watched the beaming woman until she was standing right in front of him. He might have smiled back. They shared a long hug; his hand was on her lower back, pulling her against him. Then she kissed him, the blonde woman. Up until the kiss, Zizi believed that the woman might simply ask for a lighter or where she could find a cab.

Khanya held Zizi’s hand and rubbed gently with her thumb; she pulled her up towards the corner of the street where the cabs always idled. Zizi stopped at the first cab she saw and got inside.

“That was the worst,” Zizi said. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Call me when you get home.” “Okay.”

Zizi left with the cab driver.

Anyway I’m trying to grow up you know? Trying to become my real self, whoever that is – without you, without the high walls of my father’s home, without Kwesi and his blondes. I know you’re doing the same where you are and I’ll see you when I see you.

I miss you always, Zizikazi.

Chumisa Ndakisa (@chumisa_n ) lives in Cape Town. She writes to communicate. She attended the 2014 Writivism workshop in Cape Town, facilitated by Rachel Zadok of Short Story Day Africa and was subsequently mentored by Dilman Dila, under whose guidance Friday Night and Home Time were written. Friday Night was longlisted for the 2014 Writivism Short Story Prize and included in Fire in the Night and other stories: the 2014 Writivism Annual Short Story Anthology. She also attended the 2015 Writivism workshop in Johannesburg, facilitated by Yewande Omotoso and Saaleha Idrees Bamjee.

“Madam” by Tiffany Kagure Mugo


Her finger traced the wine glass as her eyes scanned the room. She knew how to spot them, to identify a catch and draw them in. A talent honed from years of experience in dealing with ‘the industry’. She was a creature of habit and over time this bar had become her hunting ground. The cool ambience merging with an air of inconspicuousness often had a disarming effect on people.

She hoped this time she could stay, she liked the bartenders and the chardonnay was crisp, always chilled to perfection. Never have one too many mind you, that never ended well. Certain ‘incidences’ had forced her to move on from places she had begun to frequent, however when she found a place she was comfortable and free to manoeuvre unhindered she would settle in and stay there.

This bar had yet to fail her.

It was not always easy finding a space where a woman such as herself could simply be. There seemed to be something disarming about a woman, alone at a bar staring steadfastly ahead unhindered by the stares. It brought about a collective discomfort.

However the air in this place made everyone mind their own so she had never come here and left without someone to warm her bed for the night after emptying her wallet.

It was an intoxicating mix, the power, money and sex all cloaked in the hazy smoky anonymity of her chosen haunts. The fusion of the three was a blessing and a curse to her, a tripartite relationship she welcomed whole-heartedly.

They came together beautifully; the more of the first two at her disposal the more she enjoyed increasing amounts of the third.

She waited patiently, nursing her drink. They always came to her.

It was a strange phenomenon, difficult to explain, understanding probably came in part due to the job. The men all seemed to have the ability to spot and hone in on a woman willing to pay for their services. She would often be approached by an array of different ‘suitors’, all playing their cards close to their chest seemingly offering company with a hint of something else. She would closely watch their dance before she made her choice. She always discarded those who were not offering their services and merely ‘a good night’. She was not interested in ‘a good night’ which consisted mainly of scraps of knowledge these men had picked up over the years from former fumbled interactions.

This was a business transaction, what she wanted was expertise.

As someone who favoured the familiar picking partners was one aspect of her life in which she strayed choosing instead to enjoy diversity, always seeking something novel. She continuously craved something new in that particular area of her life which is why, although she had long been in a committed relationship, she went on these trysts. Excursions that could scarce be wasted on a lacklustre travel companion.

Swirling her wine in her glass she thought about how people who knew often misunderstood what this was about. Some equated it to boredom, insecurity or some latent childhood.

It was none of these things.

Neither was it based on a need to prove something or mask some hidden pain. It was simply a desire for the act itself. Some people liked chocolate. Others like wine. She liked sex. People seemed to find it incomprehensible that a woman would simply want it so she did not waste her breathe explaining.

