December 3, 2016 | by Shafinaaz Hassim
The Pink Oysters

A light bulb hangs between them, a noisy pendulum throwing rays onto the wooden table and its contents. The diamonds glisten in a modest tin can that once housed baked beans.
‘This isn’t all of them,’ the Amir says to the Trader. ‘You promised us full payment when the job is done.’
The Trader leans back in his chair, casting a contemplative eye over the man in front of him.
‘Times are tough. The police are crawling all over the place. We wait to receive more. And then we give you a call,’ he says.
’48 hours,’ the Amir bellows. ‘If I don’t get my diamonds, I come for you.’
The Amir empties the can of diamonds into a velvet pouch, before turning on his heel in a huff, followed by three armed men wearing the insignia of the Gora clan: a clenched fist with a reptiles head emerging from each finger. A screech of tyres signals that they’ve left.
The Trader lifts his tired body from the wooden chair, tilting the table in his clumsiness. The empty can rolls to the floor in resigned farewell as it makes its way into the shadows.
‘Get the car!’ he calls to Siya, who drives him around, makes sure his consignments arrive on time and that his head doesn’t get blown off. Well it has worked in his favour until now. He’s the middleman. And he has to deal with these egotistical crime lords. All in a days work. But a shitty job nonetheless.

It’s almost evening and the drone of traffic can be heard roaring through the city. The old minaret glares at him from the Newtown mosque as they make their way towards the city. Siya herds the car towards Diagonal Street; he double parks outside the old Afghani fruiterer’s kiosk. The Trader exits the car.
‘Old man,’ he calls to the fruiterer. ‘I haven’t seen that useless nephew of yours again this week, where is he?’
‘I haven’t heard from him since last week,’ the old man offers, looking worried.
‘Well you better tell him to come see me or I’ll have his head blown off,’ Trader says, laughing when the old man glares at him. ‘Ja, but a job is a job and he hasn’t done my work. We need money to buy more stock. Clients are getting nervous, find him and tell him to come see me,’ he says.
The old man nods, waving him off with a flick of his hand.
Siya is still double-parked, tugging anxiously at half a cigarette.
‘Let’s get out of here,’ the Trader says as he gets back into the car.

The athaan pierces the cool morning air. Birds scatter over the rooftops of Mayfair’s dishevelled houses, architectural remnants of a colonial past. From my window on the second floor, all I can see is a police van, officials trying to disperse an increasing group of people crowded around an old smoke silver Mercedes Benz, its boot gaping open. I’ve seen this car in the neighbourhood, often stopping to visit at the house across the road. A dodgy, oily-haired fellow emerges now and then, always turns to look around him before he goes into the house, scuttling hurriedly back to his car when he leaves. There’s no sign of him today, just this awkward abandoned car, and many curious people. The sight is enough to let me run the water for my ablution to warm up while I amble across the street to figure out what has happened. I reach the street to see that police have managed to part the crowd. I slither through the new path created in time to see the police photographer flash his camera over a bloodied corpse squeezed into the open boot. I recognise the body: the odd, oily-haired man is unmistakeable. His eyes are open, still looking frightfully ahead even in death. Another athaan echoes this time from the mosque two blocks away, competing for believers’ attention, nagging me to return to my reason for waking so early. The sound of retribution has already reverberated through the new day. I return to my modest rented room; a far cry from our lavish family home in Kabul.

