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?”
About 100 female writers from across Botswana will be published in an anthology that is expected to hit the shelves later this year or early 2018.
The anthology is co-edited by Dr. Mary Lederer, Professor Maitseo Bolane, Dr. Leloba Molema and Dr. Connie Rapoo. Speaking at a seminar hosted by the University of Botswana English Department on Friday, Lederer said that they had realised that there is a large stream of writing talent in Botswana. She expressed relief that the project was finally taking as it had long been in the pipeline. She noted that they had faced a few challenges but they had overcome these hurdles although they still needed more support. “We faced several challenges that included financial setbacks but we wanted to ensure the project sees the light of day. Thankfully, we managed to secure funding to pay the contributors because we believe in rewarding creative talent. It is not much as there are a lot of contributors but it is something.”
Lederer also echoed sentiments that publishing in Botswana is a tall order and books of this nature were welcome as they accord good writers a platform and encourage them to keep writing and sharing their experiences. Bolane made a presentation on the importance of the inclusion of historical material in the anthology. She said it was important to learn about the role and impact of women in historical context and in contemporary times as history often informs or influences the present. “Even in the modern age, we note how some men trivialise challenges that affect women. Socially, we still deal with issues of rape, sometimes even in marriage, illiteracy among women, patriarchy and gender based violence among others,” she said. She added that important statements of historical significance like the Beijing 1994 conference would be included.
Rapoo noted that the project was a labour of love. She said that she had been amused by childhood songs which when unpacked, had different metaphoric translation that gave them new meaning. She further said that it had been refreshing to read of the experiences of women in Botswana and peep into their secret thoughts, some of which they would not want to articulate publicly. Molema made an interesting presentation on ‘What constitutes as art?’ exploring whether, for example, court statements and letters could be categorised as art the way poems and short stories are. Also in attendance were young writers Ndibo Tebape, Vamika Sinha, Phemelo Tlalanyane, Mosadi Dube and Cherly Motsumi among others, who read their work.
The Women Writing Botswana project is aimed at documenting works of Batswana women who write, appreciate literary talent and share the experiences of local women with the reading community. The anthology that features upcoming and established writers, includes court statements, poems, short stories, social commentary and opinion pieces, songs, drama scripts and letters. The works include material by renowned writer Bessie Head, Unity Dow, Athalia Molokomme, Mosadi Seboko among many other esteemed women in Botswana society. It also includes creative writers like TJ Dema, Lauri Kubuitsile and Wame Molefhe and many more. Media writers and journalists featured include Priscilla Mathara (short stories and non-fiction), Keletso Thobega (poetry and non-fiction), Tumi Modise (non-fiction), Gothataone Moeng (short stories), Mpho Mokwape and Nnasaretha Kgamanyane (non-fiction), Yvonne Mooka nee Ditlhase (non-fiction), Gosego Motsumi (short stories, poetry and non-fiction), and Boitshepo Balozwi (non-fiction), among others. The material was sourced through print media and from entries to the Bessie Head writing competition. Those in attendance were given a chance to skim through the thick manuscript for the book, anticipated to have 400-500 pages.