These sessions never lasted more than an hour or so. It was again, not about filling some inner gulf so there was no need to take too much time. Also was a great deal you could do in that time if you knew exactly what you wanted. She was always crystal clear on her wants and needs, because she had very specific tastes.

These tended to change according to whatever mood took her but she never took off her heels, leaving them on kept her grounded when she engaged in her flights of fancy. She needed them to not only keep herself grounded but to show her domination. She wanted them to feel her power. Some rulers had a sash or a hide, others had a crown. She had her heels.

It was important to never let the business drown in pleasure.

This was something that could easily happen. From the way she rolled her hips to the way her orgasm came over her in waves. This whole endeavour washed over her and this engulfment was part of the allure of those nights. However, she had paid for them so she rode them.


The whole thing was more of a whirlpool than a river flowing one way with the pleasure never flowing in any one direction but encircling them both. It was not just about receiving but also giving. She had spent a good deal of time working on external and internal muscles. She would envelop them, swallow them whole, ensuring there was no physical or mental escape.

Like any great artist she spent a good deal of time honing her craft. She induced climax after climax.

Ecstasy: then moment when one is outside of themselves. She brought them to an understanding of the original Greek.

She submerged them into an ocean of complete control, relishing the look of pure unadulterated release in which they forgot themselves, forgot who they were and what they were.

Only to resurface to the lack of understanding that a customer had somehow managed to make them act so unprofessional.

She always tipped them heavily, irrespective of performance, loving that she could mix business and pleasure. It was always best to keep an eye on what the competition was doing, this being a tough business. There was always someone thinking they could corner the market she had painstakingly carved out for herself. She had not become the areas premium madam by lying on her back, asleep.

Tiffany Kagure Mugo (@tiffmugo) is the intoxicatingly scary gatekeeper of HOLAAfrica, an online Pan African queer womanist community dealing with sex, sexuality and all things woman. Media consultancy for various social justice organisations is her trade by day working to up the digital game of various organisations. She is a writer and freelance journalist who tackles sex, politics and other less interesting topics and has also written academic paper or two for various journals on use of the online space by African women. During weekends she is a wine bar philosopher. She attended the 2014 Writivism workshop in Cape Town and was mentored by Clifton Gachagua.

“The Money Shot” by Amy Heydenrych


At the edge of a sand street in Dar es Salaam, a toddler plays with a spark plug in the shade of a tyre-less truck. He whirls it through the orange sand, a colourful game unfolding in his mind. I watch him laugh to himself through the tinted window of my taxi. My heart leaps back to afternoons spent sliding down grassy hills in flattened cardboard boxes in a country and time far away.

“Mzungu!” He points as I step out of the car. His mother – spotting my camera – picks him up and carries him inside one of the dusty doorways. She need not worry. I am not here to capture little children with my lens. This sunburnt street lined with its bored jobless men and desperate shopfronts serves one purpose only: to give me the images needed to assure foreign investors of their contribution to economic development.

They have a checklist that demands scenes of abundance, women being employed and hands holding fountains of grain. .

These pictures will be emailed to countries their subjects will never see. They will be placed on billboards and websites by men who believe their USD 100, 000 grant is enough to transform entire communities.

“Karibu!” The owner of the factory I am visiting clasps my arm with chapped fingers. The dank, malt scent of the animal feed they are processing coils into my lungs. I hold in the urge to wheeze.

“Here is the raw product, here is the grain, here is the machine sponsored by your investors.” The dance is always the same, the owner awkwardly leading me through the details of a manufacturing process I will never understand.

“Take a picture of the new equipment,” he says. The light is too dark here. The reflection of the steel drum against my flash is too jarring. I take a few pictures I will never use, hoping the people I am here to capture are in the next room.

The sawdust and grain speckled floor clears as we step into a white air-conditioned warehouse.

“This is where we make the packaging for the animal feeds,” he offers.

Lines of women in white puffed hair nets hunch over in concentration, like uniform rows of cotton crops.

I weave through each row, focusing on hands that flutter delicately over strips of plastic and knit them together, criss-crossing over and over again. Most of the women look down, willing me to disappear.

