Fiction for Young Adults

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Hofmeyr, Dianne

The Waterbearer

Cape Town, South Africa: Tafelberg, 2001. 144 p. ISBN 0-624-03982-X. Ages 12 and up.

This sixth book from award-winning author Dianne Hofmeyr is set about five hundred years ago amidst the Arab traders on the east coast of Africa and the mysterious city now known as Great Zimbabwe. This novel is based on culture, unlike much African fiction for young adults, which is based on conflict—of military might, political power, or even family strife. The reader is led, not without excitement, into the hazy past of trading and the power of gold and of an east-central Africa seldom explored in a fictional setting.

The boy Tamu, grieving for his dead father, is taken away from the coastal life that he knows and is forced inland toward the land of the Great Mambo, where he discovers he has the power of being a water-diviner. The power of water—whether of the sea, river, rain, or the desperate lack of it—is a constant sub-theme in the novel. The young lady Tamu admires is already betrothed to the king, which leads to personal tension and danger for Tamu.

The writing is polished, subtle, and full of local research. The book is attractively designed with vignettes (by Bennie Krüger) and maps of the two main Great Zimbabwe enclosures. Sophisticated readers will realise that the history of Africa is far older than our present history books state, and with a degree of civilised structure that Africa is not always considered to have achieved.

Fiction for Young Adults

South Africa