Culture is Mani’s palette

When he was a child, Nicholas Bushy Mani, a prolific writer and former Numsa shopsteward, fell in love with the written word and he has published several books to prove it.

Born to a family with a lot of books, young Mani started to flip through the books which his father kept in a cabinet, and in the process a love for books found a fertile ground where it was nourished and grew.

“Though my father had elementary education, he had a huge cabinet full of books of every kind. From an early age – I think I was six or seven then – browsing through that cabinet full of books was my preoccupation.

"I suspect I began slowly to try to speak and write in English at that age,” he reminisces.

Not conscious that the writing bug had bitten him, he began to write stories that he thought would interest his peers.

He grew up in an era when photo-comics were at their height. Comics such as She, Chunky, Charley, Ben, Die ruiter in swart, McConick, Grensvegter, Beau, Drumel, and the like were heavily read every month.

Nicholas and his friends would go to town, and raid the CNA dustbin for expired editions of the comic books.

Years later, Mani fell in love with Wilbur Smith’s novels.

The relationship was short lived due to his unhappiness with the way Wilbur portrayed black characters. “Amongst the books in my father’s bookshelf that immediately caught my attention was that of the historical novel writer Wilbur Smith.

But then I was discouraged by the way the black characters in the novels were eliminated.

It was always so brutal and they were discarded like dead flies. Because I’m black and had felt the apartheid way of living, I soon stopped reading them.” said Mani.

Robert Ludlum and Louis L’Amour are acknowledged by Nicholas Mani as amongst the writers who profoundly influenced him.

But he has consistently resisted being a carbon copy of these writers.

He always sought to discover his own unique style – using his African background for his subject matter or themes.

Evidence of this can be found in three of his novels: Humambi, The Lost Princess – a romantic tale of hopeful dreams, challenged love and new social status.

A true African fairy tale that combines respected traditional ways and modern ideas.

Lobolo for a nun – a gripping novel that tells the story of Celiwe, a young girl whose heart is set on becoming a nun, but traditional custom clashes with her aspirations and a battle of wills ensues.

After much plotting and scheming on both sides an amusing and ingenious arrangement is arrived at to the mutual satisfaction of Celiwe and her father (Christianity versus traditional ways).

When lightning strikes – a powerful story of courage and forgiveness in the face of superstitions and prejudice.

“My culture and tradition remains the sole palette which allows my pen to weave on the cultural canvas, and reflect a tapestry of black African society,” Mani asserted.


Numsa News No 2 July 2010