Tumelo Buthelezi is an author, copywriter, and a founding member of the Ink Gallery, a movement that promotes an interest in reading in the Vaal region. In 2018, he released his debut book titled, The Last Sentence published by BlackBird Books. In this interview with EW Blog editor, Ezekiel Kekana, Tumelo reflects on his debut book, what inspired the title, and he has a strong message to the perpetrators of violence directed to women and children.
Picture credit: Tumelo Buthelezi
Question: Thank you so much for your time Tumelo, I think for the benefit of our EW Blog
audience, let’s start with who is Tumelo Buthelezi?
Thank you, Ezekiel. Now about Tumelo William Buthelezi… I am a Literary-works Creative from the Vaal and a founding member of a movement that promotes an interest in reading. In terms of a 9-5, I’m a professional copywriter who has created digital content for big brands and state enterprises such as Gautrain, Industrial Development Corporation, Lifti, Road Accident Fund, Gauteng Tourism Authority, Mango, and Maropeng to list a few. I also have credits as a script writer for short films and have contributed to anthology projects such as 2019’s HAIR edited by Joanne Hitchens and Karina Szczurek.
Question: Your debut novel titled, The Last Sentence, was released two years back. How has
the feedback been from the readers across?
Overwhelming with a capital O! The Last Sentence was designed to challenge the reader while putting them on a roller-coaster of emotions. I held back on a number of creative ideas not wanting to bombard an already intricate piece of writing. Still, the book found its audience and they picked it apart and explored the three worlds packed between the yellow and red covers. The public embraced the book for what it was and gave positive feedback. Which is why I’ve gone back into the (writing) lab to work on a fan service package. A special surprise just to say thank you to each and every person plus organization that has shown love to the book.
Question:The last Sentence, what made you go with that title?
That’s my homework to the reader (figure out what I mean by The Last Sentence). But to answer your question without giving away the story… I wanted a name that spoke to both Bandile’s psychological problems and his predicament with the specter that is Molly. For Bandile, the scripts he was writing would be the last words he would put out in the world before ending his own life, and so he had to make that count. But when he’s threatened by Molly, he starts treating the exact same words as a lifeline. His last option to save the life he’s been meaning to throw away anyway (The guy has serious issues. Please recommend a good therapist if you know one).
Question: Bandile Ndala, a once-successful scriptwriter is a lead character in the story, take us
through the process of writing this character?
The book is a product of left-over material. Scripts I wasn’t quite sure what to do with them. These scripts were important to me and represented a very special time in my process of developing my own unique writing style. So I simply created an atmosphere around them with the story of Bandile Ndala. It also become an opportunity to project certain personal emotions and express thoughts on a number of topics that are sub-themes in the book: depression, psychosis, substance abuse, GBV, human trafficking, religion and spirituality.
Question: Alcoholism and addiction are some of the social ills that continue to destroy the lives of so many talented young South Africans, with the character Bandile, what message were you trying to convey to the readers?
I think there is a link between creativity and addiction. There’s almost no denying that some of the greatest works of art of all time were born with the artist under the influence. All I wanted to do in the book was explore that dance with the devil. Take a closer look at this trade off whereby we give these drugs our health and lives in exchange for a place amongst the stars. Showered with praise, fame and fortune.
Question: In the opening passage, we immediately read about the death of a young lady called Molly Shabalala, talk to us about how the character of Molly helped to shape the narrative throughout the book?
Molly is my most unapologetic response to violence against women and children. She’s a young lady who fell victim to the greed of men with little to no regard for human life. Just like Molly, the victims of fatal violence must have had dreams and goals they wanted to pursue before the merciless hands of their perpetrators took their lives. So, I included her in the book for the reader to decide if they agree with her sense of justice or not.
Question: Molly Tshabalala was attacked and brutally murdered by four men. With the scourge
of gender-based violence directed to women and children on the rise in SA, what
would like to say to South African men who are the perpetrators of this violence?
I’m honestly at a place whereby I don’t want to talk anymore…Now I want these fiends to die! Calling for capital punishment for the perpetrators committing these atrocious crimes. Molly is an example of an innocent caterpillar that we will never get to witness transform into a beautiful butterfly. Many young women are already faced with so many challenges in society. Fighting for a seat at the table. Pushing back against inequality and patriarchy. Now let’s add fearing for their lives when they are out here in the big bad world trying to make something of themselves.
The least we can do is deal with these criminals decisively. Give them more than a slap on the wrist. Send a loud message that will deter these despicable acts. Some will say, “Violence isn’t the answer” but I wonder if they’ve given it a try because I’ve seen mobs in our township put an end to deplorable crimes by taking the law into their own hands. Show me your stats and I will point you to a kasi whereby a community has cleansed the wickedness that once plagued a notorious footpath that many feared to take after 7pm. By simply fighting the devil with a demon.
Question: Should your readers expect a sequel of The Last Sentence?
(smirks) All I can say is that you haven’t seen the last of Molly Shabalala.
Question: If you had to invite three South African authors to a reading session with the community of Sebokeng, who would that be and why them?
Loyiso Mkhize (technically a comic book illustrator): I’m a huge fan of his work and would love to collaborate with him on a project one day.
Mohale Mashigo: a genius with a crazy pengame. I would like to see her standing in front of young ladies and inspire them to write ground-breaking stories about black African women.
Nozizwe Jele: we have a Jay Z – J Cole type of relationship (will give that story context when I’m a bit older and a lot more successful)
Question: What message do you have for young people who would like to pursue writing as a
Call me if you’re looking for a publisher and I will hook you up with the contact number of the CEO of Black Bird Books (chuckles). Jokes aside… Keep at it (writing)! Read more. Find out what publishers are interested in if you want to ink a deal with a company. Take time to draw creative influence and inspiration from other artforms: music, dance, paintings, sculptures, pottery and so on. Have fun in your process of creating because once you sign off on final edits, your work now belongs to the world
Which book are you currently reading?
I am not really reading a particular book at the moment, but I’m studying movie scripts. Horror movie scripts to be exact. Thinking of slapping the world with a dark twisted (kasi) fantasy novel next 🙂
Thank you, Shenge for your time.
I appreciate the opportunity.