Friday 30 June 2023

Africanfuturism … the Binti trilogy …


When I read Mary Pax's review of this novella I was interested … and then I heard two talks on the BBC about 'Binti' – a name that rings a bell as soon as it's announced …

I thought it would introduce me to an author, Nnedi Okorafor, I'd never heard of, while also read about her very open-minded approach to authorship.

Neil Gaiman praises her … when I bought the book it had become a trilogy – he says ' Prepare to fall in love with Binti' … yes I did!

Namibia - the Kunene region is in the
north near the Angolan border

The other connecting subject was the setting – the Himba people of Namibia … I'd been fortunate to have visited, with my mother, The Skeleton Coast of Namibia in the late 1980s.

Reading Mary's assessment made so much sense – more so now … when Binti runs off – Mary comments 'How can we shed what we are? We can't completely. Customs and traditions are the foundations of self.'

Himba woman - self-protected
using the Otjize mix

In the article on the Himba people, Wiki make a salient point … I'd watched a programme of BBC presenters when they visited various places in southern Africa – one of which was the Himba people … where the presenter mocked the red clay (otjize) that the Himba use to protect themselves from the harsh desert climate.

Otjize is a mixture of butterfat and ochre pigment – which Binti, the protagonist, takes with her on her travels. Scientifically Otjize supports the low skin cancer rate within the Namibian Himba community.

Otjize - Red Ochre mixture used by 
the Himba peoples

I too couldn't put the book down … the trilogy, not just the novella. On the other hand I related to the Himba and Namibia … the setting, the landscape, the people … I feel quite wistful for those weeks of my life.

Also a while ago, earlier this century!, I'd heard that the OvaHimba people's perceptions of colours was 'limited' … they use only four colour names … now I see in Wiki – that this has been explained, and notes that like many traditional societies, the Himba have exceptionally sharp vision …

Nnedi Okorafor - with insects in a
Butterfly Conservatory

Mary Pax has once again praised Nnedi Okorafor for her new story 'NOOR' – well another book I will definitely get to read in the near future … I can't resist this read.

I set out below the various links … in the hope you'd like to check them out …

Himba woman milking a cow

Africanfuturism is a cultural aesthetic and philosophy of science that centers on the fusion of African culture, history, mythology, point of view, with technology based in Africa and not limiting to the diaspora. It was coined by Nigerian American writer Nnedi Okorafor in 2019 in a blog post as a single word.

Afrofuturism – is a sci-fi sub-category that is about “Black people within the diaspora” often including stories of those outside Africa.

Noor - the new book

By the way – I wish Mary all the best – she's just been on a course of chemotherapy, which has now finished … so I, and I'm sure you too, wish her the best for her future.

PS - I've never quite worked out how I comment on Mary's blog … but I've known her for many years.  I've learnt that Mary has turned off comments ... during her treatment - so that understandably explains this aspect.

Mary Pax – SciFi Worth Reading: Binti book review

Mary Pax – SciFi Worth Reading: Noor book review

Wikipedia – Himba people (and colour perception information, included here)

Wikipedia – Otjize

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Saturday 24 June 2023

Write … Edit … Publish … Bloghop/IWSG hop: WEP Close Encounters …

 Close Encounters from life experiences …

When I was starting out in London … in the 1970s ... I spent sometime with my father … I'd lost my flat and was looking for somewhere else to live …

at that stage I was working for a small organisation, near the River Thames, up a narrow flight of Dickensian stairs … well worn by Victorian workers, dark oak, stained … probably full of ancient smoke no doubt if one looked/smelt under the treads …

then at home-time out into the dark, misty gloom of a London evening – not much changed from the two centuries before …

Ancient staircase

the walk from there to the tube, where the mist rising from the Thames, swirled around the cast-iron lamps, limiting the murky light struggling through the winter gloom …

My destination was Bond Street and then I'd walk north towards my father's flat … one day – instinct kicked in and I was aware I was being followed … London isn't short of commuters … but not many would come out of Bond Street tube, cross the road and walk the same way I had done …

London - Tottenham Court Road tube stattion
1950s or 1960s

what to do, I wasn't that young, but hadn't spent much time in London … also hadn't thought about stalking … these sorts of things weren't so discussed or mentioned in the media …

something clicked as I carried walking up the road, checking that I was still being followed – fortunately I'd spotted a small hotel ...

at least there was a degree of anonymity in entering the hotel – so I went up to the desk, the guy followed me into the foyer …

Victorian cast-iron light stands balefully
beaming out ...  

