Reed Dickson (Namibia 1996-99) Encourages Namibian Novelist

I recently came across the “Woyingi” blog.” http://woyingi.wordpress.com/

The blogger, a woman, lives in Canada. Her mother is French-Canadian and American German. Her father is Nigerian Ijaw. Her father was deported back to Nigeria when she was a child so she was raised by her mother and her maternal grandparents. She had no contact with her father until she found him in her mid-twenties and have since developed a relationship with him via e-mails. She has yet to meet him in person. She writes on African issues, African writers, and women. She wrote recently about Neshani Andreas who is from Namibia. Now, what is the connection to the Peace Corps here?

Neshani trained as a teacher at Ongwediva Training College and taught English, history, and business economics from 1988 to 1992 in a school in rural northern Namibia, where her first novel The Purple Violet of Oshaantu is set. Neshani completed this novel soon after her move to Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, where she went to take a post-graduate degree in education at the newly established University of Namibia. While working part-time with the  Peace Corps, Neshani met a Volunteer, Reed Dickson (Namibia 1996-99), who read her early writing and encouraged her to continue. Neshani said: “This was one of the most treasured moments in my life. I had met the first person in my life who showed interest and understanding in my writing.’

The Purple Violet of Oshaantu was a direct result of Reed Dickson’s encouragement. The novel is inspired by Neshani’s work in the rural communities of Namibia’s north, where women are often left on there own to run small farms as their husbands work far away in mines or in the cities.

Neshani completed her manuscript in 1999 and gave it to Namibian publisher, Jane Katjavivi, who presented it to the African Writers Series. The novel was published in 2001 in the Heinemann African Writers Series. Neshani is the first Namibian to be included in this series and this book is the only Namibian novel that is widely available internationally. Her novel has been included in the English Literature curriculum for secondary schools in Zimbabwe.

Neshani currently works for the Forum of African Women Educationalists in Namibia ((FAWENA), an organization that creates educational opportunities for girls and women. Neshani continues to write, despite the obstacles faced by Namibian writers, writing in a country where the literary culture is still in its infancy. She has recently finished her second novel.

Reed came back to the U.S. and was the director of the Peace Corps Fellows program at Colombia University’s  Teachers College. He is another example of a Peace Corps Volunteer making a difference, this time for an African writer.

2 Comments

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  • What a great story. I’d envy the chance to read a manuscript and offer advice to a beginning writer in this way, from anywhere in the underdeveloped anglophone world. In the region where I served, literacy was at such a low level, I can’t imagine a writer there getting much practical advice from anyone. The oral tradition was incredibly vibrant though. I guess the danger here would be the American writer overly directing the foreign writer to write like an American. Achebe’s British education certainly came through in his books, Sembene Ousmane didn’t seem to be influenced by anything but West Africa however.

  • Hello, I am the Woyingi Blogger.

    I am glad that you found my post useful and informative. This is very encouraging as sometimes it is hard to know if anyone is reading your blog.

    I really hope that my blog helps to encourage more people to explore African Literature in order to develop a more in depth understanding of the continent beyond the sensationalist headlines.

    I encourage others to visit my blog: The Woying Blog, http://www.woyingi.wordpress.com

    The blog is still new and parts are under construction. My goal is to have 100 posts and all my pages completed by the end of this year.

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