Mthunzikazi A. Mbungwana has published a new collection of poetry in isiXhosa titled Unam Wena. As part of our continued effort to highlight and promote African language literatures, we are delighted to feature this new work. The collection was published by uHlanga, an independent South African press.

Mthunzikazi explores love and sexual experiences in same-sex relationships. The collection centers around familiar themes such as love and day to day life experiences. Dr. Lukhanyo Makhenyane describes the work as “a breath of fresh air,” noting how it “calls for change on how the society treats people with sexual orientation different to them.” Mthunzikazi enriches the representations of queer African experiences by exploring love in the context of erotic encounters.

In poems like ‘Imilebe Yethu’, ‘Unam Wena’, ‘Asithethi’, ‘uBhospelithi Wam’, ‘Ukuzihluba’, Mbungwana uses shades of creativity to defend her thesis statement that love can be enjoyed by same-sex lovers as much as every other lover enjoys it. The way she unravels in ‘Imilebe Yethu’ takes us into a steamy session of same-sex lovebirds. In the last stanza of this poem, she uses a word, “Siyafikisana” (We reach orgasm), that reveals woman-woman intimacy can achieve what most men fail to do to women in their lifetime.

Mthunzikazi A. Mbungwana was born in Upper Indwe, Cala and is a poet and storyteller. She is a part-time teacher in the Creative Writing Department at Rhodes University, where she also received a Masters in Creative Writing, in isiXhosa. Her writings focus on themes of home, dreams, and everyday black queer life.

Read the publisher’s statement, see below for buying options, and watch Mthunzikazi talk about the book and read from the collection in an event hosted at The Forge.

Publisher’s Statement (English)

Mthunzikazi A. Mbungwana’s poems have a loaded winsomeness that has no parallel in modern isiXhosa poetry. With a remarkably poised voice, Mbungwana makes poems that are as assertive when they are explicit as when they are subtle. Here is no easy comfort about love’s lasting ramifications, nor the sometimes tender but ultimately stifling idea of home. Nevertheless, Mbungwana captures the giddy ramblings of a desirous heart, as well as delving into the weighty histories of familial love and scandal, brandishing an isiXhosa that is both deeply literary and gloriously vital. With poems that echo out into each other, and lines insistently rooted in their imagery, Mbungwana finds a way through the eternal and internal contest between the opposing forces of glory and pain, in the process making her own mark in a long and proud poetic tradition.

Buy Unam Wena: African Books Collective | Barnes and Noble

Publisher’s Statement (isiXhosa)

Imibongo kaMbungwana itsho ngentsholo eyodwa kwisixa semibongo ekhoyo ngesiXhosa. Ilizwi lakhe liyolula libinze kanobom nokuba selitsholozela phantsi. Le mibongo ithwele ubumbaxa bothando, ubunxadanxada bokuzukisa ikhaya, nenquleqhu eninzi yeenkanuko zomzimba kunye nokusekeka kweminqweno yentliziyo. Akathi gontshi naxa sele ethetha ngemiba yosapho evame ukuba nembali enzima nethe mpa amabibi angasese. Ubhala isiXhosa esiphilileyo nesisaya kuphila. Le mibongo imnombo unabileyo, itsho ngemifanekiso egqamileyo, yenza umqela ovakalayo kwizithethe ezikhoyo zokumela amalungelo okuziphatha nokuzikhunga.