I explained my situation, showed the receptionist the guy in the dirty-mac (if that's what he had on) … and insisted that the manager was called.

Eventually the manager arrived – the same story was told … and after some thought he said he'd accompany me back to my father's building … and we disappeared out the back.

That thankfully was the end of this little saga – would youngsters today instinctively be aware enough to take evasive action … so many walk along the pavements (sidewalks) umbilically attached to their phones in one way or another …

Close Encounter # two … as a teenager, before Close Encounter # one, I'd come back from a holiday in Italy … agreeing that I'd find my father – yet that wasn't easy … I didn't like to disturb him and it was late at night – and as that was the way in those days, he didn't have a phone in the flat … he spent many hours at work …

what to do … my mother was in Cornwall – miles away – in the end I phoned some friends of my father's up in Northamptonshire – where my father was now based – well that was eventful – I'm fairly certain I got on the wrong train … so they very kindly had to drive across the Midlands to pick me up – and we got hold of my father the next morning … the days before mobile phones … I became known endearingly as 'Waif'!

Close Encounter # three … when I was in Johannesburg, I was walking back to the garage to get my car and go home. As I walked up a major route … a largish group of lads were coming down and started to move in towards the roadside office building wall …

Street scene Johannesburg 1970

I realised I couldn't be put in that situation … so moved out into this highway – thankfully empty, but then the cars started to come down – the guys let me pass … and that potentially uncomfortable situation was over.

Plenty (many plenty!) of other Close Encounters … but these three came to mind … I lost the plot with this WEP prompt ... but memories arise ... 

I will now be round to read all the entries … thanks for visiting …

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Sunday 18 June 2023

Cricket via the Allahakbarries …


Cricket … well I thought you'd like to know about a team of literary players … sorry if you don't!     The Allahakbarries are the team, and its backstory c/o the author of Peter Pan …

J M Barrie in 1892

Peter Pan's author … J M Barrie (1860 - 1937) – had an elder brother, who died very young … sadly for JM that elder brother was his mother's favourite …

so it has been mooted that Barrie had psychogenic dwarfism – a growth disorder caused by this emotional deprivation – he only grew to 5 ft 3 ½ inches (1.6 m) …

Michael Llewelyn Davies
as Peter Pan (1906)

Barrie was an amazing man – he wrote Peter Pan and before his death gave the rights to Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, which continues to benefit from them.

Cricmash suggests that he was a man with a quixotic sense of humour and an affinity for the unusual … his article is a great read …

Christopher Robin
reading to Pooh

Perhaps we aspiring authors look to join with others in search of other pursuits … Barrie did just that – he recruited a cricket team from many of his famous friends … captained by Peter Pan, with Sherlock Holmes as the star batsman and Winnie the Pooh at the wicket …

Peter Pan statue in
Kensington Gardens

there were explorers – perhaps trying to find the boundary limits … artists, painting the sessions as a record, big game hunters making sure no pussy-cats were haunting the grasslands …

Very expensive! copy
from c/o Abebooks

Barrie's selection also didn't comply with what was considered to be normal … for instance he chose married men – because he liked their wives! Or as far as the single men were concerned – it was for the oddity of their personal appearance …

Cricmash's article is a fun read … while the Wiki page gives an overview …

Wordsworth edition of Three Men in a Boat

Where else would Three Men in a Boat meet Andrew Lang's Fairy Book illustrations …

