We Are All Blue by Donald Molosi

We Are All BlueDate Read: July 5th 2016

Published: 2015

Publisher: The Mantle

Pages: 128

 

 

 

 

 

The Blurb

We Are All Blue (Botswana) is a collection of two plays – Blue, Black and White & Motswana: Africa, Dream Again – by the actor and playwright Donald Molosi, including an introduction by Quett Masire, former president of Botswana.

Blue, Black and White (2011), the longest running one-man show in Botswana’s history, was the first-ever Botswana play staged off-Broadway in New York City, where Molosi won a best actor award. BBW is about the country’s first democratically-elected president, Sir Seretse Khama, and his interracial, transformative marriage. Winner of several awards, the play has been performed around the world.

Motswana: Africa, Dream Again is the story of Botswana and its people as they transition from a British colony to an independent state. The play premiered off-Broadway in 2012 where it won an award at the United Solo Festival, the world’s largest solo theatre festival. Written, directed, and performed by Molosi, the play has been performed across the U.S. and is on tour in Botswana and South Africa.

 

Review –★★★★ (4 stars)

Donald Molosi is a brilliant playwright. What better way to learn about Botswana than by reading a play? The last time I read a play set in Africa was Ola Rotimi’s Our Husband Has Gone Mad Again, back in high school. Reading We Are All Blue was refreshing and I learned a GREAT deal about Botswana from this creative collection of two short plays.

The first play entitled, Blue, Black & White takes readers to a classroom, where young students are learning about pre-independence Botswana (or Bechuanaland, as the British called it) and Botswana’s founding father – Sir Seretse Khama’s controversial marriage to his British wife, Ruth Williams. The title of this play is actually the colors of Botswana’s flag: blue represents water, which is considered the lifeline of the desert nation; black represents the majority black population; the white strips represent the white citizens with whom the Motswana want to live in harmony with.

Botswana

Botswana’s blue, black and white National flag

The play simultaneously educates the students in their classroom as well as the reader of the Khama love story, Botswana’s road to independence and the importance of being inclusive as an African nation. I found this play to be oh soo cute! I loved all the characters (students) and the side conversations they had with their annoyingly domineering teacher.

Reading about history can be boring and tedious. But this play definitely informs Motswana (Motswana – citizen of Botswana) and others – both of African and non-African descent, on some facts about Botswana’s first president and the challenges the nation overcame in order to be as inclusive of all people as possible. The film – A United Kingdom directed by Amma Asante (yes, the Ghanaian-Brit film director!) based on Sir Seretse Khama and Lady Ruth’s disputed interracial romance, has been selected to open the 60th BFI London Film Festival in October! It should be showing in cinemas by November. I will definitely keep an eye out for that!

The second play entitled, Motswana: Africa, Dream Again is essentially a play on what it means to be Motswana (again, Motswana means, a citizen of Botswana). In this play, the protagonist – Boemo, is sooo woke! Boemo is a thirty year old member of parliament who seems annoyingly conscious (to everyone else) of his identity as Motswana and as an African. As a child of the new generation, he identifies more with being Pan-African than identifying solely as Motswana,

My mind and my knowledge of myself are formed by the victories that are the jewels in our African crowns, the victories we earned from Lagos to Juba, from Dimawe to Sophiatown, as the Ashanti of Ghana as the Berbers of the Sahara, as the Swahili of Tanganyika. Being part of all these people, and in the knowledge that none dare contest that assertion, I shall claim that I am African. And I am a Motswana (page 80).

Motswana: Africa, Dream Again is super short and straight to the point in its criticisms and depiction of post-colonial Botswana and what it means to call yourself an African today. I truly appreciate the Pan-African nature of this play. It erases the borders the colonial masters drew around us and simply articulates the importance of celebrating all African nationalities and identities – be it Namibian, Ugandan, Chadian, Ethiopian, Burkinabé, Moroccan or Africans from the diaspora – as ONE,

I want to believe that a common ancestry is what binds us as Africans. I often imagine a common ancestor holding all Africans fiercely and warmly inside her womb… (page 96).

