Miss Kwa Kwa, by Stephen Simm
by Matthew Freemantle
The genius of Borat was that he could get away with directing the most outrageous insults at his interviewees purely by being so preposterous himself. Those being insulted didn't realise it because they didn't take Borat at all seriously. The joke, apparently, was on him. Miss Kwa Kwa is a similarly unsavoury character; a beauty queen from rural Kwa Kwa who travels to the big smoke with dreams of superstardom. She arrives to find it's not quite as she'd imagined; a disastrous debut on television almost sees her dream shattered, but when Miss Kwa Kwa snares the adoration of a high profile politician, he leads her into the world of Johannesburg's elite nightclub, Studio 94. Her career, at appears, is set. But this is not a rags to riches comedy drama; Miss Kwa Kwa is a superbly drawn and utterly despicable character who, not unlike Kazakhstan's intrepid reporter Borat in America, is used by her creator to shine a torch on all the gremlins of contemporary South African society. Simm attacks all the phonies, and does it deftly; because his novel is so funny, one seldom stops to realise that he is, in fact, saying something really quite serious.
Three questions to the author
Q: How did you conjure the character of Miss Kwa Kwa?
A: The stock answer is:
I studied with Makgano Mamabolo, the actress who plays Miss Kwa Kwa,
and she used to do this character - a rural beauty queen who was not very bright but very, very charming. I saw the potential there for satire, so I created a character who is actually as sharp as a panga but uses the 'dumb' thing to get ahead.
That's the stock answer.
The truth is much more sinister.
Q: Would you describe the book as political?
A: Our daily lives are funny and crazy enough without having to go to politics, but if politicians do come up they get grilled - like everything and everyone else in the book. It's what I'd call an equal-opportunity satire.
Q: Will there be a sequel?
A: I'm conjuring as we speak, so my advice would be to read number one, good and sharpish.