“Mambo vipi!” I offer shreds of basic Swahili with false gaiety, hoping to illicit a laugh or a smile. I am shark-like. All teeth.

My gaze is finally met by the strange contrast of cobalt eyes set in teak-coloured skin. Her exhausted beauty is strengthened in its fight against the elasticised hair net digging into her forehead and her stained overalls. Within the humming fluorescent glow of the factory floor, she shines a natural light.

This is the symbol I was hoping for. A young, female employee wearing the branded uniform of an investor-sponsored company. A picture guaranteed to be a banner on a website, or the compelling cover of a fund-raising proposal. A picture of hope. I twist my lens into focus. Her blue eyes gape open. She turns and whispers to the woman next to her.

“She doesn’t want you to take her picture. Not looking like this. She is studying to be a teacher one day and is embarrassed for people to see her with her uniform on.”

My cheeks are red with heat. I am stained with shame. I know the burden of being a woman, of being an object, an arrangement of features assessed on its resemblance to another’s desire. I know the helpless rage of being forced, pushed and stepped on by those with more power.

Today I am the predator. I am the one with the power.

She is so perfect, hands tangled in a nest of shredded plastic, factory machines groaning in the background. Nobody has to know who she is. It doesn’t need to matter who she is.
I crouch on the cold ground, raising my camera between us like a weapon.

“I’m sorry,” I whisper, and take the shot.

Amy Elizabeth Heydenrych is a full time writer and has won several short story competitions. She won the flash fiction prize for Short Story Day Africa in 2012 and was published in the People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA) anthology in 2011. In 2013, one of her short stories was published in the Bloody Satisfied crime anthology, which included a foreword by Deon Meyer. She was part of the Centre for African Cultural Excellence (CACE) writing mentorship programme for 2014. Okwiri Oduor was her mentor. She is currently in the stages of pitching two fiction novels and is about to start working on a third novel. When she is not writing fiction, she works as a ghost writer, developmental editor and corporate writer for some of South Africa’s large corporates.

“Home Time” by Chumisa Paquita N


It’s 17:00 and I am going home.

Rushing, walking, waiting.

My first point will be the train station, at that time when the staccato announcements play like background music, spreading disappointment with each report. I’ll walk past my favourite snack vendor to buy bubblegum.

“How was your final day?” she’ll ask.

I’ll march up the stairs to Platform 4, braving the stench of exhaustion, holding my own against the shoving. We’ve all been rushing, walking and waiting.

On Platform 4 I’ll wait again. A train will arrive not even with space to put a foot in, or when the time comes, to put a foot out – so I’ll let it proceed. I’ll put on my earphones that are attached to my phone, which is stashed somewhere between my frayed notes and final report card. The breeze will flap my dress around, cooling my thighs. Just when I’ve finally caught up to myself, a fake silk shirt will blind me. The wearer will stand next to me until I can feel heat emanating from him, forcing me to take a step away. I’ll notch up the volume of my music and focus on the breeze coming up under my dress. When he feigns clearing his throat, I’ll roll my eyes.

“What’s your name?”

“Lindiwe,” I’ll lie.

“Such a beautiful name. You come from work or school, Lindiwe?”

“Well it felt like both.”

“Anyway, my name is Johnson.”

I’ll take another step away. The train signal will change to orange. He’ll touch my arm.

“Don’t touch me.”

“Lindiwe, just put your number here,” he’ll offer me his phone. It looks more fake than his shirt, with all that plastic shine.

I’ll leave him standing there while he laughs like I’ve surprised him.

“I can get you lovely things, Lindiwe!”

The train signal will change to green as I unclench my fist. When I find a seat in a 3rd class carriage I’ll still feel his touch on my arm.

