WINDHOEK- How many Namibian writers do you know? Can you mention them by name? I am sure Jane Katjavivi with her ‘Undisciplined Heart’ will come to mind. How about the late Neshani Andreas of ‘The Purple Violet of Oshaantu’, Ellen Namhila ‘Price of Freedom’, Libertina Amathila with ‘Making a Difference’, Lydia Shakatange has a book titled ‘Walking the Boeing 707’ and who can forget Beatrice Sandelowsky’s book titled ‘Archaeologically Yours’?
As you can see from that list, no name of any man was mentioned. But there is a fiction writer in town and his writing is worth reading. He is young, bright, passionate and well read.
Rémy Ngamije is a Rwandan-born Namibian writer, photographer and a columnist who is a force to be reckoned with. With his immense creative interest, his love for writing started with the love for reading. Ngamije credits his Grade 2 teacher at Holy Cross Convent: “I had a great teacher, Mrs Bryant, she read us Roald Dahl’s stories, like The BFG and Matilda. I guess I have always been interested in stories since then. That led to my interest for storytelling and then, eventually, to writing,” he said. Ngamije is a tricenarian (30 years old to be exact) and has been writing for 23 years.
One usually comes across a lot of artists in Namibia who say “I have been singing since the age of 6 or 7, 13” etc. It’s no different from Rémy Ngamije. He developed the love for composing through assignments in English while in his 2nd Grade and that definitely constitutes to writing. Ngamije was so consistent in his quest for writing that it got carried into his secondary years and this is where assignments got more challenging. The passion grew into a lifestyle to a point where he started writing for his campus newspaper at the University of Cape Town. “That is where I got the taste of writing for an audience,” he said.
With a list of books that he has written, the latest one hits home and it’s titled, ‘The Neighborhood Watch’. With regards to the inspiration behind the book, Ngamije says it started with an observation. “In this case, seeing all the people in Windhoek who carefully monitor the moment of the trash collection,” said Ngamije. He further narrated that he had an idea that this is a place where a story would originate from but he didn’t have the right angles, he had no plot or structure of the story. “That is what I spent the longest time working on, trying to make the story fit in with the setting, making sure that all the details were spot-on,” he said. And with that, he had to make sure all the details were perfect.
Asked what his stance was on fiction writing in Namibia, Ngamije highlighted that it is always worth it and that in many cases or instances, writers write because they have to write. He said they (writers) might do other things to keep a roof over their head or food on the table, but a writer is always drawn to the simple act of putting pen to paper, often without the promise of reward. “Writing in Namibia has much to offer to Namibian and international audiences because this corner of the world has a literary output so writers from this corner of the world have a blank canvas to work with,” says Ngamije. He stated it might make it harder for one to get noticed or to secure an audience but it is also pleasant to write without the weight of literary history weighing down upon you. In these tough economic times, passion and love does not put food on the table which means one has to have something else on the side to make sure bills get paid.
All the finer things in life always have challenges and in Namibia and writing, it’s no different. According to Ngamije, it is important to seize publishing opportunities for your work, and he has achieved that writing in Namibia. One of the challenges for him is few publishers know where Namibia is so they are often sceptical about taking on his work because they feel the audience he writes for is not right for their specific publication. “Namibia’s literary scene needs to be harnessed and made into a critical mass capable of continuous output,” adds Ngamije. He further pinpointed that only then can Namibian writers carve a place for themselves in the literary world in the same way that Nigerian, Ghanaian, Kenyan and South African writers have managed to do. More Namibian writers need to write, he emphasised.
“Read, read, read, read, pause, think, read, observe, read, read, imitate, read, read, read, write,” is the advice the talented writer has for upcoming and aspired writers in Namibia. It all begins and ends in reading. “Everything else - characterisation, plot, themes, settings, conflict - a consummate writer will figure out for themselves - but, trust me, it all starts with reading. Always,” concluded Ngamije.
You can catch up on Rémy Ngamije’s work on remythequill.com
2019-04-03 09:40:23 4 months ago