Dimakatso Mokwena’s debut queer novel, Here Comes the Gay King, has been nominated for a prestigious South African Literary Award (SALA) in the K Sello Duiker Memorial Award category.
Named for the late South African novelist K. Sello Duiker, the category recognises novels and novellas by authors under the age of 40.
Here Comes the Gay King tells a modern-day love story of Peace Maake and Thomas Mngomezulu. Their love is dealt a major blow when Peace reluctantly agrees to inherit his late brother’s widow, Mma Mogale.
Upon coming out to his family, the homophobic nature of Peace’s family is laid bare as they seek to turn him straight through conversion therapy. To his family, homosexuality is un-African and needs ceremonial cleansing.
Peace, who was chosen by his ancestors before he was born so that he would one day lead his village into a new era, believes he has to sacrifice his happiness to ascend the throne.
“Increasingly, we are seeing more gay people taking leadership positions,” Mokwena told MambaOnline last year, “The message I want to convey is that you can be gay and still be king without having to give up your cultural identity.”
Mokwena says that Here Comes the Gay King has been more successful internationally than in his homeland. “My novel has done relatively well locally but the biggest support for the book really comes from the United States,” he reveal.
The author hopes that SALA’s nomination will help shine the spotlight on issues that queer people still face in South Africa almost 30 years in a democratic dispensation.
“In 2021 alone, 21 LGBTQI+ people were killed because of their sexual identity and gender identity expression. This shows our rights are only good in paper as ordinary people are yet to enjoy the constitutional rights our Constitution guarantees,” asserts Mokwena.
He has dedicated the SALA nomination to the LGBTQI+ community in Uganda who are faced with living under that country’s oppressive Anti-Homosexuality Act.
“As an author, academic and human rights activist, I am pained by what is happening in that country as this takes our continent ten steps backwards, for LGBTQI+ rights are human rights,” says Mokwena.
“I hope that people of all sexual identities will read my novel in order to appreciate what it means to be gay including how we can all coexist peacefully. As October is Pride Month in South Africa, I hope this novel will be a conversation starter and afford people the space to have honest yet respectful conversations about homosexuality in the interest of advancing our democratic edifice.”
The SALA Awards ceremony will be held on 7 November 2023 in Potchefstroom. Founded in 2005 by the wRite associates in partnership with the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, the main aim of the SALAs is to pay tribute to South African writers who have distinguished themselves as ground-breaking producers and creators of literature, while celebrating literary excellence in the depiction and sharing of South Africa’s histories, value systems and philosophies.
Here Comes the Gay King can be ordered from Takealot.com or from Mokwena directly. Just DM him on Twitter or Instagram. His handle for both platforms is @selfierunnerza. If you prefer e-books, you can order the novel from Amazon.com.