I will tell you what I know.
It won’t be what you want me to tell you,
or what you think I should know.
Not what is written down for the children to imbibe,
not the story of Nongqawuse, that swayable girl
wandering around the Cape wild, leading Phalo’s sons
Qamata knows where.
Earthy yet musical, minimal yet gripping, Thabo Jijana’s debut collection of poems, Failing Maths and My Other Crimes, is a short masterclass of South African storytelling-in-verse. In this whirlwind of local history, contemporary culture, domestic angst and youthful nostalgia, Jijana exhibits a wisdom and emotional range beyond his years. Far from being stuck in years gone by, however, Failing Maths and My Other Crimes showcases not just a writer taking stock of a troubled past, but also a young man forging an identity to steel himself with against an uncertain future.
Thabo Jijana, born in 1988, is a rising star of South African literature. In 2011, he won the Anthony Sampson Foundation Award, while in 2014 he won the Sol Plaatje/European Union Poetry Award. The same year, Thabo published his first book, Nobody’s Business, a memoir. Born in eNgqushwa, Thabo now lives in Port Elizabeth, where he works as a writer.