Published by Jacana Media in 2007, O Mandingo! The Only Black at a Dinner Party (by Eric Miyeni) is a wonderful collection of opinions gathered over a three year period on a website known to many. The term “O’Mandingo” means the ones that are called Mandingos. As one may already guess, this book is about black pride. Miyeni analyses racial relations in South Africa after apartheid and all over the world. The topics covered here encompass all the ones we encounter in our daily lives. Movies, work, and service at a restaurant…It is all very relatable and exhaustive.
Some may argue that a book that is centered around making the black man gain the upper hand in every aspect of life is racist and defeats the objective it sets out to achieve. Others will venture that it is unrealistic to expect all people to reach the same plateau of prosperity, wealth and security. I argue that one should read Eric Miyeni’s book first before making that conclusion.
The book is extremely intelligent, to say the least. Although it is outside my genre of choice, I have to admit that it gave my mind the right poke it needed to question the world around me. It is controversial, as Eric Miyeni is a controversial character by nature. It is very confrontational yet in the most hilarious way. Truthfully speaking I cannot think of anybody that would not want to delve into this book for entertainment purposes if not for nothing else.
My personal favorite writing in this collection is entitled “I Did You Wrong”. It is an acknowledgment of the black man to the black woman for having mistreated her because of the heavy hand that dealt him and subdued him. In true Miyeni style, it masquerades as a poem directed to black women to help them see their beauty and their worth after centuries of labeling, hurting and mistreatment, yet transcends all races and ultimately pulls people together. This book is the definition of killing two birds with one stone.
Eric Miyeni is an actor who has appeared in feature films such as Cry, The Beloved Country, Bopha and Dangerous Ground. He is well known for his role in the drama series Molo Fish. He holds a BA Law Degree and is a radio personality, writer and previous columnist for The Sowetan.