DUNG BEETLES AND
OTHER SPIRITUAL MASTERS
-- 'Ostriches, Dung Beetles
And Other Spiritual Masters'. Author - Janice Mclaughin M. Price
Ksh 1,260/=. 148 pages. Published by Orbis Books, Maryknoll
, New York
stories can change
the world to be a better place
BY JOSEPH ADERO NGALA
- - African
stories have been told, and they are always being told, when children
are going to sleep or even when the sun sets.
An Africa child who
thinks that their grand mother or grand fathers are the only 'best'
storytellers will soon realize that there are also some other 'best'
ones outside there.
of he stories are remembered during the days when children are going
to school or going for the water in the river or lake streams.
is always very important to listen at the stories very well.
are very rich, some witches stories, others are real other are
the fact remains that African stories are very rich and if there is
any thing to go by it is that African stories can change the world to
be a better place.
a friend of mine bought me book of stories written by a long time
friend Sister Janice McLaughlin.
book is one of those that reminds me of my childhood growing up in the
have been told at the time of war and peace time also.
a recent interview with Petina Gappah - a Zimbabwean writer and author
of 'An Elegy for Easterly' - she told me that in
stories are told even at the time of death.
reminds people of many things in the life of the dead and children
must be allowed to listen to the stories.
bring the realities behind the latest headline of newspapers.
is exactly what Sister Janice has done the collection of 26 stories
that offer a moving and disturbing portrait of contemporary
is a continent she knows so well on her tip of her fingers.
Janice's character are mainly animals found in the wilderness of
and this animals sometimes are used by an
clan - for example buffalo, that you cannot eat
book is full of such animals like buffalo, cheetah, and crocodile.
eland, giraffe, great kudu, hammer kop, hippopotamus, hornbill,
impala, lion, ostrich and dung beetles.
all the names above the book is an excellent reading - it gives
reader more detail and explanation.
book is recommended to be read at bed time where there is peace.
teachers especially the one in
should use it to tell their literature students
that there is yet another excellent book that addresses the African
book was written in
and in some difficulties with day-to-day life under
President Robert Mugabe - insane inflation, cholera outbreaks, an aids
epidemic - all are brought painfully to life.
of the animals used as characters are caught up in their own politics
with 'climatic change' that is currently ravaging
warns that if Africans don't watch out this book will remain a
'history' for children because the animals will perish - one can even
take the case of Nairobi people who have built houses all the way into
the national parks.
we may thank God that 'Ostriches, Dung Beetles and other Spiritual
Masters' will remind the generations to come that there were actually
these animals living during the time of the author.
I have revelled in the breathtaking beauty of the African continent.
, I have been privileged to interact with people,
who live in harmony with nature, and with abundance of wildlife that
such a garden of
also where l have experienced the deepest connection and communion
with the Creator of such bounty.
this book stories represent human character in the form of animals -
like the little hare which is physically weak, but clever and full of
tricks, or the huge elephants that possess enormous strength but seems
a little weak in the head.
question one may ask who Sister Janice McLaughlin is?
is native of
United States of America
was known as 'Twiga' [Giraffe] when she started her work in
is well-known in the African continent for more than forty years: she
loves this continent - whether it is the people, the animals, the
trees and the plants.
this little book she sums up the wisdom she has gained from her long
, and which has now turned out to be her farewell
then she was elected to the President of her religious congregation
(Maryknoll sisters) and had to leave for her native
was also at one time an information officer for the Kenya Episcopal
Janice also served during the liberation for
and after she lived through in side and sided
with the fighters in their camps in
also found her self in prison during Ian Smith, who was then the Prime
Minister of Zimbabwe: that last white man in
was arrested and tried and then deported back to the
was then she made her mind to help the freedom fighters for
and until recently she was working for the
leadership in Silveria house in
and further authored the book 'On the
frontline-catholic missions in
a careful reading we come to admire her resilience and this brings
us to a letter written by emeritus Archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu in
advance praise for her writing:
the Genesis story of creation, encounter God resting and viewing the
whole of magnificent creation-rather than the power we most
associate with the lion."
Desmond Tutu observes in this great beast joy in playfulness and
spiritual renewal through relaxation "in this the shade of a
thorn tree" relish this warm and wonderful book, truly a gift
from Sister Janice has given.
book also deals with justice and peace and here is where many African
countries are caught in conflicts and it often seems there are just
never ending wars in
day one reads the newspapers feels and see the pain
is going through.
organization dealing with peace in the horn of African and
we have learnt some lesson from this book.
Janice is a towering figure of world communications.
exemplifies belief now seemingly forgotten in a literary culture
which has been under attack by the ubiquity of the superficial that
writer can be the mouthpiece of a time.
spokes person to crusade and a tireless examiner of moral and
has been a fervent campaigner against injustice and has long held an
iconic statues here as a champion of tolerance, free speech and
has been able to display great conviction.
few years ago, when Sister Janice lived in
and was having a workshop for the writers in
Coastal city of
, she told her listeners that:
how to write sent me falling, falling through the surface of African
situations and ways of life".
added in her work there is always 'affection' - for she has been a
missionary and a writer to
, its people, epic landscape and potent past.
has also suffered with and felt the devastating psychological effects
of journalist, writers' persecutions on the lives of ordinary writers
- like father Clement Kigundu of Uganda and many that suffered during
the apartheid regime and under Ian Smith.
this book one sees Sister Janice as a writer of extraordinary power
Janice deals with problem of belonging in then a segregated society.
shows a place as prison.
do you feel apart or a society which is founded upon wistful
mistreatment of millions of its citizen?
do you do when your very country has been stolen from you?
fables are testament of her belief in the redemptive power of
ability to overcome what she has called, the 'violence of pain' even
if that pain is inflicted by the state.
individual, if brave and willing enough, is able to triumph against
seemingly in unobtainable odds.
hope Janice shares the most powerful 'Story of Hammerkop' (page
55-57) where she looks at some of the most extraordinary people, like
Judy Mayotte - who she describes as a friend.
who lost her leg and hand has never allowed her missing limbs to
define her or limit her dreams.
has accomplished more than most people with two legs and has not been
deterred by the physical challenges she faces each day she moves about
her wheel chair.
kind of ambition enables her to overcome difficulties, to touch, any
people who lives and to have appositive impact on the wider world.
recent work has been controlled, powerful and affecting as anything
she has written.
book should be used more in intuitions, youth groups and small study
Joseph Adero Ngala is a writer with 'People for Peace in
Africa' (PPA), P.O. Box 14877,