08 August 2020

Nnedi Okorafor Deep Future Story for the Moment, Binti | A Pilgrim in Narnia

This book is quite high on my "want to read" list, but I haven't yet seen it in any book shops in the Great City of Tshwane Nnedi Okorafor Deep Future Story for the Moment, Binti | A Pilgrim in Narnia:
Binti is the award-winning novella of a young African woman with a special gift enhanced and challenged by her rugged stubbornness, deep love, and dynamic intelligence. Binti’s community is closely modelled on the Himba people of southwest Africa, including the special braiding of her hair and the red-clay otjize that coats her skin for beauty, protection, and an embodied sense of culture. Binti is a “master harmonizer,” someone who is able to use a genius for mathematics, a training in advanced technological development, and the customs of her people to “speak” into the world, bringing people and worlds together in harmony or challenge.
If you've read any of the books mentioned in that review, and especially if you've seen any of them on sale in Tshwane, please let me know.

Apart from the praise given to the books in Brenton Dickieson's review,  I have a couple of other reasons for wanting to read the books, mainly personal curiosity.

One reason is that the protagonist of the book comes from the Himba people of the Kaokoveld region of northwestern Namibia and southwestern Angola. I've met a few Himba people, and have been very impressed by them. They are related to the Herero and Mbanderu people of central Namibia and speak the same language.

I was once rummaging through some old files in the office of the Anglican Church in Namibia and came across some correspondence from and about one Thomas Ruhozu, who was said to be the only Anglican in Kaokoveld. There was an address on one of the letters so I wrote a letter to him, and six weeks later he appeared at the church office, 700 km away.

He arrived when a diocesan synod was starting, so he came to it as an observer, and someone was found who could translate the proceedings into Herero for him, and in between synod sessions we gave him a crash course in evangelism.

He told his story. He wanted to go to school so he walked 150 km to Odibo in Ovamboland, where there was an Anglican church school, and decided to become a Christian and was baptised. He got to Grade 4 but his father died, so he had to go home to look after the family cattle.

After the synod I had to take some of the delegates back to Ovamboland, and we went via Kamanjab, on the edge of the Kaokoveld, and left him there -- non-residents of the Kaokoveld were not allowed in without special permits -- this was 50 years ago. Here is a photo of us at the garage in Kamanjab vwhere we parted.
Gideon Ileka, Steve Hayes, Thomas Ruhozu

Thomas Ruhozu was a pretty active evangelist. A couple of months later a priest from Odibo visited and admitted 20 catechumens. A few months after that he visited again, baptised the first 20 and admitted 50 more.

I met a few other people from the Kaokoveld as well, and found them all pretty impressive.

My other interest in the novel that makes me want to read it is the name of the protagonist, Binti.

I had an aunt called Binti Growdon. Her maiden name was Cairncross, and my mother told me that the name Binti came from an Arabic word meaning "girl" or "daughter".

I lost touch with aunt Binti after my uncle Tommy Growdon died in 1965, though I heard she had remarried and lived in Cape Town. But I've never met anyone else with the name Binti, and would like to meet one, even if she's only a character in a novel.

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