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30 Nov

What Stands Between You & The Soft Life? 

The term ‘soft life’ has been immensely topical amongst different circles in recent years. It has not only served as cause for debate amongst social media users, but podcasters have also viewed it as a hot topic worth discussing.

Artists have sung about it and most recently, it has become the term which poet, social anthropologist and author Lebohang Masango has decided to use for her latest book. 

Speaking at her packed book launch which took place on the 29th of November, Masango shared that the term ‘soft life’ should always be open to interpretation. 

“What I love about the soft life is that it can be anything you want it to be. What does the soft life mean for YOU? For some people, it means employment. For others, it means leisure travel, mid-week spa dates and going to a particular restaurant. It really represents many things for many people”.

The book is adopted from her Master’s thesis which she completed at Wits University and is a story that hinges on the lives of five wonderful and driven young women. Lihle, Jolie, Camilla, Nomonde and Bongi are all from different walks of life and are each trying to actualize lives of purpose. 

They openly share their stories, providing an inside look into the pursuit of what they each deem as the soft life. Through their stories, Masango explores the various dynamics and dimensions of the soft life phenomenon, especially the country’s socio-political climate. Overall, it is a work of art which dissects how women in South Africa give meaning to aspiration, romance and love. 

“I try my best to do a little bit of a deep dive into the circumstances that really prohibit a lot of people from realizing whatever the soft life means for them. There’s a lot of talk about the economy and our current social-political climate. I speak a lot about social media as well,” she said. 

At the start of the book, the reader is placed in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. This was an unprecedented time characterized by plenty of loss and global panic. In seeing how each of the women deal with the pandemic, one is able to be grounded in each of their stories and to thoroughly understand them in the pages that follow. 

Accordingly, The Soft Life also touches on the scourge of gender-based violence which engulfs our country. 

“In that chapter, we find that it’s actually not about the relationships which these women are in. Women in South Africa are just in danger, period!”

Being a lover of history, Masango draws a link between the current moral panic and that of the 1800s, as well as the period around 2016 when the words ‘blesser’ and ‘blessee’ were on everybody’s lips. 

“The economy and its state are at the heart of making the project of this democracy. When people are raging against what young black women are doing, we should understand that there is something big happening economically,” she added. 

Opening up about the process behind the pages, she expressed that writing the book was exhausting and difficult. After all, the soft life is not a popular topic in the academic arena that she exists in. The perspective through which she decided to explore the topic is also an unpopular one. 

Moreover, she shared that she viewed the process as an opportunity to re-write, update herself and do something new since her thesis was essentially an examination document. 

Currently a PhD candidate, Masango believes it was important for this piece of work to be shared with society (especially by a young, female and black anthropologist). Hence, she views it as a part of the dignified documenting of the stories of our people. 

“I want someone to read this book hopefully 10, 20 or 30 years from now and be able to see what was concerning us as a people, what young black women were doing, as well as what they were thinking and concerned about,” she shared.

Outside of being an academic, Masango writes relevant and moving feminist poetry. She is also known for her children’s books which include the award-winning Mpumi’s Magic Beads that is available in all 11 of South Africa’s official languages.  

Does The Soft Life signify Masango’s move away from children’s literature? Fortunately not!

“I think my new children’s book is coming out in February. I am committed to writing. If there’s one thing I am going to have done on this earth by the time I die, I would have gotten all the words out,” spoke the author assuredly. 

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