The dead man’s face follows me through my day. By late evening, a knock on the door makes me reach for a torch and the front door keys.  I haven’t eaten; haven’t had a fresh brew of tea since the previous night. Power outages have become common in the winter. There are too many homes suckling off the city’s power grids like ever-hungry babies. I open the door to reveal Mahmood Hassan, a local Somali trader, a man I’ve come to know as my bearer of news and business opportunities. I usher him into the darkened room and leave the door ajar to let the moonlight stream in. The cold is the first to creep steadily into the room. I change my mind and return to shut the door.
‘I brought some tea,’ Mahmood points to a flask.
‘Thanks, man,’ I say. I reach for two mugs from the dish rack. Mahmood is fidgeting with the zipper on his jacket. He seems nervous.
‘So you see what happened in this street this morning,’ he says.
I merely nod. I still don’t know what to make of it. The foreboding fills me.
‘It’s a problem for us,’ he says, intent on turning this into a discussion. I don’t take the bait. Something tells me I don’t really want to know.
‘Irfan, do you know what happened?’ he probes.
‘I saw it. I saw that guy’s body in the boot, it was horrible. Maybe he was screwing some guy’s wife while the man was away at work and he got caught,’ I spill words and shrug. ‘Hectic story, but who cares?’ The foreboding hasn’t left me, though.
‘Ai, Irfan,’ Mahmood snickers. I’ve annoyed him. ‘It’s bigger than you think. Come let’s go see old Fidel, he’s waiting for me. And I’ll tell you the story when we get there.’
‘I haven’t met Fidel in months,’ I say. I’m not complaining. He’s never struck me as the greatest guy on the block. ‘He has work with you, so you go. We can hook up when you’re done.’
‘I didn’t come see you to make nice chit chat,’ Mahmood’s tone changes. ‘Fidel has a big job for us.’
An inward groan escapes my lips. Mahmood shakes his head at me and leaps out the door towards his motorbike, starting up the engine while I grab a jacket and lock the door to my room.
The smell of death lingers around us. The face of the dead pervert accompanies us through the streets to Main Road. The bike comes to a stop outside a barber shop, and I jump off, but Mahmood cuts the engine and climbs the pavement and then walks the bike through a narrow side alley. He rests it against a decaying wall that holds onto bits of a poster from some Bollywood flick. The voluptuous Kareena’s bare midriff and heaving bosom try to replace the dead man’s face in my mind. A loud guffaw breaks the effort. Fidel’s voice echoes from the canteen a few steps away. That same foreboding clenches my gut. Something tells me I’m not going to like this.

I drag my feet and follow Mahmood towards the scattered tables. Fidel is seated at one of them with a suited guest. There’s a plastic jug on his table, laden with some kind of vile looking homemade brew and crowned in a cloud of smoke. Fidel’s men sit at the tables playing card games, turning around now and then to look at new arrivals. Fidel sees Mahmood and motions to the guest at his table to step aside. We approach the cleared space.
‘Mahmood … kay fahaal ya Mahmood,’ he greets. ‘Take a seat, take a seat.’ He’s mockery is evident. Mahmood has done many jobs for him, but let’s just say he’s not an ideal employer. I just take orders from Mahmood and follow suit. But I find my hands pulling out a chair, pre-empting knees that threaten to cave in. A pair of hands lifts me by my arms; one of Fidel’s men, making sure I don’t get too comfy. The seat isn’t offered to me. I know already that I should have stayed away from this joint.
‘Who is this boy?’ an irritated Fidel asks Mahmood, nodding his head in my direction.
‘My man, Irfan.’ he offers. ‘He’ll do our job.’
The bellowing at the table beside us ceases.

