We need new names...          - 23/10/2013      <--Prev : Next-->

By Gina Lee Wilson from her 'Gigga Spot' Blog

We need new names...

Last Sunday night I went to the Man Booker Shortlist evening at the Southbank Centre. It was a very spontaneous, spur of the moment thing. I was on the train home late-ish Friday night (work has been hairy for weeks now) and there was a random mag from the Daily Mail on the seat. I picked it up, flipped through it and suddenly there was a page called "things to do this weekend'...or something along those lines. And the Man Booker evening was listed. Now I love books, but my inclination to attend something on a Sunday night is usually very very very shortlived....BUT my countrywoman - No Violet Bulawayo - had been shortlisted. And there was NO way that I was going to miss the opportunity to go and listen to her read from her book and give her my support..even if I was one of a couple of hundred in an audience..it was all about giving her positive energy.

So I purchased a quick ticket and trundled off on Sunday night (which was MIGHTY chilly!)

And this is what greeted me...

So I sat myself down and waited for the auditorium to fill up...and it did. And because everything in the literary world is very democratic...and linear...they went alphabetically and so our girl, NoViolet, was up first. She read from her book. You could sense the Zimbabean in her reading style. Calm, sincere and so humble. Not loud and proud, just strong and lulling. She read a section about life in Paradise (you need to read the book to understand...). I sat enraptured. This is my country she was referring to me. My lifeblood. My kindred spirit. It was so familiar I felt like she was reading from my head to her page.

It was fantastic to see her up on that stage. In amongst some amazing writers...from all over the world. And only a young 31 years old. Magical. She was asked questions by the moderator (the chap in the middle of this picture) post her reading...and she answered like every Zimbabwean would...with humour and grace and poise and gentleness.

The rest of the readings happened and were all very compelling...but there is no way that I was going to back anyone else than my girl, NoViolet. At the end of all the readings the audience could ask questions of any author...OF COURSE I asked one...you know me! As I started talking I could feel my throat closing and the tears prickling the edges of my eyes...I cannot talk about my beloved Zim without becoming emotional. I started by saying I was a ZImbabwean and I was supporting my countrywoman...and I think my question went along the lines of...'there has been little good news coming out of Zimbabwe in the last decade...but this is wonderful for you and for the country...what has been Zimbabwe's response to the book?'....and the first words out of her mouth....'Thank you my Zimbabwean sister for coming to support me...' and she then shared that Zimbabwe's reaction had been beyond her wildest dreams. That she had launched her book there and that the book signing in Bulawayo was the BIGGEST she has had at any reading in the entire world. Amazeballs. Just inspiringly amazeballs.

I have her book on Kindle already..but there was NO way I was missing out on getting this lovely lady's signature. So I purchased a hard copy and got in the queue. She was signing books for all and sundry.

And this is when the second magic moment of the night happened. I ended up in the queue behind a lovely chatty lady. I estimate she was only a few years older than me. Doing her PhD in Sociology. Born in the UK to parents from Barbados. She asked who I was supporting. I told her. I had only one book to be signed. Most other people in the queue had bought all 6 authors. I asked what her PhD was on...and she offered up the topic. I was floored. It was the very topic that brings me to tears when I talk about Zim. Her PhD...the sense of belonging. She asked me how long I had been living in the UK. I told her. And we got into talking about my affiliation to Zim. I need no second invitation to talk about my amazing country and the generosity of spirit its' people have. Her PhD is based on a group of people from Pakistan. I smiled wryly and said to her - if she ever needed to think about finding a second population group - she should try Zimbo's....pick up a rock anywhere in the world and you will find a Zimbo under it. In the 10 minutes or so we chatted, I had such a stark realisation. Every day I think of my life in Zim. The life I led. I pine for the simplicity of it. But actually - that life in Zim is the very reason I have been able to lead a blessed and happy life. I see it amongst my friends - positivity is hard to come by. But my cup over runneth. I see the world in a very unique and unparalleled way...but this is SOLELY because I grew up in a country and community that nurtured and encouraged that outlook.

Finally I was at the front of the queue...and NoViolet smiled up at me. And my pride soared. This was someone from my little dot on the world map. And I said to her...I am the one who asked you the question in the auditorium. Her pearly white smile grew bigger - and she said 'my sister'. She asked me a few questions about how long I had been in the UK, when was I last in Zim...and they she opened my book and asked my name. I told her and she started scribbling. I could not see what she was writing. She handed my book back and thanked me for coming and I was shepherded out of the way by the people in black hovering. And I opened the front page and this is what she had written to me....

'To sis, Gina. Lovely meeting you in London, my Zimbabwean sis, and I hope Names speaks to you of our homeland. Much love, NoViolet Byo'

I was so touched.