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Stories from Africa by Paula Leyden
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By: Paula Leyden,
Blog: The Butterfly Heart
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, Barbara Kingsolver
, Chinua Achebe
, Dr. Seuss
, Elmore Leonard
, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
, John Steinbeck
, Noo Saro Wiwa
, Ray Bradbury
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The title of a book is so important – and not many people have titles as consistently good as Gabriel Garcia Marquez (in my humble opinion) – and I suppose that is linked to the fact that not many people write as well as he does (again … in my humble opinion..)
Think of these:
Love in the time of Cholera
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Chronicle of a Death Foretold
The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World
No-one writes to the Colonel
Memories of my Melancholy Whores.
The General in his Labyrinth
Other titles I like, from other authors
Up in Honey’s Room – Elmore Leonard
The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver
Of Mice and Men – Steinbeck
And to think that I saw it on Mulberry Street – Dr Seuss
Death is a lonely business – Ray Bradbury
Dandelion Wine – Ray Bradbury
Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe
Looking for Transwonderland – Noo Saro Wiwa
OK I’ll stop now … but it is a hard thing getting a title right, and it does matter!
The indefatigable Mary Esther Judy over at Fallen Star Stories (and Dubray Books Galway) has just written (on a public holiday – dedication beyond compare) a beautiful review of The Sleeping Baobab Tree.
Thank you Mary Esther – I am so pleased it spoke to you in this way!
THE SLEEPING BAOBAB TREE
Author: Paula Leyden
Sister Leonisa is always telling her students grim and gruesome stories. One day, she tells them all about Ng’ombe Ilede… the place of the sleeping cow; the place of death. As Bul-boo and Madillo arrive home filled with her horror stories, next-door neighbour Fred (himself always full of tales of woe) informs them he is to go to that very spot with his fearsome witch great-granny, Nokokulu. Also, that night they learn that patients from their mothers’ AIDS clinic are mysteriously vanishing; one of the vanished just happens to be Freds’ wonderful Aunt Kiki. Is all of this a strange coincidence or fate? With Bul-boo and Madillo stowing away in the boot of the car, Nokokulu drives a doom-laden Fred out into the Zambian wilds for an encounter with mystery and magic the three will never forget. At the sleeping baobab tree, anything could happen.
It is such a joy to return to the lives of Bul-boo and her twin Madillo in the butterfly heart of Africa. Leyden’s descriptive text gives full texture to the place, the people and the beliefs of Zambia with a strength that allows the reader to believe they are there. While Bul-boo and Madillo again provide a sense of the duality of human nature; the pragmatic meeting the superstitious; this story primarily belongs to Fred, who struggles with his inbuilt sense of impending disaster at every turn. The relationship between the three friends provides a strong, yet easy dialogue with the aspects of loyalty, mystery, common sense and confusion that make up their emerging world-view. Add to this the frightening and yet stabilising character of Nokokulu, a symbol of roots and tradition as strong as the ancient Sleeping Baobab Tree, and we have an impressive dialogue with a social structure in conflict with itself; which of the old way to keep and which to throw away; how to move fully into the contemporary world and remain who we truly are; a quality that allows the story to easily relate wherever the reader may live.
It may seem that these are heavy, burdensome concepts for young readers to take on, but not at all. The story is not weighed down by messages or agendas. It is adventurous, mysterious and humourous. The friendships are tangible. The characters are identifiable and become easily lodged in the readers’ hearts and memories. The situations in which the friends find themselves are believable and are depicted from a child’s-eye view that never speaks down to the reader, but leads them through a wondrous and heart-felt journey. As with Leyden’s first book; ‘The Sleeping Baobab Tree’ is simply beautiful, and an absolute joy; a rare and wonderful gift.
(Note: There are teaching notes available for both of Paula Leyden’s books, making them ideal novels for class use.)