‘Ah, good news!’ Fidel passes a toothy smile over me.
I feel like throwing up. I don’t have a clue what this is about.
‘That guy fucked it up. And now he’s a bag of kak in the boot of his car. My car. He didn’t even pay for it,’ he says.
This feeling of throwing up? It’s no longer just a feeling. I need to get out of here. Now. I turn to leave.
‘And what’s this?’ Fidel says.
Two men stop me at the door.
’A smoke break,’ I say.
Mahmood looks like he’s going to kill me.
‘You sure he can do this?’ Fidel asks him.
‘Tomorrow night. Consider it done,’ Mahmood says. His eyes haven’t left my face. He gets up and pushes me towards the bike. I don’t see Fidel’s face again.
‘We need this job. You don’t ask questions. I done many things for you. And only you can do this, you look like your Indian brothers. Paki what-what,’ he mutters.
‘I’m not Indian or Pakistani,’ I say, annoyed. ‘So at least tell me what this is all about? And why was he talking about that dead guy?’
We’re walking the bike to Fordsburg now. Not riding it. Just making our way along the pavements. The smell of Tandoori chicken, paan masala and ganja filters in spirals through the crisp air.
‘Don’t give me excuses, you know what I’m saying,’ he reprimands.
‘He just wants us to finish the job that stupid Faisal was supposed to, before he got killed … Deliver a parcel. Return with the money. Simple. Not something you haven’t done before. And you’ll fit into the crowd with your clean Paki face. No one will suspect a thing.’
We stop at the corner of Mint road and Central.
‘What parcel? How much money?’ I dare to ask. I’m wasting my time. He doesn’t usually give me details. Cars are whizzing by but I manage to catch his words, somehow.
‘Diamonds. 50 million rand.’


I don’t have to ask more questions. Our cut will be huge. Bigger than anything we’ve done before. And enough to keep us happy for a few months. Mahmood briefs me on what I need to do when we get back to my place.

While he takes a call on his mobile, I creep into my bedroom and look for the old wedding suit. The one I bought before she left. Before it all fell apart.

‘That won’t do,’ he says standing in the doorway.


The next morning, he has a brand new suit delivered to me. Salman brings it over.

‘Mahmood says you’re going for a job interview and you need it,’ he says, his idiot grin plastered on his face.

‘Eh, yeah.’ I say, retrieving the suit and slamming the door in his face. Today isn’t a day for idle talk. I know what I have to do.


By evening I’m sliding across town in the back of a hired private cab to attend the wedding of some Indian industrialist’s daughter at the Sandton Convention Centre. I’d had a shave and slicked my hair back the way they did in those mafia movies I watched on DVD. I’ve always wanted to do that. But then I changed my mind at the last minute as I left the house. I don’t want to attract too much attention; just have to get the job done. My clean ‘office boy’ look will have to do.

It doesn’t help that as I make my way up the elevators to the main hall, women who look like shimmering mermaids glance in my direction. The idea was to leave there unrecognised. The weight in my left jacket pocket echoes my heartbeats. Steady. Deep breath. Focus.

I slip into the reception area trying to figure out how to find my guy. Signals. Something. More glances from these writhing, shiny creatures.

A short bald man in a white suit approaches me. He has far too many rings on his hands, clutching a glass of something sparkling.

‘Areh, Kamal, your mother would be so proud, look how you’ve grown, beta!’ he slobbers over me, hugging and patting me on the back.

‘Eh, uncle, I’m sorry. You must be mistaken …’ I mumble.

‘No, no I’m quite sure Sarita would have been so proud. Super proud, my boy!’ he raises his voice, and then lowers it. ‘It breaks my heart, you know. She was so young, so lovely, so very, very young,’ he laments, shaking his head, looking tormented.

No. I don’t know. I glance around nervously, looking for a sign, a rescue. Something.

He continues to pat and prod, shuffling me towards a table laden with cakes and other beleaguered carbohydrates. I let myself drift along for a while, still searching the hall, trying to familiarise myself amidst the festive glare of flashing photographers’ lights and smiling faces.

A muffled screech of ecstasy from a pink-shrouded shrimp of a woman and my gushing friend is off, leaving me standing beside lengths of cake and mithais, biscuits, baklava and fondant. A waiter appears with a tray of samoosa and pakora.

‘Do you have oyster, instead?’ I test.

‘Eh, no sir,’ he stutters. ‘Only pakora.’ But he doesn’t offer his plate as he says this, eyes shifty, he disappears out of sight towards what must be the kitchens or serving area.

Almost immediately, another waiter appears.

‘If it’s oysters that you prefer, they are served on the balcony, sir.’ He motions for me to follow him. Password accepted. This is my cue.

Once I’ve stepped out onto the terrace, he vanishes behind me.

