Delightfully personifying both the innocence and innate wisdom of an 11-year-old boy, ‘Kwaima and the Mysterious Tree,’ by Sharon Mutjavikua also embraces a love for nature and a sense of magic.
The story follows Kwaima, worried about his sickly father, whose meagre salary is often delayed, and his mother, who has lately been “vomiting early in the morning just before the 5am cock crow . . . storming out of the hut like a cooing dove, just before anyone can catch it”.
Kwaima, feeling overburdened with a sense of responsibility, wants to ‘man up’ to help his mother buy the parts needed to fix her sewing machine so that she can mend his father’s suit.
This way his father will look ‘important’ so that maybe Mr Ebson will increase his wage.
Mr Ebson is described by Kwaima as an important man, who makes big decisions for the town, but often forgets to pay his father’s wages on time.
Determined to ask Mr Ebson for a job guarding his corn field, the young Kwaima is soon pulled into a deep conversation with the very wise old tree that guards the front of the town council complex.
Poet, motivational speaker, writer and part-time English and literature tutor, Mutjavikua says she was raised in a loving home, permeated with the aromas of ginger, cinnamon, turmeric and cow-fat butter.
“I love children – their curiosity and innocence make me mellow. I also enjoy conversations with elders – their words are deep and paradigm shifting.
“Moreover, I’m a bookworm, I schedule time to read – even if it’s just to skim through a new book or go over an old book for new experiences,” she says.
“Reading gives me a sense of adventure . . . momentary escapes that stir one’s emotions, provokes thought, and a higher consciousness,” she says.
‘Kwaima and the Mysterious Tree’ is Mutjavikua’s first book, however, she has a couple of manuscripts and a few collections of poems, as well as Kwaima-like short stories, which she hopes to have published soon, she says.
Mutjavikua says she started writing after losing a good friend a few years ago.
“It helped me through the grieving period, as I could describe all I was feeling, and pen every moment we shared in laughter and just goofing around.”
After discovering her talent for writing, Mutjavikua wrote her first poem, titled ‘My Frisky Hair’.
“I had so much to say about it, and when I read it back to myself out loud, I was like, ‘wait a minute, this is good’.
“I am always learning and observing. I listen to people, their tone, and how they express themselves. Additionally, the ethereal beauty of mother nature, her tranquillity and sophisticated charm is by far my greatest inspiration.”
Mutjavikua is particularly stirred by children.
“Their originality, curiosity, and innocence make telling stories worthwhile.”
Mutjavikua says Kwaima’s story represents hope, faith, love and forgiveness.
“Kwaima represents patience in momentary discomfort. He personifies an undiluted and free mind, which can soar beyond categorical stigma and mental cages.
“Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, I observed how it devastated families, caused separation and unleashed emotional and economic distress. I wanted to bring a balm of healing through inspiration and laughter on a large scale.”
Set in a typical African village, which is both relatable and nostalgic, Mutjavikua says the scents, scenery, tastes and textures are sure to transport you back in time to when life was simple and less complex.
“Kwaima is charming, witty and precarious. He is optimistic, but both his parents are pessimists.
“He goes on to meet an interesting character that leaves him bewildered and shares sweet dialogues that brings laughter and meaningful insight. There is a sense of a deeper synthesis of the meaning of life,” she says.
The writer would like to teach young people to “read more diverse books, especially educative and informative books that expose them to the global frontier and its dynamics”.
“Reading helps you to be cognitively heightened and thus can improve your decision-making as you learn to lateralise your thoughts and separate them from your emotions.
“I want them to know that, like Kwaima, they should remain curious, they should ask questions, and any small contribution they make at home – especially by reading their schoolbooks every day, helping out with chores – is an enormous contribution which will shape their character into becoming responsible leaders of tomorrow.
“There is a need to remain inquisitive to fully appreciate life,” says Mutjavikua, who adds that she is available for motivational speaking at schools countrywide.
“I am always willing to share my poetry at different celebrations, such as weddings, birthdays, or anniversaries.”
‘Kwaima and the Mysterious Tree’ is available on Amazon at US$14 (approximately N$266) and will soon be available in Windhoek bookstores.
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