I always thought my first read from Botswana would be by Bessie Head, but Donald Molosi beat her to it! I’m eager to see Molosi perform live on stage one day, as he’s primarily an actor. I especially love that he got his undergrad degrees (in Political Science and Theatre) from Williams College – Middlebury’s (my alma mater) sister liberal arts school! So many young people of African descent doing amazing things. Read We Are All Blue if you want to enjoy a collection of entertaining, historical plays on Botswana and on Africa as a whole. This collection is inspiring.

★★★★ (4 stars) – Great book. Highly recommend!

Purchase We Are All Blue on Amazon 


This review is in collaboration with the 2016 Writivism Festival in Kampala, Uganda (August 22nd – 28th 2016). I’d like to give a special thank you to Bwesigye Bwa Mwesigire and the crew over at #Writivism2016 for sending me an e-copy of We Are All Blue.🙂

African Love Stories: An Anthology edited by Ama Ata Aidoo + GIVEAWAY!

aidooDate Read: January 23rd 2016

Published: 2006

Publisher: Ayebia Publishing

Pages: 249

 

The Blurb

African love stories? Is that not some kind of anomaly? This radical collection of short stories, most published in this edition for the first time, aims to debunk the myth about African women as impoverished helpless victims. With origins that span the continent, it combines budding writers with award-winning authors; the result is a melting pot of narratives from intriguing and informed perspectives.

These twenty odd tales deal with challenging themes and represent some of the most complex of love stories. Many are at once heart breaking yet heart warming and even courageous. In Badoe’s hilarious ‘The Rival’, we encounter a 14 -year-old girl who is determined to capture her uncle’s heart. His wife, she decided would just have to go. Mr. Mensah the uncle is all of sixty years old.

Crafted by a stellar cast of authors that includes El Saadawi, Ogundipe, Magona, Tadjo, Krog, Aboulela, Adichie, Oyeyemi, wa Goro, Atta, Manyika and Baingana, there is hardly any aspect of women’s love life untouched. From labour pains to burials, teenagers to octogenarians, and not to mention race-fraught and same-sex relationships, the human heart is all out there: beleaguered and bleeding, or bold, and occasionally triumphant.

 

Review – ★★★★★ (5 stars)

I think I have a soft spot for anthologies. Anthologies help me discover new writers. African Love Stories: An Anthology is the second African women’s anthology I’ve enjoyed. In 2014, I reviewed Opening Spaces: Contemporary African Women’s Writing edited by Yvonne Vera (1999) and was thrilled by the diverse stories and cast of African women writers. I even took interest in the writers who were unfamiliar to me at the time, like Leila Aboulela and Lília Momplé.

I know what you were thinking when you saw the title, ‘African Love Stories’ – no, this is not a collection of sappy, romantic, unrealistic, happily-ever-after tales. African Love Stories: An Anthology is a collection of 21 contemporary short stories laden with breathtaking originality. The stories speak on: the issues inter-racial couples face, a woman’s wrath when she discovers her lover is married, the lengths a village boy goes to rescue his wife-to-be, domestic violence, a child born out-of-wedlock who is scorned at her father’s funeral, same-sex relationships, sisterhood, a mother’s love, sacrifice and so much more. There are layered complexities in all 21 stories and the writers skillfully consummate each short tale such that readers ponder and cherish them, even days after enjoying the stories.

