16 September 2016

Geko Publishing announced today the publication of Sarcophagus, a passionately-written novella by Tuelo Gabonewe. The release of the book is set for September and October 2016.

Gabonewe said: “Sarcophagus is a picaresque novella that follows the trials and tribulations of a young family that finds itself boxing some distance above their weight in a world that’s nowhere near as gentle as it should be. There aren’t any clever rogues in this book, just a pack of hard-bitten battlers stumbling through an infinite gauntlet with their chins held as high as possible.”

The book will be launched first at the Sol Plaatje University (SPU) in Kimberley on September 29th while the second launch – to be held in Johannesburg – will be announced due course. 

Sarcophagus is Greek for stone coffin. In the context of this novella, Sarcophagus is a metaphor for the village which is the setting for the story, but also a metaphor for the whole country, and possibly the whole world, seen through the eyes of most poor people. It is a world which eats you alive, essentially.

About the book

Tuelo Gabonewe latest novella, Sarcophagus entices the whole nation – especially those who know little of what rural life is about – to take a long, dry-eyed look into the living conditions of rural people.

There are many themes in the story, but labour migration and its effects on communities is the main one.

The story is narrated without the smallest attempt to evoke pathos. Poverty abounds, and there are many deaths.

According to Sarcophagus’ colourful narrator: “hardly a week went by without one or two hitting the deck headlong and flat lining.Survivors find themselves with only two options every time a loved one dies: flee the scene and give yourself a chance or hang around and wait for your own death. There is not much else in the way of options.”

In spite of the harshness of the countryside where the story plays itself out and the countless deaths, Sarcophagus is a very readable book and has many parts that will leave the reader writhing on the floor with mirth.  It is hopeful as it is aspirational for some of its characters.

The language is bright and lively and this book will add yet more freshness to the evolution of South African writing.

Lovers of witty and inventive writing will go a bundle on this one.

Publisher, Phehello Mofokeng said: “Gabonewe has immense storytelling talent that has seen him receive a SALA nomination in the First-time Published Author category for his first novel Planet Savage published in 2011. In Sarcophagus, the young author finally grows into a fully-fledged novelist. He is in his element. And his writing and storytelling talents are on full display. Have you ever read a story narrated by a nameless, faceless raconteur who speaks colourfully, who loves the sound of his voice a bit too much and cares very little for sentiment? Sarcophagus is such a bold book, crammed with gems of wisdom and pearls of prose.”


Tuelo Gabonewe is a writer currently living and working in Johannesburg. He was born in Sekhing in Bokone Bophirima in South Africa.

He recently completed a Master’s degree in Creative Writing at Wits University. His first novel Planet Savage (Jacana) was published in 2011. Gabonewe is a radical and a promising author of our times. He has spent his life immersing himself in societal issues that has bothered him as a young person and inflicted unimaginable pain in our society. He is currently a banker in one of South Africa’s big four banks. He hates the idea of reincarnation, but he wouldn’t mind returning as a soccer star next lifetime, otherwise he’d much rather come back as an inanimate object.

Despite Sarcophagus being a work of fiction, and by no means a biography, it still resonates with the author’s life journey. Gabonewe’s personal story fits the profile of a migrant labourer who fled the challenging social context of rural Bokone Bophirima to settle in Johannesburg – itself a hotbed of vice – ultimately earning three degrees from Wits University and two careers as banker and author.

Sarcophagus synopsis

Sarcophagus is a novella which follows the trials and tribulations of a poor family that experiences one tragedy after another. The story is narrated by a nameless, faceless narrator. Telling this story to a young boy who seems to be in a hurry to get somewhere and keeps asking the narrator to please finish. The setting is a village called Sekhing, a real village in the North West province. The family is comprised of five members: mom, dad and three children.

The father is a migrant labourer and spends the majority of his time away from home. He dies fairly early in the story, and his older son steps up, against his mother’s objections, and becomes the breadwinner. Things go downhill very quickly from this point. The young breadwinner struggles to cope with his responsibilities, the mother suffers depression and the younger boy runs away from home. In the end the pain becomes too much and the mother kills herself and her youngest child.

There is an interesting surprise in the ending.

The narrator reveals the reason why he has chosen to tell him the story of that family, and it is a wonderful plot twist.

About Geko Publishing

Geko Publishing is a black-owned independent publisher run by Phehello Mofokeng; an influential figure on the Johannesburg literary scene. Geko Publishing has long been recognised for publishing cutting-edge literature that is relevant to modern South Africa.

In a period spanning almost a decade, the company has published South African (English and vernacular) literature including fiction, poetry and biographies by some of the country’s multi-award winning writers and academics.

Up-coming books include Tuelo Gabonewe’s novella, Sarcophagus and Mpho Leepa’s biography, Born For Greatness: The Roots of Frank ‘Moki Leepa.

Some of the books published by Geko include:

  • Marikana: A Moment in Time (ed. Raphael d’Abdon)
  • Walking The Road of Death by Prof. Peter Horn
  • Ga Ke Modisa by  Sabata-mpho Mokae (winner of M-Net Literary awards)
  • Dreams of Flight by Myesha Jenkins
  • Emos Est Se Ha’ae by Lance Henson
  • A Shrine of Dreams by Abdul Milazi


Phehello J Mofokeng
Publisher, Geko Publishing

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