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My Namibian book launch

I do not like using this column for self-promotion but I cannot help it this time, hopefully you will forgive me. I am just back from Windhoek and the launch of my new novel The Scattering at The Namibian National Assembly on July 20.

Sometimes you hear people speak about Botho and you become cynical. In this modern world where everyone is hustling at the expense of everything: other people, their integrity, their moral code - you begin to think Botho is dead, but it is not. This trip has renewed many things in me; it was like some wonderful medicine.

I travelled over the border with “my crew”.  I wanted to make sure that the cross border energy of the novel carried over through the launch as well. Charles Kakomee, graphic artist and poet, member of Poetavango, made his way to Windhoek to perform at the launch, while my long-time writing-buddy, Wame Molefhe (who would interview me about the book at the launch); my daughter, singer, Katini (who provided the music on the night); and me travelled the Trans-Kgalagadi Highway west in my little car.

There we met our wonderful Namibian friends: writer Sylvia Schlettwein (our MC on launch night) and her radio personality partner, Ralf Boll; Prince, the poet who in all fairness deserves a wage from Penguin South Africa for marketing The Scattering as if he wrote it himself; and poet and scriptwriter and all-around extremely helpful and lovely man, Mola. To describe these folks as friends seems thoroughly insufficient.

The first full day we had scheduled a radio interview at the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation. We (Wame, Katini, and I) were interviewed on the German radio station with Ralf Boll. We had an hour-long radio interview ending with Katini singing the traditional Setswana song, Mmamati, with a bit of rap in the middle (!?!) for the German-speaking listeners. The presenter was thoroughly impressed!

Then he said: let’s check the Setswana station - yes, there are many Namibian Setswana speakers and, like all of the major language groups there, they have their own radio station. Without blinking an eye, they re-organised things and we did a recorded interview on the Setswana station.

From there we

went to the Otjiherero station. The presenter, off air, got caught up on what we were doing in Windhoek which took about a minute, and then we went live. Just like that! No letters to the director asking permission, no clearance from the big bosses - in Namibia the bosses give responsibility to the members of their team, trained people who know their jobs and are allowed to run things as they see fit. No micro-managing to the extent that nothing gets done and the workers feel undermined and demoralised. It was very refreshing!

Professor  Peter Katjavivi, the speaker of the National Assembly, was scheduled to be the guest speaker at the launch but unfortunately he got called out of the country on official business. But then a lovely gift appeared. He arranged for writer, librarian, and vice-chancellor - finance of the University of Namibia, Ellen Namhila, to stand in for him and he also prepared a speech about my novel for her to read, a wonderful honour for me. 

The launch was well attended and the book seller at the event, Book Den, nearly sold out all of their stock! People came up to me afterwards talking about how they had never had a book launch like that in Windhoek, with poetry (in English and Otjiherero), music, a reading, and an interview.  People who had read the book told me what it meant to them, how the characters still lived on in their heads - what better words can a fiction writer hear? 

Everywhere we went people helped us and went out of their way to be kind. Botho is a living, breathing thing in Windhoek and it has inspired me beyond measure, made me have faith again in us humans when this year has tried so hard to rid me of every scrap of it. A wonderful, healing trip that I will be forever thankful for.

Its all I write



A weak Botswana Media

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