By: Kopano Lekhoathi
The creative process is often met as a difficult journey, but there are some creatives out there who choose to dedicate themselves to this journey over and over again. Oliver Bonga began his journey as a writer during his schooling years when he was tasked to write a poem in his home language, Xhosa. After that, Bonga fell in love with writing as a whole and now writes for both the screen and the stage. He also writes prose pieces and poetry. Bonga says another reason for him to write is that there is a lack for young writers in society.
Thato Sekhoto grew up with an over imaginative mind but could never find a way to express these ideas. He says it was in grade 7 after he attended a creative writing workshop at his school organised by foreign exchange student tutors when he started writing. Sekhoto says, “I joined because I loved to read, I started with short stories and poems.” He added, “Writing is something I connected to, stories made life better for me. Story telling changed my life and I want to change people’s lives and make them feel happy”. Sekhoto says, “The most difficult part of writing is not overthinking about what you’re writing. Once you pass that stage, everything falls into place.
Bonga is a Pro-African writer and writes about pre-colonial historic events. He says that he wants to push the progress of Africa as much as it is under European constrains. “When I write, I make sure that I put the African there first, be it the language or the character”, Bonga says. He added, “I take an icon and I put them into a modern context and then imagine how they would react and then I fill in the missing gaps.” Bonga says the most difficult part of the writing process is staying relevant in the kind of story you are writing about. He says, “It can be difficult to keep up with the moving trends”. What keeps him motivated as a writer, he says, “The story in my mind and the story I see outside drives me to the point where I want the next generation to see it”. He made an example with the current state of Lockdown and said that he would want to write about the experiences of it so that future generations can know of it.
Sekhoto says when he gets a story idea, he keeps it in his mind and thinks about it for almost about two weeks and then when he sits down and starts writing, he can have the core of the story, he calls it “the linchpin of the story”. He added, “If I don’t have the character or characters, I won’t start writing”. Regarding inspiration, he sites music, books, poetry, paintings and so much more. Sekhoto says, “Everything I consume I take pieces from that”. He also added that when he reads a script, it should feel almost like music, it must flow. Related to what keeps him motivated, Sekhoto says “I don’t see myself doing anything else at all. If I don’t produce anything, I will be unhappy, and I have been unhappy when I don’t produce content”. He also said it would mean a dis-service to his dreams and goals and that current events also motivate him to write. He too mentions that writing is his weapon and that he can use it to change lives and that is what motivates him. In comparison between the present South African writing to that of the past, Bonga says that “The South African writing industry is very complicated, because before democracy it was booming, at its best, it was amazing”. Bonga added that after democracy, we started getting influences from America, Europe and everywhere else foreign to us. “People strayed away from the African style of writing,” He says. He mentions that they started writing realism and he doesn’t think this had a positive influence because our country right now has not discovered its own footprint in art and this is also why our youth has lost interest in literature.
The key components to being a good writer, Bonga says, “is authenticity and knowing what you want to write about and seeing this with your words”. He suggests that beginner writers should always try and download images or songs that best describe what they are trying to convey in their stories. Bonga firmly believes that a writer should never put themselves into their stories because it’s being selfish and can sometimes send a tone of narcissism. However, he says “it depends on the kind of writer you are and how you have experienced life”. Another key factor is that a good writer is a good reader. You have to consume as much reading as you practice writing. The last is to have passion and ambition because those two factors allow you to dream way beyond what you want to reach.
Sekhoto on the other hand believes that the key components for any writer are reading because you can’t write if you can’t read. You also need to understand what you are trying to say in your story. A good writer also needs to be smart about what they want to say. Sekhoto says, “My writing is influenced by what I’ve experienced but I have never written myself into a story”. He says that it is important to know that the story is seen by different people and when they read your material, they shouldn’t be able to see that it is you in the story. They must understand the different characters in the story. Sekhoto sites Gabriel Garcia-Marquez as an influence in his writing because he writes about realism. He says that his writing is effortless and to him it is a unique way of storytelling. Bonga sites two English writers, Guy Butler and Brad Bailey as influences because they wrote about African cultures and both wrote from an African perspective. His main goal as a profession in this industry is to have a school that teaches and develops young writers across various South African languages and cultures. Sekhoto says that writing has given him a purpose and something worth striving for and that his goal is to write for a major series in South Africa where he can tell stories that are not told by the writers in this country such as writing for LGBTQIAP+ members