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A Year in the Life of an African Village

by Bret Galloway


Life in Shakawe, a small village in northwestern Botswana, moves slowly, its days mesmerized by the rhythmic buzzing of locusts and its nights lulled by the plaintive chanting of frogs. Its cycles and permanence, its beauty and its darkness, are echoed in the languid Okavango River that runs past the village, ebbing and flowing in time to the relentless seasons.

Black Papyrus comprises twelve separate but intertwined stories recounting one year in the life of this village, which stands delicately perched on the threshold of the modern world, its old ways rapidly fading. Meet the vibrant Sethunya as she struggles with love and her own identity; the insightful Pono, who finds understanding out of the ashes of human malice and fear; the wise traditional doctor Letlonkana, who struggles with the folly of human ignorance; Big Boy, whose swollen ego is exceeded in size only by the vast Kalahari desert; the pragmatic doctor Birgit Sveinnson, who seeks to control the vicissitudes and misfortunes of this world; and many others whose lives sway and shudder like the reeds and papyrus of the Okavango.


Bret, a spiritual drifter, lived in rural Botswana for two years, remembering with fondness the beauty and gentle power of the Okavango.

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