the two lions. Raphael d’Abdon


i have been invited to read a poem about freedom,
but i don’t have a poem about freedom,
all i have is
a story
about two lions

when we were kids
we used to go to a bar
to play videogames and
see the lion

in the backyard
there was a 20 square meters cage
where nick, the owner,
kept a lion called

he fed him with
meat scraps and pasta
but mostly pasta

we sat in silence and
watched toni eating

his claws had been cut off
his teeth were yellow and weak
and he had sad, beautiful, eyes

in 5 years
we never heard him roaring
nor saw him walking

he was always lying down
either dozing off or
staring at some distant
imaginary place

one day we went to the bar
played a few games and waited for nick to
feed toni

but he didn’t

“nick, why are you not feeding toni today?” we asked
“he went back to the savannah” he said

we went to the backyard to check
toni wasn’t there

we never saw him again

in 1992 i came to south africa
a land were a lionized freedom fighter
had just been released
from his cage

when i saw him on tv i thought of
for the first time in 10 years

his broken claws
his fragile teeth,
and his sad, beautiful eyes

and i wondered
how can a lion
that has spent most of his life in a cage
come out from it
still a lion?

how can he find his way in the savannah
if all he has ever known is
a concrete floor and
iron bars?

how can he be able to hunt if
his legs are weary
his claws useless
his teeth falling?

all such a lion can do
– i thought –
is lie down
and wait for his jailer to
feed him with

the old,
south african lion
was clawless and
had harmless teeth
and sad, beautiful eyes

he was
staring at some distant,
imaginary place

and he was blabbering

about a thing he called


or something like that…


Call for contributions

Call for contributions
Theme: Climate change & Donald Trump

Contributions accepted from 1 June to 31 August 2017

“The very feeling of wondering whether the catastrophe will begin soon is a symptom of its already having begun.” (Timothy Morton, Hyperobjects)

Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change has disastrous consequences for our planet. It is a gesture with a very clear message – Donald Trump and his supporters want to put America first but at the cost of the planet. It is time to react against Trump’s ignorance and anti-intellectualism by writing about the impact of climate change on our planet. The reaction against Trump can take on various forms, for example, by making artworks on the impact of droughts, writing poems about the effects of industries on the environment, composing of music representing the lifetime of nuclear materials, writing creative essays on the threats of plastics on marine life, and so forth. In solidarity with the French President Emmanuel Marcon, we need to emphasise the many ways we share the responsibility to “make our planet great again.”
We accept a variety of contributions including:

• poems and short stories
• essays (academic or other)
• interviews
• photographs and artworks (only high quality, at least 1mb)

Please include a short (single sentence) biography and photo of the author to be published on You are welcome to forward this submission request to other possible candidates.

Send your contribution for review to Alwyn Roux

Oproep om bydraes
Tema: Klimaatsverandering & Donald Trump

“The very feeling of wondering whether the catastrophe will begin soon is a symptom of its already having begun.” (Timothy Morton, Hyperobjects)

Donald Trump se besluit om die Verenigde State uit die Paryse ooreenkoms oor klimaatsverandering te onttrek het verreikende gevolge vir die planeet. Dit is ‘n gebaar met ‘n baie duidelike boodskap – Donald Trump en sy ondersteuners wil Amerika eerste stel, maar ten koste van die planeet. Dit het tyd geword om teen die onbedagsaamheid en anti-intellektualisme van Trump op te tree deur te skryf oor die impak van klimaatsverandering op die planeet. Die reaksie kan verskillende vorms aanneem, byvoorbeeld deur die maak van kunswerke oor die impak van droogtes, die skryf van gedigte oor die uitwerking van industrieë op die omgewing, die komponering van musiek oor die leeftyd van kernafval, die skryf oor die gevare van plastiek vir die seelewe, ensomeer. Stuur jou bydrae aan In solidariteit met die Franse president Emmanuel Marcon, is dit nodig om die verskillende maniere te beklemtoon waarop die verantwoordelikheid by ons berus om “die planeet weer eerste te stel.” Ons aanvaar verskeie bydraes wat insluit:

• gedigte en kortverhale
• essays (akademies of ander)
• onderhoude
• foto’s en kunswerke (slegs hoë kwaliteit, ongeveer1mb)

Sluit asb. ‘n kort (een sin) biografie en foto van die outeur in om op gepubliseer te word. Jy is welkom om die oproep om bydraes aan ander moontlike kandidate aan te stuur.

Stuur jou bydrae aan Alwyn Roux

Interview with Małgorzata Drwal

Alwyn Roux: Jy is tans ʼn dosent in die Departement van Nederlands en Suid-Afrikaanse Studies by die Adam Mickiewicz Universiteit in Poznan, Pole. Sal jy ons meer vertel van die voorgraadse en nagraadse kursusse wat tans by die departement aangebied word?