My seat is right next to the door because it’s tricky to make it out in time when you’re sandwiched in between people. I’ll sit back and let my legs stick to the seat. The nurse next to me will shift with unease when she notices the rainbow-coloured phoenix that’s etched on most of my upper thigh. The man across her is busy with fanning himself with his cap. He won’t notice that the movement of his arm annoys the teenage girl on his left. She’ll keep looking at him, hinting, but he won’t notice. She’ll give up, take out a book and also fan herself. Their elbows will move up and down, each time just missing each other. Behind them the open window will blow in clean air, and the smell of the city will linger less and less. Tall buildings will become sparse, large family cars will appear and disappear from behind the fan man’s balding head. His overalls will blend with the green landscape bordering the train tracks. I’ll be popping my gum like crazy.

Thirty-five minutes later I’ll get off at another crowded train station and advance to the taxis. I’ll need to be alert enough not to step on sewerage or get in the way of the vans carrying fresh fish for people to cook at home. I must check my pockets and backpack every time I get bumped. One unlucky thief might get away with my final report card while searching for money or my phone. Maybe I’ll just throw it away myself.

I’ll be the second person to board the taxi, after the petrol attendant going on night shift.

“Sis’ wam,” he’ll say, “I see you often on this route.”

“It’s my way home, bhuti. I come from the college in the city.”

He’ll remind me of the fake silk shirt on Platform 4, when he laughs like I have surprised him.

“How can you afford renting a room near those big houses?” he’ll ask.

“I’m going home, bhuti, to my father’s house.”

He’ll laugh again with greater surprise. Then he’ll become strange and stop talking to me.

“Please say something else to me,” I’ll want to say.

We’ll wait for the mini-bus taxi to get full, both of us dreading our final destinations as we sit on the torn leather seats.

The taxi will drop me off at the entrance gates of the estate and pick up the formation of domestic workers and shop attendants who wait to be taken back to the rank.

Retief Lane will be the most treacherous part of my trek. The trees that line the streets are plenty, yet I won’t even feel the shade. What a spiteful street, unapologetic in its steepness. The dogs here never tire of barking, the cars are always leaving the long driveways and I’m always in the way.

I’ll advance to the top as a jogger approaches with his dog.

“Please leash your dog,” I said last week.

“Leash your dog,” I said yesterday.

“Leash your fucking dog!” I’ll shout today.

The dog will bark and bark; a small, white thing with too much saliva.

“Find another road,” the jogger will say.

“Voetsek!” I’ll yell to the dog and the jogger.

The dog will finally bite my shin. I’ll cry out in pain. I’ll wish that this surprise could make me laugh. Three years of rushing, walking and waiting; all I’ll go back home with on the last day of college will be a dog bite and the word ‘fail’ on my final report card. While he’s blaming me for his dog’s behaviour I’ll search for my phone and not find it. I’ll curse the thief who is lucky after all and be relieved that I now have an even better reason for my bitterness! The jogger will not care for my agony, I’ll see it in his blue eyes. He will coddle his dog as he averts his gaze from my bleeding leg.

Chumisa Ndakisa(@chumisa_n ) lives in Cape Town. She writes to communicate. She attended the 2014 Writivism workshop in Cape Town, facilitated by Rachel Zadok of Short Story Day Africa and was subsequently mentored by Dilman Dila, under whose guidance Friday Night and Home Time were written. Friday Night was longlisted for the 2014 Writivism Short Story Prize and included in Fire in the Night and other stories: the 2014 Writivism Annual Short Story Anthology. She also attended the 2015 Writivism workshop in Johannesburg, facilitated by Yewande Omotoso and Saaleha Idrees Bamjee.

“Accounts of A Street Urchin” by Jude Mutuma


You remember thinking as you stood there beside the road that you looked so much like your mother. Your mother, who disappeared into the night’s shadows a long time ago, leaving you in the hands of fate: the cruel act of a pitiless God. You remember hearing your dead mother’s voice uttering whispers into your ear. “Look right. Look left. Look right again,” then you crossed the road.

You remember shedding a tear from your left eye as you thought of the family you never had. Thoughts of the father who abandoned his pregnant wife and ran away into the night. Thoughts of the mother who had enough of this world and so sought refuge in the next. Traitors, both of them, bloody half-wit traitors. But then you quickly took a hold of yourself. It was no use wallowing in self-pity.

