‘It’s taken me such a long time to write this report, which was meant to cover two areas, one, the possibility that we, as a Movement, might have been remiss in our treatment of people incarcerated in our camps – especially in Sector 37 – and two, if we could start a process to locate the graves where our young men and women might be buried on foreign soil … I have to make a plea for understanding. We have all been thrust into a world of violence, a maelstrom that is very difficult to make sense of, to people who were not born into it; here, then – and my own religious background dictates it – I have had to reach deep to understand the dialectic of good and evil in the context of our struggle.’ – From The Texture of Shadows
The Texture of Shadows is set at the turn of the decade 1989–90, a highpoint of hope in South Africa’s political history. The nation is abuzz with rumours of Nelson Mandela’s imminent release, the dismantling of guerrilla camps by the African National Congress and the possibility of a realistic peace process. The central plot concerns the return of a band of exiled Umkhonto we Sizwe soldiers to South Africa in 1989. Their expectation after years of training and fighting in Angola is to find a changed and improved society, one which they were instrumental in bringing about. They have been ordered to carry and deliver a sealed trunk to an unspecified destination in South Africa and it soon becomes evident that this trunk makes them a target. A number of different parties set out to separate the men from the trunk and its mysterious contents. The novel recognises the hopefulness of the time, but focuses on the violence. Langa’s characters are hardened guerrilla fighters, corrupt police officers, ex-political prisoners and the victims of abuse by a system of taboos, bannings and beatings. There are cracks in this steel-edged world that love, beauty, poetry and dance are allowed to fill, but only briefly and often with little lasting effect.