An illustration from
The Orange Fairy Book

Notable figures to have featured …

Rudyard Kipling - novelist

H G Wells - writer

Arthur Conan Doyle – writer and physician

PG Wodehouse – writer and humorist

GK Chesterton – writer and philosopher …

Jerome K Jerome - author

A A Milne – author and childrens' author

E W Hornung – author (Raffles – gentleman thief)

Henry Justice Ford – artist and illustrator

A E W Mason – author and politician

Walter Raleigh – scholar, poet and author

E V Lucas – talented writer and essayist

Maurice Hewlett – historical novelist

Owen Seaman – editor of Punch

Bernard Partridge – illustrator for Punch magazine

Augustine Birrell – Politician

Paul du Chaillu – French traveller, zoologist and anthropologist (gorillas and Pygmy people)

Henry Herbert La Thange – realist rural landscape artist, associated with the Newlyn School

George Cecil Ives – poet, writer, penal reformer

and George Llewelyn Davies, (George had 4 younger brothers)

as well as the son of Alfred Tennyson – Poet Laureate …

Jack acting out a Pirate

The Llewelyn Davies family were the inspiration for the Peter Pan story and its characters

It's the season of the Ashes (Australia v England) … tennis is in the offing too – Queens next week, Eastbourne from the 26th, then Wimbledon in July …

Porthos, Barrie's Saint
Bernard dog

Enjoy your summer … I'm busy, trying to de-stress and sort life out … so my life goes …

Cricmash. com - cricket and literature through J M Barrie and his Allahakbarries

Wikipedia article on Allahakbarries ... 

Art work c.o (see link below) - article on Barrie's Extraordinary Celebrity Cricket Team ... 

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Monday 12 June 2023

Yakety Yak – no yaks, but final part 3/3!


Rites of Spring … short and sweet … the wonderful early vegetable and fruit season kicks in – for me … it's rhubarb and asparagus …

Concept design for Act 1, by Nicholas Roerich's
for Diaghilev's 1913 production of
'Le Sacre du Printemps'

Two things – when I asked my father's BIL whether he had any rhubarb in the garden … I hadn't noticed any – but he said 'yes' … my eyes lit up, my tummy came to life …

Rhubarb Crumble

then came the denouement … he said: 'I can't stand the stuff, so I buried it under the compost heap' – well that took the deliciousness out of my brain sails yes I meant 'sails'! I had to laugh with him …

Asparagus is perhaps a little stranger – this year … having eaten a fair amount of asparagus – the ammonia – asparagus urine smell - hasn't occurred. For some reason – this leaves me wanting it back … my body seems to want it back … perhaps it's been bred out …

Moving on – Mike at A Bit About Britain wrote two posts about Monarchy – I understand: not that interesting to many – but part of our history.

NB - not Mike!  (Resting
not so elderly gardener)

He wrote one on Monarchy through the centuries … it's a long feature – but very thorough … the history of our country has reached another milestone … Mike is an excellent 'recordist' …

Then on the day, he and his wife decided to visit some of the Coronation sights – Slough, which is outside London, but made travelling easier; Windsor – you'll know about that place and castle – well I hope so! Then they went into central London … and then they travelled around … brave souls, I say!

Also not Mike,
nor my uncle!

However – both posts give us an honest overview of Coronation life today and over the centuries …

I haven't really enjoyed the Spring – a really cold wind … I'm still trying to deal with the blood pressure aspect – just need to get my act into gear and spur myself on.

Other things are on the horizon … as is my way – always lots going on … but I'm being sluggish … I will come through – positive by nature …

Cricket and tennis are upon us – again summer time sports – so good to enjoy!  I have a lovely cricket post to entice you to think positively about the game - through some authors!

Sketches of Maria Piltz
performing the sacrificial
dance - I think I need to try and 
copy - they might bring me back
to Spring like life ... 

It's really sticky here – so I'm glad I'm by the coast able to see the sea with its breeze … even if it's called 'a Channel'!

That's all folk – I'll now be getting back to normal posting – a WEP entry is due next week … enjoy your summers/winters – wherever you may be.

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories