Lauri Kubuitsile will launch her 30th traditionally published work of fiction But Deliver Us from Evil this month. A synopsis of the novel reads: “It is 1871 and Nthebolang and her mother must flee their home: her father has been accused of witchcraft and sentenced to death. For months they walk, sleeping in the open, living off the veldt, until they are offered shelter in Ntsweng in the kingdom of Kgosi Sechele I.
It is there, years later, that Nthebolang meets Beatrice, the wife of a cruel English missionary, and a woman who has had her share of perilous escapes. As a young girl, this light-skinned Koranna woman was mistaken for a kidnapped white child and bundled off to a mission station. After all this time, Beatrice still carries her father’s gift, a hunting knife, concealed under her clothing. But things are not settled in Ntsweng, where traditional beliefs and Christianity clash. The turmoil of Nthebolang’s childhood repeats itself when her beloved Motsumi is suspected of witchcraft.”
Much like her previous offering, The Scattering; But Deliver Us From Evil has a historical setting. In an interview with BG Style, Kubuitsile says that while this was not planned she has always had a keen interest in history. “I think, especially, I like to find the history that has been left behind. We are all aware now that the history written in our books and what we are taught at school is the history of the victors. But that is not the complete story; that is only one view. I like to find the ‘other’ stories. Doing research, you often can’t find these other unwritten stories so fiction allows a writer to fill in the blanks and I love this too,” she says.
Kubuitsile explains that when she was doing research for her 2016 book The Scattering, she came across a letter that Kgosi Sechele I wrote to the Setswana newspaper that was being published out of the mission at Kuruman in the 1800s. “Initially there was a letter from a disgruntled Christian complaining that Kgosi Sechele was an avowed Christian and yet there was news that he had executed 25 witches at his kgotla in Ntsweng. Since witchcraft did not exist within Chrisitianity, then Kgosi Sechele must not be a real Christian, the writer of the letter asserted. Kgosi Sechele wrote back responding to this letter saying that 25 witches were accused but he did not execute all of them, only five, and in any case, they were all known witches.
Then he said the accuser was working as a servant in the missionary’s house. It was the last bit of information that would not leave my head… What was up with that girl, I wondered… What was her story? My mind answered that in the form of my fictional character in But Deliver Us from Evil, named Nthebolang.”
Kubuitsile says that the prominent themes in the book are betrayal and trust, especially who to trust. “It is about love and to what lengths we will go to protect our loved ones, even from themselves. I guess too that it is about evil, that subjective, emotive word. And religion and spirituality: is one spirituality more correct than the other? Do these things cause more harm than good?”