Tuesday, September 6, 2016

I'm off to Open Book Festival in Cape Town!!

Tomorrow I leave for Cape Town to attend the Open Book Festival to talk about my latest novel, The Scattering. I'll be on three panels and if you're in Cape Town I'd love to meet you!

The panels I'm on are:

Thursday (8 Sept)  2 pm at Annexe 1:
Topic: Switching Courses: 
Lauri Kubuitsile, Bronwyn Law-Viljoen and Michela Wrong discuss the difficult choices they force on their  characters. It will be chaired by Yewande Omotoso

Saturday (10 Sept) 10 am at Book Lounge
Topic: Writing Colonialism
Lauri Kubuitsile and Kim Leine reflect on the brutality of colonialism at opposite ends of the world. Chaired by Bongani Kona.

Sunday (11 Sept) 2 pm at HCC Workshop
Topic: In the Crossfire
Dianne Case, Nadia Hashimi and Lauri Kubuitsile explore the position of women in conflicts through the lens of personal narrative. Chaired by Palesa Morudu

Hope to see you there!!

Friday, September 2, 2016

Review of Scars on my Skin

Nina Simone said in an interview that, “You can't help it. An artist's duty, as far as I'm concerned, is to reflect the times”. I think Namibian poet, activist, community worker, and performer Keamogetsi J. Molapong takes these words to heart. In the 1980s when he started writing poetry, he protested against the South African apartheid system that cruelly controlled Namibia. Now his poetry is about the corruption of the new elite and the gap between rich and poor, though he still finds time for the occasional love poem.

The Scars On My Skin is Molapong’s second poetry collection, his first, Come Talk Your Heart was published in 2005. The title of The Scars on my Skin stems from the idea that every scar has a story to tell.

Molapong is a well-seasoned poet. He has performed on stages around Namibia as well as at both the 1st and the 2nd SADC Poetry Festivals held in Gaborone and Windhoek. He performed in Durban at the 11th Poetry Afrika Festival,  in Germany at the Poesie Berlin Festival and at the Ba Re E Ne Re Poetry Festival in Lesotho.  The Scars On My Skin was adapted into a play directed by Aldo Behreng and performed during last year’s Bank Windhoek Arts Festival.

Scars On My Skin includes many poems about the ruling elite who seem to have forgotten where they come from and instead are blinded by greed. Fake Money is a biting indictment of these people in power; it could easily apply to our situation in Botswana too:

They eat the economy
And talk of democracy
As if their lives meant
Anything to the poor
And sleeping masses
They…they have
Their skies of no limits
We…we have
The measurements
To dig our own graves
We cannot afford.

Molapong knows the way poverty is used to keep the masses at the mercy of the elite, he does not shy away from speaking the truth. In his poem Poverty he writes:

…Being poor is not exclusively for you
Neither is poverty designed just for us
It is the short leash used by comrades
To tie us down to our shame and ignorance
A platinum policy for their happy retirement…

In Let’s Go To Parliament Molapong calls the people to stand-up and make the change that will finally emancipate us from the shackles of this neo-colonialist, capitalist-controlled, greed-fuelled situation we find ourselves in. 

…Let’s dissipate their phantom castles
Burn their asses—I mean ashes
And call the winds to blow them
Into the cold of the Atlantic Ocean
Let’s blowtorch their greed, lust
Into fake memories of colonialism
Cripple their self-styled powers
Humble their pride and position
To the grounds of our realities. ..

Scars On My Skin is not only about political poems, in the mix are insightful and sometimes very beautiful love poems. Teach Me, Please is the plea of a man ready to change, a man who knows his limitations, and wants to be what his woman needs him to be.

…Teach me sister, give me the language
That would not be chauvinistic and crude
Steer my clapping tongue though wording
That would not make you hate me forever

Teach me, woman of my happiest dreams
To express my inner most love for you.