Małgorzata Drwal: Our Department offers full BA and MA Dutch studies programmes, as well as South African BA specialisation within the English studies programme – and in this respect we are unique because we are the only academic centre in Poland offering this specialisation. We teach quite a broad spectrum of subjects, ranging from intensive language courses to literature, cultural studies or linguistics. Those who choose South African specialisation learn Afrikaans; furthermore we focus on cultural studies, where our students learn about geography and history, folklore, popular contemporary culture, film but also business and economy. Naturally, there is a module on literature created in South Africa, both in Afrikaans and in English. Our aim is to present South Africa as a melting pot of cultures, a country with its complexity and richness.

When it comes to the Dutch studies programme, our ambition is to balance tradition on one hand and our modern times and their challenges on the other hand, so our curriculum is diverse. Besides, of course, Dutch as a foreign language module, we offer courses on culture and literature of the Low Countries, and at the same time we focus on translation – both literary and non-literary translation, and language in the context of business and economy.

Alwyn: Jy hou jou besig met verskillende tale en letterkundes soos byvoorbeeld die Suid-Afrikaanse, Nederlandse en Engelse letterkundes. Waar het jou belangstelling in die Suid-Afrikaanse studies begin? Watter raakvlakke vind jy tussen die tale en letterkundes?

Małgorzata: My road to South African literature was not the shortest one, since it led via English and then Dutch. My first choice was English, which is probably not surprising since the language is so ubiquitous. I was overwhelmed by the richness of English literature. I’ve always liked the sound of the language, so different from Polish which has many rustling sounds and excessive – one might think – concentration of consonants. I like the structure of English which, being a Germanic language, is totally different from Polish – a Slavic langauge with a complex and irregular grammar. English seemed so logical and almost mathematical when campared with my mother tongue. English is a language which allows to look at different worlds; literature created in this language is so diverse because it is created in many countries with their various histories and peoples with their various sensibilities. I discoverd how reading and writing in English made me think and comprehend reality in a different way than I’m used to in Polish.

During my third year of BA in English literature I started studying Dutch because I just wanted to learn a new language – but a language less common, from my Polish perspective, than for example German or French. That was pure curiosity. And I began to like Dutch with its guttural sounds. Compared to the smooth flow of English, it sounds as if it was all sharp egdes. And the ability to read texts in Dutch opened for me one more gate to access other worlds. Even though I’m aware that my way of grasping these other worlds is imperfect and burdened with my Slavic, Central European perspective.

I wrote my MA in English on Victorian literature, where the social aspect is obviously quite prominent. I focused on how literature utters criticism by means of metaphors and textual devices. During my Dutch studies I attended courses in colonial literature and an introductory course to Afrikaans and South African literature and culture. The instructor was professor Jerzy Koch who later became my PhD advisor. So it was prof. Koch who encouraged me to focus on South Africa, more specifically to combine my interests and background as an English and Dutch studies graduate. The result was my PhD project on women life writing from the period of the Anglo-Boer war.

When it comes to what I think that links all those languages and literatures – it is that they open my mind to different perspectives. I was approaching South Africa gradually, first through English, then Dutch, finally through my rather imperfect grasp of Afrikaans, basing mostly on written texts and applying my perception of them as mechanisms and structures, puzzles to decipher. All these langauges force me to think and read in a different way, less automatic, more conscious. I am aware of my foreign, tentative way of interpreting South African literature and cultural phenomena. My perspective is mediated; metaphorically speaking, I look through my Central European eyes with Dutch and English glasses.

Alwyn: Sal jy meer kan uitwei oor jou eie navorsing, veral betreffende jou PhD-tesis?

Małgorzata: My PhD thesis focused on personal writings referring to the Anglo-Boer war. More specifically, I dealt with diaries and memoires written by Boer women and published in English, Dutch and Afrikaans. What I found most interesting was what happened to a personal text when it was published, the process of transcending the personal sphere and the fact that once published no text is any longer personal. How does it happen that a text written to relieve personal trauma becomes a product of the times it which it is published, and why is it so easy for a personal life story to be appropriated for propaganda or official history making?

In my work I chose three texts to discuss in detail: Met die boere in die veld by Sarah Raal, Tant Miem se kampdagboek by Maria Fischer and The Kappie Kommando by Johanna Brandt. All those texts have histories of publications, i.e. they have been published several times in changed editions or translations. I found it particularly interesting that the interpretation of the same text can dramatically change depending on the historic moment of publication, and the political and cultural background of the reader – so on circumstances which lie beyond the intention of the author. To discuss those changing interpretations I focused on paratexts. Such elements as prefaces or introductions, footnotes, dedications, illustrations and even the title – especially when translated – function as mechanisms which influence the reading process, and which evoke given associations in various interpretive communities. I analysed those various paratextual elements to illustrate how they guide one’s reading of a book so that it matches the ideology which is in fashion at a given moment.


