INTERVIEW – BRYONY RHEAM : « Africa is far, far behind in terms of care of the environment »
Bryony Rheam was born in Kadoma, Zimbabwe. Her first novel, This September Sun, was published by amaBooks in 2009. And she is currently living in Ndola, Zambia.
Ake Review: Does African literature exist?
Yes, I think there is a type of literature that would fall under this category, but some books are not always easy to categorise! Perhaps it’s any novel where the perspective is an African one – the novel may be set in New York or Harare. Unfortunately, categories tend to be quite limiting at times. Labels suggest expectations. For instance, I don’t like science fiction so I may not read a book found in this section of a book shop. I am making a judgement based on my expectations of that genre. However, my expectations are affected by what is probably a limited experince of this type of writing. If I had seen the book in another section, I might have decided to read it.
Name one privilege of being a creative person?
I think you are able to see the world in a slightly quirky mode. It can often lend you a humorous outlook on life.
Do you engage in any rituals to stimulate creativity?
Washing up, tidying up and any kind of cleaning in general. I don’t know why I find this works, but I do feel more able to sit down and carry on with my writing afterwards. Chaos doesn’t help me!
If there is reoccurring theme in your creative work, what is it and why is it important to you?
Loneliness, probably, especially as one gets older. I think the world can be a very lonely place for the elderly and it tends to be forgotten that they were young once and that they also have a story to tell. Getting old is one of the most cruel aspects of life, not least because you become invisible.
You’ve been invited to join a handful of other African authors on a special literary performance on the moon. What say you?
I’m not sure about the moon, although I am certain it would be incredibly pretty. Maybe, as we watch the Earth spinning so far away beneath us, we will realise how ridiculous all these categories that humans divide themselves into really are!
If Africa was a fruit, which one would it be and why?
Probably something like a pomegranate, which doesn’t look too enticing from the outside, but which is rich and red and juicy inside. I’ve lived in Africa most of my life, but I know of other people who have found it hard to adjust to life here first of all and then don’t ever want to leave!
Name two books you think every African should read and why?
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, because I think he looks at the advent of colonialism in a very interesting way, showing how insidious colonisation was; The Grass is Singing by Doris Lessing, because it is just such a moving book which highlights the tension between black and white people at that time in history.
What invention do you think would change the lives of Africans?
Litter bins! I just don’t understand how people can live with litter all around them and not do anything about it ! Africa is far, far behind in terms of care of the environment.
So, you’re not reading or writing, what are you doing?
Gardening or spending time with my children. I love the 1920s, 30s and 40s so I watch any film set in those ages.
What’s your Africa?
Warm, friendly people, long journeys on dusty roads, beautiful flowers that explode out of nowhere, heat and rain and the crickets at night.
Ake Review (Nigeria)