The Yearning by Mohale Mashigo

No one can say they remember every moment of their childhood but imagine not remembering the one moment that could have been responsible for steering your life in a completely different direction to the picture you have now. Maybe it wouldn’t but you don’t know that, all you know is that it could have.


The Yearning book cover (source:

A beautifully written story about how your truth will always find you. A young woman who has managed to relocate to Cape Town and is working as a marketer for a wine estate after quitting advertising in the bustling Johannesburg.
Everything seems perfect; she met the man of her wildest dreams, she’s in a beautiful city with her best friend and she stays in an apartment by the promenade where the ocean lulls her to sleep every night. Marubini – the place of old from where we once came –  is her name. Named by her maternal grandmother who saw her as a sign; bringing them into the future after her parents had tried to have kids so many times to no avail. I would’ve thought Mapula – she who brings the rain – was a more fitting name. She came a month overdue and the skies started pouring the minute she arrived, but hey… elders know best.

Her father was a sangoma who “dies” on his way from work on her birthday. Her mom has convinced herself that he got killed because of his calling and has vowed to raise her kids away from it. This seems to be futile as we soon find Marubini slowly losing her mind with a recurring song, “Bana ba sekolo, bana ba sekolo. Tlong sekolong, tlong sekolong. Utlwang tshepe e a lla, utlwang tshepe e a lla. Ding dong bell.” She doesn’t know why this song, but it soon brings with itself a dark shadow that comes with seizures that seem to want to kill her and drown her in her bath tub… that got dark quickly didn’t it? Everyone, except her brother and grandmother, is convinced she wants to kill herself.

“Everyone, except her brother and grandmother, is convinced she wants to kill herself.”

 The book is written in a juxtaposition of the past and present, probably to keep the reader confused because as soon as you think you know how it’s going to end the past tells you something different, only to reach the end of the book and find out you were right. Her grandfather, the only thing that made sense to her, had suddenly fallen ill and passed on. Events which are eventually revealed towards the end of the book, which are guaranteed to have you shed a tear or two. The yearning for the truth is what sends her down memory lane, revealing snippets of her past that are finally placed together by her grandmother when she returns home for her cousin’s wedding. We find out that her father had removed a horrible life changing memory from her mind when she was still a child. It’s also for the same reason that she hasn’t quite gotten the calling herself (which you start guessing she will get). It’s her brother who helps her pursue the truth as her guide who is there to confirm her dreams and affirm her visions when everyone thinks she’s losing her mind. Although he has us thinking that he might be the one with the calling for a minute there.

 The story ends just perfectly for me. Some say it was too abrupt, like they still want a bit more from it. For me, my imagination always gets the best of me and I love the thought of completing the story for myself with just enough truth revealed to get to the same conclusion I had in the beginning. I’ll admit Mohale had me on an emotional roller coaster, but I love how I can see myself through Marubini.  Having the need to run away from the hustle of Johannesburg to the ever so beautiful Cape Town; fall in love with an exotic man who makes love to both your body and your tastebuds, and yet yearn for home because so much has happened there and that’s where the truth about how you became lies. It’s the story of many women in South Africa; it’s the story of many children in South Africa. Sadly we all can’t have our fathers remove the pain for us to carry on with our lives as normal. We live through it and find a way to be stronger and raise strong queens and kings that will continue to do the same.

 P.S. When you get to the end, you’ll want to read the first chapter again. Trust me!

By Nhlamulo Ritshuri


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