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Africa: Stories in the 55
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South Africa's WWI tragedy immortalised in new novel; Rwandan genocide as seen by Djiboutian writer

By Laura Angela Bagnetto

In this month's Africa: Stories in the 55, we speak to the authors of two historical novels, both set in the 20th century. Fred Khumalo's "Dancing the Death Drill" deals with the South African ship the S.S. Mendi, which was sunk in the waters off of the UK, killing 618 black South African soliders. In "Harvest of Skulls", Abdourahman Waberi, a Djiboutian writer, goes to Rwanda after the 1994 genocide and writes his novel based on the stories of the people he meets.

Spanning nearly 60 years, and many different names, South African author Fred Khumalo tells the poignant story of Pitso, a young black South African soldier who encounters other South Africans of different cultures on the ship the S.S. Mendi. "Dancing the Death Drill", published by Umuzi, shows intra-community politics--and the cameraderie-- of the men on the doomed ship. Previously forgotten by history books, Khumalo's book ensures that South Africa's tragedy will not be forgotten.

LISTEN to Fred Khumalo, author of "Dancing the Death Drill", plus an excerpt of his book

 Hard questions are raised in Abdourahman Waberi's book, "Harvest of Skulls". Waberi, a Djiboutian writer, spent time in Rwanda after the 1994 genocide to try to understand what had happened and connect with people there. The book, published by Indiana University Press, is out for the first time in English.

LISTEN to Abdourahman Waberi, Djiboutian author of Harvest of Skulls, discuss his book on the 1994 Rwanda Genocide

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