Read of the Week

And Then Mama Said Words that set my life alight

Tumi Morake

Penguin Random House South Africa

Review: Simonéh De Bruin-Fortuin

I love astute stand-up comedy; the fact that you can say the unsaid in a way that will make people instinctively react with a smile but also pause and ponder what was said, takes insight.

One of the stand-up comedians I’ve always found really funny but with an authentic voice in tackling some holy cows is Tumi Morake. So, when I got the chance to review her debut book, I jumped at it.

Tumi Morake modelled her public persona on her late mother, a charming and contentious woman who used her big, bold voice to say what others were afraid to utter. It’s the personality that Tumi took on stage and the one that gave her the courage to join a white, Afrikaans radio station and comment about apartheid on air. In And Then Mama Said Tumi gets frank about the race row at Jacaranda FM; the body shaming she endured on the set of Our Perfect Wedding; and her relationship with her husband.

Throughout her story, Tumi carries the voice of her mother and with it the indispensable life lessons that made her who she is today.

A Motswana girl, who grew up in the dusty streets of Thaba Nchu in the Free State, she was born Relopile Boitumelo, which means “we prayed for joy”. Tumi says when she sees people smile or laugh in her presence, she feels she has lived up to that name. The book chronicles her life story without glossing over anything; in fact, says Tumi, “I’m at a point in my life where I will share my truths and own them.”

We get more than just glimpses of Tumi growing up in Mafikeng and Thaba Nchu – impish even then as she and her cousins plotted to hide her grandmother’s belt ironically called kgwele (shoelace). She deals with her mother’s struggles with her mental health, her parents’ divorce and her rape as a 15-year-old virgin.

Although the book is a personal account, Tumi, being Tumi, doesn’t hesitate to tackle what has almost become a boycott of our collective consciousness – speaking about apartheid and the hold its many tentacles still have on our lives. “I can’t get over it there was no closure, only frustration its hateful mentality continues to this day.”