Only getting round to putting up a few pictures of this now. Was a lovely launch – great crowd and they all seemed merry! Lots of family there, plus members of my writing group Gemma Hussey and Jean Flitcroft, plus members of my young writers group from the Kilkenny Vocational School, a spectacular cake made by Nicky Read of Nicky’s Cakes and all taking place at the wonderful Stonehouse Books. A big thank you to Liz, Tara and Claire for all the work, and to Palmyra Restaurant for the delicious food. Best hummus I’ve tasted. Also great to see Dubray Books well represented at the launch with their children’s book club, and The Book Centre as well! As I have said many times we are blessed with our booksellers. Conor Hackett, the Walker Rep in Ireland was down from Dublin – thanks Conor for making the trip and for being part of such a wonderful publisher.
I was lucky to have Tom my partner there – author of Old Friends, and all our children – Amy, Christie, Kate, Aisling and Maurice, as well as my parents and a great representation of the O’Neill clan. Christie, as you will see from the pics, did the reading – far better than I could have done. Greatly appreciated. And Gemma spoke as well before I mumbled my thanks! So, a big thank you to everyone who was there – and to the two visitors to Kilkenny who wandered in from the street wondering what the hubbub was about and then bought a copy of the book! An unusual memory of a visit to Ireland, the launch of a book set in Zambia.
What is not love about the Kilkenny bookshops? Stonehouse Books, The Book Centre and Dubray books all with beautiful window displays of The Sleeping Baobab Tree! How privileged am I, as an author, to be living in a city like this? And not just bookshops – but bookshops staffed by dedicated and passionate booksellers. Couldn’t ask for more.
In brilliant company in Dubray Books, Kilkenny
And a fearsome lion at work in The Book Centre
Sunny Stonehouse Books
Dubrays in Market Cross centre
The Book Centre
Stonehouse Books, Kieran Street (launch venue)
Yesterday I spent some time with two Fifth classes at St. John’s School here in Kilkenny. A treat it was. For the first hour I was with Orla Mackey’s class (she of the Wondrous Teaching Notes fame!) . They have finished the book and as part of my visit Orla had organised a Beat The Author Quiz. Essentially it was Me vs. the world – being tested on my own book!
Under normal circumstances you would be forgiven for thinking that this was a slam dunk – who would know their book better than the author? Well, I’ll you who – Ms. Mackey’s Fifth Class. I scarcely had time to even think about ringing my bell, let alone answering the very hard questions, before someone in the class had the answer. We ended up in a draw but only because some very kind students took pity on me and joined my team.
The children had lots of questions and also read out for me some of their work – which ranged from eulogies for various characters (literally brought a tear to my eye) to an oral history of Ifwawa to poems, an alphabet, a last will and testament – endless things and every one of them wonderfully done.
As a finale Gary, who was the winner of the ‘Talk for as long as you can about Butterfly Heart’ competition (a pause of four seconds and you were out!) stood up and spoke about the book. Two minutes and fifty one seconds later he stopped. He was brilliant! I heard later that he he performed this for another teacher and FIFTEEN minutes later he was still talking. A remarkable feat, well done Gary! I also got to hear about Merrylegs, a wonderful little pony who belongs to Tony – Merrylegs is lucky to have such a knowledgeable and careful owner.
So, thank you Ms. Mackey’s Fifth Class – I loved the time I spent with you and am sure one day I will be back.
I will write about Mr. Roche’s class again when they have finished the book as I promised them I would come back into to talk to them. What surprised me though was that even though they are only half way through the book they had lots of very interesting and thoughtful questions for me – they really made me think. So I am looking forward to a return trip where I can take some photos of their work and chat to them some more.
Ms Mackey’s Fifth Class 2013
Here’s a lucky thing about living in Ireland (one of many). We have a postal service, An Post, that is reliable, friendly, efficient and fast. You post something to anywhere in the country and by the next day it’s there. Brilliant.
And today was a Good Post Day! I received my author’s copies of The Sleeping Baobab Tree – how exciting is that? A lovely pile of books. Thank you Walker Books, over and over again. I feel privileged to have had my first two books published by you.
A Storytelling of Books
I suppose the collective noun for books would depend on context – so I have decided to borrow the collective noun for ravens for the purposes of this picture: A storytelling of Books. Seems appropriate.
