Thicker than Sorrow

In Thicker than Sorrow, Khadija Heeger focuses on appreciating and honouring her roots and unearthing her history.

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July 2022







Thicker than Sorrow

In this much anticipated second collection, Thicker than Sorrow, Khadija Heeger focuses on appreciating and honouring her roots and unearthing her history.

Her work has the wisdom and power of a griot, a seer, and a storyteller. When she speaks her words in person, she has an incantatory power, which can be felt in the words on the page.

In rummaging through the drawers and closets of her blood family and the family she has chosen, the poet discovers inspiration and beauty in the most ordinary places: a bowl of rice, a kitchen, a daisy chain, a sunflower garden, a galvanised bath. The poems reveal a poet who is, “falling in love with my roots & me, life. And it’s just the beginning. I am a multitude of voyages.”

She looks at the past as a map, a way of understanding the present, she looks for the treasures in her past and her family and community. Things that survived the heartless brutality of apartheid and colonialism.


Khadija Heeger

Khadija Heeger is a highly regarded poet, actress, cultural activist, and playwright who hails from the Cape Flats. Her work has been characterised as stark and unapologetic. Khadija’s debut poetry collection Beyond the Delivery Room was published in 2013. Thicker than Sorrow, (2022) is her much anticipated second collection.

More recently Khadija has focused on her acting career as her artistic expression. She is featured in many movies and series such as: Arendsvlei, Alles Malan, Afgrond, Sewende Laan, Recipes for Love & Murder, Krismis van Map Jacobs. She was the lead actress opposite Thsumano Sebe in Down so Long a movie shot in 2019 in Hangberg, Hout Bay. The movie was featured at the Silverskerm festival in 2022 & she was nominated for the best actress award in 2022. She still maintains a close eye on the heritage sector as it pertains to identity which features prominently in her performance poetry.

Heeger’s work has appeared in publications such as the Johannesburg Review of Books, Ons Klyntji. Heeger herself has been invited to participate in Poetry Africa, the Open Book Festival, the KKNK, Woordfees as well as several international festivals. She was awarded a Jakes Gerwel Writer’s Residency in Paulet House, Somerset East in 2020. She is frequently invited to participate in group performances with other poets.

Khadija Heeger's author page

Khadija Tracey Heeger is dee Elodi Troskie beskryf as ’n “[d]igter om by stil te staan”. Ek het vi Khadija in 2018 kô leer ken asse vurige spoken word artist en het instantly velief geraak oppie passionate en thought-provoking manner wat sy kwessies oorie heritage van haa mense, my mense en jou mense, uitlig.

Veronique Jephta in Ons Klyntji, read more here


Heeger’s words are a rallying cry, a praise poem and a soothing ballad. Rooted firmly inside her blood line, her culture and her land, she writes for us, and to us and all of it is in rooted in Love. The most powerful kind of Love: one chosen over and over again, through trauma, and inter-generational pain, through ancestral erasure and the continued silencing and impoverishment of an entire community, by today’s political, social & economic realities. Her voice is that of the griot, and the sage. No words are minced, no truths obscured or dressed up to look pretty when they smart or hurt. And through it all, the soft caress of a Cape wind blows, saying: and still we are here, and still we love. Toni Stuart, poet

Thicker Than Sorrow is a powerful meditation on identity and belonging. Stylistically fluid, the work ranges from visceral lyrical explorations of personal and collective memory to political protest, to exuberant praise poetry. Heeger celebrates her mixed ancestry and her rootedness in African soil through the interplay of standard English and Afrikaans, as well as dialect and indigenous languages. By turns melancholy, angry, and joyful, the collection is an emotional whirlwind that carries the reader from the Overberg and the Cape Peninsula all the way up the African continent and back into the intimate world of the poet. Annel Pieterse, University of Stellenbosch

What kind of speaking will be spoken when the slave tongues are finally untied? Is poetry a medium for this speaking? A speaking of and from “beyond what eyes can see”. Because the sorrow is so thick here one “cannot say too much without the sky falling in”. Khadija Heeger’s great achievement in these poems is to forge a language and a speaking that is thicker than sorrow, a language and a speaking that “rattles loose from the cages of our unyielding censorship”.

If poetry is a place that is always being invented with every new scan, every freshly assembled stanza, then Khadija Heeger is a kind of architect of this process that marries “Caledon dust” to the “graveyards filled with the things we never said”. Heeger’s speaking is poetry from the marrow, vannie murg. To read her is to witness a witnessing beyond “the vanity of suffering”.

Thicker Than Sorrow is a collection of blood narratives. Each of these poems is family. One does not always enjoy one’s family. Sometimes one feels condemned to one’s family. But without one’s family one is nothing. Each of these poems stitches itself into a continuum, a fabric of tender re-making, a purposeful engagement with brokenness in the sure knowledge that becoming whole is the real “monument beyond any stone or wood”.

In Thicker Than Sorrow the poet Khadija Heeger fetches her people, scattered in the country of their dispossession, back from their untidy histories, and shows them the unmarked grave of her tongue. Her blood and their blood. One blood. Her poems come from this. Aryan Kaganof, film director, writer, artist

Lauren on Goodreads:

“I could hear her words, her meter, her rhymes, her cadence on every page. Hailing from South Africa, Heeger uses some Afrikaans slang, and two poems are written in a Cape-local language called Kaaps. …I knew this collection was something special. Her words and themes are raw, a view on modern Africa, and the recent history of her country, but also on anorexia, AIDS, feminism, sex, confidence, queer identity, human trafficking, and modern slavery.”

Moira Richards on Not, Now Darling blog

Nineteen years since our emergence from the delivery room, South Africa and South Africans too, are as imperfectly perfect and as brimful with possibility as any teenager on the verge of adulthood. Like teenagers, we rail at what disappoints us, not yet sure of the extent to which we actually hold the power for change; like teenagers, we struggle to find our own truth, rather than conferred by others, identities. Such is the stuff of this collection, the first part of the trilogy, Separation Anxiety.

This performance poet’s poems remonstrate, repudiate, and sometimes, keen. Her words, written for speaking aloud, swell and recede along irregular line lengths and, with repeatings of sounds and phrases, wind a sinuous rhythm through the pages.

A sad yet optimistic love song for us and our not-yet-adult country, and I look forward to where the poet takes us in the next part.