Searching for God in the East

Book: Traveller to the East

Book: Traveller to the East

Author: Thomas Mofolo

Publisher: Penguin

Reviewer: Lindi Obose

Thomas Mofolo became the first African novelist when his works were published in 1908. Every person who is a Mosotho will be very proud to read this book, Moeti oa Bochabela, Traveller to the East.

In the first chapter Mofolo describes Africa as the "black darkness, in the times when the tribes were eating each other like wild beasts".

Fekisi, the main character, is brought up under strict discipline. He is horrified at some of the happenings in his village. He sees his neighbour beating his wife whenever he is drunk, until his neighbour kills her in a drunken rage one day.

He witnesses the bullying of the defenceless by the strong. Fekisi, a strong, young man who always helps the weak and the innocent is overwhelmed by the mysteries of nature - rain, seasons, vegetation, animal and human life.

He asks searching questions about nature from the elderly people in his village and they tell him that God is responsible for all of them.

One day while Fekisi is watching his herds in the veld, there is a total eclipse of the sun, during which there is a low, long, drawn-out rumbling-like thunder, and the sound of many angry voices are heard.

Many people die from fright. Fekisi prays to God to help him, and a sweet voice tells him his prayer has been heard, but that he has to seek God until he finds Him.

That night he dreams he is in Ntswana-tsatsi - the place from where the sun rose. He is told by the old people that that is where God lives. Fekisi takes this as a sign of the direction he should take and he decides to leave that night.

The next day he is mourned by all the people who love him in the village. He enters the wilderness and escapes the dangers of snakes, crocodiles, a lion and a lioness.

One day he faints, and on coming around, he finds three white men who speak a language he does not understand. They take him to their boat, nurse him back to health and sail after a month.

When he hears that these men have come from the East and are now returning, he is overjoyed. They tell him about God and his code for man's conduct. When they hear his Kgodumodumo tale they tell him about Christ, emphasising the similarity.

Soon they arrive in their country and take Fekisi to a priest where all his questions about God are answered.

It's a fascinating story that ends with Fekisi's death.