The jawellnofine book that is the epitome of everything South African

2010-05-14 00:00

AN American tourist at a hotel was gazing out one day at the beach and the sea beyond. “Is that the Indian Ocean?” he asked the waiter who had brought him a drink. “Oh no, sir,” the waiter replied. “That’s the European Ocean. The Indians use the next beach over there.”

It is anecdotes like this that set the Awesome South Africa coffee table book apart from other touristy books of its kind.

The book is 224 glossy pages of colour­ and character, and does exactly what the name suggests — highlights that South Africa is awesome.

It’s the brainchild of Awesome SA’s founding member Derryn Campbell who decided to compile South African stories, statistics, photographs and facts to create the book.

Awesome SA is a nonprofit organisation that is aimed at promoting South African cheer and goodwill.

“There is a lot of frustration among South Africans,” said Campbell. “As a nation we tend to focus on the negatives. We become utterly overwhelmed by what is going on around us and we forget to appreciate the beauty we are steeped in,” she says.

The book was compiled in 18 months and Campbell elicited the help of young graphic designers and art director Tish Roux.

“I knew [that] if I didn’t have it off to the printers by March this year, I would miss 2010. I worked around 18 hours a day — including Christmas,” says Campbell.

South Africa’s beauty is not only found in its breathtaking landscapes, but in its people, she says.

“South Africans are amazing. We have gone through terrible times and have come out with a sense of humour­. That’s the great thing about us. We can laugh at ourselves.”

And Awesome South Africa provides a laugh a minute — with each turn of the page.

It quotes comedian Barry Hilton saying, “Living in South Africa is funny­ because … we have as many prostitutes as criminals so either way you get screwed.”

And it features only-in-South- Africa­ beggar signs, one of which reads: “Are you going to give me money or should I fake a limp?”

Campbell said that the book is the perfect “take home” memento for visitors­. “It has everything that you need to know about the country, from the coat of arms to the national anthem­ and our flag,” she says.

The book even contains a handy translation page for those who find themselves confused by the ways South Africans communicate.

Expressions such as “hit a luck”, “ayeye­” and “domkop” are among the terms visitors may find unusual, and for which explanations are provided.

The “said like a South African” page even offers a “what-to-say-when guide”.

Need to say “whatever”? ‘Jawellnofine’ is offered as the perfectly legitimate South African alternative.

Although the book was printed privately­, without the support of a publisher, it has been received with enthusiasm across the country.

“People love it and are also telling their friends and families about it,” Campbell says.

“The best way I can describe the book is that it is a coffee-table book with a smile. It’s not one of those sombre­, silent books that burden your eyelids at late-night dinner parties. It’s bright, it’s loud and it is good for everyone from the grandchild to the grandoupa. In a nutshell it is entertaining, yet in a simple way it is really deep,” said reader Dean Bottcher, who stumbled across Awesome South Africa by chance.

While the book is — for the most part — light-hearted and jovial, Campbell took the opportunity of addressing real issues in South African society.

A double page spread titled “Surviving South Africa’s Deadliest”, counts down the three biggest killers in South Africa.

The hippopotamus and mosquito (for its huge malaria threat) are cited as numbers three and two re- spectively­.

And the number-one killer in South Africa is deemed “man without a condom­”. It goes on to explain that 5,7 million South Africans are living with HIV, resulting in 370 000 deaths a year.

The book even provides guidelines for the correct way of handling the national­ flag. “The flag must be treated with dignity and respect,” the book reads.

Campbell says that the book was not an attempt to mask the country’s flaws.

“We are not saying that South Africa­ is perfect and without its issues.”

Instead, she said that her hope was to see South Africans encouraged by the positive aspects of the country, and mobilised to work together to solve the negatives.

Derryn Campbell will be at Exclusive Books at Liberty Midlands Mall on May 22, to sign copies of Awesome South Africa.

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