Book: Different Colours
Author: Ng’ang’a Mbugua
Publisher: Big Books
Publication date: 2011
Number of pages: 260
With the Nairobi International Book Fair in town then its only fair that I review a book from one of the folks in the running for the Wahome Mutahi Literary Prize. Unfortunately I don’t have access to any right now so you will have to make do what I have on hand which is Different Colours from Nairobi Kenya based Nganga Mbugua. The author is a serial winner/nominee of Kenya’s bigger literary awards winning the 2012 edition of that prize as well as winning the 2010 version for his The Terrorists of the Aberdare. His book of poems This land is our Land is the one in the running for the English adult prize this year’s Wahome Mutahi Literary Prize.
Different Colour’s tells the tale of Miguel an artist who moves to Banana County to paint a waterfall he had been told about by a fellow artist Billy Joe. He grew up in the Western part of the country and it is here that he discovered his love of the brush (writers = the pen, artist = brush) and decided that it was to be his destiny. As an apprentice under Paul the Painter he starts on his journey in his calling through an artist commune to eventually hosting his own exhibitions around the country and the world.
When he gets to Banana County he “shacks up” with a widow Angela Tenga who has a young son called Tom. There is a bad guy in this book; Dick Heita a pig farmer who is the resident shylock and all around businessman making money from the residents of the town.
The story unfolds as we see underhanded dealings that look to mess up the little community and its way of life because of one of the oldest sins; greed. The community must come together to save the world they know and Miguel the unlikely hero with his dreadlocks and paints and brushes is at the centre of it all.
The story has a happy ending which will please many like myself but the realist knows that in this country the bad guy will usually win at the end of the day.
The book has many good things going for it. This Nganga Mbugua guy can write. I enjoyed the tale of the man who moves to a different part of the country and has to cope with a new environment and survives the experience.
It goes with the same theme of the previous book The Terrorists of The Aberdare which had an environmental angle to it as well. Is Nganga Mbugua set to become the Kenyan writer giving tales of the triumph of good men against bad men determined to destroy our environment? Time will tell.
It is also the first book I read which was compliant with the new constitution as it deals with counties. So we have a stage set in Banana County on Orange River. Get the innuendo Kenyans? (For the none Kenyans it has to do with a famous referendum in 2005 where people had to choose either Orange or Banana that gave rise to the Orange Democratic Movement the political party). You don’t meet many books that are so with it in that regard.
The one thing that I found a bit disturbing is the use of some of the biggest words I have seen in recent times in a book. Sagacious. Anti-hero. An outdoor morality. At times you will need a dictionary if you want to navigate this book.
Then this lady who was house our Miguel is called Angela sometimes morphs into Juliana without warning and quickly back yet no one mentions that she had changed her name like Michael became Miguel. It can be very confusing.
A very good little book. Get your copy. You won’t regret it. But carry your dictionary.