The village road

Whenever I think of Botswana, my thoughts fly to the road running through the village of Gabane (15 km west of the capital city, Gaborone). Somehow, it has come to symbolize all that was good, simple, and peaceful about Botswana.

I produced a 'leporello' (a folding or concertina book) while living in Gabane and working part-time for an architect, after my term as an UN Volunteer came to an end. Under 'Art' on the menu above, you'll find all ten pages. Here are the first two: 


I know my human figures are wooden, at best. They stand awkwardly, their limbs bent stiffly. It was the best I could do at the time. Years later, I took a 'Human Figure Drawing Course' (by correspondence). My daughter, a baby at the time, served as one of my models. On a few occasions, I've thought of painting the village road all over again, with better proportioned and more elegant figures. In the end, I decided I was rather fond of the naive quality of this early effort. 

Hopefully, you'll be able to see beyong my clumsy work to the emotions I've tried to depict: the joy and bustle of a day in 'my' peaceful village. I'm grateful that Botswana is the first African country I lived and worked in. From the start, my heart knew that I had come to 'a good place'.

Alexander McCall Smith has done much to introduce readers around the world to Botswana with his delightful NO. 1 LADIES' DETECTIVE AGENCY series. Oh, to have the honour and pleasure of sitting down and talking with this wonderful author! My first question? I'd ask him what he loved most about Botswana. But I think I already know, thanks to a fascinating book called THE LINEUP: THE WORLD'S GREATEST CRIME WRITERS TELL THE INSIDE STORY OF THEIR GREATEST DECTIVES by Otto Penzler. 

Here's what McCall Smith writes about Botswana in Penzler's book:

‘There are places that immediately impress the visitor with some special quality, a quality that has nothing to do with what you see about you-the landscape, the buildings-but has everything to do with what one might call spirit of place. Arriving in Botswana, I felt that I had come to, quite simply, a good place. I have felt something like that on other occasions, if not so markedly; conversely, in other places one may pick up an atmosphere of sadness and loss, as on the site of a great battlefield-Culloden, for instance. In Botswana I felt a peacefulness that was redolent of social harmony, of human decency. It was very striking, and it continues to resonate with visitors to that country. It is not imagined; it is really there. This was a place where human values were respected, where people lived together without fear, where kindness might be encountered.’ 

To my great joy, Oxford University Press (South Africa) expressed interested (decades ago) in publishing 'the village road' as a library book. I've always believed that children need access to books in their mother tongue. Image my happiness when I learned this publisher planned to translate the simple story into several African languages! Disappointment followed a few months later. The South Africa Ministry of Education (whose funding was needed) changed its focus from primary to secondary school libraries. (Wisely, no doubt) I gave up any thoughts of being a children's book illustrator, although that had been my dream as a youngster.

But life is full of surprizes. Last year, my grown-up daughter and I started working on a series of children's books. She's primarily responsible for the writing, while I'm in charge of the illustrations. Maybe if we get the books finished, we can donate some to libraries in South Africa and Botswana. Now that would be a dream come true!

Meanwhile, I hope all is well with you, wherever you may be. Thanks for visiting my website and reading this blog. Take good care!

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