An African Mother Christmas by Gcina Mhlophe
I truly love this book. In the fourteen years since it was published (By Maskew Miller Longman in their Stars of Africa series) I have shared it with countless children – and they love it too.
This is a real book of Africa, a story of real children in the Valley of a Thousand Hills, a story where the reader can almost feel the pinch of shoes in feet on hot Durban pavements, taste the mangoes Mama gives the children when they get home … and share the sense of disappointment that the man in the red suit and the white beard never comes to their home.
Then Thando remembers a story her grandmother told her once of a beautiful rain goddess called Nomkhubulwana.
‘ I knew in my heart that the goddess would come and play with the children in my village. My heart told me that she would teach happy new songs or even bring us little gifts. I closed my eyes and tried so hard to imagine what she looked like. But I could not.
‘And then, on Christmas morning, slowly moving through the banana patch, we saw the strangest sight, the most wonderful sight I had ever seen. It was a huge grey elephant trumpeting loudly and happily. On his back was the most beautiful woman.’
Mother Christmas has come. ‘She was so very pretty. Her smile was like no other I had ever seen before. She opened her bag and looked at us with teasing eyes. Out came a little doll that looked exactly like her, then another, and then another. She gave us dolls and toy elephants. Necklaces and clay bowls. Bamboo flutes and drums.’
Who needs Father Christmas?
Search out this book. It deserves (and has long deserved) more attention. The gorgeous, soft-focus illustrations by Alzette Prins do the story proud. I attended the joyous musical produced by Gcina in Durban and it was like … well, like Christmas come.
Review by Lesley Beake
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