Criminals and Fiction or How NOT to Go to Sweden By Lauri Kubuitsile

So the other week I was off to Uppsala Sweden to attend an event at The Nordic Africa Institute (NAI) about African crime fiction. To say everything went wrong would be unfair. Let’s be kind and say only the majority of the things that took place went wrong.

It all started when the publisher of one of my three Detective Kate Gomolemo novels was unable to part with even a single copy despite the fact that the man owning the bookstore for the Swedish event was willing to pay the fellow in advance. I tried some stealth tactics to get copies of my own books- this failed too. Maybe this was a sign from my ancestors that I should not go to Sweden. Or a sign that my publisher is useless. Or maybe it wasn’t a sign- I don’t know- but for sure it was the beginning of everything.

So now I was ready. I was armed with books from my other two cooperative publishers, my bag was packed, I headed to Gaborone. Of course I heard that President Mugabe was in town, who hadn’t? But how would that affect me? I was about to find out. 
See the Swedish are people used to things working correctly and on schedule. Efficiency is nearly synonymous with their culture. They don’t understand delayed flights. So they make an itinerary where you only need an hour and half to get from your flight landing in Joburg to your flight taking off for Frankfurt. But they didn’t take into consideration that it takes a good chunk of time to get a 91 year old president off a plane and securely into his awaiting car. I don’t even need to say it do I? I missed my connecting flight to Frankfurt.

So now the unthinkable happened. Instead of having a day to recover from the 12+ hour flight, I would now walk from the plane straight into the event. This is why you will see no photos of me with this article. If you see photos elsewhere of this event that include me, please have mercy and look away.

So the event. It was about research done on crime in Africa and the fiction folks write about it. The most interesting factual presentation for me, for reasons the researcher had not intended, was the session on policing- “Preventing or instigating crime? Research of African Policing”. The title said African research on African policing. But it wasn’t. It was research on police in The DRC, and then only in two cities, and it seems those police are quite useless and are often the criminals themselves. They have some problems. Yes, okay, I get that. But the implication was that this was a sampling of something and that something could be applied across the board- wasn’t that what the title of the talk was all about? But Botswana is not like that I said in a sleepy voice. Our police are not perfect, I’ll be the first to admit that after I told one I wrote books as a job and he told his partner to write- ga bereke on my speeding ticket, but I didn’t want them painted with one big DRC-tainted brush.

For the fiction side of things, we had Margie Orford, an author from Cape Town who writes about deep, dark crimes happening there using her protagonist Clare Hart, who appears in five novels. Orford was formerly a journalist and witnessed incredible violence against women and she wanted to understand this puzzle of brutality better and turned to fiction, where sometimes the truth is more honest than in journalism.

Former Caine Prize winner and successful author, Helon Habila was also there. He has started a crime writing publishing company called Cordite Books that intends to publish crime writing on the continent. He himself has written a novel about kidnapping in the oil rich Niger Delta called Oil on Water.

And there was me.

After the event, the Botswana Embassy in Stockholm held a reception at the NIA library. Mr Tshepo Mogotsi, Minister Counsellor at the Embassy, was in attendance. He spoke about how such events are also part of the Embassy’s mandate to promote Botswana and our culture, including literature, and that was pretty great to hear.

So let that be our mantra this weekend: Culture also includes literature. Yay!

Reblogged with permission from Lauri Kubuitsile. The article first appeared in print in  Mmegi, and online on the It’s All Write Facebook Page on 5 June, 2015.