Manu Herbstein at Africa Book Club
Commonwealth Writers Prize for Africa Region Winners (Best and First book winners) and on this list is Manu Herbstein's Ama, A Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade. This story won the award in the first book category in 2002. Manu Herbstein was interviewed by Africa Book Club. Issues discussed ranges from his dual citizenship, how he came to write this novel and what the future holds for him as a writer. According to the structural engineer cum writer, it is best for the Mo Ibrahim Foundation to sponsor writers than their futile search of past presidents to award. Here is an excerpt of the interview.
Tell us a little about yourself, and your background.
My grandparents arrived in what was then the Cape Colony in the last decade of the nineteenth century. They had fled religious persecution in Eastern Europe. (I was brought up as a Zionist but I now look forward, though with faint hope, to the day when Palestinians and Israeli Jews can agree to live together in a single secular state.) I grew up near Cape Town and studied there until I left South Africa in 1959. I planned to return after the demise of apartheid, which seemed unlikely to survive the sixties. It took longer than expected and in the meantime I put down roots in Ghana. These days I try to spend December and January in Cape Town.
What's the story behind your dual-citizenship? We understand you are both South African and Ghanaian.
I first went to Ghana in 1961, drawn there by the charisma of Kwame Nkrumah. I worked there until 1963; and again from 1965 to the end of 1966. I have lived in Ghana since 1970, so when the citizenship requirements were relaxed it made sense to apply. I’ve had a Ghana passport since 2006. I retained my South African citizenship throughout the years of apartheid, though it sometimes required subterfuge to have my passport renewed.