The women writers and the stories of this anthology span across the African continent – from Egypt to South Africa. Well-known authors such as: Nawal El Saadawi, Veronique Tadjo, Chimamanda N. Adichie, Leila Aboulela, Sindiwe Magona, Sefi Atta, Monica Arac de Nyeko, Helen Oyeyemi amongst others, are featured in the anthology. But I expected more diversity with respect to the countries represented in this collection. I didn’t expect a lot of the stories (11 of them) to be written by Nigerian women – this is not a bad thing, don’t get me wrong! I just wish there was a better mix of countries represented, as was in Opening Spaces: Contemporary African Women’s Writing edited by Yvonne Vera (1999). (I’m not comparing… but I’m comparing haha)

Anyways, I enjoyed all the stories from this collection (well, except two) and my faves were:

“Something Old, Something New” by Leila Aboulela (Sudan) – This is a story that chronicles the events that occur prior to a wedding between a young, muslim, dark-skinned Sudanese woman of the diaspora and a white, muslim man from Edinburgh. During their trip to Khartoum for the ceremony, several events occur that threaten their impending wedding. I really admire the calm manner of Aboulela’s storytelling, especially in this tale.

“The Rival” by Yaba Badoe (Ghana) – The Rival has got to be the most absurd story I’ve ever read! In this story, a wife tries her best to keep her marriage from falling apart by the twisted, affectionate love of her husband’s niece. Since when did nieces start falling for their uncles and dreaming of being the ‘madam’ of the house? How awkward! Yaba Badoe created a masterpiece with this strange story.

“Tropical Fish” by Doreen Baingana (Uganda) – University student – Christine, finds herself sleeping with a British expat who exports fish to the UK. The story takes us through the inner thoughts of Christine as she tries to find herself – because she truly seems lost. I was disgusted and at times mad at Christine for tolerating the intolerable in this story. I loved how Doreen Baingana kept me on the edge of my seat while reading this! (I have Doreen Baingana’s novel Tropical Fish which this story is an excerpt from, and I’m excited to read it soon!)

“Needles of the Heart” by Promise Ogochukwu (Nigeria) – I enjoyed the easy, simple nature in the writing of this story. A woman marries a man who she discovers is a chronic abuser. She constantly finds herself making excuses for her husband, even while she suffers on hospital beds from his fury. The ending of the story had me wondering if the author actually condones domestic violence… This story is pretty scary, but holds a great message if you read in-between the lines.

The editor, Ama Ata Aidoo urges readers to enjoy this collection slowly:

Dear reader, it is highly recommended that you take these stories one at a time, so that you meet these African women properly and individually, and listen to them and their hearts: whether Sudanese, Kenyan, Ghanaian, Nigerian or Zimbabwean… (pg. xiv)

and I totally concur with her. I read these stories slowly and savored them. Why rush through such a rich anthology? That’s no fun!

Even though this anthology was published in 2006 – about 10 years ago, I believe the content is ever so relevant to this day. I wholeheartedly recommend this collection to everyone. These contemporary stories may be set in countries in Africa, but the theme of love is universal to all!

★★★★★ (5 stars) – Amazing book, I loved it. Absolutely recommend!

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Purchase African Love Stories: An Anthology on Amazon


GIVEAWAY ALERT!

February is the month of love, and I’d like to give away one brand new copy of this lovely anthology! Enter the giveaway below to stand a chance at winning African Love Stories: An Anthology. The winner will be announced a day after Valentine’s Day – so you have about 10 days to try your luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway TERMS & CONDITIONS:

  • Giveaway starts Feb 4th 2016 at 12am GMT & ends Feb 15th 2016 at 12am GMT (Greenwich Mean Time)
  • This is an international giveaway – it is open to everyone, worldwide.
  • You must be 18 years and older to participate in this giveaway.
  • The winner will be selected by Random.org, through Rafflecopter and will be notified by email.
  • The winner will have 48 hours to respond to the email before a new winner is selected.
  • If you are the lucky winner of the book, Darkowaa will be shipping your prize to you directly.
  • Once the winner is notified via email, providing shipping details will go to Darkowaa only and will only be used for the purpose of shipping the prize to the winner.
  • The item offered in this giveaway is free of charge, no purchase is necessary.
  • If there are any questions and concerns about this giveaway, please email: africanbookaddict@gmail.com

Good luck, everyone!

Update: This giveaway has ended. Thanks to those who participated! Congrats to the winner! 

National Poetry Month 2015 – 3 poems

National (USA) Poetry Month is slowly coming to an end! In honor of this month dedicated to poetry, I’ve decided to showcase some of my favorite poems.