You remember thinking as you walked through the alley, how desperately you needed to take a nap. Not because your eyes were heavy, but because the painful pangs inside your empty stomach could not allow you to stay on your feet much longer. But you knew it was impossible to sleep at that time of day. You would have to wait till late in the night, when the souls of the city are no longer strutting through the alleys. Then you would sleep peacefully with the dogs.

You remember hearing someone call your name from a distance.

“Jonte, fom ya Leo?”

It was Yusuf, jolly as ever. There was something about him; beyond that ugly flat face with the huge hairy nostrils and a missing set of front teeth. He was always smiling, that ugly bastard. You could swear you’d never seen the guy sad or angry in your life. And you remembered something you’d heard your mother say once. The widest smiles hide the most grief.

“Jonte cheki hii maneno,”

He said as he let you take a peek into the black paper bag he was carrying. It was food. Food. It was probably left-overs from some rich people’s party last night. You laughed inwardly as you remembered that parable in the Bible: the rich man and Lazarus.


He asked you as he extended his arm to offer you a piece of half-eaten chicken wing. He was always so generous, Yusuf. You quickly received the chicken wing and bid him goodbye. He just smiled at you, with that toothless grin.

You remember the silent shouts inside your head when you saw the bicycle parked at the street corner. This had to be your chance. A bicycle like that would go for nearly as much as three thousand shillings, maybe more, which would be enough to keep you for three months. So you quickly made up your mind, sauntered in pretentious glee toward the lone bicycle, and applied the basic principle embodied in your mother’s words. “Look right. Look left. Look right again,” then you slowly picked up the bicycle and tried to walk away casually, whistling away the tension inside you.

You remember the severe bouts of panic that hit you when you realized that someone had seen you. Still you moved on, pulling the bicycle along, hoping beyond hope that he would not make it a big deal. Too late, the chap was screaming his lungs out.

“Mwizi! Mwizi! He is stealing my bicycle…”

He had gotten people’s attention, and you knew you were in trouble. So you dropped the bicycle, and for one last time took heed of your mother’s very dear words. “Look right. Look left. Look right again,” then you ran. And ran. And ran.

You ran like a rabid dog. But the crowd was catching up, and it was getting bigger and bigger. So in one last desperate attempt to save your breath, you muttered something, a hopeless cry to an unseen existence.

“God… help me,”

And at that very moment the coarse, firm grasp of a police officer clutched your arm. A stroke of good luck had saved the day.

Jude Mutuma (@JudeMutuma) is a believer in the crazy and doer of the weird. Says that one can never read too many books. Or watch too many horror movies. Or listen to too much Coldplay. Adds that he is not a writer, ink just turns him on. Currently a student at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. He attended the 2014 Writivism workshop in Nairobi, facilitated by Zukiswa Wanner, and was mentored by Monica Cheru. Visit his blog Affinity

“Two Years Round Rubble” by Mbamalu Socrates


He remembered the last time he saw her. That day, the Harmattan sun had blazed more than it did on other days; and the air, dry and harsh to his nose, made him carry a handkerchief around. More than anything, what he remembered from that day, the Fourth of October, was a face, one that had kept him awake every night.

The preparation for his mother’s burial was met with a flurry of activities. Meeting new people at every turn had been the hub of his activities. At the funeral, he had observed her from the corner of his eyes and, at times when their eyes met, he noticed that there was a particular way she looked at him.

“Who is the fair-complexioned lady?” He asked his sister.

“The one with the twin dimples on a green native gown?”


“Kachi, we were course mates at the university. She now works with one of the banks,” she said, waving at Kachi who waved back with a smile. “Don’t you remember her? She escorted me to the hospital when I came to visit you.”

“She looks familiar,” he said, wheeling himself to meet more faces. It was just a month since he had been discharged from the hospital and there was a different aura to everything around him. Everybody acted extremely kind.

Each moment was spent reliving the accident. The words from his mother had made no sense to him that night. She kept muttering gibberish to herself in half-concentration and, before he could say Jack Robinson and point out the car in front of them, glasses shattered, bones broke, blood flowed and a heart stopped beating.

