After months of listening to my friend go on about Stephen Simm's Miss Kwa Kwa, I finally read it. And boy oh boy, was it a read! It begins with a typical slowness that marks books of this kind, books designed to make you crack a rib in laughter. The creation of the character of Miss Kwa Kwa begins innocently: Black girl in search of opportunity, even at the expense of destroying one man's life, the King of Kwa Kwa, Pieter Depeenar.
It is a book with many faces, humor, mistaken identities, and stereotypical representations. Through laughter, we are forced to engage with serious racial and class issues in today's south africa. For instance, because she is black, the first mistake that anyone who meets her makes is that she is stupid.
This more so in Kwa Kwa, where racial prejudices are still very deeply embedded, where blacks are only seen as farm hands and domestic workers; where white farmers' wives play bridge, and where white people still command the unquestioned respect from black subjects.
In other words, a small town.
Stephen Simm: Miss Kwa Kwa (Jacana, 2006)
A town that Miss Kwa Kwa finds too small for her. Miss Kwa Kwa is the ambitious alter-ego of Palesa Moshesh, a quiet but brilliant girl whose ambitions know no bounds. She wills her personality to be absorbed by her other side, Miss Kwa Kwa, ambitious airhead, beautiful, and as daft as a blonde doll.
I mean, how else would one explain her answer to the question, "In a country characterized by such racial and cultural diversity, what culinary delight do you most enjoy?" to which she replies innocently " I'd like to take this opportunity to enrich my vocabulary and ask you what does that mean?" anyway, the perplexed interviewer explains, "what's your favourite dish" to which, unfazed, Miss Kwa Kwa replies, "Oh I see, I see! My favourite dish is ... Tupperware."
Did I introduce you? Meet Miss Kwa Kwa.
Behind the facade of stupidity, she is as sharp as a razor. She makes her way to Jozi, convinces a TV station to hire her as a television presenter, where she gets fired of course, before engaging in a series of exciting adventures, including bulling a possible mugger and taking his gun away... you have got to admire her. And I think the best part of all, is that she really believes in what she is doing.
Like when, after losing her TV job, she, wearing her Tiara, stands by the robot with those begger signs reading, "TEN YEARS OF DEMOCRACY: Asking a rand per year".
Trust me, I laughed my way through the pages, hardly putting it down. I can't wait to read Miss Kwa Kwa 2. It should offer me even more laughter, which I have been needing more of lately.