Period Pain is Kopano Matlwa’s third book published by Jacana Media and looks at a number of South African horror stories that we see almost daily in news headlines; from xenophobia and racism, to corrective rape and the nightmare that is the South African public health care system. Written in the first person, the protagonist Masechaba gives us see a reflection of the South African rot through her story.
Masechaba is a doctor and is frustrated by the South African health care system: the shortage of health practitioners, resources and the general inhumanity that exists in the public health care system. In the book South Africa’s racialised reality is exposed, and we see the war between blacks and whites.
The novel provides insight into the horrors of South African public hospitals. Masechaba, hates her job and simply cannot bear the suffering in public hospitals, what people are forced to endure and how the staff (particularly nurses) just do not care.
Matlwa explores the violence that exists and how speaking up against these ills often makes one a target and one is regarded as a sellout. When Masechaba circulates a petition against the xenophobic attacks, she is raped by the men who feel she needs to be reminded of which side she is on and corrected. Even after the ordeal, she gets no sympathy from her fellow South African women, who feel she brought this on herself for having a Zimbabwean friend and fighting for the ‘foreigners’ being attacked and assaulted.
Period Pain sheds light on contemporary South Africa and although it brings out very depressing emotions about the current situation, it also forces the reader to face reality.