“Good afternoon,” she said, placing the wetness of her lips to his ears in a whisper. He could smell the perfume she wore. “I am Onyekachi.”

“I guess you already know who I am,” he replied. “I heard we’ve met.”

“I guess so.”

“Can we go out to the garden? The noise is getting at me,” he said as she wheeled him out.

She sat on a chair under the trees and faced him, and then she crossed her legs so that the freshness of her thighs lay exposed.

“You are tall for a lady,” he looked at her.

“Maybe a little shorter than you are,” she said and smiled.

He liked the fact that she did not act all pitiful towards him as if he was a helpless child.

“I used to run in secondary school. I could race you,” she said, giving that smile she had earlier given him, and looked at him as if her eyes had honey in them.

“One of these days we will race,” he said, smiling back. Then a funny silence came between them as if they were lost in each other’s thoughts. He stared at his legs.

She walked to him, squatted and stared into his eyes. “Everything is going to be all right.”

“Thanks Kachi,” he looked into her eyes and held her hands, as if searching for the gold that reflected the purity in her.

“My discharge letter arrived from the army headquarters today honey,” he pulled the letter from the left pocket of his combat shorts.

“You will do great with the new business you have started,” she read, and snuggled into him in the settee.

“You always make me feel like I am super human.” He gave her a long look as if mesmerized all over again by her beauty and personality. “I thought my world had crashed in that accident. My military career over in a jiffy, my legs useless, the last thing I expected was an angel to love a man confounded to a wheelchair. You made me a man all over.”

Her skin turned rubicund, and the dimples in her cheeks sunk into two pits of beauty, her dark deep eyes seemed to smile. She sat on his lap and planted a kiss on his cheeks and drew a long kiss to his mouth.

“You’ll always be my man. It was not a man confined to a wheelchair that I saw. It was a man my heart pounded for. A man I wanted to love.” She caressed him and rubbed her hand on his head, and then played with the hairs on his chest that peeped through his singlet, snuggling deeper into him and kissing his dark, smooth cheeks.

“Good morning mama,” Kachi greeted her mother as she cleared the utensils used the previous night.

“Good morning dear,” her mother said, with her hands crossed under her breasts that were held by the wrapper she wore.

“Mama, Damien proposed to me yesterday. You should have seen how handsome he looked,” she smiled as she recollected the moment.

“I thought you were no longer dating him.”

“I told you I want to marry him. We have been dating for two years mama. Two years.”

“But Kachi, he is a cripple!”

“That is not what I see in him.”

“I don’t care what you see in him. In this family we don’t marry cripples! Period!”

“And I will marry who I want to mama!”

That day, the Fourth of October, two years exactly since they started dating, Kachi came to visit him. Her eyes were red and her face was a long wet raincoat.

“I have been trying your number for a week. What’s wrong? Why are you crying?” She hugged him and wept on his shoulder, allowing herself to lean freely into him.

“Sweetheart. . .”

“What is wrong?”

Her sobbing increased. He embraced her tighter and kept quiet. They both heaved a sigh and kept more silence to breed between them.

“They don’t want me to marry you.”

“Why? We are from the same tribe. Why?”

“I . . .”

“Don’t you want to have my kids?”

“I do.”

“So why don’t they want us to get married?”

“They said I am breaking a taboo. The ladies in my family are not permitted to marry . . .”

“Cripples?” He felt his body grow limp and cold, as if the crutches could not support him.

She nodded her head and avoided his eyes. She did not want to see the pain hidden in them.

For two years he had built his life around her. He wobbled out of the living room to the clicks of his crutches. He would never forget her face.

Socrates Mbamalu (@linsoc) is a writer who has participated in two Writivism workshop editions (2014 and 2015). He is a blogger for Afridiaspora and Waza Africa and some of his works have appeared in Kalahari Reviews, Muwado.com, Deyu African and Muthal Naidoo’s website. He is keen on Africa as a continent with regards to Politics and Arts. He was mentored by Yewande Omotoso in 2014.