So, here it is – not launched yet but a pre copy. I love it!
Release date 2nd May.
And here, with its older sibling!
The young girls in this video speak for themselves far more eloquently than I could. Heartbreaking.
I have been thinking about teaching and learning for a while now – perhaps because we are nearing the end of school attendance with our own children, perhaps because of visiting so many schools in the past six months but perhaps because of this picture, which arrived in my inbox courtesy of Chipasha Luchembe from the Zambians in California community.
Perhaps because once upon a time I was a teacher.
It is a formidable responsibility that you take on when you stand in front of a class of ten, twenty, thirty, fifty or one hundred children and direct their learning, impart knowledge – educate them.
Confucius, a teacher himself, placed enormous emphasis on morality, self control and respect – and on study and discipline. One of his more famous quotes relates to this: “He who learns but does not think is lost. He who thinks but does not learn is in great danger.”
He did not in any way mean rote learning – his teaching was defined by its questioning nature, literally. He would ask students questions, pose problems and get them to arrive at the answer. As he himself said “I only instruct the eager and enlighten the fervent. If I hold up one corner and a student cannot come back to me with the other three, I do not go on with the lesson.”
One of the blessings of being a teacher is that you are given an opportunity to have a positive impact on the lives of those you teach, and likewise they can have a positive impact on your own life. It can be a rewarding, wonderful job. I remember being told of science teachers in Zimbabwe, many of whom had not been paid for months on end, travelling miles – some walking, some cycling, some in cars using up scarce diesel – to attend a Science Teachers workshop. Taking time they could ill afford in order to improve their skills in the classroom. There are many students who have a lot to thank those teachers for.
In looking up teaching in Zambia after seeing the picture that Prof Luchembe sent on I came across one of many inspiring stories. It is the story of teachers Mr. and Mrs. Maonde from Lilayi. They had both retired from teaching but began to teach children in their own home. They started with five pre-schoolers but by 2005 they had 200 pupils coming in shifts to their home to be taught.
The couple got in touch with teachers they knew in Canada and out of this an initiative called Friends for Zambia was started to raise funds to build a school in the area. The result is this.
Twitti School in Lilayi
There are now 370 pupils in the school from kindergarten to Grade 9. Some achievement. All stemming from the dedication of two inspired Zambian teachers, Simon and Lydia Maonde and two inspired Canadian teachers who had taught as volunteers in Namwala Secondary School – the school at which Simon Maonde was headmaster!
Take a look at their website here
A perfect World Book Day!
I drove up to Galway on Wednesday and was very kindly put up by Sadie Cramer and Mark Hand and their four children in a beautiful spot called Luimneagh West, just twenty minutes out of Galway City on the shores of Lough Corrib. Very peaceful.
Then I went into Kilcoona National School with Sadie where I met the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th Classes, along with various parents and teachers. It was a treat – World Book Day is a BIG day in Kilcoona NS, the children all kitted out in various outfits and the school kitted out as well!
Then I headed into Galway to Dubray Books where, courtesy of Mary Esther Judy, I met with two different groups and they were all an absolute pleasure to talk to. Lots of questions and opinions, just as it should be. A camera crew from TG4 came along as well which was initially a little alarming but I got used to it. Unfortunately I was unable to speak to them in Irish, one day perhaps…
So, a mega thank you to Sadie Cramer and Mary Esther Judy - you both do such great work for children and books!
At Dubray Books, Galway
Next week will be busy!
On Tuesday I am meeting some pupils from Presentation School here in Kilkenny at Dubray Books – looking forward to that, I have met some of the students from the school before and they were lovely.
On Wednesday I set off for Galway where I am being hosted by Sadie Cramer (Illustrator, Artist and general whirlwind!) You can find her website here.
Chop-Chop Mad Cap illustrated by Sadie Cramer, written by Juliette Saumande
On Thursday morning I’ll head into Kilcoona National School with Sadie where the theme of World Book Day is Africa. Throughout this week parents and others have been reading my book The Butterfly Heart to the pupils. Seems as though it’s going down well. Looking forward to meeting everyone there.
