Some time back I let you all know about our new, online literary magazine based in Gaborone, The Kalahari Review.
Since its launch it has grown quite a bit. It is truly a Pan-African journal with contributions from Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Kenya, and South Africa as well as some pretty impressive stuff from Batswana.
The journal publishes short stories, creative nonfiction, poetry and art. I took some time to look at the contributions from Batswana writers.
Priscillar Matara has a story in the September 2012 issue of the magazine called “The Other Woman”.
It’s a beautifully written story about the “other” woman attending the funeral of her dead, married lover who has died in a car accident.
One thing Priscillar is exceptionally good at is choosing and describing significant detail that makes a scene pop.
She doesn’t load the reader down with a shopping list of descriptions about people or setting. She gives us just enough to pull us in, to make us believe the story is real. Look at this example:
“Then he says his name, Dan. He says it with a carelessness that traps my breath in my throat.
I realise that a tear has slid down my cheek and drew with it the mascara the Indian woman in a shop told me was waterproof.
I am also suddenly aware of the scent of the old woman’s breath as she struggles to whisper in my ear. It smells slightly of stale oil.”
For an interesting, picturesque bit of creative nonfiction that will put you smack dab on the streets of Gaborone, you must read Phidson Mojokeri’s “The Street Preacher”.
The piece is about a homeless man who lives in Gaborone, preaching the gospel while he meanders from the bus rank, to African Mall, to the Main Mall.
One might expect some sort of sweet, sappy, “oh look at the poor man” kind of story, but, thankfully, it is not that at all.
It’s actually more about the people he interacts with, how Batswana accept this fellow and all of his odd behaviour.
He takes magazines without paying, is supplied with food and drinks without charge, and no one is resentful.
It’s part of life, he’s part of them. Though the piece went on a bit longer than it needed to, there were slices of exceptional writing. Here’s an example:
“He will be back tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after.
He will go about the routine he carries out each day – going from place to place, preaching to the moving masses that do not listen to him, gathering his papers…living in his own world, a world from which he spreads his unique gospel.”
The last story I read was “An Age of Dreams” by Gothataone Moeng in the December 2012 issue.
The story is about Diphuka who lives in her tightly prescribed world, a life dictated by fear.
She goes to Kampala on a business trip for the AIDS NGO she works for and meets the free spirit, Wanja from Kenya. Wanja shows her Kampala and a peek of what life can be when you put down your guard and engage with it.
Back home in Gaborone, Diphuka cannot let go of Wanja and carries on her relationship through the computer; through Facebook and Skype, but the tenuousness of that soon comes crashing home.
Gothataone Moeng writes cleanly, with no obtrusive literary aerobics, but still with an understated beauty.
Here is a lovely example of solid writing:
“Those moments, when she was able to make Wanja laugh, when Wanja confessed that she felt better after she had spoken to her, when she confessed that she needed to hear Diphuka’s voice to keep going made Diphuka less inclined to her insecurities.
She restrained herself from telling Wanja that sometimes she was hard-pressed to believe that the Kenyan girl was not just a myth she had dreamed up to keep her company.
Or a flighty muse that had opened her life up.”
Take some time to read The Kalahari Review, it’s free online (http://www.kalaharireview.com/) and it does not disappoint.
It will give you a good feel for the type of writing that is currently happening on the continent. I think they’re doing a great job and we should all support them.