In a triumph at the South African Literary Awards (SALAs) held in Potchefstroom on November 7, Colonel Dimakatso Mokwena’s groundbreaking queer novel, Here Comes the Gay King, secured the prestigious K Sello Duiker Memorial Literary Award.
While Colonel Mokwena stood as the sole contender in his nominated category, he emphasised that winning was not presumed, given the rigorous literary scrutiny all books undergo at the SALAs.
The SALAs recognise authors who contribute to South African literary excellence by portraying the nation’s histories, values, and philosophies. The SALAs, having reviewed 219 books, shortlisted only 30 for nomination after months of meticulous scrutiny.
“I am happy that the 34-member panel of judges saw my debut novel worthy of this prestigious award,” expressed Mokwena.
During the awards ceremony, Mokwena found himself in esteemed company, sharing a table with luminaries like Dr Siphiwo Mahala and Sue Nyathi. Prolific author and journalist Fred Khumalo also graced the occasion, creating an environment ripe for engaging conversations about South Africa’s literary landscape.
“They are literati whose work I’ve long admired and suddenly I found myself in their company. It really was a dream come true to be in their company because I have always engaged with their work. I tried very hard not to be star-struck,” Mokwena said.
The evening’s most unexpected moment occurred when the late K Sello Duiker’s family presented the colonel with the award named for their son. The K Sello Duiker Memorial Literary Award is awarded to authors under the age of 40.
“Sello’s father, Ntate Judah Duiker, handed over the award to me. This was quite a pleasant surprise and a beautiful moment. I felt special that the SALAs saw me befitting of being honoured in this way. This was the biggest highlight of my evening,” he said.
Here Comes the Gay King delves into the intricacies of gay life in post-apartheid South Africa, intertwining contemporary socio-political issues surrounding sexual and gender identity expression. Mokwena hopes that his novel “will add to ongoing LGBTQI+ activism in the interest of advancing our democratic edifice.”
In addition to his literary achievements, Colonel Mokwena serves as a speechwriter for the National Commissioner, General Fannie Masemola, and his three Deputy National Commissioners.
Hailing from the village of Bokgaga Ga-Maake outside Tzaneen in Limpopo, Colonel Mokwena also holds the role of Sub Section Commander for Internal Communication.
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.