Then I will head into Dubray Books at the kind invitation of Mary Esther Judy, bookseller extraordinaire and writer of the wonderful blog Fallen Star Stories. Mary has been an enormous support to me as an author and I know to many other children’s authors round the country and the world! So looking forward to these couple of days.
Dubray Books Galway, World Book Day window
I recently spent time with the Fifth and Sixth Classes at Scoil Mhuire gan Smál in Graignamanagh and what a pleasure that was. A lovely school and I found the pupils so enthusiastic and so talented. We did a few sessions on character development, opening paragraphs, limericks and general writing and I enjoyed every minute of it. It is a treat to go into a school where the pupils are happy and involved, where evidence of creative teaching is all about the place and where you get a sense of proper learning taking place. I have seen a lot of this in the primary schools I have visited over the past couple of years. Well done to all of you, Principal, all the staff and pupils. And a big thank you for having me visit your school. I have put up a few of the limericks some of the girls wrote on my School Pages. Hopefully I will get a few more of them (or their stories) in the post!
How the Next Big Thing blog hop works
An author answers ten questions and then tags other authors to do the same thing the following week on the same day, which in this case is a Wednesday (I am a little late..)
Tom O’Neill tagged me.
Tom O’Neill had his book Old Friends: The Lost Tales of Fionn Mac Cumhaill published recently. He likes writing for both old adults and young adults. It allows him to spend time amongst strange characters and to add to the public body of lies. Other preoccupations: Africa, farming, and restoring castles. You can find out more at Tom’s blog.
Here are my answers to the questions..
What is the working title of your next book?
The Sleeping Baobab Tree
Where did the idea come from for the book?
It came to me as I was looking at photos of Baobab trees (as you do) and I came across one at a place called Ingombe Ilede, roughly translated as The Place of the Sleeping Cow. It is in Zambia and nearby an ancient burial site. A magical place.
What genre does your book fall under?
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
A hard one, but as the book is set in Zambia I would like actors from there to play the roles rather than people from other countries pretending to be Zambian.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Three friends and an old woman embark on a journey, each of them hoping to right wrongs, both past and present … but dark clouds are gathering and ancient magic is in the air beneath the shadow of the sleeping Baobab.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
It will be published by Walker Books in London.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
This book has taken many twists and turns along the way so that’s a hard one to answer!
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Certainly my first book, The Butterfly Heart, not sure which others.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Primarily my love for Zambia inspired me – it is where I spent my childhood and my memories of it are vivid and clear.
What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
One of the sub-themes in the book is the damage done by those people, scientists among them, who have spent many years denying the existence of HIV/AIDS. In the process they have caused the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives.
I have tagged a few authors as it seems as though the Blog Hop allows you to do this. However if my tagees (!) wish to limit themselves to only one other author, that is no problem.
I have tagged Jean Flitcroft, Jean is the author of The Cryptid Files series published by Little Island and you can read more about Jean here. In this series Jean’s love of travel, her scientific background and her writing skill have combined into three wondrous tales of Crytpids. So far the books have taken us from Loch Ness to Mexico and finally to a remote island off the coast of Canada.
I have also tagged Vukani Nyirenda. Vukani is a Zambian writer specializing in children’s folktales based on Zambian folklore. He has published two picture books and many of his stories have been published online and in magazines. He currently lives in Ontario, California. You can read more about Vukani here.
I have tagged Colleen Caitlin Jones. Colleen lives in Cork and is a Canadian writing for children. She is also a very active member of SCBWI (the Ireland chapter) and a Sacred Heart singer. You can find out more about Colleen here.
And, finally, I have tagged another O’Neill. John O’Neill, who hails from Ballon in County Carlow, is the author of the book Children of the Cromlech, as well as the script-novel Ned Hickey. John lives in New Zealand now.
Nelson Mandela has, in the course of his extraordinary life, said many wise things. This morning I was thinking about one in particular:
‘There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living’ Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.
