The moment I started reading this book I was instantly transported back to my high school and primary school days, simply because Ofilwe and Tshepo story is one that has become quite popular with those who went to the so-called ‘Model C’ schools.
Especially the struggle that Ofilwe has to go through with regards to fitting into her new environment.
For example, white girls are amazed by her braids and ask her to plait their hair:
“Kate asked me one day during music, if I could plait her hair into thin plaits like the braids that adorned my head. She said my braids were pretty and that she wished she could have hair like mine so she could be as beautiful as I was.”
The book also focuses on some of the challenges that these ‘Model C’ kids face, such as being insecure when in unfamiliar places or even trying to hide the fact that they are privileged.
“ I reek of KTV, IEB, MTV and ICC, although I have tried to mask it behind All-Stars sneakers and a free Youth League election T-Shirt. I am certain that they will catch me out as soon as I open my mouth. They do not, or rather, if they do, it is of no significance, for they treat me like any other. I too stand above the deep buckets of fierce oil: plucking, washing, stuffing, basting, and turning one naked chicken after the other but not managing to sing ‘Ndihamba nawe’ simultaneously, like the rest of the staff promise.”
What is also interesting about the book is how it addresses issues of unemployment and the lengths that some go through just to place a meal on the table.
The book is quirky but educational.
Author Kopano Matlwa has a way of tabling stereotypes and mannerisms that we are likely to see at family gatherings, for example, there is a part were Ofilwe promises to teach her cousins English and how she is perceived to be smart by her relatives just because of her good command of the Queen’s language.
Even though the book looks at what ‘coconuts’ go through, Matlwa also highlights problems that married couples face and how patriarchy is still a problem in many societies.
This book is for everyone to enjoy and to reflect on how the dawn of democracy distorted what was previously believed to be the norm.