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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

HOME AFFAIRS (article first published : 2008-01-11)

Former Durban actress Bree (Bridget) O’Mara recently won The Citizen Book Prize in association with 30° South Publishers, South Africa’s first book prize to be chosen by the reading public.

Described as relevant, topical, humorous, Home Affairs is set in the Underberg village of Hillman, population 237 (it would have been 238 except the mayor, Dewaldt "Pompies" van Niekerk, was not at home at the time of the last census). Something has disturbed the peace in the hilltop hamlet. A debate is raging about whether or not to change the name of the town in line with current political trends. Embroiled in a hotbed of infighting and political one-upmanship, the town becomes a dorp divided.

When a rumour goes round that wealthy developers are coming to Hillman to build a Sun City-style resort on the mountain, the town is thrown into chaos. Newspaper reporters from as far as Pietermaritzburg and Estcourt descend en masse, and the townsfolk of Hillman have to choose between progress and prosperity or self-preservation.

Bree O'Mara was born in Durban – as she says: “on a Thursday in July, just in time for lunch”. She started out life in the theatre and performed for all four performing arts councils “before the diet of lettuce and watercress became too much to bear”. In 1992 she went to live in the Middle East where she worked as a steward for Bahrain’s national carrier. “After appearing in the television advert for the airline, the producer of the commercial got drunk on a flight to London,” she recalls, and offered her a job as an art director in his film production company. She took this offer (“written on a napkin in case he forgot the next day”) and went on to become a producer of 35mm television commercials and documentaries, writing copy and scripts all over the Gulf and Middle Eastern region.

Since then, Bree has lived and worked in broadcast and print media in Canada, the United States and England. In 2004 she left the UK for Tanzania, where she lived for a year with the Maasai, working for a small charity. There she lived with no electricity and no running water and this made her homesick for South Africa. She now lives with her husband in the North West Province.

Bree speaks a variety of languages, “plays the harp, doesn't like artichokes, follows Formula 1, and works in conservation”. Her favourite authors are Joanne Harris, PJ O'Rourke, Tobias Wolff and Stephen Fry.

Home Affairs is published in softback and retails at R135. Its amusing cartoon-style front cover gives an idea of the humorous content. ISBN 978-1-920143-19-0.

(Watch this space for a review of the publication)




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