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A REVIEW OF THE NOVEL
SENSIBLE CHILD This is a story of a community that had just experienced a colonial forced relocation from Mangarangandja to a new location named Kehemu where their future became uncertain. The reality of lack of employment opportunities among the new Kehemu community members compels many of them to resort to alcoholism and violence, filling many of them with fears, hopelessness and doubt for the future. Among the frightful community members is Kornelius’ wife who becomes worried about the future of her son Albashir, who, at an early age is a drunkard who visits gallons of home brewed beers in the neighbourhood. To her, the prospect of her son growing up to be successful in life is futile as long as he grows up in what seemed to be a hopeless community of Kehemu. This later compels her with her husband to send their son Albashir to live in the village at his grand mother as a way to safe his future.
At the centre of the whole story is Albashir, an innocent boy who almost missed his nice moments as a child by despising to play around with boys of his age and instead spends his time at drinking places where he innocently engaged older people in thought provoking discussions. When Albashir is sent to live with his grand mother, he experiences a completely new life and begins not only to ask questions for granted but always attempts to understand and make deep sense or meaning out of everything.
This novel is a master piece of writing that presents an aftermath history of a forced relocated community of Kehemu in a literary form. For the people of Namibia who have experienced a history of colonial forced relocations or has been told about it by their parents, this is a novel to read because the novel takes you on the journey into the past of a community to share in their experiences. The reader is no longer confined to an outsider position but become part of the Kehemu community experiencing all their storms and stress.
The novel become political when the main character Alba begins to ask political questions of leadership and what independence means and how it will address the plights of the community that he holds so dear. It becomes more political when Alba finally becomes aware of the realities of independence, especially after the meeting with a government official who seem to only speak more then to deliver services to the community. It is only then that Alba becomes aware that more is expected from him as a youth to be more hard working and become self-reliant so as to find redress to the economic and social plight of unemployment that haunts his community rather then become helplessly dependent on the post-colonial government.
The use of a strong English vocabulary means that this novel presents a reading challenge to those with little energy and will to learn new English vocabularies. Perhaps this strength is also its own weakness but I am very hopeful that the novel will in the end help readers to learn the usage of English words in their everyday communication vocabulary. The depiction of Kehemu as a hopeless community with a lot of violence, alcoholism, however, leaves the community with little to desire and hope for and in this way, the book might compel an innocent reader who have no pre-knowledge of the Kehemu community to conclude wrongly that Kehemu community members could not safe themselves from their own crisis. I am hopeful however that readers will find the sign of a remaining light of hope at the end of the dark tunnel for a possibility of a brighter future for Kehemu location community
This is the first novel in English I am aware of that deals with a story of a post relocated community of Kavango and after reading this novel; I can not do otherwise but praise George Haimbiri for having contributed to the literary world of the Kavango region and Namibia in general.
Dr. Kletus Muhena Likuwa
University of Namibia.