I’m not a huge poetry fan, but below are three poems: (one each) African-American, Caribbean and African poems that I love. Hope you enjoy!

 

African-American poem

In 2008 during my freshman year of undergrad (Middlebury College), my first year seminar class was on Urban Chicago (shout out to Prof. Will Nash!). We learned a lot about Chicago and read a lot of literature from there as well, including the works of Richard Wright, Ida B. Wells and Gwendolyn Brooks. The poem below was my favorite from Brooks. It’s speaks volumes on society’s warped perceptions of beauty and colorism even among children. Enjoy!

 

The Ballad of Chocolate Mabbie by Gwendolyn Brooks

It was Mabbie without the grammar school gates.

And Mabbie was all of seven.

And Mabbie was cut from a chocolate bar.

And Mabbie thought life was heaven.

The grammar school gates were the pearly gates,

For Willie Boone went to school.

When she sat by him in history class

Was only her eyes were cool.

It was Mabbie without the grammar school gates

Waiting for Willie Boone.

Half hour after the closing bell

He would surely be coming soon.

Oh, warm is the waiting for joys, my dears!

And it cannot be too long.

Oh, pity the little poor chocolate lips

That carry the bubble of song!

Out came the saucily bold Willie Boone.

It was woe for our Mabbie now.

He wore like a jewel a lemon-hued lynx

With sand-waves loving her brow.

It was Mabbie alone by the grammar school gates.

Yet chocolate companions had she:

Mabbie on Mabbie with hush in the heart.

Mabbie on Mabbie to be.

 

GBrooksGwendolyn Brooks was a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, professor, and lived in Chicago all her life. This poem was taken from her collection of poems: A Street in Bronzeville (1945).

 

 

 


 

Caribbean poem: Saint Lucia

The next poem is one I recently stumbled upon by Saint Lucia native, Derek Walcott. I loved it’s calmness and reassurance. Enjoy!

 

Love After Love by Derek Walcott

The time will come

when, with elation

you will greet yourself arriving

at your own door, in your own mirror

and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

 

and say, sit here. Eat.

You will love again the stranger who was your self.

Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart

to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

 

all your life, whom you ignored

for another, who knows you by heart.

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

 

the photographs, the desperate notes,

peel your own image from the mirror.

Sit. Feast on your life.

derekwalcottDerek Walcott is a Saint Lucian playwright and poet. In 1992 he received the Nobel Prize in Literature, amongst other awards throughout his successful career. Source: http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/love-after-love/ (accessed April 22nd 2015).

 

 

 


 

African poem: Uganda

My two friends from college – Harrison Kihonge, from Kenya and Motlatsi Nkhahle, from Lesotho used to call me ‘Lapobo’. It used to irritate me because I didn’t know whether ‘Lapobo’ was a compliment or an insult! I finally got them to tell me what ‘Lapobo’ meant and they told me it’s a name/term used in a poem they studied back at their respective United World College (UWC) high schools by Cliff Lubwa p’Chong. Enjoy!

 

The Beloved by Cliff Lubwa p’Chong

Lapobo,

Tall but not too tall,

Short but not too short,

Lapobo,

Her teeth are not as ash

Nor the colour of maize flour,

Her teeth are as white as fresh milk.

The whiteness of her teeth

When I think of her

Makes food drop from my hand.

Lapobo,

Black but not too black,

Brown but not too brown,

Her skin colour is just between black and brown.

Lapobo,

Her heels have no cracks,

Her palms are smooth and tender to touch,

Her eyes—Ho they can destroy anybody.

Lubwa p’Chong was a playwright and poet from Uganda. This poem can be read in a 1960’s anthology: Poems from East Africa edited by David Cook and David Rubadiri.

 I actually really love this poem! Now I know ‘Lapobo’ surely is not an insult. My friend Harrison Kihonge recently posted it on my Facebook wall, hence my access to the full poem.

 

What are some of your favorite African-American, Caribbean and/or African poems? Please do share!