Friday, 8 July 2016


Unfolding the Documentary

A Novel by Matshidiso P Taleng

First edition published in 2016

Review by Ishmael Mzwandile Soqaga

“Internal darkness was a place of comfort, the only way I could connect with the spirits of all the fallen angels, I loved the darkness that turned me heartless.

Until the Lord brought me a mic to speak my mind and stand on his right, now I stand firm beside him and refuse to indulge in the things that turned me away from the light”

Tshepang, a talented, beautiful young girl, while at school was a fine looking young girl.  But she finds herself immersed in something that nearly ruined her precious life.  She was deeply fond of poetry. ‘Unfolding the Documentary” a novel-the work of fiction by Matshidiso Taleng is very good - many might even dub it a masterpiece.  The first time I read the book I was totally engrossed from the inception.  Chapter one from the book begins by making the reader to desire to read the book incessantly.

“Tshepang, are you trying to break down my door?  And why are you crying, are you okay?”  Palesa asked.  Tshepang let herself in and sat on the couch as she gave Palesa the letter, “Tell me, that’s not you?” she said to Palesa.  Palesa slowly sat on top of the table staring at the letter she wrote 20 years ago with her signature at the bottom.

“Unfolding the Documentary” is a work of fiction highlighting some of the serious social problems that are currently prevalent in our communities.  Child abuse, women abuse, peer pressure and family issues feature prominently in this book.  When Tshepang was in school, she was feeble-minded.  Her friend Vinolia introduced her to a terrible moonshine lifestyle.  When her mother tried to forewarn her about being embroiled with Vinolia, Tshepang opted to be haughty.  Alas! such behaviour caused her to commit unpalatable mistakes.  She was introduced to smoking, sexual relationship and suddenly she became disobedient to her parents.   In her first relationship with her boyfriend “Fire” his real name Konelo the notorious leader of the gangster crew, eventually she was emotionally debilitated.  Beforehand, she approached her mother Dudu with the intention of seeking her opinion concerning sex.  Despite her mother's advice, subsequently she ends up having sexual intercourse with Konelo.  Initially she was not sure by the time she was having sex with Konelo.  Nevertheless, this continued until she discovered that she was pregnant.  Abruptly, Konelo told her to have an abortion.  She was 16 years old by the time she did abortion.  Her handsome boyfriend apart from the fact that he gave her money to see the doctor he did not offer her any further support. At the time of her appointment to do abortion, nobody accompanied her.  She was downcast, firstly by her boyfriend and secondly by her best friend Vinolia.  She was hurt and further upset when she found that Vinolia was engaging in sex together with Konelo and Vinolia's boyfriend “Sticks” at the same time; and that Konelo was a married man.

Tshepang was living with Dudu her mother and Tebogo her father.  Suddenly after she realised she committed those silly mistakes she went to her mother and explained everything to her.  Her mother understood and the following year she found her another new school.  In her new school she encountered with bullying from another pupils especially boys.  Apparently, Lesego was popular with bullying.  But the new environment became fruitful to Tshepang.  She became fervent with reading in the library and actively participated in poetry.  Usually poetry became her interesting activity.  Enchanting people appeared to her life.  The librarian Palesa and her fellow pupil in school Fezile who later became her boyfriend began to be intimate.  The trios were great bards however Palesa was greatly fascinating.  

In actual fact Tshepang is the adopted child by Dudu and Tebogo.  Dudu is a barren married woman. Tshepang in her teen she experienced some of the abysmal difficulties of life.  Her appearance in the book starts with the first chapter and from chapter nine to chapter thirteen the writer mentions her several times.  Her family was solaced and bosom to her.  Always when they were with her they remained closely together despite their marriage problems.  Tshepang could not recogniz or having suspicions concerning her adoption.  She grew up being treated fairly and with care and when she committed mistakes she was disciplined.  Notwithstanding, sometimes Duduand Tebogo were having different views.  Tebogo was convinced that the time was now right for her (Tshepang) to know the truth, albeit in contrary Dudu thought differently.  Her concern was that, by revealing the truth to her especially when she’s still in school would obviously affect her.  She believed the right time will be “when she completed her studies”.  

