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

NAMA KWA’S GARDEN (article first published : 2005-06-16)

During the spring every year, a little “miracle” occurs in the Namaqualand region of South Africa when a desert land turns into a magnificent carpet of flowers. This is one of the country’s most endearing tourist attractions and to experience the sight firsthand is to become part of nature’s wonder.

Drawing her characters from what is known about the Khoekhoen herders who lived in the area 2,000 years ago; South African born author Mary Clanahan has produced a charming and beautifully-illustrated book that tells a story about this fascinating phenomenon. It is thought that the Khoisan of southern Africa are descended from the Khoekhoen.

Nama Kwa’s Garden would be a treasure on anyone’s bookshelf. It’s beautifully and heavily bound, giving it a long shelf life. In it, Mary Clanahan has created her own story focusing on a character named Nama Kwa.

Nama Kwa’s people want to surprise him with a special gift on his birthday. Leaders in the community have discovered a way to provide water to an arid area where they will plant beautiful flowers and shrubs and provide their chief with the garden of his dreams.

However, as this must all be done in secret it becomes a major undertaking when the whole village is involved. They persuade Nama Kwa’s wife to take him on a long trip while they set about creating their masterpiece.

A microbiologist by training, Mary Clanahan changed career direction to banking and teaching swimming to the disabled. Her generosity of spirit shines through this book which will appeal to all ages.

Jaqui Taylor worked for a number of years as an illustrator for advertising agencies in London and in Zimbabwe. She has once again introduced her inter-active visual style to this book and the illustrations are a delight.

Credit must also go to designer Helen Henn for co-ordinating text and illustrations into an attractive visual mix which incorporates lots of white space, well representing the vastness of the area in question. Each page is a delight – if there isn’t a full-page illustration, there are small images of flowers, butterflies or a couple of beetles scuttling across the page.

Nama Kwa’s Garden is published by Struik in hardcover and retails at R99.95 ISBN 1 77007 025 7. – Caroline Smart




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