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 He is also a contemporary poet with a collection of unpublished poems.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 (


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!

Friday, July 8, 2016

TJ Dema Goes to Estonia

Photo by Dimitri Kotjuho
Our high-flying poet, TJ Dema, recently returned from Estonia. One thing that impresses me about TJ besides her amazing talent—did you hear her set at The People are Talking at Maitisong in April? Eish man! Gorgeous X10!—is her humble way she just gets on with conquering the world. She recently attended the Tallinn HeadRead Literary Festival in Estonia, a festival that has in the past invited folks like Margaret Atwood, Ben Okri and AS Byatt, in other words, a big deal.

I interviewed her about her trip, the festival, and her upcoming plans. 

How were you invited to the HeadRead Literary Festival in Estonia?
I was invited directly by the festival organisers in Tallin, Estonia. I met the director of the festival, Krista Kaer, in Cambridge in 2010 and as she tells it she has been looking for ways to facilitate my attendance ever since. I was there for a week.

Can you tell me about your two events at the festival? Were they well attended?
Early in the week I shared a reading with a number of poets, which roughly amounts to a fifteen minute set per poet. Writers (for this festival has a strong literary focus beyond just poetry) who write in languages other than Estonian and English were translated into Estonian. I then had an hour allocated to myself on the Saturday which I chose to use both for a lengthy performance as well as an on stage conversation with British novelist Jason Goodwin. I’m told the sessions were a resounding success.

Did you do any other community activities when you were in Estonia?
There is a lovely writer’s retreat by the seaside, which houses writers who apply for residencies. There is also a museum nearby which has a small but exciting collection and a curator who makes the meanest smoked salmon you’ll ever eat.  The city of Tallinn is itself historically and architecturally fascinating and so I endeavoured to walk around as much as I could. The festival serves as a temporary community and the authors stay for the week in the same hotel and meet up for meals in town. All in all I had two television interviews which I was glad to accept given that Estonia is not a diverse country and the presence of a black person in living rooms across the country is likely highly unusual. The British Council as well as the British and Irish ambassadors were all wonderful hosts who added to my experience of this country.

What other sessions did you attend?
I attended many sessions during the course of the festival, in part because living (primarily) in Botswana means I do not get to attend many formal literary activities unless I have a hand in chasing up funding for them and hosting them or I travel elsewhere. A N Wilson has a mind of note and I could’ve listened to him speak all day, Jason Goodwin had a great chat with detective novelist Donna Leon, Margot Henderson is a beautiful storyteller and in general it was great to hear so many writers speaking in their own languages from Irish to Russian to Finnish and Faroese.

How is the poetry scene in Estonia? Did you learn anything to further your own poetry or to share with poets in Botswana?
I brought back with me a book of collected verse by Estonian poets to read. Estonia is in many ways not unlike Botswana it has a population of just over a million, we share our flag colours, they are primarily made up of woodland as we are by desert but I’m tempted to say there the comparisons end. Their cultural endowment fund places its weight in support of festivals such as HeadRead (which looks like the words ‘head’ and ‘read’ I know but is also a play on an Estonian word meaning ‘good lines’). It is this kind of local support that allows writers such as myself to be able to participate in this lovely festival. Despite their small population, Estonians and this includes their president, read widely. They also translate an impressive body of work from other languages to their own and vice versa which enriches their literary world-view to no end. I am a huge champion of writers, and citizens, who read else they’ll inevitably fall for the nearest silver-tongue.

You’ve been travelling a lot lately. Can you tell me about some of your upcoming events?
I have been traveling quite a bit for the last few years and I now look forward as much to the periods of rest as I do the enriching experiences proffered by travel. My next trips are to Uganda and South Korea and much later in the year to Chicago at the invitation of Northwestern

( This first appeared in my column, It's All Write, in Mmegi on 24 June 2016)