Strong hands grab my upper arms, lifting me slightly off the ground and into the shadows.

I’m patted for weapons and shoved back on my feet.

My heart stops. Something doesn’t feel right. I pat my pockets to confirm. They’re gone! The bag of diamonds is gone.

‘Looking for this, young man?’ the man in the white suit steps into view, holding my bag of goods.

I’m confused. And potentially fucked.

‘Thanks for the delivery,’ he says. He throws a set of keys at me. My early days of playing cricket in the streets of Kabul, come in handy; I’m holding the keys to a Toyota.

‘Car is in the back. Payment in the boot. Enjoy your dinner before you go. Just don’t leave it out there too long, as you know Johannesburg isn’t too safe as a safe.’ He chuckles now. ‘Get it? Safe for a safe!’

The two guys behind me also burst into laughter.

I’m not getting the lame joke. I make a retreat. There’s no way I can check the loot or ask. I’m doing a delivery, picking up the payment. How the hell should I know if 50 million can fit into the boot of a Toyota?

I’m not hungry. I just want to get out of here. I find the Toyota parked where they say it will be. I click the key remote to confirm it’s the right one. A car guard approaches me. I throw the only five bucks I have at him and drive away.

I don’t know where else to go, so I drive to Rafi’s place in town. I use my old key to draw open the roller shutters and pull the car in. Rafi is asleep upstairs. He has no idea what I’ve done. I return to the car and click open the boot. A sea of tightly packed wads of R200 notes greets me.

I’ve never seen so much money in my life. I don’t think I ever will.

I guess this must be what 50 million rand in pink notes looks like. The Pink Oysters, as Mahmood said.

When I awake for the early morning prayers, Rafi is standing over me nodding his head. ‘Where have you been? Did you get a job?’ he asks, every bit a reminder to me of my mother, his youngest sister. I’d come to South Africa on his request. Things would be better here, he’d said. He didn’t say that a University of Kabul degree in Philosophy would mean nothing. Except as a tool to console myself, perhaps, as Socrates once said.

‘Yes, baba. I have a job. You know. I told you. I work with Mahmood, the Somali guy.’

‘And this car?’ he asks.

‘Just a delivery for a client,’ I say.

He creases eye-brows but says nothing. He turns and walks away.

I remember Mahmood and dial his number from my mobile.

‘Ha, who’s this?’ the line is bad but I can tell that it isn’t Mahmood.

‘Salman?’ I enquire.

‘Yes, Irfan bhai,’ he confirms. And then he goes silent.

‘Where’s Mahmood? Why do you answer his phone, useless idiot, give him the phone!’ I’m agitated.

There’s silence. But the seconds are still ticking on my end; he hasn’t cut the call. Stupid boy. Why does he have Mahmood’s phone? No one touches Mahmood’s phone.

‘Mahmood is dead,’ he finally says.

‘Huh? What shit are you talking?’ I manage to blurt, my head buzzing.

‘I found him dead in his room last night. I don’t know what happened, bhai,’ he says slowly.

The line goes dead.

My heart races. Mahmood, dead? Who killed him? Fidel? Or the same guys who killed the oily-haired guy? I could be next. I have Fidel’s money. And I don’t know what to do with it.

Rafi’s linen and towels are stored in a cupboard in the garage. I retrieve two bed sheets and pull them over the car. And then I flatten some of the cardboard boxes from Rafi’s fruit shop and use them to cover the car. I’ve locked it. The set of keys feel like a rock in my pants pockets. I don’t think it’s safe to go home right now.

I take a walk into the city.


I return at noon after walking around aimlessly. Thinking.

Rafi is surrounded by customers. Afghan Fruit Shop. His pride and joy for the past fifteen years, in this land of opportunity. I used to work here when I first arrived. He gave me R200 a week. The shop earned him about R14000 a month after expenses. An honest living, he said.

I slip into the garage where I’d attempted to hide the car and slide to the floor next to it.

