The Unfamous Five
131 pages

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131 pages

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Seeking adventure during the school holidays, five teenagers from the Indian suburb of Lenasia accidentally witness a violent crime that has a lasting impact on their lives. Starting in June of 1993, the novel follows the Five through the next decade as they confront, both as individuals and as a group, questions of who they are, who they are allowed to be, and who they are expected to be in the New South Africa. They must query what role they will allow tradition, ancestry, sexuality, skin colour, love, money and culture to play in their lives as they attempt to forge new paths, sometimes stumbling along the way, but always willing to give one another a helping hand.



Publié par
Date de parution 09 septembre 2019
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781928215813
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 1 Mo

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0350€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Nedine Moonsamy
First published in 2019 by Modjaji Books Pty Ltd
ISBN 978-1-928215-80-6 (Print)
ISBN 978-1-928215-81-3 (ePub)
Edited by Karen Jennings
Cover artwork and lettering by Rudi de Wet
Book and cover design by Monique Cleghorn
Printed and bound by XMegadigital
Set in Minion
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of the publishers.
For Ma
For Kama
The children would see about the debt. But the debt remained.
- V.S. Naipaul, A House for Mr. Biswas.
History of Lenasia
June 1993
August 1993
September 1993
November 1993
January 1994
May 1994
February 1995
September 1995
November 1995
September 1996
October 1996
March 1997
January 1998
February 1998
February 1999
December 1999
April 2000
November 2000
February 2001
December 2001
January 2002
April 2002
June 2002
August 2002
October 2002
April 2003
History of Lenasia
Lenasia is a large Indian township south of Soweto in Gauteng Province, South Africa. It has now become part of the City of Johannesburg. Lenasia is located approximately 35 kilometres south of the Johannesburg central business district and 45 kilometres South of the Sandton central business district.
Apartheid-era planners situated the group area for Johannesburg s Indians near the Lenz military base. The name Lenasia is thought to be a combination of the words Lenz and Asia . The Lenz in question was one Captain Lenz who owned the original plot on which Lenasia is situated. Many of its early residents were forcibly removed under the Group Areas Act from Fietas, a vibrant non-racial area close to the Johannesburg city centre, to Lenasia. As segregation grew, it became the largest place where people of Indian extraction could legally live in the then old Transvaal province.
It is a testament to the people who were abandoned here by the apartheid government, that Lenasia is now a vibrant and thriving community.

