Episode 51

Published on:

25th Jun 2021

Mulberry Dreams

We chat to Violette from Bulawayo, an author with a strong journalistic background.

We will be unpacking her latest novel Mulberry Dreams and looking into her the politics and perspectives around the 'coloured issue' , identity - both social and political and the Zimbabwe story.

This is a podcast where we talk art and art processes.


Wesley Pepper: [00:00:00] Hey greetings everybody. This is Wesley pepper and you're tuned into my podcast Wesley Pepper’s Art Lexica, which is brought to you by spudcaster and baobulb, um, yeah, man, um, Just before we start, like, uh, recap on last week's episode. I had a lot of fun with the Erica last, um, last week, I think we touched on some really cool stuff.

[00:00:33] We spoke about some really cool stuff. And, um, she does, um, um, you know, I really think those, uh, uh, ice sculptures are incredibly beautiful. And, uh, I know she was also working on that, uh, trying to raise funds for that project in Worcester. So all the best for that. I kind of hope that my, um, our episode yesterday, would help somewhat, you know, maybe somebody would hear it somewhere, some potential or whatever.

[00:00:59] Yeah. So yeah, big up to her for that. I think that was a, that was a lot of, that was fantastic. Fantastic episode. Yeah, man. Uh, moving on to this week, um, this week we're talking to an author from Bulawayo in Zimbabwe. Uh, her name is Violette Sohaili Kee-tui. Um, I hope I pronounced that correct. Um, so she's the, uh, um, she's an author of a book titled, uh, Mulberry dreams.

[00:01:30] And I actually came across the book very interestingly enough, um, through Philani, uh, we know we spoken with, we spoke to him a few times on this podcast and, uh, Philani made me, uh, uh, you know, made me do it and like added what he said about it. And I read the, uh, uh, what John Eppel, uh, was also a very, uh, for those of you don't know, he's a really highly rated, um, um, poet in Zimbabwe where I've read a lot, bunch of his stuff too.

[00:02:00] And I think he's an incredible writer as well. Um, and that really made me like, then I got really, um, or other, those, you know, reading up about that, like really I said, okay, sure. I really would like to talk to this, um, to, um, to talk to the author and, um, you know, we set it up in and everything and like one of the things that, um, Um, from what I can, from what I can tell that, um, that she writes about, um, something that strikes home to me, you know, given that I am, um, um, um, mixed race or whatever you want to call it.

[00:02:33] Um, yeah, is the, you know, is the whole like, uh, I guess Southern African, uh, um, Identity politics around mixed race people. Um, you know, I don't speak to it. I don't speak about it too much. In fact, I've memory serves me. This will actually be the first episode where I sort of tackle or, or speak about that through, um, through, um, through another artist’s work.

[00:03:00] Uh, yeah. Cause it's a topic that is just so complicated for me and so layered. And I think it'll just take me for you, for me to give. Uh, for other, for me to give you my perspectives on, that'll take a whole bunch of episodes and it's a really complicated thing. Um, but yeah, but anyway, um, but besides that, that's not just, we're going to talk about, about the entire book, about publishing or rather her career before.

[00:03:25] Um, I know she started off as a journalist, so we were talking about her career before she started, um, um, um, um, you know, became a full-time writer and what she's doing now and of course moving forward and like, you know, like with everybody else, I'm also interested in how about, how are they adapting to the post COVID world, you know?

[00:03:42] Oh, in terms of technology? Um, yeah, so, so a lot of cool stuff to look forward to our chat, to you’s towards the end of the episode about, um, The last few, uh, about future, uh, all future episodes and, uh, yeah. Well, it's all important art giveaway. And so stay tuned for that. Um, hope you enjoyed today's episode and I'll chat to you at the end of this. 

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[00:04:29] Wesley Pepper: [00:04:29] Okay, here we go. Uh, Violette, um, let me get your name, right, because I'm not, I've sometimes more and more than often, sometimes pronounce things incorrectly. So it's Violette

[00:04:41] Sohaili, is that right? 

[00:04:44] Violette Sohaili Kee-tui: [00:04:44] Um, so it's, it's, uh, Violette

[00:04:51] problem. It's a common mistake. 

[00:04:54] Wesley Pepper: [00:04:54] Okay. Is the surname a nickname? Is it a surname surname, or is it like a stage name or? 