I’m not sure when it is that I fall asleep but I awake to the sound of Rafi talking to someone at the top of his voice.

I realise: the Pink Oysters are attracting flies.

‘I don’t know where the boy is,’ he says. ‘If he did the job, he must be at home now.’

‘If he hasn’t done the job, he better be dead!’ the man screams back. I recognise the voice as Fidel’s. But how does he know Rafi is related to me? How does he know where to find me?

A shiver extends through my back. The spasm makes me gasp. I peek through the gap in the wooden door between the garage and the front of my uncle Rafi’s little kiosk.

‘That Mahmood tried to double cross me. Just like Faisal, I had him finished off. You better tell that boy of yours, Salman will come after him too,’ Fidel bellows. He raises his hand to motion for his car, and then leaves in a huff.

Rafi remains still. I watch him as he slowly turns around to look for a towel, pulls up a plastic chair and sits down to wipe and cover his face in the towel.

My legs deceive me. I cannot lift myself to go to him.

What have I done?

I don’t even know.

And Salman the idiot? Who would’ve known he was one of Fidel’s dogs, spying on us, especially on Mahmood. Who would’ve thought he was waiting to slice our throats at the mere hint of deception, or a sign from his master?

And now, here in Rafi’s measly store-room garage in the middle of town, I have a car with 50 million in the boot. And I don’t know what to do with it. I don’t know how to guarantee that they won’t just come back and kill me and Rafi once they have their money.


I cannot face Rafi like this. Not yet. Not unless I have answers. I wait on the floor of the garage until the place goes still, and then the city quietens down. And then I go back to my rented room in Mayfair when the moon has given up on lighting the city.

The walk is treacherous, I realise. Any of Fidel’s men could be lurking about. But I can’t use a car full of hard cash. The Pink Oysters.

When I get to my place, the lock on the door is broken, the street light throws beams through the opening. My one bad couch is slashed, spilling fluff where the fabric has been split. Dishes have been broken, my clothes and things strewn all over the place. I always carry my passport and papers with me. But the money I keep in a small plastic bag under the kitchen sink is gone. All gone. Even if Fidel’s men have been here, I know that it’s been a free for all ever since, now that the door has been broken open.


I open the little cupboard under the bathroom sink and find a small roll of money where I’d last left it, wrapped in a toilet paper roll. My last R2000. Some relief: I’m not totally done for. A cat screeches as it flashes past me. I return to the small front room. The silhouette of a short man in the doorway is unmistakeable. Salman. He flashes a grin at me.

‘I’ve been looking for you, Irfan bhai,’ he says.

I wonder if he knows that I know he killed Mahmood.

‘How are you, Salman?’ I reply with more caution than usual.

‘So sad about Mahmood, bhai,’ he says. ‘I really miss him. You must be missing him, too.’

I notice that his grammar has improved somewhat. He doesn’t read books as I do. At least I thought not. But he made out to be a bigger idiot than I imagined. A cold-blooded killer. That’s what he really was.

‘It’s sad,’ I say. ‘Do you know why they killed him?’ I pick my words carefully. ‘What was his mistake?’

Salman is silent. He doesn’t have a response. Now he doubts whether I know. I’m not sure if this annoys him. It’s the first time he has a sense of power and I refuse to acknowledge him as the killer. Either way, I don’t know how to read this man.

Salman laughs. He can’t stop himself now. I stop picking things off the floor and stand up to look at him.

‘So you really don’t know,’ he says.

Another silhouette appears behind him. He barely glances back.

‘Irfan bhai, come. The Trader is waiting for us.’

I don’t have a choice in the matter. He steps back as two men enter the room and usher me to a car parked outside. I’m made to sit between them on the backseat as we make our way through the darkened streets of Mayfair. Salman is seated in front, muttering into his phone and giving instructions to Siya, the driver of the car. We stop outside a rundown building on the edge of Fordsburg. I am dragged out and we make our way inside, taking a lift to the 3rd floor.

