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An Interview with Author Mhlengi Skeelo Khumalo

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Mhlengi Skeelo ‘Melchizedek’ Khumalo has a lot of creative alter egos. He is a proud South African, the soon-to-be husband of his beloved Morgan, the dad of Destiny and Luzel, and the husband of Thandi Julia.

Despite his initial resistance to embracing his artistic vocation as an innovator, this Zulu man ultimately found himself compelled to accept and manifest the gifts that perpetually infiltrate his mind with the aesthetic allure of innovation. His journey towards self-acceptance commenced in 2004 subsequent to his triumphant submission to the ERA/Anglo Platinum Short Story Competition.

Skeelo Khumalo had never had an easy voyage. “On occasion, I ponder my dissolved past and behold the perilous exploits that I overcame.” Surprisingly, I managed to ascend despite the road traversing a treacherous, precipitous incline. Not due to my inherent resilience or immunity to adversity, but rather because I recognized that navigating challenging realities was a necessary step towards attaining a prosperous future. In pursuit of a more favourable employment opportunity, I successfully completed my academic qualifications, which included Human Resource and Labour Relations Management, Business Process Management, Business Management & Entrepreneurship, and Film and Television production technique. Nevertheless, following a period of four years without employment, I became disheartened with my academic credentials, failing to recognize that my divine destiny ordained me to be an artist—the progenitor of happiness and the instigator of human sentiment.

Skeelo is currently a filmmaker with qualifications as a producer, director, and screenplay writer. Axiomatic Truth, his debut feature-length film, will be screened at several international film festivals in 2024, including the Berlin International Film Festival. Additionally, Mhlengi Skeelo ‘Melchizedek’ Khumalo’s debut novel, Irrevocable Desire, is forthcoming. Simultaneously, he is engaged in the composition of an additional feature film script called Repercussions. He also anticipates the publication of his poetry collection, The Obscure Nature of the Lost Fantasy, in 2024.

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

My imaginative writing ability can be triggered by a number of different stimuli. When I am feeling down, unloved, and unappreciated, I tend to get creative and have magical thoughts. Furthermore, certain tragic scenes on TV, like a person in distress, a child crying, a victim of abuse, or a person living in poverty can cause my mind to come up with ideas. Though it’s heart-breaking to confront this kind of suffering, it is what drives me to write.

I think the lack of family I experienced as a child has made me particularly perceptive to everything around me. Regularly, I feel compelled to share my insights with others and express my ideas through writing.

What inspired you to start writing this book?

Axiomatic Truth, a feature film that I wrote and produced this year, likely served as the inspiration for this book. It has come to my attention that in the name of affection, women are frequently abused. Their principal transgression is declaring “I love you” only to be drawn into the grasp of the perpetrators.

Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

I hold the belief that nothing is simple to contemplate while crafting a narrative. As a writer, I consistently inquire whether I am effectively conveying the intended message. The book’s title functions as an appeal to the target audience; failure to capture the attention of a potential purchaser could result in my work remaining unacknowledged on the bookshelf.

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

The sole composition that evokes strong emotions in me upon listening is “Never Enough,” which was originally performed by Loren Allred.

Describe your dream book cover.

Wow! Beyond description is the intangible, priceless work of art that is absent from the art gallery but flourishes in the artist’s consciousness. Admiring unfinished works is analogous to discussing the ‘ideal’ book cover; the artist may not even complete the piece in the manner that you envision.

Alphabets are typically employed to transport the reader into my world, allowing them to savour its gentle breeze, delicious fruits, and harmony. Due to my limited proficiency in choreographing dances, I prefer to choose an eccentric performer to grace the dance floor of my imaginative setting, albeit with some slight adjustments that I shall make.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

As indicated in my biography, I am currently a filmmaker, torn between the worlds of paper and ink. I have been the director, producer and writer of the screenplay for my first feature film, Axiomatic Truth, which is a contemplation of gender-based violence. My attention is presently devoted to my second feature-length film, Repercussions.

What books did you read (for research or comfort) throughout your writing process?

I am a creator, an artist, a writer, not a reader. Time will not allow me to do what I am uniquely qualified to do if I am required to read. There are manufacturers, producers, and inventors in the world, followed by consumers. The writing industry operates similarly, consisting of both writers and consumers. I hold the belief that exceptional writers do not engage in plagiarism. It is not necessary to peruse the work of others to produce your own. While writers compose, consumers peruse.

It can be said that if you have a passion for honing your writing skills by studying the work of others, it does not necessarily equate to being a talented writer. However, this is an effective way of helping self-taught writers refine their work. Writing is a natural ability that cannot be learned, it is a gift that one is born with. Writing is often an obsession that is filled with madness and can be perplexing, leaving you questioning who is controlling your mind. Dreams can come to you in the form of a story and, sometimes, during the day, memories will come flooding in, along with voices in your head. The capability for creativity is something that only you can harness, and it is through this talent that you are able to create masterpieces.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

A sense of wisdom. I believe most authors infuse their chapters with insight. The ideal reader consistently deviates from the rules of grammar and style to benefit themselves. The crux of the matter is not merely entertainment, but rather personal development.

It is not surprising that humans can often be confused by why certain events happen the way they do. We expend energy in pursuit of our own fate, trying to make sense of our nightmares and visions in our dreams. Our minds tell us that we are capable of extraordinary feats in our sleep, which are in stark contrast to what is achievable in actuality. It is the unlocking of these rules that has been embedded in us from the start that we need to focus on.

Many people will claim that the Bible appears to be confusing or inconsistent. In truth, any masterpiece of writing contains codes that can be interpreted in two ways. Most people take the interpretation that makes sense to them without breaking the code. In reality, the Bible is not literally about history, but is rather written in codes that are only understandable by a few. As with your night-dreams, the Bible is written in codes that are difficult to break. There are protocols in art. Individuals whose birthmarks bestow talent typically compose tales with two faces—one for amusement purposes only, and the other carrying a secret code that imparts wisdom. Unfortunately, not all individuals possess the aptitude to decipher the protocols. However, my advice is that you must be as perceptive to the arts as those who visit an art gallery and spend an hour pondering a work of art that appears to be a cloud of life amidst a desolate silver sky in order to discern its concealed meaning.

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