Another touching poem is Time which echoes back to the title of the collection:

Time, they say, heals
Wounds become scars,
Tears turn into a salty smell
And a smile masks the pain inside…

Often I see poets on stage and I wonder what’s the point? Poetry that does not move the reader or listener, does not give insight, is as good as nothing. If My Poem Can’t Move You addresses that very issue:

…If the lines I recite carry no image,
Put no doubt in your heart
Why should I continue reciting? …

The Scars On My Skin is an intriguing collection from one of Namibia’s leading poets and deserves more attention; find it and give it a read. 

(This review first appeared in my column It's All Write in Mmegi newspaper 19 August, 2016)

Friday, August 5, 2016

Some recent reviews of The Scattering

Have you got your copy of The Scattering yet? Maybe these recent book reviews will encourage you to give it a read!

Last Sunday, the South African Sunday Times had this review in its books pages:

"Lauri Kubuitsile insists that she didn’t want to write a book about war. She wanted to write a novel that transcended the statistics, one that made war real through individual stories. The Scattering does that and more. She has created an epic tale of love in a time of horror....
Kubuitsile says this is herself speaking through Riette. “There’s nothing good about war, despite what so many shiny medals and marble statues might try to tell us. Nothing.”
But there is a great deal of good in this book. Do the brave thing, and read it." 

There was also this which first appeared in The Cape Times:

 "Kubuitsile’s depictions of war, violence and oppression are vivid but never gratuitous. Her writing is lyrical, affecting. It allows the reader to develop a deep sympathy for the characters, especially when they are confronted with impossible choices which leave no one unscathed. Her portrayals of people on all sides of the diverse conflicts are strikingly balanced. She shows the ambivalence of our passions and the decisions we make in order to survive. The Scattering is one of those superb historical novels which live on in the reader, simultaneously sounding a warning and shining the light of hope."

Business Day ran this review:

"In stark prose that reaches right into the chest to wrench the heart, Kubuitsile faultlessly describes the slow excoriation of Tjipuka’s soul through war, physical and emotional abuse and abandonment, and the relentless dashing of hope."

A reader at Writer's Write reviewed The Scattering too and even gave it 5 out 5 stars!

"The Scattering is a beautiful story of unbreakable bonds, love and new friendships. I truly enjoyed it and will recall the characters with fondness for some time to come"

And at Goodreads, so far it has only 5/5 star reviews, with this wonderful one by Friederike Knabe: 
"Lauri Kubuitsile has in my opinion written an outstanding novel that achieves two not always easily combined components: a deeply moving, intimate story of love, loss, betrayal and resilience of the human spirit and an in depth portrait of a historical time the events of which are not sufficiently known and/or understood beyond the indigenous population of the country but that have marked the region until today. "

Jan's Book Buzz also reviewed The Scattering:

" Through exquisite, evocative writing, Kubuitsile weaves the story of these two resilient women who must overcome shocking odds in order to survive. It seems that no matter how hard they try, the cards have been stacked against them, and they seem destined to suffer. But they are determined to accomplish whatever it is that they set out to do, proving to their adversaries that they cannot and will not be thwarted."

 Though not a review, Tiah Marie Beautement pulled out the quotes she liked from The Scattering and put them up on her blog:

"They were alive. Their systems ran. Their hearts beat. Their blood moved through their veins. But something shifts in a person when the only hope they have is to live and nothing more."

It's such a generous thing for people to sit down and take the effort to write a review about a writer's book.  I take every single one as a gift, so thank you everyone!!!

Now, have I convinced you to buy and read The Scattering??? :)

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

African Writers You Should Know: Fiona Snyckers

Fiona Snyckers is a South African writer living in Johannesburg. She’s probably best known for her Trinity series of books: Team Trinity, Trinity Rising and Trinity on Air. The books feature the spunky, mixed-race Trinity Luhabe. Fiona’s latest book is a thriller about cyber-stalking called Now Following You. In it, writer Jamie Burchell is free with putting her life on social media until a troll becomes a serious threat. A good read I can assure you.

