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Rolland Simpi Motaung is a founder and facilitator at Trymph Education, an education company that offers private tutorials to tertiary students and business consultancy. He is passionate about entrepreneurship, education, creative arts, media and gender studies particularly from an African context.

Small Things

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Author: Nthikeng Mohlele
Title: Small Things
Publishers: University of KwaZulu-Natal press (2013) Jacana (2018)

There is absolutely nothing small about this magnificent offering Nthikeng Mohlele has penned. This well composed quick read set against a melancholy cityscape is splendidly covered in poetry, music and comedy. At its core however lays a philosophical sensibility that wrestles with the old age question of what is love, man’s purpose and the meaning of life

The main character, a former journalist turned musician sees himself as unimportant, a shadow of his former self left floating in Sophiatown blues. At heart he is a nomad battling with old age, loneness and rejection that has made him have a cynical outlook. However he still has high levels of self-awareness, creativity, resilience and morally rooted in wanting to still see better and just world around him

His resilience is also seen in his pursuit of his childhood crush Desiree, although constantly rebuked his undying love persisted over the years. To the toxicity of this love, he states “My love for her is still as distinct, detailed and colorful as coral reeds in sea beds. It cannot be said to be ordinary- the way my heart glows and burns with each of her brutal remarks, the way my disappointments leave me frosty yet thawing from the core. Mine is not the kind of love to inspire shallow romantic dramas, for it has, at its heart, aflame that refuses to die

When he however meets Cuban-born Mercedes Sanchez, a music teacher, he (re)learns to love again and to be more patient. (She also bought him a brand new Dizzie Gillespie trumpet for his birthday)

On the complexities of love Mercedes’ father Gabriel Sanchez contends “Love is feeling in motion. It changes character, is full of dangerously deep swamps. It attracts all of life’s other feelings into a brutal cocktail of bliss beyond measure, suffering without limits….Who says love has to follow known and accepted formulas for it to be love”

This lyrical novel is also a lamentation to the struggle and struggling musicians on how they end up on park benches and sidelines of the creative industry in South Africa, how they are dehumanized by society but celebrated when they have passed on

As if the young Hugh Masekela abandoned his trumpet for a pen to produce jazzy rainbows in between pages, this book is music to the soul. It is that limited-track blues album you put on repeat on a lazy Sunday afternoon, drowning in its exquisitely composed narratives

At the end a simple realization is deduced, that it’s the small things we take for granted that really count: a hug from a loved one after a long day; delicious food in the tummy and the warmth of blankets on a soft bed. Tranquility. Contentment.

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