Let Avi and Kumbi lead your child into the history of Africa

Historian Nomalanga Mkhize and her daughter, Lindiwe
Historian Nomalanga Mkhize and her daughter, Lindiwe

Review: In Africa With Avi And Kumbi

Author: Khize wamaZambezi

Reviewer: Somaya Stockenstroom

Historian and former presenter of SABC2's documentary series, Shoreline, Nomalanga Mkhize, has published a charming and informative African history book for children.

Unlike the history we were taught pre-democracy, this book covers important themes such as rock art, the rise of ancient civilisations and ancient trade, African philosophy, slavery, colonialism and struggles for independence.

The speech bubbles, colourful graphics and little "Did-You-Know" snippets make the content easy enough for children of eight and older to grasp.

Mkhize chose to pen the book under her clan name, "Khize wamaZambezi".

"I chose my praise name as it celebrates African ways of naming.

"It also serves as a fond reminder that all of us as Africans are related," says the 38 year old.

Born and raised in Durban in KwaZulu-Natal, the mother of one says this self-published project, which took her three years to complete, was something she was passionate about.

"I felt it was important that this kind of book about Africa should be easily available for parents," she says.

"Often it is difficult to find African-centered books for kids in bookshops and I wanted to fill that gap.

"I have my own child and it bothered me that there are so few general knowledge books that deal with African history for kids.

"I want my child to grow up believing that knowing about Africa is normal."

Explaining about Avi and Kumbi, the two curious characters in the title of her book, she says: "We used the characters because we wanted to represent black African children as curious and interested in general knowledge about Africa and the world.

"To me it is very important that we portray African children as interested and active in wanting to learn."

She says as a child she thoroughly enjoyed history as a subject - at home and at school.

"History is important for human beings because it is how we make sense of who we are and where we come from," says the passionate Mkhize.

Mkhize worked with female illustrator Sani Singaphi and designer Bulelani Booi.

Though it's not written for the school curriculum, Mkhize says schools should invest in her book as added material to broaden pupils' understanding of black history.

She is currently working on Avi and Kumbi's next adventure, History of Technology in the World.

The book is available in stores and at ethnikids.co.za

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