Today I’m delighted to welcome Jane Bwye, whose excellent novel, Breath of Africa, is set in her own homeland of Kenya. Jane is here to talk about her fears for future of the African continent, which is increasingly prey to asset stripping by foreign corporations. Welcome Jane! Tell us all about it…
IS AFRICA GALLOPING TOWARDS DESTRUCTION?
There’s something about Africa – especially Africa south of the Sahara – which gets to you. You only have to live there once, for a short time, to get the bug. Perhaps it’s the extraordinary light, translucent, clear, pristine, that lies over the land especially in the early mornings and when the sun sets. Or the warm orange glow over coastal beaches and plains, heavy with languid humidity.
The people greet you with smiles, even the most snotty-nosed kids barely clad in ragged garments as they emerge from makeshift dwellings in remote places. Their needs are few, their smiles wide with hope. Laughter is ever waiting round the corner. If you look into the eyes of a wrinkled elder or a small child, you will find a twinkle.
Life goes on, whether you are there or not. You are but a tiny spec in the scheme of things. Especially so in the wild which can be found within a stone’s throw from human habitation. Majestic lion, haughty cheetah, leopard slinking silently through the bush. And elephant – one moment you’re surrounded by these overpowering gentle beasts, the next, they have melted away leaving a sense of awe and wonder. Were they really there? And the birds – tiny treasures flitting among the trees and bushes, oblivious of the glint of binoculars.
But there is something sinister happening here… the disease has been gathering momentum through the decades and Africa is now galloping towards destruction. Not only is the wildlife teetering on the verge of extinction due to the vanity and greed of man, but the very land itself is under threat.
CORRUPTION in high places is the cause. And the latest in Kenya revolves around overseas construction moguls dredging for sand along her pristine beaches causing rapid irreversible degeneration. Money talks, no amount of demonstrations or petitions can hold sway, and the legal apparatus is rickety. It remains for decent people to shame their leaders. You can read about it HERE.
But there’s always HOPE – and the people of Africa are good at hoping! There’s always a corner where you can find peace and sanity. You can look back with nostalgia to what has been or, if you’ve never been there you can learn about the so-called “dark continent.” If you enjoy a good read, BREATH OF AFRICA can give you a flavour of what used to be, and its sequel, my work in progress, contains a kernel of what might evolve into a workable solution. But it will take time. And there’s always time in Africa.
Breath of Africa, was nominated for the Guardian First Book Award, 2013, and has been compared with the works of Nobel laureate Doris Lessing.
Thirty years of Kenya’s recent history unfold through the lives of Caroline, a privileged woman from the fertile highlands, and Charles Ondiek, a farm labourer with dreams of an Oxford education. Charles’s love for Teresa, daughter of a hated settler farmer, leads to a drama of psychological terror fuelled by Mau Mau oath administrator, Mwangi, who is held in detention for six years. On his release, Mwangi forces Charles and Teresa apart, then turns his attention to Caroline. But she has inner resources, and joins with Charles to seek out a mysterious ancestral cave. Against the backdrop of Kenya’s beautiful but hostile desert, the curse is finally broken. But when Caroline discovers the hidden reason for Mwangi’s hatred, she wonders if she’ll ever, really, belong in the country she loves.
Jane Bwye lived in Kenya for over half a century, where she was an intermittent freelance journalist, a business owner and a teacher. A world traveller, she buys a bird book in every country she visits. Now living in the UK, she is a business mentor and gives talks on various topics, while indulging her love for choral singing, horses, playing tennis, bridge, and walking.