As a teenager Fred Khumalo greeted his friends with a handshake and the words ‘touch my blood’. It implied friendship and trust. The saying became his name. More than that, it became the way he viewed his world.
Everything touched Fred Khumalo. Twice he was bewitched. Twice his father – the ‘moegoe’, the ‘country bumpkin’ – took him to inyangas to have the ‘demons’ banished. Twice his mother – the ‘city girl’ – took him to a doctor to have the ‘fevers’ cured.
When the American Dudes became the fashion, Khumalo dressed up in outlandish style and strutted the streets. ‘You had to be brave to be seen in the outfits that we wore. Green, yellow, maroon, powder blue. Outrageous stuff, garish stuff, bright stuff. Earth, Wind and Fire stuff. Michael Jackson (pre-nose job) stuff.
He smoked dagga with con men and criminals, he pickpocketed ‘corpses’ on the Friday night trains. He worked as a gardener in the larney suburbs and drooled over pornographic photographs with his baas’s son. He studied journalism and shacked up with whiteys in a commune called the Snake Park, for a while the only darkie in a crazy swirl of booze and drugs and sex.
And then the bloody fighting that tore apart KwaZulu/Natal in the 1980s touched his life. Sucked him into a place of horror and violence that threatened to destroy him. When a friend died in his arms with the words ‘They really got me, Touch My Blood. They really got me,’ Khumalo realised that if he was to outlive the madness he had to run.
From the journalist and Sunday Times columnist comes a startlingly honest, humorous and poignant autobiography about growing up in a time of laughter and heartache. Fred Khumalo was Insight & Opinion Editor at the Sunday Times , where he also wrote a weekly socio-political column. He has published numerous short stories in literary journals and magazines, including Staffrider , Tribute , Drum and Pace . This was his first book. He is married and lives in Johannesburg.
Fred Khumalo has been described as a ‘reluctant Zulu’, ‘clever black’ and an ‘equal opportunity offender’. He completed his MA in creative writing from Wits University with distinction and is the recipient of a Nieman Fellowship from Harvard University.
His writing has appeared in various publications, including the Sunday Times, the Toronto Star, New African magazine, the Sowetan and Isolezwe. In 2008, he hosted Encounters, a public-debate television programme, on SABC 2. His books includeBitches Brew, Seven Steps to Heaven and Touch My Blood.