This Youth Day we caught up with Limpopo-born writer Keletso Mopai, who in her debut book “If Keep Digging”, tackles tough, real-life issues facing the youth, using fiction – which she believes to be a powerful tool to teach and also entertain.
“If You Keep Digging,” is a compilation of short stories that sheds light on some of the burning issues in society including identity, sexuality and gender-based violence.
Elaborating on her book Mopai said: “The title of my book was chosen mainly because of the characters in the twelve stories in the collection. The characters are often marginalised, ignored, and sidelined, and as a storyteller, I needed to bring them to the surface hence the word "dig", so that readers and myself can actually see and hear them.”
She offered: “I looked around me and noticed that the youth are living in a country that constantly fails them. This, I believe inspired the stories I wrote in my book.”
Other themes covered in the book include unemployment, racism at school and at work, mental health, poverty, rape, homophobia, and femicide.
Mopai says she also addresses the ancestral realm, colourism and childhood trauma in her book.
“Each story highlights different social issues and tries to bring those issues to the forefront. For instance, If you want to reduce unemployment, hire graduates. If you want to reduce poverty, create jobs and don’t pay us peanuts.
"If you want to erase domestic violence, then men need to stop abusing women and children. I know it’s not as simple as I put it, but these can be done. We are tired of going to the streets and marching for the same things year after year. Our government must implement ways to stop this system that traumatises their youth,” expresses Mopai.
On what she hopes the reader will take away from the book, she said: “I want South Africa to acknowledge the issues we have so that we can start having honest conversations and implement ways to tackle these issues.”
Quizzed on the importance of commemorating Youth Day, over four-decade, Mopai said: “This day is about the youth of 1976 that took it to the street to fight and have their own right not to be taught in a language they don’t want to be taught in, a language that most probably reminded them of the face of trauma and racial abuse they went through in those years.”
She added: “It’s always important to know where we come from. We learn from the past.”
The coronavirus has forced many if not all of us to look at the world differently, with the “new normal”, when I asked Mopai how has this experience changed her view of life, she said: “I don’t want to romanticise this pandemic, all I know is that it has affected a lot my decisions and plans and now I’d have to find new ways to live, I think this also how the world is dealing with it at the moment.”
Mopai says she also wants to write more books and see the world, “if and when this pandemic ends”.
"If You Keep Digging" is published under indie publishers Blackbird Books.