[00:05:01] Violette Sohaili Kee-tui: [00:05:01] So the Sohaili is my maiden name. And I established myself as a writer, as a journalist with the names. Sohaili now I'm known professionally as , which was my married name. So the book actually is just Violette Kee-tui but on Facebook and other

[00:05:23] Places, because I'm trying to connect with people who knew me before I use Sohaili too, is I know it's a mouthful, 

[00:05:31] Wesley Pepper: [00:05:31] but no it's it's, it's, uh, it's interesting. It is interesting because yeah. Interesting, interesting, interesting. Yeah. So you try to try to connect with your journalists or other people will still read you as a journalist and you're kind of your fan base that you're creating now, right?

[00:05:49] Violette Sohaili Kee-tui: [00:05:49] Right. Yes. Yeah. And especially with Facebook, because I'm trying to connect with high school student, um, high school classmates, um, I've used the full name. Um, and so it's quite a mix of, um, ethnic backgrounds as well. Um, the, so Sohaili my

[00:06:05] Wesley Pepper: [00:06:05] yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Tell me about that. Okay. Okay. 

[00:06:10] Violette Sohaili Kee-tui: [00:06:10] Parents are Iranian by, by birth though.

[00:06:13] I was born in Zimbabwe. And then my ex-husband is half Chinese, so yeah, we got the whole United nations going. 

[00:06:23] Wesley Pepper: [00:06:23] Yeah. Apparently I 

[00:06:25] spudcaster: [00:06:25] like it. 

[00:06:27] Wesley Pepper: [00:06:27] Yeah. You got to go to Asia. You go, wow. Okay. Africa is represented. So that's actually definitely very cool to like, to like, to like kickstart because, um, yeah, man, like you said, like I, from what I understand, you had a long journalist, a long career as a journalist.

[00:06:45] Right. And, um, yes, actually I want to touch base on that, but like since of the first time you are like on the, uh, on, um, on my show, uh, just give my listeners like just a brief thing. You're like, you know where you're from, what you did, did it, how you became a yeah. You know, just a very brief thing on that.

[00:07:05] Uh, yeah, we come what you did. Yeah. That type of thing. Okay. 

[00:07:10] Violette Sohaili Kee-tui: [00:07:10] Great. Well, first of all, thank you so much for having me, and it's a pleasure to be sharing, um, my thoughts and my book with you. I appreciate that. Um, so I'm born in full awares Zimbabwe of Iranian parents. Um, I started as a trainee journalist when I was 18.

[00:07:31] I had plans to go to a media college and the very same day that I got the acceptance, I had the opportunity to train under two extremely experienced editors. So it was just at the time when our government run newspapers were becoming a lot more restrictive. And these two editors, um, wanted to enjoy the freedom that they had of speech and of the media.

[00:07:59] They started their own independent newspaper and, um, they took me on as a trainee. So I was this 18 year old with. Very little experience except a love of writing, working under these two unbelievable editors. No, not early in some Baba, but throughout the region, like fierce editors. Um, so it was kind of a baptism by fire.

[00:08:24] Yeah. They taught me the, the trade incredibly well. Um, I went on from there to work at the national newspaper, the Chronicle, one of them, um, can I start it on the news desk, just for that, you know, to, to tighten my writing and my experience. And then very soon I moved to the features desk because it became clear.

[00:08:47] I wasn't the chase down ambulances type of journalist. I was the one who liked to sit and, and get the stories and, and talk about people and experiences. And I was clearly a feature writer from the beginning of it. I needed that. News writing under deadline to hone my skill. And I appreciate that time. It was, yeah, it was during some quite dicey in our politics.

[00:09:14] So I S I saw a few things which made me quite sure that I wanted to do more in the feature writing side than the political side of things, um, sets my journalism background. I, I carried on most of my adult life as a journalist. I've worked for the Edgar's club magazine, where I was editor for some years.

[00:09:40] I've worked for Zimbabwe sun where I was a lifestyle magazine editor. I've done freelancing, um, pretty much anything that is written word as I've done in my adult life. But it's 

[00:09:55] stupid. 

[00:09:55] spudcaster: [00:09:55] Anyway, 

[00:09:57] Violette Sohaili Kee-tui: [00:09:57] that's the journalism background. 

