Go tell the sun was published by South African publisher Modjaji this year (2011). The blurb by South African poet and writer Rustum Kozain says, " Wame Molefhe's stories have a gentle yet intimate and captivating feel to them...And through them the author brings to bear a woman's perspective on the societal mores in which sexual abuse, homophobia and AIDS, among others flourish and spread..." This and more is true but I digress, my focus is the launch.
Rre Batho Molema a leading authority on Setswana folklore and music introduced the 'cast' - two vocalists, a percussionist, a guitarist(all members of Kabo Leburu and Ethno Jazz band) and Wame herself. Although I've known Wame for years, we first met as part of a British Council initiative called Crossing Borders and now serve on the same writers' board, I had never actually heard her read but I've seen traces of the performer in the way she expresses herself about everyday things in regular conversation. It was a wonderful evening, the 2 stories she choose to read were read to music with vocalists turning some of the words or dilaogue into a musical refrain.
Even though Wame writes primarily in English - she is writing through it not necessarily in it - her stories are peppered with Setswana references, proverbs and phrases occassionally actually written in Setswana, the simplicity of the language is almost a blatant refusal to pen any words with more than 3 syllables, all the magic lies in the meaning condensed into each line. As a Motswana I can proudly say this book feels familiar, not because I've heard or read the stories before, but because these are our stories told in a sophisticated but readable way. Yes we have dimo (folklore's giant ) and mainane (our folktales) that we were raised on but we need to tell our right-now stories as well before they are past and forgotten. And as Kozain rightly says Wame's voice leaps gracefully from issues on identity and immigration, family and infertility, sexual orientation and social expectations with admirable dexterity.
When asked if she intends to ever write a novel, she stated that it was more likely to be a string of short stories masquerading as a novel. She feels her strength lies within the realm of the short story but one could argue that "Go Tell the Sun" is a novella of sorts - it's disjointed sequencing allows you to look at the 'same characters' from multiple angles. You know, kind of like reality, always so many versions and only so many sides of a situation each person can or is willing to see.
At the end of the evening, cocooned in blankets and throws, and full of cake and coffee, we had a QnA with the author and it was clear from the comments and feedback that everyone had enjoyed themselves. We are hoping for a repeat performance and Wame tells me she's considering it, we'll keep you posted.
If you have read the No 1 ladies detective agency series but would like an inside out perspective by a Motswana, of all things beyond the daily drinking of rooibos/redbush tea - do yourself a favour and pick up a copy of 'Go Tell the Sun' it may very well be a literary investment you'll be passing on to your daughter or son in the future.