Alwyn: By die ALV-kongres in 2016, het jy ʼn referaat gelewer met die titel, “Een vertaalde tekst en een vertaalde ideologie: de Amerikaanse Jezus-socialist in Zuid-Afrika. Hulle Noem my Timmerman van Upton Sinclair in het vakbondstijdschrift Die Klerewerker/The Garment Worker“. Sal jy ons meer kan vertel oor die vakbondtydskrif en die tydvak waarin dit verskyn het?

Małgorzata: The first issue of Die Klerewerker/The Garment Worker appeared in October 1936 and I focus on its editions till 1950s. As the title suggests, it was a bilingual magazine and an official organ of the Garment Workers Union from the 1930s on. In that time it were mostly women who worked in clothing industry in Johannesburg, most of them in fact migrated to the city in search of employment. Since the working and living conditions were very poor and those women were simply exploited, the GWU’s aim was to instruct workers in their rights and teach them how to fight for them, and in practice, to spread the idea of socialism. Each issue of the union’s magazine consisted of a section in English and in Afrikaans running back to back. The English texts discussed current issues of the union, there were e.g. reports from meetings or negotiations with factory managers. The Afrikaans section focused mainly on culture and there were literary texts such as poems, songs, theatre plays, short stories, most of which was originally written in Afrikaans by the women workers-activists, but among them I came across an Afrikaans translation of the novel by Upton Sinclair They Call me Carpenter.


Alwyn: Die fokus van die referaat het onder andere gehandel oor die vertaling van die Amerikaanse roman van Upton Sinclair, getiteld They Call me Carpenter (Hulle noem my Timmerman). Sal jy ons meer vertel van die wyse waarop die vertaler van die teks, Hester Cornelius, gepoog het om die buitelandse ideologie van sosialisme aan die fabriekswerkers in Suid-Afrika bekend te stel? Die skakel tussen sosialisme en Christendom is veral interessant. Sal jy ons meer vertel van die ver-taling van die ideologie (sosialisme) in religieuse terme van Christendom.

Małgorzata: The novel They Call me Carpenter is in fact a rewriting of the history of Jesus set in America of the 1920s, so in a sense it is a translation. In the book Jesus wanders through the modern Western City and – just like in the Bible – he preaches before crowds and heals the sick, and sympathises with poor, exploited workers. Upton Sinclair wrote the book to protest against abuses in America in the Progressive Era, but he drew upon an older literary tradition originated in England. Industrialisation and exploitation of workers in the late 19th century served as a background for a series of rewritings of the life of Jesus. Authors realised that if Jesus lived in their, modern times, he would be a working man, a proletarian and a socialist who loves the poorest and the abused, and believes that all poor workers must unite to oppose capitalists – the embodiment of evil.

Factory workers in South Africa were mostly people coming from countryside, strongly attached to traditional values represented by religion and family farm, distrustful of foreign ideas, such as socialism. Socialism was a new ideology offering them a way out of poverty, so their values had to be adjusted to the changed situation of an industrialised city. Activists of the Garment Workers Union, such as Hester Cornelius, had to overcome the reluctance of workers and literary forms published in their magazine seemed to be an effective tool to achieve this end. The reader – a woman working in a factory – could easily notice a parallel between the story of Jesus in America and her situation in the 1940s in Johannesburg. What is most important is that this reader is familiar with the biblical story of Jesus, recognizes it as belonging to their own tradition and realises that ideology of socialism stems from Christianity – they are both based on love and equality of all people. So literature served as a bridge which made it possible to link traditional Christian values with new values of socialism.

Alwyn: Watter Poolse digters of skrywers sou jy graag in Afrikaans wou lees?

Małgorzata: Stanisław Lem – especially his The Cyberiad (in Polish Cyberiada) or Fables of Robots (Bajki robotów). These are collections of grotesque science-fiction short stories, but there is a lot of humour and philosophy. Lem’s approach to the language is very creative and playful – with lots of neologisms and puns, so I imagine that translating Lem is a real challenge. Lem’s books have been translated into many languages, but I am not aware of any translations into Afrikaans.

To illustrate the ingenuity of Lem and the difficulty the translation of his works entails, here is a passage from The Cyberiad about a machine that generated poetry. In the Polish original the machine was requested to write a poem of no more than six lines, the topic being cybererotica, music, black people, betrayal, incest and tragedy. Futhermore the verses have to rhyme and every word must begin with the letter c.