[00:10:01] spudcaster: [00:10:01] Okay. Okay. Yeah, 

[00:10:03] Wesley Pepper: [00:10:03] yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. And this kind of, let's kind of, let's kind of pause there because there's a few questions I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna touch on the, uh, the first one, the first one is, and this one, I'm sure we're going to need up to this.

[00:10:14] When we talk about the book, uh, when you were saying, um, as a, as a journalist, you were saying about that very interesting times, politically what's happening is, um, so when a Bach was at and water and, you know, what was it specifically that, uh, I would say quite under your skin? 

[00:10:30] Violette Sohaili Kee-tui: [00:10:30] Hmm. So it was the early eighties, uh, too.

[00:10:35] It was the eighties we had, we had the whole ugly, um, part of our history and a great deal of, of military activity in, in my part of the country, which is motivating them. And yes, there was, there was a time when I was the only journalist on duty on a Sunday and had to drive into quite a remote area. And, um, it, it was, it was a frightening time, um, with, with people being killed by the thousands, which numbers were early finding out.

[00:11:18] No. Um, and so, yes, I think it was all a very political and heated time, both in our country and the newspaper became quite a hotbed of, of, um, under, um, sort of under covering political, um, issues and unearthed the scandal while I was there a government scandal. So our newspaper, the Chronicle became really well-known and I remember we used to have to line up.

[00:11:49] Uh, we'll try to get street mobs of people to get to the office every day because people weren't there trying to get a copy of the paper to see what was the new development. So there was a big scandal called the will avail scandal, which came at the same time and our newspaper, there was a government one, the editor stepped out and he exposed it.

[00:12:10] Um, so it was quite an exciting and heady time. I could understand a journalist and to be at the Chronicle. Um, but yeah, as I say, I quickly went on to, um, telling the stories of, of the people rather than the news and the political events I felt impacts could still be made. 

[00:12:29] Wesley Pepper: [00:12:29] That's a, that's a, I actually wanted to lead into that question after that.

[00:12:33] Uh, um, well, you actually answered it by saying that, um, like, you know, if, if lucrative and what, what part of it impacted you the most, if you're talking about the, about that, the people who are, I guess my question is, uh, or other, I think, um, uh, or what type of store is, uh, where you, where you telling where you're telling the political story, or you're telling how the politics are, uh, affecting, uh, the people or, you know, or what, or what side of the story, um, um, um, were you looking at at that day?

[00:13:08] Violette Sohaili Kee-tui: [00:13:08] Um, I was looking more at the, the social impact and, um, which continued today. And I don't think you have to really make a political statement or, or talk at length about the politics to see that. People are struggling in different ways. And, um, the impact from the eighties are still being felt. Um, and as you know, in South Africa, it is, um, it's not an easy road to finding, um, you know, today it's quite ironic cause it's size and Barbara independence day.

[00:13:49] Yeah. And independence is one thing that can be declared, but to feel it into 

[00:13:59] Wesley Pepper: [00:13:59] thing. 

[00:14:00] Violette Sohaili Kee-tui: [00:14:00] Um, and so I, I quickly got put onto a woman's section where I wrote a Wiki women's column and women's programs or yeah. Women's empowerment issues or just the stories about women's courage and sure. And freedoms or lack of freedoms.

[00:14:21] And that led one thing to another. I mean, this, this was some years ago and I probably changed a lot in both my attitude and in, in what I would write about, but those were my early years. 

[00:14:33] spudcaster: [00:14:33] And, um, 

[00:14:35] Wesley Pepper: [00:14:35] um, um, yeah, I, I want to, I want to touch on that because I know as a, um, on this, on this podcast, we talked to a lot of creators, a lot of artists in different fields and so on.

[00:14:43] And like one of the things I know, even in my own, in my own practice is that, um, um, those things that move you specifically in your early twenties, uh, Monday around where you're young as a big impact on the art that you create later on in the year. So from what I can understand those, um, I guess like what, what, what happened over there?

[00:15:01] How you conceptualize that, uh, um, Well, we're kind of, we'll kind of get to that, but like, I, I would assume that like you use some of that for your, um, for Mulberry dreams, is that correct? Or some of the, some of the experiences or 

[00:15:17] Violette Sohaili Kee-tui: [00:15:17] I think more, maybe some of the people that I met. So what I want to stress about the book and, um, hope you will get to read it.

