Having escaped with her mother from the ravages of the war torn Mozambique, she found herself growing up in the poverty stricken eastern region of rural South Africa. Faced with hunger, disease and distrust, TiNyiko’s family struggled from tragedy to tragedy.
When the seemingly ultimate tragedy strikes and she is left with the dilemma of caring for her young siblings, TiNyiko finds herself in the concrete jungle that is South Africa’s largest city; Johannesburg, the city of gold where dreams are ground into fine dust and crushed beneath unnoticing feet.
But TiNyiko is not without hope, she is not without dreams and, most crucially, she is not without strength – a deep well of inner strength that comes from a startling experience and spiritual awakening.
When she attends the early stages of a televised international music competition, accompanying her friend to her initial audition, it is TiNyiko who catches the eyes of the television producers.
Hers is a strong back story, the kind of human drama that these TV shows thrive on. The audience will sing along with the songs, they will discuss the talents on display and make their calls to vote for their favorites; but it is the stories that they will remember, the stories that will keep them coming back for more … It is these human stories, the tragedy and triumphs that they will be able to mine for the riches gold; selling the disposable music and the over priced merchandise that what this is really all about.
And so, tragic and innocent, TiNyiko finds herself at the center of a media machine and subject of the deeply manipulative attentions of the show’s highly successful and morally bankrupt star producer.
Every step closer to the prize, every dramatic moment of television drama, every challenge that she overcomes, every obstacle she faces and defeats, every victory she celebrates; they all carry with them – as a Viral load – the corruption that sits at the heart of the corporate machine. A corruption that would like nothing more than to dirty the pure soul of this young girl, even while it sells slivers of that very purity to a cynical world.
As we progress through the competition, the value calls get tougher, the compromises more complex and the stakes grow ever higher for TiNyiko and her fellow contestants who are the product at the heart of the storm.
Ultimately, the machinations and manipulations of the producer place Tinyiko in a place where she must decide who she really is.
She has the potential to achieve everything she could have dreamed about, she has the potential to put her tragic past behind her forever and reach levels of fame and wealth that her parents would not even have dreamed possible.
And all she must do is forget who she is, forget what she believe in and be who they want her to be.
In her darkest hour TiNyiko is faced with the ultimate battle – not just a battle against the venality of the TV series and the cynical people who feed that beast, but a battle against the very darkness that would steal away her soul. A battle against the forces of evil for whom any form of purity is a bright light to be snuffed out.
And so, when she has the whole world laid at her feet, this young girl who once wheeled her dying mother through a darkened village in a wheel-barrow, desperately searching for the help that would never come must decide who she wishes to be, what kind of person she is and what she really believes.
And when she steps out onto that stage for the last time she is not just singing for the competition, she is singing for her soul.
Heather McKibbin thanks Paul Rowlston for his contribution in summarizing the book for us