The marriage of the two wasn’t good at all.   Initially, the problem started when Dudu sister commenced to stay with them.  Tebogo enjoyed being with Kekeletso more than his wife.  The situation in her marriage made her to cogitate about the two.  What really was her sister doing?  What did her husband think about her?  She immediately becomes forlorn, her husband forgets about special days which they used to spent together.

It is to the author's credit that the characters come to life and the narrative is flowing; for example: 
“Tebogo leaving without saying anything this morning and Keke not texting back was because it was all part of the surprise, she smiled alone and went to the bathroom, ran a bubble bath, played their list of favourite songs that were played at their wedding, poured herself some bubbly and relaxed in the path while patiently waiting for her husband to come and join her.  Tebogo came in with Keke, they were all over each other like a bad rash.  Keke stopped kissing him for a moment and asked him what if Dudu was still in the house.  “Since it’s our anniversary, she’s probably waiting for me at our usual restaurant, I’m sure she was already there when she called, you know how dull she can get,“ he continued kissing her.  “Okay, why don’t you call her and just make sure that she’s there, I don’t want to get caught,“ she said.
“Nobody’s going to get caught, relax, she’s there I’m telling you, well okay, let me take a bath first and then I’ll call her, how’s that?” he asked.  “As long as you let me come wash your back,“ she said.  “You just read my mind,“ he said, while kissing her and pushing her towards the bathroom where Dudu was, neglecting the decorations of Dudu and Tebogo’s wedding pictures on the wall, the sweet aroma of the food she just cooked, with the table nicely set, some nice soft music, candles leading to the bathroom and red roses leading to their bedroom, everything was just perfect if only he had noticed. 

“What the hell is this?”  Dudu asked with rage all over her face...

Tshepang grew up in such situation but she never noticed division in her parents.  When she grew up Keke was already deceased together with her baby.  She died a tragic death by the time she gave birth to a baby boy.  However, things became aggravated when Tshepang became curious about the brown envelop that was placed together with her childhood photo album in her parents’ bedroom.  Tshepang boyfriend was in the house on that day and Tshepang mother wanted Fezile to see photos of baby Tshepang.  “As  she got to her parent’s bedroom and pulled out the album that was between blankets in the closet, a brown, old looking envelope fell to the ground, she picked it up and looked at it, it didn’t say who it was going to so she opened it, it was a letter written by hand, she sat down and read it, her heart was pounding from what she was reading, she quickly got up and went to her room, took Palesa’s poetry book and went back to her parent’s bedroom, took the letter again, opened Palesa’s book, she realised that every Poem of Palesa had her signature at the end, which matched the signature in the letter, she was certain that it was her writing.  She got out of that room and went to the lounge.
“What is this?” she asked.  Dudu and Tebogo looked at each other and didn’t say anything.  “Are you going to answer me or do you want me to ask you again?”  

The reason why Tshepang reacted insolently when she knocked at Palesa's house so loudly it was because she wanted to know the truth about the letter she got from the brown old looking envelop.  She found that Palesa was her real mother.  Palesa wrote this letter after she gave birth to her.

So after giving birth and thinking all of those things, my decision became even more firm because now I realised that my situation was never going to change.  I started thinking how was I going to explained to my child that her grandfather is also her father or how my mother hated me so much that she let me get raped right in front of her eyes, so I signed the adoption papers without my family’s concern, after all nobody was there when I gave birth, my dad just drove me to the hospital and said he was coming, so after I had signed the papers I asked the social worker to give me a pen and paper, then I wrote a letter to my baby and asked for the social worker to tell the adoptive parents to give that letter to the baby once she was old enough to understand what was written in there, I told her that it was okay for them to read it if they wanted to.  Then I signed the letter at the bottom and gave it to the social worker, got  out of that hospital as quickly as I could and never went back home or anywhere near it, I didn’t want to see that house ever again.

