Interview Conoscere – Friday, November 26, 2021
Buongiorno, my name is Ginevra, and I would like to talk today about a book called “I am Semba”, from the authors with the original pseudonyms of Ajeka & Fox.
Summarizing a little bit the plot of this book, I would say that a newly appointed president of Tanzania, a Sub-Saharan country on the east coast, struggles hard to curb corruption… He strives to secure democracy and faith in a climate of misery and unrest. His counterforces brawl to bring him down. The President’s men hasten to uncover plots and traitors.
Now today we have Penny with us. Thank you for attending Penny, who will tell us more about this intriguing story.
1. But first, Penny, tell us who you are, please?
Well, Ginevra, before doing so, thank you for having me on your show… Conoscere stands for knowing and understanding, and that’s exactly our aim too as authors. To invite people, your viewers, and hopefully, our readers, to travel with us to dark Africa and the wonderful country of Tanzania….
Well, a bit about myself – I was born and bred in Leicestershire, in the UK. I have an enormous love of animals and nature, adore travelling and the outdoors. I spent many years in the textile world that took me to all corners of the globe. At 27, my career took me across the channel to the Netherlands. I also spent quite a few years in the Middle East, and when I returned to Holland, I started translating and teaching English to Dutch children. A couple of years ago, I had the good fortune to meet and consequently work with Ajeka.
2. Why use pseudonyms?
Well, that is a good question, Ginevra. We wanted to have a catchy name people would remember – a name that would stand out in a pile of books. Ajeka is a play on the initials of my co-writer, and Fox is the English translation of my Dutch sir name. And so Ajeka & Fox were born.
3. Obvious question also, why write about a president?
Well, the word president is a title familiar to everybody, but what happens behind those closed presidential doors often remains a secret. Presidents have a life too – struggle with counterforces, wrestle with everyday dilemmas of life. Trump and Obama were constantly in the news, Bidon is now too - but the inner life of an African President, his struggles, obsessions, beliefs – how to lead such an East African country in today’s world, is fascinating and relatively unknown. So we thought, a perfect reason to write a book.
4. What I loved most was the description of some local customs. How did you create that local flavour, Penny?
Both Ajeka and myself have travelled the world extensively, Ginevra. We love observing, absorbing, drinking in the local atmosphere. Listening to and talking to the local people is a fascinating pastime. To visit villages, local markets, cafés takes you to the heart of the country. Ajeka was also brought up in Africa and has spent a large part of his adult life working in Tanzania, so the local flavour flows naturally… like writing a diary.
5. Are you not afraid that people there may be obfuscated by your observations on corruption and their politics?
To be honest, no. We intend to open our readers' minds to the intriguing world within the Palace walls. To share something that has not been exposed or written about very often. We hope that it will make an interesting read - inspiring to learn new facts about Tanzania. Guide the reader through the East African mind.
6. So, not controversial?
No, definitely not our intention to be so. Quite the contrary.
7. Last but not least, Penny, is there, in your view, still hope for poor Tanzania?
I sincerely hope so. Tanzania has such a rich culture, is a fertile country with gemstones, home to the Tanzanite stone, coffee plantations, gas reserves. It is home to Africa’s highest mountain, and 30% of the country is a beautiful nature park. It has exotic wildlife – home to the big five and many more. 2 million animals travel across the plains. It has the second largest lake in the world – Tanganyika. It has an extremely young population, 64% of the population is under 24. The population as of November this year is 62 million – that’s a lot of young people! All looking for a future.
Last but not least, we want the reader to enjoy and experience our love for Tanzania.