Here’s the Polish version

“Cyprian cyberotoman, cynik, ceniąc czule
Czarnej córy cesarskiej cud ciemnego ciała,
Ciągle cytrą czarował. Czerwieniała cała,
Cicha, co-dzień czekała, cierpiała, czuwała…
…Cyprian ciotkę całuje, cisnąwszy czarnulę!!”

The author of the English translation, Micheal Kandel, had to be very inventive and here is the result:

“Just a minute,” said Klapaucius, annoyed. He was trying to think of a request as difficult as possible, aware that any argument on the quality of the verse the machine might be able to produce would be hard if not impossible to settle either way. Suddenly he brightened and said:

“Have it compose a poem — a poem about a haircut! But lofty, noble, tragic, timeless, full of love, treachery, retribution, quiet heroism in the face of certain doom! Six lines, cleverly rhymed, and every word beginning with the letter S!!”

“And why not throw in a full exposition of the general theory of nonlinear automata while you’re at it?” growled Trurl. “You can’t give it such idiotic — ”

But he didn’t finish. A melodious voice filled the hall with the following:

“Seduced, shaggy Samson snored.
She scissored short. Sorely shorn,
Soon shackled slave, Samson sighed,
Silently scheming,
Sightlessly seeking
Some savage, spectacular suicide.”

The poem is much different but I think that it retains the absurdist character of the original. I would love to read an Afrikaans version of it.

(Here’s more about this passage:

skade loop in die bloedlyn af. Mariëtte van Graan


skade loop in die bloedlyn af
deur oorloë en kruistogte en konsentrasiekampe
deur die een slag en die volgende en die volgende
majuba distrik ses kerkplein
en hoor jy die magtige dreuning
dit druis soos bloed deur die geskiedenisboek

skade loop in die bloedlyn af
en spat teen ʼn trok in Nice
en op die vloer van ʼn Turkse lughawe
teen kameeldoringbome en op die gras by Langa

skade loop in die bloedlyn af
dit bal die vuis en borrel soos bloed
uit die monde van die mense
#feesmustfall #rhodesmustfall

skade loop in die bloedlyn af
en jy sal nie vry wees
voor die geeste van jou voorvaders
leeggetap is nie

This is not a poem. Marlize Hobbs-Russell

This is not a poem; it is a protest march
these are not words, they are an angry mob
with this I become what you call “a barbarian”
Is this what our freedom has become?
I will set the captives free again, break the shackles
With my words: I am setting fire to your ideas
of righteousness; I am burning down Nkandla
I am throwing stones at your windows, tearing down the velvet curtains
keeping us in, taking away our freedom
Look! There is a world outside your window
The earth is shouting it out
from Tabel Mountain to Wits
From the farms to the schools
from the sea to the Kalahari:
The struggle is not over
It has only just begun
Come arrest me, you policemen, come guard my words
come lock up what I have to say, come show me your cowardly strength
I am roaring like the ocean, I am joining the tsunami of voices
Is this your freedom? Is this your equal opportunity?
Is this what our people died for?
I am drawing blood from the jugular of the alphabet
I will use my words to march against
your ‪#‎institutionalizeddiscrimination
I will claw at your gates of privilege
I will tear down these invisible walls of haves and havenots
I am not writing poetry, I cannot afford your alphabet
I am stealing letters to form sentences
to somehow make sense of it all
I am stealing from your Alphabet
my feet are burning in the streets
of the capital… we do not have the capital to afford
your alphabet of violence
This is not a poem
these are not words
these are our children
our future
yours and mine and ours
The struggle isn’t over,
it has only just begun

As the crows fly. Emma Bekker

There were crows, who once ruled the earth. They had escaped from the ark of a terrible god,
their beaks seeking the carrion that was borne on the waves of a flood.
They had a taste for blood,
this black sorority of all that is pragmatic,
turning floodwaters into amniotic fluid.

They bored out eyes, opening the view to the unseen, their cries piercing deaf ears.

They were unpickers of the thorax,  scissoring through the last fibers of that which binds human to earth.

And then they taught that wily Gilgamesh a lesson that his seed is still struggling to plumb:
floating isn’t flight.

Alternative transportation. Des

Brand-new BMX
Dad worked hard for you,
shiny and sticker’d,
bright paint, grease and glue.

Not allowed on curbs?
No bicycle lanes?
Give way! SUV!
God forbid it rains.

Oh, white elephant,
bought with blood, sweat, tears.
To get from A to –
in twenty odd years.

They say it’s easy
to exercise your new-car-smell-freedom
– like riding a bike.