Some of you may be aware Fiona was a judge for last year’s Bessie Head Short Story Contest and has graciously agreed to be a judge again this year. She also regularly writes very considered opinion pieces for The Mail and Guardian.  She talked with me about her writing.

Me: You’ve ventured into writing a thriller with your latest book Now Following You. Do you intend to stick with thrillers for a while or do you have another new path you’ve set out on?

Fiona: I like to keep my options open.  I’m working on four new projects at the moment.  One is a sequel to Team Trinity, so I am definitely keeping that series alive.  Another is a comedy-romance set in the fraught world of private-school girls and their ambitious mothers.  The third is a thriller, so, yes, I am continuing with that genre.  And the fourth is my first attempt at a literary novel.

Me: That high wall between South Africa and the rest of Africa seems to be allowing writers through; more and more South African writers are interacting with writers from all over the continent, but the wall remains firmly intact when it comes to publishers and book distribution. What is not working?

Fiona: I really wish I knew.  As writers we seem to be in contact with each other, both via social media and through literary festivals.  But the publishers and distributors are not interested in cross-pollination.  Perhaps it is a mistaken form of protectionism.  If the publishers believe the reading pool is barely big enough to support South African writers, they might guard against other African writers “taking” our readers.  I believe this is entirely wrong.  We are all African writers and readers and should be freely buying and reading each other’s work.  It would open up the market, not constrict it.

Me: You have written books for young adults with your Trinity series. In other places YA is a growth market but that doesn’t seem to be the case in Southern Africa. How can we get young people to be book lovers and book buyers?

Fiona: I have seen how very positively young local readers respond to my books when they get the opportunity to read them, but that opportunity will not come from a book that is available from Exclusive Books for R200.00.  That is completely out of reach for too many young readers.  These books need to be incorporated into school syllabuses and reading lists.  That way, the school foots the bill for the books and the learners reap the benefit.  Young readers are hungry for enjoyable local fiction, but it needs to be delivered to them by schools and other publically funded institutions.

Me: This is your second year judging the Bessie Head Short Story Contest here in Botswana. What are some of the most common problems with the stories that you’ve read written by Batswana and Botswana- based writers? Did you notice any unique strengths?

Fiona: Stories that have a strong and authentic sense of place always resonate with me.  In a way, Botswana itself can be your biggest asset as a writer.  Like all countries it is unique, and the reader will enjoy learning about it through the medium of fiction.
Batswana make exactly the same mistakes as other writers.  Stories that are rambling, derivative, or sloppily presented will naturally not do well.  A tight narrative with good momentum, strong characters, and the whiff of genuine originality will succeed in any forum.
Me: For you, what is the most frustrating aspect of being an African writer living and writing on the continent? What could be done to improve that?

Fiona: It is frustrating to know that the rest of the world is looking for a particular narrative from Africa.  They are open to the kind of novel that has a leopard and a thorn tree on the cover, or the kind that delves into the African diaspora in the manner of Adichie, Bulawayo or Cole.  There is not much space for other stories.  And that is why it is so very important for us to expand our own reading market by breaking down country-based chauvinism.

(This column first appeared in the 29 July, 2016 issue of Mmegi newspaper in my column, It's All Write)

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Windhoek Launch of The Scattering!

On the 20th of July we were off to Windhoek to The Parliament Restaurant at the National Assembly, a gorgeous venue, to do the second launch of The Scattering.

Our fabulous MC was writer and friend, Sylvia Schlettwein.

  We started with music from Katini, a singer, rapper and poet from Botswana.

Then we had poetry from Windhoek-based poet Prince Kamaazengi Marenga.

We also had poetry in English and Otjiherero by Charles Kakomee.

Professor Peter Katjavivi could not attend the launch as he had to be out of the country on official business so he asked his friend writer, librarian, freedom fighter and a current vice chancellor at the University of Namibia, Ellen Namhila, to stand in for him. She read a prepared speech from Prof. Katjavivi as well as gave her own remarks on the book.

