Stories have always been a part of my life. In my folks’ house nobody shared stories with anybody, but there were lots of books, which was very cool.
Most of these books belonged to my siblings who started school before me. I was the last-born child in a big family. When I started Grade 1 in 1991, three of my five siblings were still in school. I was a normal country kid growing up. I spent many hours playing nameless country games with my friends when I was not in school. I made time for books though. Reading was as pleasurable a pastime for me as playing marbles with my mates.
I had a special penchant for languages. Learning new words always excited me. Books, collectively, were a prolific source of these new words, so my love for reading kept growing.
They were not just a source of new words, but they were alternative worlds that I travelled to every time.
I grew up in a village, a few light years away from the rest of the world. Reading was important for my sanity.
As a kid some of the books I reread many times included Jenny Seed’s Hurry, Hurry Sibusiso, and Peter Slingsby’s Tomas. My favourite was Rosemary Uwemedimo’s Akpan and the Smugglers. It was about a kid who did some wonderful detective work to save his father, who was framed for a crime that would have sent him to prison for a long time.
Life without books would be like Terminator 2 without Schwarzenegger – just weird. Books have taught me different languages, honed my ability to think creatively and taken me on many an odyssey around the world. What’s more, books teach you how to spend time with yourself, which, believe it or not, is a very important social skill. I still read books. I almost live on them.
My favourite authors include Mia Couto, Shiva Naipaul, Erle Stanley Gardner and Albert Camus.
My daughter is three years old, and I have started buying her books. She cannot read yet, so for now I buy her books with lots of pictures, and as few words as possible. I think she enjoys them a lot. Buying books for kids and reading to them is a sure-fire way of getting them interested in reading. It helps build the child’s intellect. Children who read a lot find it easier to cope with learning in school.
I write and share stories because I want to take people on journeys they cannot go on in “real life”, places that are first visited by the wayfaring pseudopodia of my imagination. It is my way of giving back. What inspires me? Well, the universe, and most of the matter in it.
Gabonewe was born in Sekhing, in North West, in 1985. He has a BA degree with majors in psychology and public management and administration. He lives in Johannesburg and works for a bank.
- His first book, Planet Savage, is published by Jacana Media