Thursday, September 06, 2007

Cion by Zakes Mda - Black man learns to quilt

In my books to read pile is Zakes Mda's new novel, Cion. From the dust jack, Cion, is the story of Toloki, "a professional mourner who for years has traveled around his native South Africa grieving for the deaths of strangers.... [h]e arrives for the first time in the United States in 2004, bewildered by the culture and fascinated by the strange family that takes him in as a guest. Toloki befriends the son, falls in love with the daughter, and learns from their mother a tradition of quilting that links her family to the escaped slaves who first settled the area."

I emailed author Zakes Mda, a professor at Ohio University who learned to quilt while writing this novel. I asked what motivated him to write Cion.

"My discovery of a wonderful community in the village of Kilvert in southeast Ohio, he graciously replied. "The community was founded in the 1830s with the intermarriages of Caucasians (mostly Irish), African slaves who had escaped from the slave-holding states through the Underground Railroad, and the original Native Americans of the area. The community has a strong quilting tradition, and some of its members still keep quilts that were made and owned by their great-great-grandmothers," he shared.

Professor Mda hopes quilters who read his novel "will value this tradition more. Not only are their quilts carriers of memory through their patters and designs, but the whole cycle of life was enacted on the quilts: people were made on these quilts; they were born on these quilts; they got sick on these quilts; and they died on these quilts. Narratives of loves and losses are embedded in the very fabric of the quilts." I can't wait to read Cion! Enjoy!


Karoda said...

Hello Kyra, I'm just over half way through this book and thanks to google I find that you've mentioned it here, which I should have expected :)

Have you read this yet? I tend to write reviews as I go through a book to record my thoughts while reading vs. after I'm finished...I have 2 entries on my book blog about Cion.

I'm very very surprised I've not read or heard of other quilters reading this since it embodies the quilt controversies of tradition vs art quilts and the authenticity of the "slave code quilts".

Karoda said...

meant to provide the link...