I then explained a bit about about the book and read a passage.
We had fairly good attendance.

Then Motswana writer and friend, Wame Molefhe, interviewed me about the book.

Afterwards books were sold by the Book Den and I signed books for those who wanted. We had an amazing time in Windhoek. Thank you to everyone who helped us make the launch a success!

(photos thanks to Charles Kakomee)

Friday, July 15, 2016

We're off to Namibia!!

Tomorrow we leave for Namibia for the second launch of The Scattering in Windhoek! It's Wednesday 6 pm at the Parliament Restaurant at The National Assembly. Books will be sold at the launch by Book Den. Our MC for the evening is Namibian writer Sylvia Schlettwein.

We'll have poetry from Charles Kakomee in English and Otjiherero. He is a multimedia artist and poet living in Maun Botswana. His knowledge, skills and understanding in the field of art extends from visual to performing art. Moreover, he is a comic book artist and has already published one comic book under his name with a second edition due for publication this year. He is also a contemporary poet with a collection of unpublished poems. Charles writes poetry in three different languages: English, Otjiherero, and Setswana and has performed in major poetry sessions among them Maun International Festival and Poetry Month opening session in Windhoek-Namibia.

Charles Kakomee

Umundu uoWandu (the stage name for Nandasora Ndjarakana )  will also give us poetry.   He is based in Windhoek and  is a descendent of the  Herero-German war veterans and was born in exile in Botswana. He is a Omumbanderu Cultural activist, student of African history, pan-Africanist, teacher (of Design and Technology, and Guidance and Counseling/Life Skills) and has taught in both Botswana and Namibia. He likes writing poetry especially on relationships and Pan-Africanism.

We will also have poetry from Prince Kamaazengi Marenga. He is a Pan-Afrikan Poet, and a former ‘’prisoner’’ of the European classroom system who escaped the ‘’school dungeons’’ to learn how to ‘’read, write and think’’ without restrictions, following his own curricula. His spirit found ''home'' in the following words by Ngugi Wa Thiongo ‘’A person without a consciousness of his being in the world…is lost and can easily be guided by another to wherever the guide wants to take him, even to his own extinction’’. His poetry anthology titled P-O-E-M-S (Pieces Of Enlightenment Molding Society) is set to be out in early next 2017.

Prince Kamaazengi Marenga

We'll have music from Katini, a singer, rapper and poet. She experiments with House, African classics/folk songs, Motswako, and RNB/Neo soul—though she is open to and learning music across genres. She’s also a keen DJ. Katini aspires to be a multi-instrumentalist with African drums and piano high on her list. She has been part of bands such as Perfect Pitch and rapper Zeus' live band. Some may also know her as the previous singer and DJ at Phikwe's Cresta Bosele. She is now based in Maun where she has done shows on different stages with artists like Ras Diva and Maya Roze. Attracted to art and socio-economic issues, she was previously engaged at Tharientsho Storytellers and is now part of the Poetavango Collective and the team behind the experimental Botswana arts website Diamond Selektion (www.diamondselektion.com)


I'll be in conversation about the book with award-winning Motswana writer, Wame Molefhe.
She is a writer from Botswana, born in Francistown and has lived most of her life in Gaborone. Her fiction has been published in local and international journals, anthologies and online including the UK journal Riptide and The Edinburgh Review, among others.

 Just Once (MediPublishing 2009), a children’s collection of short stories is her first book and is a set book for junior secondary schools in Botswana. Go Tell the Sun (Modjaji 2011) is her second short story collection.

She has written a column for the New Internationalist (UK) , writes travel articles, and has written for both TV and radio. Her story Six Pack was highly commended in the 2007 Commonwealth Short Story Competition and she was a finalist in the 2009 PEN/Studzinski Literary Award in 2015. Her short story, Blood of Mine, was adapted into an opera and performed in Cape Town at Artscape.  

She is currently doing her master’s degree in creative writing at Rhodes University in Grahamstown South Africa. 
Wame Molefhe

We hope to see you there!