Given that this blog is (mostly!) about stories, writing and books I was thinking about this in relation to writing. Writing, whether creatively in fiction or non-fiction, is self directed. You have to find the time and the space to do it, no one else can do that for you. It is from you, you yourself have to extract it from your head and put it down. If you are writing, whether for a living or for pleasure, you owe it to yourself to be the very best you can, to ignore your own excuses as to why you haven’t finished or why it is not as good as you would like it to be. It is in your hands.
I have been lucky in that I am in a position where I have the time and space to do this – it is an absolute privilege and I treasure it. But I know I could do more. Time passes quickly and as a writer you need to be able to ask yourself at the end of each day, ‘what have I written? and is it good?’ If the answer is ‘nothing’ then you are failing yourself. There are days when my answer is ‘nothing’ and it should not be so.
There is more though to what he said – because to be the best we can means being the best we can not only for ourselves but for others. He has lived that to the full. He has, at every turn, done the right thing for others. He continues to do that. South Africa and the world have been made richer by his life and it is why he remains beloved by so many. He is a one off. Just one look at that smile will tell you that!
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela
I belong to a small (but lovely!) writers group and we meet every couple of weeks. One of the things we try to do each meeting (aside from the business of presenting to one another our latest works of wonder) is a writing exercise. Some of them we do as part of the meeting, small bursts of creativity that get our writing brains in order, others we do before coming to the meeting and those we read out to one another.
One of the exercises introduced to us by one of our members, Jean Flitcroft , was the famous or infamous ‘Barn Exercise’ by John Gardner. It goes like this – ‘Describe a barn as seen by a man whose son has just been killed. Do not mention the son, the war or death.
A difficult exercise and we all produced different results – every one of them interesting. So we decided to try another of his exercises and, on getting the full list, we opted for freedom of choice. I chose this one: Write, without irony, a character’s moving defence of himself (herself).
I thought I might reproduce it here – I enjoyed writing it (and I strayed from the intent somewhat) but for me the value of it was in the way it forced me into creating a character that up until that moment I had not known. And I liked her.
A light hearted woman
I used to be a light hearted woman, in the very proper sense of the words. It was not that I had no tribulations, it was that I scarcely noticed them for what they were. To others they may have appeared burdensome, even overwhelming, but to me they were just part of my life. Part of who I was and who I would become.
Until one day.
And I need to tell you about that one day because it was on that day that my world became something other. You could trace a straight, bold line from that day to right here, to me standing before you and telling this tale.
We were five in the family. First there was Jimmy, God rest his soul, a cross man but fair. Most of the time anyway. Then there was me, in order of appearance if you will, and Sarah’s my name. But you know that already. After me came the three boys, one after the other just like that, Conor, Cian and Calum. Calum came last and he was said to be a little soft but I never paid that too much attention. His father did, but then his father paid more attention to most things than I would. I won’t say too much more about that right now.
So there we were, the five of us. A family. Living as you do from day to day, month to month, years to year. Just like any other family. Through it all I did what I needed to do and most days I had a song in my heart. I think the three boys did too, they got that from me. Easy going, never a bother on them. It could have carried on like that forever, well, for as long as I lived, as I did not care for things to be any other way. Jimmy, you see, for all his faults, was a good worker. A good provider. We never wanted for much and we were not often cold or hungry.
I see you frowning, so I suppose I should explain. When I say all his faults I really mean one particular one. Because it was this fault that decided everything in the end. When I was at school our English teacher used to talk about Shakespeare’s heroes who always had one, just one, fatal flaw. Jimmy did too. He thought more of himself than he really should have. That doesn’t sound like much I know, but it was. He thought he was cleverer than everyone and certainly cleverer than any of us. He didn’t like anything or anyone interfering with that thought. Most times that was alright; if he wanted to think that and it made him happy then, sure, I’d let him think that. After all he was easier to live with when he was happy.
Calum was the problem. Calum didn’t really understand about fatal flaws and things like that. How could he? He was a young lad and he had never found his lessons very easy. I hoped that Jimmy would understand that, after all he was the one who noticed Calum’s little problem. But he didn’t understand and one day, that day, it all went wrong.
