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Andre Brink: His ink won’t dry

News of the death this past week of South African Afrikaner writer and novelist, Andre Brink, while traveling home from receiving an honorary degree in Amsterdam, Europe, caught me completely by surprise – leaving me, like so many of his readers, in a state of utter shock and sadness.

Best known for his large anti-apartheid canon, including such acclaimed works as An Instant in the Wind, Looking on Darkness, A Dry White Season, Rumours of Rain and A Chain of Voices, Brink’s work stretched from the years of life under apartheid through to the post-1994 era of a new, democratic dispensation in South Africa.

While, as a student at the University of Botswana (UB), in the late 1980s, I would occasionally write reviews of books that I happened to read for Mmegi’s then weekly ‘Arts and Culture’ column, I would nevertheless remain largely unaware of this great writer until one friend of ours – incidentally a long-term black, South African refugee residing in Botswana at the time – lent me some of his own copies of Brink’s work to read.

However, of all his works, the one book by this author that would leave an enduring and indelible impression on me was An Instant in the Wind, a book set in the 18th century colonial Cape society, published in 1976, in which, as could be expected only of Brink, and in complete reversal of the prevailing racial and social dynamics of South African society at the time, describes a rather unheard-of, interracial relationship between a white woman, Elisabeth Larson,  and her male, Hottentot slave lover, Adam.

Struck also by the book’s powerful and evocative descriptions of the Cape and the greater, semi-arid Karoo region’s landscape and vegetation, I would find myself getting re-immersed in its pages, again, aboard the Inter-cape coach during a trip to Cape Town, in the early nineties.  

Then, over time, I would also come across another one of Brink’s masterpieces, A Dry White Season, published in 1979, and written against the background of the turbulent era of the 1970s, following on the Soweto 1976 student uprising. In it, Brink chronicles the trials and tribulations of a white, Afrikaner schoolteacher – some Donald Woods or Braam Fischer type of character, as some might say – who finds himself increasingly drawn into the life of his black gardener, Gordon, who is searching for the truth about the fate of his son, Jonathan, who had been detained and died in police custody following his arrest at a student protest.

Now, reading A Dry White Season, you might also have thought, ‘Now, here is a white dude who is sacrificing all that his white skin entitles him to under apartheid, at great cost to himself and his family life, in order to help a black gardener look for his son who has disappeared while in police detention’

But, as Brink makes clear in this book, the struggle against apartheid was, at the end of the day, not only about ensuring that blacks enjoyed the civil and political liberties like other South African citizens, but for all of humanity to be, once and for all, rid of the shackles of a rabid apartheid ideology – one which the United Nations had long since denounced as a crime against humanity.  

As it is, then, the book showed in a very powerful and profound manner some of the daily and difficult choices faced by both black and white, alike, and at a more personal level, as they navigate their way through the maze of life under apartheid.

And though in his later books – The Other Side of Silence, Praying Mantis, The Rights of Desire, Philida, etc. – Brink had begun to turn his attention more pointedly at problems faced by the new, democratic society, his lasting impression in many readers’ minds will undoubtedly be one of an author who, quite early on, stood up to the apartheid rulers of the time to dare to envision a more just and equitable society in which black and white could live as equals and enjoy equal opportunities – this at a time when many of his contemporaries would have thought apartheid invincible and the so-called ‘white supremacy’ a given.

An accomplished and greatly celebrated author and academic, Brink had been a longtime Professor of Literature at Rhodes University in Grahamstown and, more lately, at the University of Cape Town (UCT). Perhaps inevitably for him, as one of the more prominent white public intellectuals with whom both the mainstream media and tabloid press at times get overly fascinated with – to the point of letting us know that at the time of his death Brink was in his sixth marriage – thus putting him in league with the likes of Elisabeth Taylor and Zsa Zsa Gabor, but who, as Brink commented in a later interview, were “not people I necessarily respect.”

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200,000 Members of International Church Hold Virtual Prayer Service for Covid-19

22nd September 2020

After its initial outbreak with a cluster of pneumonia cases at a seafood, poultry and live wildlife market in Wuhan City, China, Covid-19 has spread rapidly across the globe. The virus has hammered economies worldwide and brought devastation to many.

On 16 September Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a church with thousands of members in various countries, held a global online prayer service to pray for the victims of the coronavirus and their families, healthcare workers, government officials and for the complete eradication of and cure for Covid-19.

The virtual prayer service was live-streamed to the entire congregation with more than 200,000 members in countries all over the world participating, including the USA, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Australia, South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

In keeping with social distancing, health protocols and protecting its members from possible exposure to the coronavirus, Shincheonji arranged the virtual gathering for members to pray together in safety and set an example for others.

Prayers were mainly for the healing of those infected with the virus, for overworked healthcare workers who are struggling to fight Covid-19, and for people in economic distress in the wake of the pandemic. The overwhelming online participation from its members worldwide showed the desire and urgency to end this virus and for healing and restoration in communities.

The Chairman of Shincheonji Church Mr Manhee Lee suggested this online virtual gathering and said that all believers will continue to pray at the church’s worship services until the complete eradication of the coronavirus.

At least 1,700 of the church’s South Korean-based congregation have donated their blood plasma for research around an effective treatment. Convalescent plasma has also showed promise as therapy for Covid-19 and is believed to have reduced the severity of symptoms in critical patients.

“In order to defeat Covid-19, we need to embrace, love, and unite,” as global citizens, the church said. “We wanted to do all we can as believers by praying for the people working to prevent the spread of the virus and healthcare workers who are working at the frontlines of this battle against Covid-19 and we believe that God will answer our earnest prayers.”

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AFRIMMA nominates Vee Mampeezy

22nd September 2020

The annual prestigious music awards, African Muzik Magazine Awards and Music Festival (AFRIMMA), has resumed this year. But this time around with a virtual version of it.