June 1993
The front gates of Kumari s home are like metallic jaws that swallow each of her friends upon arrival. It is a house of metal and steel, with locks on the front gate, back gate, front door, side door, back door, and the pen that holds the dog when visitors come. The state-of-the-art alarm system has recently been complemented with a ream of barbed wire that now trims the top of the fortress like piped icing around the edges of a square cake.
Come in! Come in, she squeals.
She can barely contain her excitement. Her efforts to make new friends at school have finally paid off. She has invited them to have a picnic in her garden and, by some miracle, they have all accepted. While most teenagers prefer to sleep in during the holidays, this is not the case for the Five who have already decided to keep regular school hours. It was agreed upon after Janine confessed that she will be pretending to go to school all the same.
Hey Janine, nice uniform, laughs Neha. I would have thought Devon would be the one to wear his school uniform during the holidays since he likes that bleddy blazer of his so much.
Oh, fuck off, says Janine. She tries for her most playful tone but, as always, her words come out more aggressive than she expects and put a quick end to Neha s retorts.
Ja, fuck off, Neha, Devon choruses, far less convincingly.
He has recently transferred from a private school located in the plusher and whiter suburbs and, although learning that blazers are no longer required uniform, persists in wearing his, much to the amusement of his friends.
You know, I ve been thinking, says Shejal just as Kumari gestures to-wards her garden, can t we go out instead?
And do what? Neha snorts. Dude, we live in Lenz. Hardly the place for adventures.
Ja, sure, we not going to discover anything great in the streets, but at least we can take a walk or something - just get outside!
They eye each other hesitantly, replaying their parental advisories in their minds: none of them are allowed to go out on the streets.
I think that would be cool, says Janine, already in gross violation of her parental constraints. But where?
What about Top Shops, and then Suicide Valley? says Devon.
Suicide Valley? says Kumari. You can t be serious. That place is supposed to be dangerous.
Let s put it to a vote, okay? says Devon. Everyone who wants to take this picnic to Suicide Valley, raise your hand.
Only Kumari keeps both hands at her sides, aware that Elina, her family s domestic worker, might fret and tell on her. But she quickly reconsiders; Elina is good at keeping her secrets.
So, that s it! Let s waai, says Devon, who has been trying to pick up local slang from the rest of the Five. But it is still uncomfortable on his tongue and makes everyone smile at his effort.
The Five go to Suicide Valley, announces Neha.
Janine scoffs. Even though Neha has explained the story many times, she is still clueless as to what those five simple characters - no doubt she is the dog - that Enid Blyton wrote about have to do with their lives. This is the problem with books , she thinks. Reality suffers under the gaze of people who read too much and then read too much into life. There is no book that will make her life better, no book that will change her father, her mother, the way her food tastes and the manner in which a dog barks. She pities Neha, whose literary capacities are overdeveloped to the point of delusion. For the rest of them Romeo and Juliet is merely a school setwork to endure, but for Neha it has come to reflect the inner workings of her latest crush. She has walked them through it point by point: yes, they can all see the feuding families, the Hindu girl and her Muslim love interest. But if these star-crossed lovers were ever found dead, they imagine that there would only be gossip about drugs or brainwashing. Unlike Neha, they remain doubtful about whether a love of this kind can heal the unspoken animosities or the polite non-mixing of these very different religions.
When they set out from the house, they walk all along Rose Avenue, a peculiar rose with its long and straight arrangement of petals. Shejal clutches Kumari s wicker picnic basket awkwardly as they move quickly on this street; a main vein that connects the residential areas to Top Shops, mothers to groceries, young people to fast food and domestic workers to taxis. A relative, a family friend, might see them and pull them back into captivity. Janine feels the most vulnerable in her uniform; a readymade invitation for a bored patrolling policeman. Who would believe her innocence? Who would believe that she has very little that resembles a casual wardrobe, that her parents don t even know when her school holidays are and that they have never asked?
A dishevelled man walks in dizzy loops. He crosses their path and the sour stench of stale beer lingers in the air in front of them.
Ah, hallo, Jocelene. Jocelene, hallo, he slurs.
Uh, hello, Uncle, says Janine, mortified as her friends surprise settles on her.
Joh, who the fuck was that? says Shejal when the man staggers away. Eish, you know some hardcore characters, Janine.
Jocelene, laughs Neha.
No seriously, who was that? asks Shejal. He has never come that close to a homeless person before.
She looks up at each of them, their polite faces turned away. She knows they are all equally hungry for a dirty tale; a glimpse at a world that their parents have probably warned them about.
He s Alkee Uncle. He stays in the same road as me, or used to stay in the same road. But then his wife threw him out and now he has taken a vow to drink himself to death until she takes him back. He doesn t eat, just drinks, for breakfast, lunch and supper.
Why did she throw him out? asks Neha.
Cos he was drinking, says Janine, but maybe it s cos she wanted to be with that coloured man who now stays there with her. Who knows.
The Five finally reach the very end of Rose Avenue and pass through the station market of vendors, taxi drivers and travellers. They weave through the street-side fruit and vegetables; the bananas, oranges, tomatoes, cabbages, smelling both rancid and ripe. They are laid out on colourful plastic plates, measured into fixed prices of five rands. There are chicken feet and mielies roasting on fires made inside old oil drums. Large women covered in printed blankets nurse their flames. Ripples of heat float through the air and turn the world into wavy sheets of plastic. They try hard not to lose each other as their eyes feed on the spectacle of chaos, dirt, life and poverty. They cruise amongst the stalls; cheap plastic combs, aprons for domestic workers and frilly dresses for little girls in small, medium and large. They pass a makeshift tent with a hairdresser inside. The buzz of the electric razor never pauses. A board full of painted illustrations of the kind of haircuts one can receive inside stands at the front. The Five stop to look at the beheaded portraits of black men with their neat, cropped sponge-tops.
All of those haircuts look the same, Shejal laughs.
Well, there isn t much they can do with their kind of hair, says Kumari, who secretly sympathises with the stubborn curl that sprouts on African heads. Her curly

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