You see, Calum laughed when Jimmy said something that you really could not describe as a very clever thing. Out of respect for the dead I am not going to repeat it if you don’t mind? The point is that Calum laughed. At him. At his father. And he couldn’t stop. I am sure that has happened to you before, when the laughter gets a hold of you and won’t let you go. Well, maybe it hasn’t, but it happened to Calum.
At first Jimmy tried to pretend it wasn’t happening but when it carried on and on, only growing louder, I saw how cross he was getting. Crosser than any of us have ever seen him. He started walking across the room towards Calum and I could see what was going to happen. He had the same look on his face as he had the time he killed Ginny, the sheepdog, the exact same look. I couldn’t let him do it, that’s all, because Calum was my boy. My youngest. I couldn’t have it.
And so, well you know what happened but I’ll tell you anyway, I picked up the glass vase that I had been given on the day we got married, my favourite vase because if you set it on a windowsill in the sun it caught every one of the rays, I picked it up and I hit Jimmy over the head with it. Just in time mind you. It was a heavy vase but all I meant to do was to stop him, I didn’t mean the other thing to happen. The vase broke, which was a pity, but so did Jimmy, God rest his soul. That got rid of my light heart I can tell you. From one minute to the next it was gone. Not so much because I miss Jimmy, I don’t think I do, but because that wasn’t a very nice thing for my boys to see and I think it probably silenced the song in their hearts as well. I don’t like to think that I was the cause of that.
By: Paula Leyden,
Blog: The Butterfly Heart
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I have posted videos and songs by Mutinta before – and here’s another one .. she is a young singer from Zambia and I love her voice – this one is quite different to previous one but still brilliant. And, to top it off, the video is set in Zanzibar – absolutely exquisite.
The sequel to The Butterfly Heart, The Sleeping Baobab Tree, is slowly becoming a reality – link to it now up on Amazon and release date is May 2nd.
Been a long writing journey but I hope the end result is a good one, I’m looking forward to holding it in my hands. While I do read eBooks I am pleased this is not the only format available – I remember the day I received my first copy of The Butterfly Heart from Walker Books and the excitement I felt holding it in my hands and turning the pages. I cannot imagine I would ever get the same thrill from opening a Kindle file…..
At Midnight on October 24th 1964 Zambia became independent. So, Happy Independence Day Zambia!
My brother John Leyden was born in Kitwe, Zambia in the year of Zambia’s independence so here’s a song for Zambia from his band Mango Groove. The song when it was written was dedicated to Spokes Mashiyane, known as the King of Kwela. But for today I feel like dedicating it to Zambia, a Special Star.
BBC Documentary on Mosi-oa-Tunya, the Victoria Falls, in Zambia. Some incredible footage of the mighty Zambezi River accompanied by the story of those whose homes are near its banks and who depend on it for their livelihood.
This is the chair I use when I write.
It also happens to be that chair that our cats like….
Pushka and Harita colonising my chair
By: Paula Leyden,
Blog: The Butterfly Heart
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How extraordinary are these gazelles? They are called Gerenuks which means Giraffe Necked in Somali (in Swahili they are known as Swala Twiga – which means Gazelle Giraffes). They are found in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Somalia and Northern Kenya.
Apparently they have an extra vertebrae in their backs which enables them to stand up on their hind legs to reach leaves as high as 6 to 8 feet up. Very well adapted to their environment they get all the moisture they need from the food they eat. They tend not to graze but seek out leaves and buds.
They also make a variety of noises which include whistling, buzzing and bleating!
I saw a picture of one in Africa Geographic (beautiful magazine) and then looked them up – hence this post.
A Gerenuk (image from Game-Reserve.com)
Gerenuks eating (image from Bank Barn Travel)
A good news story (in some ways) from South Africa where the Commission for Gender Equality intervened to save a young girl from being forcibly married to a man much older than herself. The sad part of the story is that it is still happening, and the religious leaders who were putting pressure on the family to do this should be prosecuted, but well done to the CGE!
Authorities save teen from forced marriage
Johannesburg – A KwaZulu-Natal teenager has been taken from her parents who were allegedly planning to marry her off to an older man, the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) said on Monday.