[00:15:26] If it, if it makes any kind of political statement, that's completely what the reader would read into it. It's not, it's written as a, a story about, as a human story. And I'd like to think that it would, to some extent transcend any community and any country, because it's a lot more about the struggles of, of being people in this crazy world when we're taught to be separate, rather than together, whether that sets societal level or political level.

[00:16:02] At the heart of it were just people who are feeling disappointment and hope and love and loss and, um, you know, um, tragedy and celebration. Um, and so it's a very human story, which is set against the backdrop of, um, some things that had an impact politically and in our parts of the world that had huge ratio.

[00:16:27] Yeah. Um, implications. It's not, uh, It's not a political book, it's a human 

[00:16:37] spudcaster: [00:16:37] story, but 

[00:16:39] Violette Sohaili Kee-tui: [00:16:39] politics, politics, they should be about humans. They should be about the individual. They become about something completely different, but politicians and politics should be about the people and not just how they vote, but 

[00:16:57] spudcaster: [00:16:57] are and what their needs, their aspirations.

[00:17:02] Violette Sohaili Kee-tui: [00:17:02] Um, so yes, yeah.

[00:17:07] Finish off my journalistic background. Yes, I then after that stint at the, uh, the local newspaper, the national newspaper, but based in Bulawayo, I went to London and I studied journalism. I just felt that I had the hands-on experience and I now needed the formal qualification. So I did an honors diploma journalism.

[00:17:32] And then came back and worked largely in feature writing from then 

[00:17:37] spudcaster: [00:17:37] on. 

[00:17:38] Wesley Pepper: [00:17:38] Yeah. Okay. Um, in your, um, you consider yourself as a narrative journalist, right. Or when you were a journalist, right. And United saying we're moving to the future. I think, um, what is a narrative journalist? 

[00:17:52] Violette Sohaili Kee-tui: [00:17:52] So it's kind of a made up term because it's a journalist who wants to tell stories and dear friend of mine, um, and mentor Johnny April, um, use that expression.

[00:18:08] And I think it really works because it's far more than a feature writer. What does that say? But a narrative journalist who still sticks to the facts, but tells a story. 

[00:18:20] spudcaster: [00:18:20] That's 

[00:18:20] Violette Sohaili Kee-tui: [00:18:20] that's I'm looking at. So it still has qualities of a, uh, of a narrative with the description of the person setting, but it still hinges on the fact either the person you're interviewing or the place or the project.

[00:18:39] So it's a mix of imagination in terms of describing, but very much factual. 

[00:18:46] spudcaster: [00:18:46] I like that. Uh, yeah, 

[00:18:47] Wesley Pepper: [00:18:47] I can actually see that. I see that. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I can relate to that. Yeah. Story 

[00:18:56] Violette Sohaili Kee-tui: [00:18:56] through the 

[00:18:56] spudcaster: [00:18:56] story. Yeah. Yeah. 

[00:18:57] Wesley Pepper: [00:18:57] And I can see how that gets sort of built up into actually putting together a formal publication, uh, because the stories would stick and so on and so on.

[00:19:06] Yeah, I get that. That's actually quite interesting. So now that we've covered the journalist thing and can end, um, you know, and that we can understand like where, um, The Headspace ease. And now with a description of nitrogen, I can see like what style writing and where you going and so on. So, um, just a, um, just a question on, um, underwriting 

[00:19:24] spudcaster: [00:19:24] as a, uh, as a, as a, uh, 

[00:19:27] Wesley Pepper: [00:19:27] uh, I would say as a profession, I know that from a South African perspective and I know audits, excuse me.

[00:19:33] Yeah. There's a frog in my throat. Yeah, man. It's change of season, you know, anyway, sorry about that.

[00:19:45] I'm just all of a sudden, like, as I'm talking through my throat anyway, sorry man. 

[00:19:50] spudcaster: [00:19:50] Oh, I was gonna 

[00:19:52] Wesley Pepper: [00:19:52] say, like, I know that with artists, um, and yeah, there's actually cuts across all 200 is really, um, You know, as a journalist, you know, I just thought of writing and so on, but still quote unquote full-time work, um, to, to move in as a writer, those are not a major career.

[00:20:08] Those are not like, what I do is I'm going to make X amount of money, X amount of time. And all of that, you become, you become an artist of that because you have

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Wesley Pepper's Art Lexica
This is a show where we talk art and art processes. It's typically an interview format, where we talk to different artists about their journey.

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I'm an indie podcast producer from Johannesburg, South Africa