Cancer eating Purple Author

By Jemima Beukes and Taffy Tambo
May 2011
Book Review
WRITING is a lonely business. You write alone, and you never know if anybody will read what you write,” said Neshani Andreas, one of Namibia’s most successful authors, during her hey days.

Today Andreas is all alone as cancer has torn her once bright future into tatters.

Andreas’ book, ‘The Purple Violet of Oshaantu,’ published in 2001 was reviewed in Prime Focus last month and only after the review did information surface that one of Africa’s best writers is ailing with cancer at her Windhoek home.

While most Namibians still discover and appreciate her first novel, Andreas is fighting a lifelong battle that has stopped her from writing more books.

According to family members, a manuscript for the second book had been finished, before the illness took its toll.

She was diagnosed with lung cancer very early in 2010 and the situation has since deteriorated fast, to the extent that she has to talk through her brother, Johannes Nkoshi.

Neshani Andreas, the second eldest of eight children was born in 1964 in Walvis Bay where she grew up. She received training as a teacher at Ongwediva Teacher’s College and taught for five years before completing a Bachelor of Arts (BA) Degree and Post Graduate Diploma in Education at the University of Namibia.

After training, Neshani Andreas taught English, History and Business Economics from 1988 to 1992 in a school in rural northern Namibia. It was whilst she was there that she became absorbed in the rural culture and developed a profound respect for the women she encountered in the surrounding communities.

This experience stimulated her to express what was happening in her writing and as a result it found expression in her debut novel: The Purple Violet of Oshaantu, which was first published by Heinemann Educational Publishers in 2001 (UK) and by the Weaver Press (Zimbabwe) in 2004.

The Purple Violet of Oshaantu, is a balanced, touching novel which deals with issues like the place and position of women in Namibian patriarchal society, especially in the rural areas, domestic violence, the role of the church in suppressing women, migrant labour and its effects on family life and the inheritance rights of women in traditional Namibian society. In this captivating novel, Neshani Andreas has proven to be a charismatic writer who tries to bring sanity not only within the society but in the media fraternity by challenging the dominant male tradition writing in Namibia.

Neshani’s purple violet of Oshaantu heralded the dawn of a new era, an era where women are able to stand up and say enough is enough to gender violence and unequal treatment of women in every sector of our society. She has managed to echo these sentiments in her book which has been read by many not only in Namibia but around the globe.

Andreas has been invited to give reviews of her popular novel by academic institutions which include the Polytechnic of Namibia, the University of Namibia and last year she was invited to India but illness impeded from travelling.

Today, as a result of the hard work of this, Namibia has made great strides towards equal representation of men and women in areas such as the Cabinet, Judiciary and the business sector. Now women are able to shine.

As a professional and a learned person, Andreas managed to balance her writing talent with her full time work as a Project Officer for Forum for African Women Educationalists of Namibia (FAWENA), an organisation promoting women and girls’ education.

At the same time she also began preparing for her second book when she was struck by an ailment, a major impediment to her promising career.

“The ailment has not only affected her writing but also her professional career as well as her position in her family. She fought cancer from the first day of diagnosis and went to work every day,” says Nkoshi.

Neshani now lives under the constant watch of nurses and family who include her 71-year old mother in Windhoek’s Hochland Park suburb.

“Some days she wakes up better than others, but she needs more help now. She sometimes bumps into furniture and needs an aide to go about,” Nkoshi says.

Doctors and friends have since chipped in to advise and pay for Neshani’s medical bills, respectively, while the Cancer Association of Namibia (CAN) has also played a crucial role in advising her on the conditions and treatment.

Neshani was a member of Namibian Students Organization (Nanso), an organization that succeeded in organizing, mobilizing and uniting Namibian students to develop an awareness of national identity and unity of purpose during the liberation struggle.

“Growing up, she was very keen on reading, she had piles of books but was mainly a part-time writer,” says Johannes Nkoshi.

As Nashani lie helpless in her room, her brother narrates how at one time, the author was moved by an HIV-positive women who sought assistance on television that she decided to donate all she had at that time.

Although the novel, the first to be published in the African Literature Series is still available in local bookstores, the real purple violet is fading. PF

Prime Focus carried this article on the Book Review section not only for Andreas’ fans but also well wishers keen to assist her in any kind by contacting our offices.-Editor