In a partnership between The Mayfair Theatre, a local indie cinema which is fabulous (and has a lifesize figurine of an Alien… from Alien among other things in it’s décor) had a screening of The Forgotten Kingdom directed by Andrew Mudge and also the book launch of A Girl in Lesotho written by the found of Help Lesotho (http://helplesotho.org/ is a charity based here in Ottawa) Dr. Peg Herbert. At first, because I knew nothing about Lesotho, including how to pronounce LE-SO-TO, I wasn’t sure I would go but then I thought – a book event incorporating an interesting Non Profit, right here in Ottawa, I gotta go!
I wasn’t disappointed. First I had the chance to purchase a copy of A Girl in Lesotho and speak briefly with Dr. Herbert who spent three years in Lesotho. All the pictures in the book are Herbert’s, and the story is inspired by a real girl named Nthati (EN-THA-TAY). It details firs the life of Nthati who lives with her twin sister, three cousins and Aunt and Uncle in hut in a small village in Lesotho. It then details a day in the life of Nthati. The book is published by the Help Lesotho charity and, therefore, I would say that is is a semi-professional creation, it is meant to be interactive as it encourages kids to write a response to it and it is purposefully aimed at children around 7 or 8 years old. However, set your nit-picky book judgement aside, it is such a worthy story and cause that if you can, I recommend picking up this picturebook as it is a glimpse into a totally different world.
Indeed, I think that the book’s primary purpose is to show a way of life that isn’t all sad at all, but actually full of love and happiness with what those in Lesotho do have. The culture is in many ways beautiful, but, as with most cultures it has it’s flaws. Lesotho suffers from poverty, severe gender inequality and it has the second highest HIV infected population in the world – so, despite the happiness that life can offer, they are in need of assistance. This book touches on the gender inequality that Nthati encounters every day and her hope for change. The book concludes with a map, information about Lesotho, some notes on global gender inequality issues and some discussion questions. Help Lesotho is a wonderful and ambitious charity and one worthy of support – check out more info on A Girl in Lesotho or the Help Lesotho Facebook page.
Now! On to the cinema! Going solo to the cinema is a first for me, and I have to say sitting next to strangers and not being able to chat or use my arm rests was… odd, but certainly bearable and hey! New experiences.
The film detailed the story of Atang, a young, unemployed man from Lesotho who lives in Johannesburg (which we gather is the route a lot of young men from Lesotho take). We learn that Lesotho is a very proud landlocked country in the middle of South Africa, a unique political position with numerous problems that are revealed through Atang’s story. When Atang’s estranged father dies, our young hero travels home to his ancestral land to bury him and unexpectedly, becomes drawn to the mystical beauty and hardships of the land and people he had forgotten. He reunites with a friend, he encounters the harshness of both people and landscapes, and he works hard to grow up, discover himself and accept who he is and his landscape. It isn’t so much an adventure as a coming of age tale. Some of the worst things happen to Atang, but it isn’t a story full only of sadness, there is a mystical quality to the film and an unfinishedness to the ending that left me with hope… Atang’s story is well told in a breathtaking landscape. A window into Lesotho and it’s people.
I learned a lot about Lesotho and Africa, there is such a wealth of history and culture but also of hardships and illness. I urge you to check it out :)