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A tumult quest for belonging in Manenzhe’s Scatterlings: A review

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Scatterlings (2020) by Resoketswe Manezhe is a book that ushered me into the reflective zone the past, present and prospects of the future where blackness is concerned. As a result of this book, I found myself thinking about what it means to be black in this world that shows no respect and dignity to blacks. Is there a correlation between time and healing of painful episodes of existence? I got to think about grief and the turmoils that comes with it. The space and time setting of the book got me thinking what it means to be free. Alisa van Zijl, a former slave from the Caribbea is married to a white man Abram can Zijl who has found a place in apartheid South Africa where the Immorality Act exacerbated her woes. Through Alisa’s and fellow black women’s woes one is forced to sit back and contemplate if there is ever a place for a black person. 

Manenzhe’s presentation of the mental and spiritual turmoil brought about by a black woman’s quest for belonging is thought provoking. After feeling unbelonging to the Caribbean Islands: place of birth, Britain: home to her adopted parents and the elsewhere she visited, Alisa went on a journey to re-trekking the footsteps first taken by her ancestors when they were uprooted by the ruthless slave ships. The re-trekking to and the settlement of Alisa in Africa could not sit for the desired outcomes. Married to a white man, the Immorality Act left her on the edge.

The world’s rejection of Alisa pushes her to suicide. Suicide. Manenzhe’s presentation of this theme made me have questions: is suicide an act of surrender? Is it a confirmation of the limits to the burdens a mere mortal can carry? Is suicide a sign of an individual’s quest for eternal freedom from the world’s savagery and ruthlessness? Alisa had a lot to think of as she contemplates facilitating her departure from the world. She realised she couldn’t spare her ‘daughters the burden of [her] skin’ but at the same time decided to end what she terms ‘the natural longevity of my misfortunes,’ with death.

Apart from the cannibalistic system brought about by racist imperial settlers, Manenzhe brings out the human (but particularly black woman) consciousness and the will to survive this onslaught. The stories within the story testifies to this as different women of colour find ways of telling their stories as a way of dealing with pain as well as making sense of their existence and being. As a result they try to tackle ‘difficult’ subjects and ‘things of hauntings.’ Characters such as Nanny Gloria and Josephina whose names have been transformed from Mozazi and Mmakoma as they serve as maids to white settlers, are aware of the conditions that has ‘exiled [them] to the wastelands of [their] own society,’ that is land grabs.

Besides the heartbreaking subject of the story, I must confess this is an interesting tale filled with intelligent conversations, beautiful language and style, all meant to immortalise the tales of survival and death of a people trapped in a world so unkind to them. Alisa’s fragments of her journals become her communication channel to her daughter about her troubled soul and fears. It helps one to comprehend the realities of a black woman in an unkind world.

Scatterlings is a beautiful tale of chaos and disturbances happening in outside of human beings as it is also a tale of a people’s resilience against forces of displacement and erasure. This is a book to read! In Zimbabwe you can find the book at Book Fantastics. Byeee

Author’s Biography: Resoketswe Manenzhe is an award winning author, chemical engineer and enthusiastic pizza maker. Her work has appeared in multiple literary journals and anthologies.

Review by Brain Garusa.