The awards that celebrate the originality of African music has unveiled their seventh edition. The awards seek to promote the African talent by bringing together on the same stage African legendary artists to celebrate African culture.

The event was established by the International Committee of AFRIMMA, in collaboration with African Union to reward and celebrate musical works, talents and creativity around the African continent while promoting the African cultural heritage amongst African countries.

However after the Covid-19 global pandemic, the event will not be hosted on a live global stage, but it will be hosted virtually and nominees are expected to deliver their performances virtually. The AFRIMMA Virtual Awards 2020 is set to be the first of its kind in the African music world with performances coming from different artists around the world and audience catching the performances, speeches and award presentations on multiple streaming devices.

Amongst the many who are nominated by the AFRIMMAs is local sensation Vee Mampeezy who has been nominated in the category for Best Male Southern African alongside music giants, Black Coffee- South Africa, Slap Dee – Zambia, Cassper Nyovest- South Africa, Master KG- South Africa, Jah Prayzah – Zimbabwe, Vee Mampeezy – Botswana, Shyn – Madagascar, Tshego- South Africa, Tha Dogg – Namibia and Yanga Chief – South Africa.

Mampeezy has established with WeekendLife that prior to that, he had received an email from AFRIMMA confirming his nomination. They wished for him to perform which he said he will confirm the performance first with his manager, but as for now he is not sure if he will be performing.

“We have accepted the nomination. It is such an honour to be nominated alongside music giants like Black Coffee. I am very excited, others I am not as excited to be nominated alongside them because I have been nominated before with them. I do not mean to say they are not great, they are great in their respective right,” he said.

“We should be excited as a country that Botswana has been nominated as well. Before anything else, the fact that we are there as nominees makes us winners. It is such an honour to be recognised more so that Botswana is a small country with a very small population.”

Famous and most decorated artists the likes of Diamond Platnumz, Mr Flavour, Harmonize, Davido and Jah Prayzah are also amongst the nominees. However, South African based artist affectionately known as Master KG has been nominated six times for Video of the year, Best Male Southern Africa, Artist of the year, Best Collaboration as well as song of the year.

Master KG’s song ‘Jerusalem’ has been making waves internationally, and it was used mostly during the pandemic to shake off the Covid-19 anxiety. The song was nominated after South African Music Awards (SAMA) failed to nominate the young talented artist.

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Miss Earth Botswana catwalks to save the environment

22nd September 2020

Miss Earth Botswana is an annual local environmental-themed beauty pageant competition promoting environmental awarenessconservation and social responsibility. The reigning Queen dedicated her year to promoting specific projects and often addressing issues concerning the environment.

The Queen does this through school tours, tree planting activities, street campaigns, coastal clean ups, speaking engagements, shopping mall tours, media guesting, environmental fairs, storytelling programs to children, eco-fashion shows, and other environmental activities.

Even though this auspicious year has been faulted by the COVID-19 crisis, Miss Earth Botswana 2020 Seneo Perry has seen this as a chance to fix her crown, and get dirty in conserving the environment. This is highly impressive as it expresses how dedicated she is not only in wearing the crown, but putting in some work to create a better greener world.

Perry is a Botswana based environmentalist, equipped with a degree in Entrepreneurial Business Leadership from Sheffield Hallam University (BAC) and a top 5 finalist in Miss Earth Botswana 2019. As an eco-warrior at heart, she has dedicated her time and energy towards educating and empowering the next generation on the importance of preservation and careful management of the environment and natural resources (a clean and safe environment.)

Miss Earth Botswana will be hosting SOS Children for a film documentary dubbed “Into the Okavango” on Saturday 19th September, in Tlokweng. This initiative is influenced by National Vision 2036 Pillar of National Values which is our identity, our unique natural and cultural resources, tolerance of diversity as well as national values constitute a value preposition that makes Botswana a place to live, work and do business.

In an exclusive interview with WeekendLife, Perry’s Manager, Shimah Keakopa, said the purpose of this event is to encourage the children to open up their minds a bit more to think outside the box as they are about to choose their career paths and what more they can offer to their country as upcoming young leaders.

“This event is held under the theme ‘‘Botswana will have healthy ecosystems that support the economy, livelihoods and our cultural heritage as well as enhance resilience to climate change’’. We strive to help young children grow up knowing their purpose in life and what they actually do in achieving their ambitions.”

For her part, the queen said since 2013, conservation topics have always attracted her interests towards achieving a clean and safe environment for the benefit of humanity. She said “Botswana relies heavily on the tourism industry as it contributes 7 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Our tourism industry has been characterized as more of a fauna and flora type, which is the great attraction to local and international tourists.”

“Therefore it is imperative that we conserve and continuously engage in environmental issues, to preserve our untouchable pristine wilderness. Furthermore people who live closest to natural resources generally absorb the greatest cost associated with conservation,” she said.

Perry told WeekendLife that a lot still needs to be done to ensure everybody is of one mind in an effort dedicated towards environmental conservation, which not only benefits the flora and fauna but the economy as well through activities such as agriculture and tourism.

“In Botswana, there still not enough policies (some outdated) and public awareness towards environmental conservation, especially the collective effort that should exist between government, private sector and Non- Governmental Organisations (NGOs).

Whereas members of the general public do not have adequate access to the information on the importance of environmental conservation and this results in them being unaware of the best practices and standards in environmental conservation,” she said.

When she is not impressing at beauty pageants, Perry is a Managing Director of “Restoring the Prime Colour of the Earth” a charitable organization established in 2019 with the objective to educate both young and old people the importance of keeping a clean and safe environment and to restore the breath-taking landmarks in Botswana.

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