Two raps on the door of 308 and we step inside across the creaking floorboards to face Fidel. The Trader.

‘So you found him,’ Fidel says.

‘Where’s my money?’ he asks. He lifts himself off the chair he’s been sitting in and walks towards me. ‘Did you do the delivery, eh?’ he slaps me before I can answer. I’m knocked off my feet. His men lift me up.

‘So, you and Mahmood think you’re clever? You want to take the money and go?’

I have no idea what he’s talking about. I knew Mahmood. He would have been happy with the cut from the deal – 1% – one was his lucky number. And Mahmood was no idiot.

‘Mahmood didn’t want the money,’ I say. I’m his only defence. I have to say something.

Fidel laughs. A long menacing bellow emerges from his ugly face. The stench in this room makes me sick. I throw up all over the patch of wooden floor at my feet.

‘Ag, clean him up.’ He flicks his hand in disgust.

Salman grabs a bottle of water and throws water over my face and head. My shoes are drenched in my own vomit.

‘I want my money,’ Fidel says. ‘You take me to it, or I kill that old man. His time is almost up anyway, and we like doing favours for friends, eh Salman?’ he says. A big smirk stretches his mouth.

I’m ushered back to the car, and I mutter something about going back to town.

‘Details, boy!’ Fidel bellows. This time Fidel is sitting in the front with Siya and Salman has replaced one of the bodyguards on the backseat next to me.

‘The car is in town. My uncle doesn’t know,’ I say. ‘I’ve parked it away at the back of his place. Fidel, you can have your money, I did what I was told. But please don’t hurt Rafi. He’s a good man.’

Fidel doesn’t say anything, but turns to look at me. Is that a flicker of compassion I see? I don’t know. We’re already parked outside the fruit shop. It’s almost 3am. The streets will remain deserted until the early crack of dawn when the mish mash of foreign Muslim traders wake for prayers. I turn the key in the garage door beside the roller shutter for the little fruit shop and we make our way inside. The sheets have been moved aside, and the glint of the Toyota’s surface is evident. Fidel takes the key from me and opens the boot.

‘Nothing!’ he gasps. ‘You lying bastard!’ he shrieks.

I reach his side to stare into the empty boot of the car. The Pink Oysters are gone.

‘It was all there,’ I whisper. The tip of a blade fills me with dread; I hold my breath. Salman has a knife to my back.

‘Liar!’ Fidel shouts.

I hear a creak from the side door that leads to the shop. The last thing I need is Rafi coming in here. They’ll kill him. I shouldn’t have brought them here. They’re going to kill us anyway.

The door swings open. An unfamiliar man walks through the entrance, followed by someone who looks like a younger version of Mahmood. The resemblance is striking; I can’t stop staring at him.

‘Fidel, my old friend,’ the older man says.

‘Bilal Hassan,’ Fidel says in acknowledgment.

I had no idea that Mahmood had brothers. These look like they might be. But my brain is fried. I could be hallucinating for all I know.

And then two more men enter the space. They move to check each of us for weapons. Even Salman is easily relieved of his. He makes no attempt to resist.

And finally, uncle Rafi enters the garage. He doesn’t look at me.

‘Fidel,’ he says. ‘You’ve finally delivered.’

Fidel looks confused. ‘The Pink Oysters were for the Gora,’ he says. ‘If they don’t get their money, they’ll kill all of us.’

‘The money is in the right hands,’ Rafi says.

My shock registers. What does Rafi have to do with this?

‘It will help our people. My people and your people,’ Bilal Hassan explains. ‘If the Amir and his goons get it, they will buy more guns and send them across to their soldiers.’

‘It was a deal. Mahmood messed it all up,’ Fidel begins.

‘Ah, you didn’t understand,’ Rafi says. ‘The diamonds were brought from Angola to help the migrant community. Survival is difficult in this country. We wanted to help them. But you didn’t understand. You were greedy, Fidel.’

