Mengelmoes part 6: Porn Again is the final instalment of Willem Samuel’s six-part series. The series was semi-autobiographical and spanned over a an estimated 14-year period, following the life of a middle-classed white South African male getting to grips with post-Apartheid South Africa as well as trying to figure himself out.
As the title suggests, Mengelmoes is a mish-mash of ideas and feelings. At times you will laugh out loud and at other times you will be sad or uncomfortable. It’s an emotional rollercoaster for the reader, much in the same way it must’ve been for the main character Willem growing up.
Mengelmoes part 6 sees an adult Willem who is no longer living off of his parents. He has a flat he shares with a Christian roommate, he has a steady job and he is deeply religious. This is the complete opposite Willem we were first introduced to. The softer side of Willem, who deeply cares for other people in need shines through strong in Mengelmoes part 6, but at the same time the main character considers himself to be a sinner and not a good person at all. We realise that there is always a sense of escapism present in Willem’s life and he struggles to find balance as he always seems to go to extremes. He portrays his religious experiences during this time in an open and honest way without being preachy or condescending and highlights how obsessive behaviour is never a good thing.
This time around we’re hardly introduced into any sort of fantasy world as Willem seems to be too focused on remaining true to his religious ways that he is scared to escape into a world that might lead him into temptation. Willem instead continues to focus on the stark contrast between different members of race in Cape Town. For example he shows his parents starting their Sunday with coffee in bed in a beautiful house in a stunning neighbour. Then he zooms out to show a coloured couple walking to the train station in an informal settlement. The young child with the couple is told off by her mother when she stares at the fabulous people having coffee in Kloof Street, something she is clearly not used to. Or during a communion ceremony we hear a couple of homeless people insulting each other in the most vile way imaginable. This injustice bothers Willem and you get the feeling that he really wants to make people’s lives better.
The illustrations of people and Cape Town are beautifully detailed. We love how Willem’s world expanded from his bedroom filled with 90s posters, dirty socks and cigarettes in the first book to epic landscapes across Cape Town. Willem showed us that he is equally capable of capturing the detailed emotions on a sleepy child’s face to the epic beauty of Table Mountain.
Ultimately we’re given closure on the character’s development. We’re hopeful that Willem might find a way to stabilise his extreme emotions and behaviour and that South Africa can find the same stability. Mengelmoes ends off making you feel like someone left a part of their personal history with you as well as a reference material for South African pop culture and its development through post-Apartheid South Africa. You’re sure to feel a strong emotion when you close the book on the final instalment of this deeply personal, excruciatingly honest and wittily worded comic series from Willem Samuel.
Willem Samuel is an artist who has dedicated much of his work to visual commentary. He has published prolifically in the comic scene, locally and abroad. His work has featured in Laugh it Off Annual, Bitterkomix, Die Swart Kat, Rolling Stone magazine, among others, and Supa Strikas – where he was also Art Director. He is currently based in the UK where his serialised graphic novel, Mengelmoes, is being published and working as a freelance artist in his spare time.