Sindiwe Magona on HIV/AIDS & sexual pleasure
An evening with Sindiwe Magona was an intimate gathering at Wits, where she read from her forthcoming novel, The green freedom of a cockatoo, took questions from the two hosts and then had an exchange with the audience.
It was remarkable to see people’s responses to both the reading and to her earlier novels. A young woman from the floor, who identified herself as Puseletso, talked about how inspired she was by Magona’s decision to broach unfashionable but important topics. She wanted to know about how to maintain the kind of courage that would allow her to speak her own truth no matter what the response was that is elicited.
She spoke about HIV/AIDS at great length because it is at the core of her new novel, which is about Blackwomen in SA and HIV/AIDS, stressing that open discussions of pleasure and entitlement for/by Blackwomen were the only way out of the HIV/AIDS quagmire.
Provocatively, and to great applause, she suggested two approached to curbing the spread:
a) that when a long time partner suddenly suggests the use of a condom for sex, after years without, the least appropriate response would be “why?”. Asking why was the route to trouble, since the answer would be unpleasant no matter what is was. If the condom was necessary because of previous infidelity on the offering partner’s part, or suspected infidelity of the offered partner, issues of trust would surface. However, what such a person may be offering is a chance to remain uninfected, or as Magona put it, “your life on a platter”;
b) when your daughter turns 18, buy her a vibrator as part of the birthday present pack, which also contains a book or two. In this way, you would be further opening up the dialogue on sexuality and pleasure with her, as well as showing her an example that although she is entitled to sexual pleasure, she is not supposed to die from it.
The conversation concentrated on women’s entitlement to sexual pleasure, and later, how valuing conquest in the socialisation of men often excuses promiscuity. The novel sees a faithfully married woman die from AIDS, something Magona pointed out as not rare. If men only had sex with, and made children with their wives, all of this could be abetted, she insisted. In the meantime, don’t ask why when a condom is offered and use that vibrator that every woman should have.
The evening was enjoyed by all in attendance, and all the Magona books on sale from the Xarra books stall were sold out.
Books by Sindiwe Magona
To my children’s children (1990) — autobiography
Living, loving and lying awake at night (1991) — short stories
Forced to grow (1992) — autobiography
Push-push and other stories (1996) — short stories
Mother to Mother (1998) — novel
Imida (2007) — essays
The best meal ever ( 2006) — children’s book
(also available as
Ukukhala kwezilwane (2006) with Gcina Mhlophe — children’s book
Le nna, ke tseba go bala dipalo (2006) with Gcina Mhlophe — children’s book
Lumkela ingozi (2006) with Gcina Mhlophe — children’s book
Mollo (2006) with Gcina Mhlophe — children’s book
Indoda nengwenya (2006) with Gcina Mhlophe — children’s book
Ngabe ithini iminwe? (2006) with Gcina Mhlophe — children’s book
Umvuyeleli uBonke (2005) with Gcina Mhlophe — children’s book