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SLAVE TRADES (article first published : 2000-06-12)

Deep South Publishing is pleased to announce the publication of an exceptional new work by well-known author Ari Sitas. Titled Slave Trades & An Artist's Notebook, it is considered by its publishers to be a “singularly unique work on the screen of South African prose”. It contains 192 pages and features a cover image by William Kentridge and line drawings by Andrew Verster.

In 1874, aged 20, the visionary poet Arthur Rimbaud abandoned poetry and left France for Africa. He spent some years in Cyprus and Aden before settling in Ethiopia during the reign of kings Menelek and Makonnen. He became a trader in coffee, guns and hides and toyed with the idea of trading in slaves. Blending the personal with historical narratives and contemporary consciousness, Slave Trades avoids the descent into parochial irrelevance and instead, situates itself in broader continental narratives and concerns of post-colonialism.

"The sense that a new type of Hamesan wind was stirring up the “desert” was everywhere,” states Sitas in his preface. “The sense that Habesh or Abesh (thus, the word Abyssinia!) was changing radically, was deeply debated. That world was not the place of 'nothingness', the 'desert of the soul' where 'genius' like Rimbaud crashed. It was a complex, changing world, like 'tej', intoxicating and lethal, a place that resonated through our lives during the last century. Slave Trades is an attempt to express the voice of a cynical Rimbaud, his Ethiopian "wives", the voices of the marketplace, priests, poets and kings.”

Sitas also attempts to create a territory of feeling that is accessible to most and alludes to the work of poets that have influenced him such as Pindar, Homer, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Kavafis and Cesaire. “And allusions to the many monastic texts, historical documents, folksong genres and oral compositions that have cluttered my life in the last decade are also of necessity, part of the landscape,” adds Sitas. “ All I can hope is that I have managed to animate this 'non-place' into a credible 'imposition'."

An Artist's Notebook is a fictional account of the same terrain set in the 1990’s. Ethiopia is war-ravaged and a group of disaffected people, some of them descendants of the characters in Slave Trades, are puzzling out their roots and their identities.

Slave Trades & An Artist's Notebook is available by mail order in South Africa from Deep South Publishing, PO Box 2482, Cape Town, 8000. South Africa. Contact e-mail: deepsouthpubl@hotmail.com




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