Chongololos, Millipedes and my book Dust and Rain

Ruth Hartley Storytelling, Climate change1 Comment

“Disgusting chongololos!” Auntie Stella said crossly. “Naughty children!”


We loved our chongololos – the Chewa name for millipedes. As children, we played with them in the rainy season. I quote from Wikipedia that “Millipedes are a group of arthropods that are characterised by having two pairs of jointed legs on most body segments; they are known scientifically as the class Diplopoda, the name derived from this feature.” Chongololos curled up in tight spirals when we picked them up. They were harmless creatures occasionally staining our fingers a yucky yellow in an attempt to make us leave them alone. My cousin Robert tucked his Chongololo pets into his shorts pockets and then forgot about them until, to the fury of his mother, they made a horrible mess when they were squeezed through our old-fashioned washing machine mangle. Those were the days that started my interest in nature and that made me write Dust and Rain: Chipo and Chibwe save the Green Valley

Wonderful Chongololos and my children

I went to Zambia in 1972. My return to Africa where I was born made me happy and gave me the pleasure of showing my children their first chongololos. They were no longer to be collected and crushed by mistake as Robert and I had done but seen as an introduction to the wonders of insects, arthropods, arachnids and animals and as creatures to be understood and respected along with antlions, flying ants, crickets, beetles, moths and butterflies.Life in Zambia gave us our love of nature and the environment. Because chongololos are harmless, prolific and loved by children, they became an ideal symbol for an education club about wildlife conservation and the environment,

Photo by Rabson Kambwali of a children’s ceremony about trees and their traditional uses

Anne Hyatt and the first Chongololo Club Magazine

I was blessed to have Anne Hyatt as a friend. Anne was a Zambian and an artist who illustrated the first Chongololo Club magazine for school children about wildlife. She was a modest person about her art though she was to be selected for the Cape Town Triennial in 1989. Anne was passionate about wildlife, education and Zambia and in her honour, I made a character called Margaret, in my novel, The Shaping of Water, who illustrated the Chongololo magazine. You can read about Margaret on page 106. That book also raises questions about the role of white colonialists in saving wildlife rather than people from the rising waters of Lake Kariba. My second book, The Tin Heart Gold Mine, opens with a wildlife artist who works in the bush and questions are raised about the relationship of the wildlife industry with African culture and politics. My connection with wildlife conservation is a long one.

The Chongololo Club of the Air

My passionate concern for the environment and wildlife is evident in my novels. It is more than evident in the amazing work done by the Wildlife and Environmental Conservation Society of Zambia and the Chongololo Clubs   who state that “We champion the harmonious co-existence of humans and nature through knowledge and practical conservation of Zambia’s ecosystem.”

Zambia has a proud record of support for the environment and nature since the earliest days of its independence under Dr Kenneth Kaunda. I know so many people who work incredibly hard to protect both. Rolf Shenton of the Grassroots Trust, Sebastian Scott, Rabson Kambwali and many others

Dust and Rain – my climate change book for kids.

I am thrilled that my book has been published this year by Gadsden Publishers and enthusiastically taken up by the Chongololo Club of the Air under Sikela Trevis Namongolwa, The Lubito Library, Harare City Library in the Petina Gappah Children’s Library and Daniel Sikazwe. There are some problems, however, that I need you, my readers, to please, help me overcome, This book is important for raising awareness of climate change. It is also a book that children around the world will enjoy and it will promote a cross-cultural understanding of Africa.

The problems you can help change

Photo by Rabson Kambwali of school childreni in the Gwembe Valley

You can plant trees and care for birds and insects but for us to fight climate change and understand and adapt to it we need stories and art to be made about it because that helps to get people thinking and acting. To get my book noticed it needs reviews. Amazon doesn’t allow reviews by people who don’t buy books from Amazon which means writers and readers in Africa are excluded from an important market. To break that control we need to find other ways for the effect of climate change on Africa to be raised. To get successfully onto climate change websites my book needs your reviews. You can post them on my Reviews page or on Facebook or on your blogs – do let me know so I can share them. Together we can make a difference. Together our voices must be heard, our actions seen and acknowledged and our books read! Tiyende pamodzi!

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