Location/Culture Reports

Culture Report – Botswana and South Africa


Probably the most famous books about Botswana are The Precious Ramotswe series by Alexander McCall Smith, which begins with The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. Other books about Botswana include Mortals, A Novel by Norman Rush; Cry of the Kalahari, Seven Years in Africa’s Great Wilderness, Mark and Delia Owens; The Harmless People, Elizabeth Marshall Thomas; Serowe - Village of the Rain Wind, Bessie Head; and Lost World of the Kalahari by Laurens van der Post.

South Africa

Antony Sher, who is one of my favorite actors, was born in South Africa. In 1968, he moved to Britain, where he lives today. He has written both fiction and autobiography about life in South Africa. His novels include Middlepost, Indoor Boy, Cheap Lives, and The Feast. His autobiographical books include Year of the King, Beside Myself, and Woza Shakespeare. The latter was written with his partner, Gregory Doran, and is about a production of Titus Andronicus that was performed in South Africa.

South Africa has a long history of great literature. Alan Paton has written about apartheid in many novels including Cry the Beloved Country. (Side note: Oprah has chosen that Cry the Beloved Country as one of the selections for her book group. There is now a lot of information about Alan Paton and Cry on her website). J.M. Coetzee has twice won the Booker Award (the UK’s top literary prize) for The Life and Times of Michael K and Disgrace. He has also written a two-volume autobiography – Boyhood and Youth. His book, Age of Iron, was voted by writers in a Mail and Guardian poll as the finest South African novel of the past ten years. In October 2003 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Nadine Gorimer, the first South African to win the Nobel Prize, has written many novels including The Lying Days, July’s People, and The Pickup. Athol Fugard has also written about apartheid in his plays including Master Harold…and the Boys.

Other South African writers and their writings include Mtutuzeli Matshoba, Call Me Not a Man; Njabulo S. Ndebele, Fools and Other Stories; Mark Mathabane's autobiography Kaffir Boy and Ellen Kuzwayo’s autobiography, Call Me Woman. [Kaffir is a derogatory Afrikaans – the language of the whites in South Africa – word for a black person. It’s also an Islamic word for “infidel.” – miri]

Many books have been written about Nelson Mandela, including his autobiography, Long Road To Freedom, and Anthony Sampson’s Mandela, The Authorized Biography. [Mandela was imprisoned for nearly 30 for his anti-apartheid activities. TAR pays a visit to his prison cell in season two. – miri]

Movies that have been filmed in South Africa include The Air Up There, Cry the Beloved Country, The Gods Must Be Crazy, I Dreamed of Africa, The Last Unicorn (2006), Malcolm X, Racing Stripes, and Ryan’s Daughter.