‘But now, you and this Salman; you must pay for Mahmood Hassan’s death,’ Bilal says. Amir will take care of you. That is your fate.’

Hassan’s men are ushering Fidel and company out of the garage now, and back to their car. I can’t make out what The Trader is muttering all this time. I’m in a daze.

Finally, Rafi turns to look at me. ‘You did good. And we lost a good man. But it is time for you to leave this country. Your work here is done. You will move on with Said Hassan, Mahmood’s youngest brother. We have work for you in the North.’

He looks at Bilal, the oldest of the Hassan brothers. Bilal nods in agreement. The decision is final.

‘The buildings go on auction tomorrow,’ Bilal Hassan says to Rafi. ‘Our man informs us, we will have the residential buildings we want lined up for us. And soon our people can move into their new homes.’

The crackle of athaan can be heard in the distance signalling a new day.


[This is the original unedited 5000 word short story that made the winning list of stories for UNESCO and Hay Festival’s top 39 in Africa. A shorter version edited to 3500 words was published in the Africa39 anthology by Bloomsbury UK in 2014. Sole/full author copyright has resumed since November 2016]


‘Shafinaaz Hassim’s The Pink Oysters reminds the seasoned reader of Robert Ludlum’s spy thrillers with its dangerous twists and turns. This mafia-type story is fresh, believable and almost breath-taking; the reader will wish it was a full novel at the end.’ – T.J. Benson, SANKOFAMAG

Africa39 opens with its star turn but in no way does it peak too soon. The Pink Oysters by Shafinaaz Hassim is a thrilling but sordid corpse-and-diamonds caper featuring Afghan émigrés and Somali traders running wild in Johannesburg’s Muslim quarter. Ukamaka Olisakwe’s This Is How I Remember it is a clear-eyed account of a girl’s romantic awakening in Nigeria, which traverses adolescent peer pressure, cruelty and confusion before culminating in deep longing and the deceptive promise of reciprocated love.

Both these stories are emblematic of many others here in that they are carefully constructed but at the same time feel tightly compressed. They have potential to unfurl and expand and unload more narrative riches, but are prevented from doing so, presumably because their hamstrung authors were forced to meet a set word count. However, griping that a story is so good it leaves us wanting more is not real griping – indeed, it is the kindest criticism a writer can get. If the stronger ones here are capable of so much in such little space, then think what they will be like with freer rein to produce longer, more sustained pieces.’ – Malcolm Forbes, The National, Oct 2014



Shafinaaz Hassim is a sociologist based in Johannesburg. She is the author of 'Daughters are Diamonds: Honour, Shame & Seclusion -- A South African Perspective' (2007), 'Memoirs for Kimya' (2009), and the critically acclaimed novel on domestic violence 'SoPhia' (2012). Her work has been shortlisted for the University of Johannesburg Creative Writing Prize and the prestigious K Sello Duiker Award 2013, and she has been awarded in Hay Festival's category of top 39 authors under the age of 40 in Africa during the London Book Fair 2014. She is also the editor of the Belly of Fire anthologies for social change series, which was launched in 2011. Her research focuses on biographical narrative in the interplay between personal and political spaces and she writes both fiction and non-fiction. She has lectured and presented seminars at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, Humboldt University in Berlin and at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

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About Shafinaaz

Shafinaaz Hassim is a sociologist based in Johannesburg. She is the author of Daughters are Diamonds: Honour, Shame & Seclusion -- A South African Perspective (2007), Memoirs for Kimya (2009), and the critically acclaimed novel on domestic violence SoPhia (2012). She is also the editor of the Belly of Fire anthologies for social change series, which was launched in 2011. Her research focuses on biographical narrative in the interplay between personal and political spaces and she writes both fiction and non-fiction. She has lectured and presented seminars at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, Humboldt University in Berlin and at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

My Books

The Garden of Love and Longing (2017)

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Nisa Qamar and the Master of Jinniaville (2016)

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My Social Profiles
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