Q&A with Sindile Bongela

Triple threat, Sindile Bongela is an academic, magazine producer and conversation maker. Bongela is currently pursuing an MA in African Literature doing research on the visibility of black gay men and black women in literature and the similarities/differences between them. He is also the co-founder of Big Gay Debate and associate editor of Grandeur Magazine, an online magazine for black gay men.


What are you currently researching?
My research is a work in progress. As a gay man, I spend a lot of time with women and effeminate gay men. I noticed a lot of similarities between the way in which we interact with each other and the patriarchal society. So that’s what I’m doing my research on.

How did you come about your research?
I read a lot of women’s literature and I kept finding myself in the way in which women navigate their spaces. Once again, I’ve always been around women so it’s heavily influenced my research.

What impact do you want your research to have on the LGBTQ+ community?
I want my research to continue to open and broaden the honest conversations about the relationship that effeminate gay men and women have, and about the relationship they foster in a culturally patriarchal environment that is not conducive for our existence. I also want my research to explore and strengthen the relationships we can build.

What is The Big Gay Debate?
It’s a conversational space for gay men that seeks to deepen and broaden knowledge about being gay in Africa. The conversations at the debates have been insightful. The gays are finding the space to be safe enough to express themselves fully. They’ve found the space to be validating and educational.

How did Big Gay Debate come about?
I noticed that gay identities in South Africa were heavily influenced by African-American gay culture. Big Gay Debate is trying to remedy that by merging the influence of African-American gay culture with African gay culture. It is about ensuring that the African context is the dominant one in gay culture, but also creating an intellectual hub trying to create writing on African gayness from an African perspective.

What’s your contribution to Grandeur Magazine?
As an associate editor, I’m looking at producing content about black gayness, and showing that we’re a multidimensional people. I’m all about producing content about gay people travelling, starting businesses and creating partnerships. Basically building black intelligencia. The magazine is also focused on the LGBTQ+ community and writing about our experiences.

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A child should see a bookstore before they see a tavern

ALL LOCAL: African Flavour houses local literature from African Authors                                                                                                                                                                               Photo: Kayleen Morgan 

African Flavour , a new bookstore which recently opened  its doors on De Korte Street, Braamfontein, gives students an opportunity to make money. by selling their published books.
The bookstore offers 100% local content with African books written by African authors.

Fortiscue Helepi, who co-owns the shop with his wife Nokuthula, said the only criteria they have for the books and authors that are sold is that they should be a local writer from Africa.
“We are not gatekeepers of stories, only marketers of them,” he said. This allows students who have published books to sell them at African Flavour and make an income from their literature.
Helepi said that the store sells books according to the price recommended by the author or publisher with the store keeping 30% of the sale amount and the author gaining 70%.

Masters student in geography and environmental studies, Mafule Moswane’s books, A Learners Guide to Academic Success and Katrina and Other Untold Stories, are currently on sale at African
Flavour. Moswane said that he “strongly encourages” students who are writers and have a story to tell, to sell their work through African Flavour.

“The store assists African authors who do not have a platform and we need more places which fit the vision to sell African books written by African authors.”

The bookstore greets you with warmth and smooth jazz music playing in the background upon arrival. Helepi said the store is their second establishment with the first one being in Vanderbijlpark. He added that the Braamfontein establishment was opened because they realised that people were travelling from Johannesburg to Vanderbijlpark to buy books.

“The vision for African Flavour is to create a market for more people to read books they can relate to,” he said. Helepi said that it was unfortunate that in our current society people invest more in alcohol than they do in reading.
He added that the challenge for him is to expand so far across the country that “a child should see a bookstore before they see a tavern.”

First-time customer, Amigo Makhubele, who works in Braamfontein said he was happy to see an array of books in African languages, but was especially pleased to find Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom in Xitsonga.
“This is good. I’ll definitely come back to get more books for my collection at home,” he said.

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