We talk to oilfield engineer turned investment banker turned data scientist and part-time author, Ekow Duker, about his latest novel
Tell us more about the story of Yellowbone.
At its heart, Yellowbone is the story of the love between a daughter, Karabo, and Teacher, her father, and what happens when that love is tested. The story takes you from South Africa’s Eastern Cape to London in the United Kingdom, where Karabo’s life takes a startling turn. The novel is interwoven with the music of violins that provide a stirring backdrop to the narrative.
Where did you get the idea from?
I was intrigued by society’s fascination with shades of skin colour, and how we extrapolate this into value judgements about each other. I wanted to explore the random privileges and hurts that attach to people, and particularly women like Karabo, who just happen to be lighter in complexion.
Who is your favourite character in the book, and why?
Next to Karabo, my favourite character is Siobhan, the Irish landlady in Cricklewood, London. Siobhan is a relatively minor character in the book, but she occupies a disproportionate space in my mind. While her flaws are clearly on display, she exudes an effortless and disarming charm.
You worked as an engineer, banker, corporate strategist and data scientist. When did you start writing, and why?
I began writing many years ago in the Algerian desert, where I was working as an oilfield engineer. It was a difficult job in a harsh environment, punctuated by long periods of inactivity. To fill in the time, I used to send short essays to the company magazine in Paris, describing what it was like to live and work in a part of the world most people had never seen.
What advice do you have for new authors?
Don’t do it. Just kidding. Above all, try and write for the solitary satisfaction that comes from creating vivid characters and memorable stories from the raw bricks of your imagination. And if on occasion that satisfaction mutates into joy, so much the better.
Yellowbone is published by Kwela: R320
His recommendations for first-time visitors:
- Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens: I love how the hiking trail rises steeply from manicured gardens to craggy rock faces where black eagles make their nest.
- Bella Restaurant: At 66 Rivonia Road, it is right in the middle of Sandton but has the magical quality of transporting you to a much quieter place.
- Restaurant Mosaic: Located in the Orient Boutique Hotel, it is less than an hour’s drive from Johannesburg. The food is exquisite and the atmosphere most welcoming.
Words by Irna van Zyl