The characters you meet in Cullud Wattah are from across South Africa and they range from students to criminals. You are invited to follow their journey into adulthood and the choices they are making. As each character’s tale is narrated in the first person singular, it is evident that they each have their own unique voice, making each character like a layered postcard that reflects on the state of South Africa today. While each story is slightly different from the next, the common thread between them is South Africa’s inequalities and the pain and hurt they have inflicted upon one another and on the world in recent years.
Cullud Wattah is told from the perspective of Oliver. This is his journey and his journey towards changing the lives of others. Oliver is the son of two university professors and they fall to pieces as a result of the many pressures, stresses and demands placed on them as South Africa seeks to become a ‘have’ economy and they lose their sense of place in society.
Following his parents, Oliver comes across the surviving employee of the university, Father Henry, who challenges Oliver with a unique offer: “reconnect the next generation of academics with the bright students they care about.” The day Henry offers Oliver his dream job, Oliver is introduced to a small group of young black men who are willing to hand over their ‘credits’ in exchange for access to the computer laboratory on the university campus. When they arrive, they are confronted with their new lives: threats from police to leave, petty harassment from the university and the harsh reality of being on welfare.
Frances is the ‘bad girl’ of the group. She is a student at the university and she is extremely jealous of the wealth and good treatment that Oliver and the other students are receiving. This jealousy drives her to break curfew to hang out with the ‘bad boys’, on both the drinking and prom night. Frances’s world is cut short on the prom night when she is shot and left for dead and she is carried off to be seriously injured. Oliver helps her to survive and after her recovery, he attends the accident scene where he discovers that his friends are the ones that shot her.
Emily is one of Oliver’s friends and it is through her experiences that you are able to grasp a glimpse of what is truly happening in South Africa today. She has a brush with death when she is caught in a gang fight that leads to her getting her legs chopped off. It is through meeting other survivors of similar violence that Oliver begins to understand the realities of black South Africa today.
Penguin Random House
Cullud Wattah is a published graphic novel by Dee, South Africa. The art in this book is vivid and it does not shy away from the dark image that we have been conditioned to accept in the country. This book reminds us what it is like to have a disability and yet be able to live with pride. It is evident that South Africa has a lot of learning to do and through Oliver’s story it is easy to see how he is fighting to change the world for himself, his family and those around him.