Book and TV Review: Tears of the Giraffe
Watching the news broadcasts of about the making of the HBO television series set in Botswana and South Africa, it was stunning to see giraffe walking by the side of the streets and highways. Then, a group of elephants walked by. Eye popping!
A Mystery Series in Southern Africa
This mystery novel is the second installment of the series by renowned author Alexander McCall Smith. This first offering of a popular series is named The No. 1 Ladie's Detective Agency.
As a televised series, the books became a BBC most-watched series starring Jill Scott in the role of Detective Precious Ramotswe.
Located at the end of this article is video of Ms. Scott and her company as she works in Botswana on this production.
In the desert, all people and animals give what they can to others, even if all they have to give is their tears.— A local legend
The Traditional Ways
The Thorn Tree
The camelthorn tree is an acacia tree endemic to the Kalahari region. It is practically the only tree that has adapted to the Kalahari environment and is thus a key component of the ecosystem.
The camelthorn tree provides nutrients for other plants and shrubs, which grow more densely around the trees, while their leaves provide food for animals. The shade of the tree also serves as a refuge for animals during the day and the social weavers build their nests in its branches.
The Traditional Ways
McCall Smith's series about lady detectives and good mechanics in Botawana is a call to hearken back to the traditional Africa before European colonization, This Old Africa was filled with respect and compassion between and among family members, extended family, children and adults, business people and other elements of society. Manner and etiquette showed respect and their users knew that they showed respect.
There is much writing in the Ladie's Detective Agency books about youth being unaware of the consequences of their everyday behaviors and lack of ambition. There is a concern that a sense of entitlement in the 1970s - 1980s will create a declining world in Africa as these youth age. Jobs will be lost and families are likely to become fragmented.
This is not going to become the case with Precious Ramotswe and Mr. J.L.B. Maketoni. Although he did so without first consulting his finance, Mr. J.L.B. Maketoni adopted two children. They are an orphan brother and sister, the sister being older and wheelchair bound, but joyful nonetheless.
The orphans are children whose bush tribe mother died soon after the birth of the baby boy. Out of necessity of lack of food, the tribal custom was to bury the baby with the late mother. His sister, 8 years old at the time and still able to walk, waited until everyone was gone and dug up her brother from the shallow grave to care for him. In and out of hospital, the children landed on a find orphan's farm in Botswana near Mr. J.B.L. Maketoni's Tlowkeng Road Speedy Motors (fast service) garage. His free time being taken up with volunteer work on the orphan farm, he could not say no to them once he saw them and the young girl brought him water.
These children will grow up under the garage owner's care with modern skills, but also with traditional respect, manners, reverence for life, ambition. and compassion -- If Detective Mma Precious Ramotswe is happy after she finds out about them. She will become their new mother, after all.
Star Jill Scott in Botswana
Hire a Housekeeper
The citizens of Gaborone, Botswana in this story have been encouraged to hire maids or housekeepers wherever possibly in order to provide employment for additional people in the community. Because of this, many people have a housekeeper that performs light cleaning and meal preparation, Many of these individuals do a very good job and are conscientious in their work.
Mr. J.B.L. Maketoni, the finance of Detective Ramotswe, has hired a housekeeper that has been with siome over a decade. However, she does not make a very good job of her duties. The house is dusty, full of cobwebs, and looking like no one cares for it. In addition, this domestic help entertains friends of the male persuasion in the house during the days when Mr. J.B.L. Maketoni is hard at work at Tlowkeng Speedy Motors.
When the heroic garage owner brings his fiancé to his house to have a look around and meet the housekeeper, there is somewhat of a negative scene. The housekeeper decides to pretend good manners to Precious Ramotswe and later, even to the two orpans from the orphan farm that come to stay in the house - until she can plot well enough to get rid of them all. However, she goes too far when she asks one of her boyfriends for an illegal gun and is required to spend time in a jail cell. It is hard to find good help.
Tears of the Giraffe Basket Weave Pattern
- An old legend says this:
In the desert, all people and animals give what they can to others, even if all they have to give is their tears.
- A traditional basket woven in Botswana incorporates the tears from the giraffe of the desert into the pattern of the weave as a reminder and a tribute. Many of the local basketry is patterned after areas of animals bodies, such as the Zebra's Forehead and many others.
Tears of the giraffe are depicted by parallel lines and dots signifying women following men on a hunt.— Art and Craft of Botswana, by Sudha Satyawadi
Lost in the Kalahari Desert
Tears of the Giraffe is a sequel to the HBO episode No. 1 Ladie's Detective Agency. In this second installment, Mma Precious Ramotswe promotes her dedicated secretary, Grace Makutsi (played by Anika Noni Rose on HBO) to assistant private detective, to include detecting with her former secretarial duties.
Assistant Detective Mma Makutsi is even blessed with her own case to solve this time around. In her mid-twenties, she enlists the wonderfully funny aid of her older uncle, who plays the part of a PI very well, taking notes all of the time.
Mma Grace Makutsi gathers enough information for her client, but does not know how to present it in the best way, so she must consult with Mma Ramotswe, who is 10-12 years older, one whom Grace feels is much wiser.
Out of many scenarios, they choose one that helps all parties in the case, especially the client's young son, who has been able to to attend a private school thanks to the secret charity of one of the other parties. It is a good solution.
Not all of the ladies' cases are so easily solved. An American woman lost her college-aged son some twenty years ago in the Kalahari when he went to live in an experimental commune. He was trying to help raise vegetables for the children of Botswana there on the edge of the Kalahari, but disappeared.
His mother needs answers about his disappearance. Mma Ramotswe agrees to help, realizing that this will be a time consuming undertaking. Many miles and interviews later with the agency's tiny white van, Mma Ramotswe is able to provide some information at last.
Not all cases end as happily as they might, but sometimes an unexpected child appears to create a new beginning. It is a good ending.
Heart of the Desert
In the desert, sometimes all one has to give is one's tears.
Good Kalahari Links
- BBC - The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency - No.1 Ladies Detective Agency Homepage
Watch episodes online.