Maverick Life


A crafted memoire – Welcome Mandla Lishivha’s ‘Boy on the Run’

A crafted memoire – Welcome Mandla Lishivha’s ‘Boy on the Run’
'Boy on the Run' by Welcome Mandla Lishivha book cover. Image: Supplied

Boy on the Run is an exploration of identity through ‘grief, love and friendship, giving the reader, a glorious song of self-expression’.

About Welcome Mandla Lishivha’s memoir, South African Journalist, filmmaker and author Mark Gevisser says: “Boy on the Run is tough and fragile, tragic and resilient, and utterly compelling. Welcome Lishivha has broken new ground in South African literature, in the voice he finds – and the stories he tells – about growing up poor, and queer, and loved, in a South African township. It is destined to be a classic.” Read an excerpt.

Author Welcome Mandla Lishivha.

Author Welcome Mandla Lishivha. Image: Supplied


‘I think something weird is happening in that two-room,’ I said. Mmane tilted her chin down and looked at me over the top of her glasses and over the sewing machine that stood between us. She was holding a pin with her pressed lips while also pedalling the machine to glide the stitch through. 

‘I heard two loud bangs and Prince came running out, terrified. When I asked him what was going on and mentioned that it sounded like a gun … Mmane, he said the word gun. I just walked past it now and I heard what sounded like ghostly moans. Something very weird is happening in there, I tell you. And, you know, my mother has been acting rather funny today. She asked me to make her tea earlier and you know she hates tea. When I took the cup I made to her, she asked me very nicely with a big smile on her face to ‘make it special’. What does that even mean for someone who hates tea? Anyway, I took those gold mugs from the room divider and picked a random flower from that one rose plant by the gate. Don’t tell Koko I plucked a flower from her rose plant, by the way. Maybe she is trying to get me to warm up to Peter, which is bizarre because it’s not like I’ve been funny towards him. Today couldn’t get any stranger.’ I sighed and sat down. 

Mmane took the pin from her lips and pinned the other wristband she was about to sew on the sleeve of the dress. ‘Your mother is in there—’ She pressed down on the pedal which started the machine again, concentrating on sewing the band on with a straight line of stitches. ‘There’s no way you heard ghostly moans or guns in there.’ She continued on the pedal machine again, focusing intently, keeping the stitch on the edge, joining it neatly to the sleeve without saying a word. As I watched, for a moment the knot in my stomach seemed to have disappeared. ‘Don’t stress yourself over nothing,’ she said. ‘Now didn’t I hear Kholo asking you for water? Don’t keep her waiting outside for too long. Get her water to drink and go play with the other kids before you get a headache over nothing.’ She removed the sleeve from the machine, holding it up and inspecting the stitching closely.

I got up, headed to the kitchen and looked around for the jug of water. I couldn’t find it. This is it, I thought. A moment to finally prove that, indeed, I was stressing myself over nothing. I jumped over the three steps past Kholo and ran to the two-room to ask for the jug and, I suppose, to check up on my mother. The two-room was fully built and only needed to be plastered, painted and patched up with electricity. I walked in with hopes of merely finding the jug of water. What I saw next lasted a few seconds before my mind could comprehend it and the images have almost overpowered the embracing warmth of those summer days. I saw Peter first. He was lying on his face on the ground, almost drowning in his own blood, which covered the uncemented floor in a shiny red velvet colour. He was moaning from the pain of a gunshot wound, and had blood coming out of his mouth. 

Time stood still for a second. He was drowning in his own blood and was unable to move. My eyes widened as I slowly observed every detail. Next to helpless Peter was the broken black plastic chair he had been sitting on. And next to the chair was the silver tray with gold trimmings and the special gold mugs I had unearthed from the special cupboard. The mugs were not broken, but their contents, along with the milk and sugar in their respective gold containers, had spilled. They were spilled over the tray and the pink-and-white knitted cloth that I had carefully placed on the tray to protect it from scratching. The rose I had picked from the bush beside the gate lay next to a puddle of blood that glistened in the sunshine that sneaked through the windows, creating a mirror effect that was backgrounded by the bold red-velvet colour of fresh blood. The sun had suddenly come out as if to smile defiantly upon my misfortunes. I looked around, very reluctantly. And there was my mother. DM/ ML

Boy on the Run by Welcome Mandla Lishiviha is published by Jacana Media. Recommended Retail Price: R240.00. Available in all good book shops and online.


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