David Donald, author of Call on the Wind, launched his new book, Blood’s Mist, at the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) yesterday evening. Blood’s Mist, which targets younger and adult readers alike, weaves the parallel stories of a Bushman and a British Settler.
Donald insisted from the start that he was not an historian, an archaeologist, or indeed a novelist – his training lies in educational psychology – but that Blood’s Mist was testimony to his love for, and fascination with, southern African rock art. It’s a fascination that compels him to write (and write compellingly, we might add). It was appropriate, therefore, that he should be in conversation with Doreen Gowans at his launch; she’s a member of the South African Archeological Society (Archsoc) and of the Eastern Cederberg Rock Art Group (eCRAG) – organisations which supplied many members of the audience.
Donald’s memory of rock art goes back to when he was six, visiting Giant’s Castle in the Drakensberg, site of much rock art. From there on, as his exposure to the paintings scattered across the region grew – and now they’ve ended up in his book. As Donald put it, “This book is about people, not rock art, but rock art does come into it, it couldn’t not because I wrote it.”
The seed for the book was planted when Donald returned to a friend’s work, John Wright’s Bushmen Raiders of the Drakensberg, which was the published version of a Master’s thesis. Donald had been at UKZN with Wright and they had often hiked together in the Drakensberg. Rereading Wright’s book, Donald rediscovered how moving it was. It evoked in him a desire to write about his own piece of little-known history, in such a way as to inculcate the sense of wonder that he had first felt.
Donald’s work is, of course, a fictionalised version of a historical narrative such as Wright might have written. As Gowans said to the author, “You’ve leapt from the historical account and written a deeply felt work.”
Donald explained that although he didn’t write the book specifically for young people, he did want to make it something that was accessible to them. With a PhD on the topic of children and storytelling, he wanted Blood’s Mist to be something that young people could get lost in. Gowans agreed that the book was indeed highly readable, whereupon, to prove her point, Donald read a section from Blood’s Mist concerning trance in a manner that showed his enthusiasm for storytelling and the weaving of fine tales.
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