THE RELEVANT QUEER: South African Novelist and Screenwriter K. Sello Duiker, Born April 13, 1974

K. Sello Duiker. Photo: Raymond Preston

“I know where my greatest treasures lie. They are within me.”

TRQ: K. Sello Duiker, Born April 13, 1974

South African novelist and screenwriter Kabello “Sello” Duiker, best known for his novel The Quiet Violence of Dreams, was born in Orlando, Soweto, South Africa. Son of soccer player Judah Duiker, Duiker was born into a family that was educated and somewhat wealthy. 

In high school during Apartheid at the elite Redhill School, Duiker was one of two black students and expressed his awareness of his country’s political climate. He also studied at Huntington School in England, before attending Rhodes University in Grahamstown to study journalism and art history. At Rhodes Duiker collaborated with other poets in starting Seeds poetry society and earned a degree in journalism. 

During these years, he worked in advertising and wrote scripts for the television show Backstage. However, after enrolling at University of Cape Town, Duiker began taking drugs and was expelled and institutionalised at a psychiatric hospital. 

Two months after his release in 2000, he wrote the novella Thirteen Cents. Expanding on the Apartheid-era themes of blackness and whiteness, Duiker incorporates elements of sexual identity. Set in Cape Town, Duiker’s first novel tells the story of a black child surviving on the streets, navigating the dangers of gangsterism and sex trade exploitation. Thirteen Cents won the 2001 Commonwealth Writer’s Prize for Best First book, Africa Region. 

Less than a year later Duiker wrote The Quiet Violence of Dreams, the story of an undergraduate journalism student in a mental hospital who engages in sex work at a gay massage parlour with mostly white clients. Sex, in Duiker’s writing, provides an escape for the self from the confines of race and gender. Influenced by Duiker’s own political identity challenges, the novel continues his excavation of Cape Town’s social geography, and is narrated by a black man and woman, a gangster, and a gay white Afrikaner. The Quiet Violence of Dreams won the Herman Charles Bosman Prize in 2002. 

In 2004 Duiker suffered a nervous breakdown and stopped taking the medication that he suspected was suppressing his creativity. Struggling to write and unhappy with his job as commissioning editor at the SABC, Duiker hung himself In January 2005. A year later, his unfinished third novel, The Hidden Star, was published. The South African Literary Awards named a category in his honour, for novelists under the age of forty. Zukiswa Wanner and Panashe Chigumadzi have been among its winners. 

K.Sello Duiker in Johannesburg in 2004 Picture: Belinda Blignaut



The Guardian

South Africa History


Brittel Paper


The Art of Darkness

Danyela Demir, Olivier Moreillon & Alan Muller (2015) In Search of a ‘RockStar’: Commemorating Kabelo Sello Duiker’s Life and Work Ten Years on, Current Writing: Textand Reception in Southern Africa, 27:1, 26-37, DOI: 10.1080/1013929X.2015.1045206

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