Palesa since her young age, she suffered a lot at the hand of her inhumane- relentless father.  She was nine when her father started to abuse her sexually.  When her mother died her father was having sex with her.  She was ignored by her aunt when she reported the situation to her.  Her aunt just felt sympathetic, but that was bogus, hardly genuine as she completely failed to intercede.  She grew up helpless, vulnerable and exasperated. Hapless, in school or among the neighbours nobody ever recognised the signs of sexual abuse in her.  Scandalously, her mother gave her feeble response when she asked her why she allowed this to happen to her.  Palesa was crestfallen to learn that her father prefers to sleep with her just because he suspected that his wife was cheating on him and he was afraid of being infected with HIV/AIDS.  However, it is surprising to understand that both parents died with Aids. 

The novel “Unfolding the Documentary” by Matshidiso is very alluring to read.  She continues to demonstrate that she is sensational, sapient writer.  Considering her young age one would appreciate her sedulous efforts to produce such exhilarating work of fiction, certainly she deserves to be commended.  She constructed the novel very well.  The characters are impressively vivid, including the plot which is coherently glamorous and phenomenal.   Definitely, the spellbound novel it is the work that will dramatically inspire and instill confidence among the Africans.  Consequential,the success of the book is the clear testimony that African continent will continue to produce wonderful writers that are effervescent. It is completely resplendent to see young female writers of the calibre of Matshidiso contribute such dazzling literary material that intends to underpin quintessential literature. MatshidisoTaleng is one of those writers who contribute ardently to burgeoning African literature.  Her novel is a work of hope and inspiration.  It evokes extraordinary moment when African literature used to be intriguing.   

In this wise, one can reminisce about Miriam Tlali the first African female writer to write a novel in South Africa.  Miriam Tlali would recall “Ultimately (my) book was published, after six full years of rejection by all the publishing houses in South Africa, of course all being white.  The publishers did not approve of the title of the book, Between Two Worlds, because I was shifting from one world to the other in my work, and they felt the title would offend the censors-they would immediately pounce upon it!  When it came out it was “innocent” title of Muriel at Metropolitan.  First they said: “Let’s call it Miriam at Metropolitan but because I did not like it, it was changed to Muriel at Metropolitan.

To an extent, Matshidiso’s colourful style of writing can be closely alike with the late Yvonne Vera.  Likewise Matshidiso in her deluxe novel she never budges in expressing issues that are connected with sexual abuse experiences by children, unfaithful marriage life, adolescent lifestyle etc.  Vera work is intimately concerned with the politics of the female body, in relation to such traumatising experiences as infanticide, rape and abortion. 

Many outstanding female African writers have done fantastic things in the world of letters.  Bessie Head, Flora Nwapa, Buchi Emecheta, Mariama Ba, Yvonne Vera, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, NoViolet Bulawayo, Taiye Selasi, Toni Morrisson etc are awesome women of African literature.  I am totally chuffed by Matshidiso's novel “Unfolding the Documentary”.  I hope she will consider writing another series or part two of “Unfolding the Documentary”.  MatshidisoTaleng is a sensational young vivacious female writer who continues to contribute immensely to literature.  

The author's first poetry book “Secrets” which is an anthology of poems, has been acclaimed by literary pundits as one of extraordinary book of poems that will continue to be recognized as splendid.  Moreover, her newly novel will remain one of her great achievements in the world of letters.  The book is graphically prodigious. With her incredible zeal, she immaculately expresses things that are happening in today’s world.  Sexual child abuse, unsafe sex among the teenagers, marriage problems, friendship and so on. 


  1. Great review by Mr Soqaga and take us through in the newly book of one of the fine writer Matshidiso. Reading the review of "Unfolding the Documentary", I believe the young girls and boys will open their eyes and families will come together and support each other regarding the serial trend that is going on nowadays in our communities. Great book indeed.

  2. Highly talented writer, Ms Taleng. Her ideas flow like quintessential honey!