“The department of social welfare has removed the child, 14, from her home until such time that a social worker… has ascertained the safety of the child,” the CGE said in a statement.
“In terms of both the Sexual Offences Act and the Children’s Act, the CGE pointed out to both the parents and the suitor that should this marriage proceed, they would be arrested and prosecuted.”
The commission received a anonymous complaint in November that the teenager, from KwaMthandeni, was to marry a man older than 40 on 16 December.
The girl would replace her 20-year-old sister, who had been chosen by the man.
“Upon finding [out] that she is pregnant by another man, the sister ran off… The suitor and [her] family agreed that the younger sister should take her place,” the CGE said.
A team of social workers and policemen verified the story, found the child and spoke to the family and the suitor about calling off the marriage.
“The family and suitor confirmed that the man had paid R29 500 towards lobola and wanted either his money back or another girl.”
Rituals had been done and the wedding day had been arranged.
“The girl’s family said they were not very keen to marry the child off, but religious leaders from their church put pressure on them,” the CGE said.
“The girl’s mother said, as a woman, she did not have much say in the matter,” it said.
Hard to believe that 2013 has arrived – here’s hoping for a peaceful and kind year for the world – a hope in vain I know.
One of the things I am looking forward to this year is the publication of my next book, a sequel to The Butterfly Heart. This one is called The Sleeping Baobab Tree and in its honour here is (yet another) picture of this wondrous tree of life.
This picture is taken in Bagamoyo in Tanzania. The meaning of Bagamoyo in KiSwahili is ‘Lay Down your Heart’ and the reason it is called this is that it had become, by the late eighteenth Century, a major slave trading post. Arab slave traders would bring slaves in from the interior to Bagamoyo and from there they would be shipped to the slave markets and plantations of Zanzibar. It was here that slaves would lay down their hearts to leave them behind as their bodies were transported away from home for the last time.
Slaves came from far and wide in the interior and it was calculated that for every one slave who reached Bagamoyo there were ten who died along the way. For all of them who did reach the port this would have been their first view of the wide blue Indian Ocean – an ocean that would serve only to carry them in the holds of trading ships towards lives of brutality and hardship. Dr. Livingstone at the time said of the slave trade in East Africa (as it was then) that ‘to overdraw its evils is simply not possible’
This Baobab will have borne witness to that evil – it now looks out on a kinder place.
The Bagamoyo Baobab in full leaf
In 2009 on their album Bang the Drum, Mango Groove released a song that my brother had written (with the help of my father who provided the Swahili) for use during a human rights campaign in South Africa. The song is called Bagamoyo and while unfortunately there is no video of it available, here are the lyrics.
BAGAMOYO (Lay Down Your Heart)
The day you left I was a stranger to you
The air was still the sky was grey
A pale moon led you through a starless night
A quiet sea took you away
Now time is not enough to do the healing
And words are not enough to heal your pain
But together maybe we can find a different space
A secret place where all our memories remain
So lay down your heart for me
Be strong and set me free
Walk away but still remain
Change it all but stay the same
And don’t forget a world within is a world apart
So lay down your heart
In dreams you’ll walk along a different path
The morning air will taste so sweet
You’ll lift your face towards blue African skies
You’ll feel her earth beneath your feet
As evening falls you’ll reach a different place
Where a warm December wind whispers your name
And as you look out from the shores of Bagamoyo
A million stars will know you came
Because like you they’ve come home again
So lay down your heart for me
Be strong and set me free
Walk away but still remain
Change it all but stay the same
And don’t forget a world within is a world apart
So lay down your heart
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Have just posted in the Reviews section a review that was sent on to me by the Lubuto Library Project , written by a volunteer who was working with the library in Lusaka. It brings to mind a library I have written about a few times on the blog, the Nkhanga Village Library. It was officially opened on December 8th 2012 and it now has 3,798 books with a capacity for many more.
Congratulations to Prof. Mwizenge Tembo and all of those who worked to make this dream a reality. I am sure that many hours of pleasure and learning will be had under its roof.
More details on Prof. Tembo’s website and in Rainbow News