DCW502 Writing and Contemporary Practice

Writing for Africa

I wonder how many British authors write about Africa, live in Transylvania and have worked as a BBC journalist and World Service trainer.

The answer is probably one – Mike Ormsby. He’s responsible for my new favourite novel called ‘Child Witch Kinshasa’. It’s the first of a two-part series. So, if you get hooked like me you’ll need to read ‘Child Witch London’ too.

The story is set between the Congo and England in 2002 and exposes the shocking phenomenon of child witches, where children are accused of sorcery, ostracised and suffer all sorts of abuse, while the pastors who charge a fee to exorcise them just cash in.

From the title I initially thought it must be fiction. As unbelievable as it sounds, there is still widespread belief in the Congo that children can be powerful sorcerers.

Here’s a recent article about it in Africa News. The Guardian also covers it in this article from 2006 called ‘Thousands of child ‘witches’ turned on to the streets to starve – Kinshasa sects make fortunes from exorcisms.’

It’s no wonder that Orsmby’s opening line in the novel is ‘God what a racket’. Genius.

The book hooked me on page one when the protagonist Frank Kean is woken up in the hot African night by mysterious chanting and a boy wailing for mercy.

Unlike some disturbing stories though, the book isn’t offensive or repellent. Ormsby manages to convey real persecution by expertly weaving a compelling story which is surprisingly full of humour, snappy dialogue and vivid imagery, told through a cast of vibrant and fully realised characters; including Frank Kean, the journalist trainer, his wife Ruth, and Dudu a twelve-year-old Congolese boy.

Ormsby effortlessly tackles all sorts of interesting and complex themes including superstition, religion, survival, friendship, love, parenthood, charity and civil war.

‘Child Witch Kinshasa’ is available in paperback (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform) and kindle (Nicoaro Books), from Amazon or other booksellers.

In case you want to find out more before you buy, the book has its own website.  If you want to learn more about the author, you can watch Mike Ormsby being interviewed  on You Tube below, or read this interview about how he wrote the book.  It’s called, “Writing a novel is like being in a band or a sports club: you need a good team,” by Romanian Editor Eli Bădică.

So, if you’re wanting to read something totally different, but also really important, this could be one to add to your reading list.


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