A Springdale author is winning acclaim for a new book that seeks to shine a light into what some have called the heart of darkness.
Mayi Ngwala and his brother, Allain Ngwala, co-wrote “Congo: Spirit of Darkness,” that combines the experience of Europeans in the African nation in the late 19th century and the view of natives as Europeans arrived. The work, which was first published in October 2012, earned a nomination Dec. 11 for Outstanding Literary Work for a Debut Author in the NAACP Image Awards. The winner will be announced during a live televised Feb. 1 ceremony in Los Angeles.
“Receiving the nomination means a great deal. It supports a lot of minority efforts and works,” Mayi Ngwala said. “It is overwhelming. It means that someone recognizes the artistry and the talent we have.”
The novel was selected by a committee made up of NAACP members and those on the organization’s board of directors, said Eric Wingerter, an NAACP spokesman. The winner is determined by an online ballot of tens of thousands of NAACP members, he said.
“We are happy to put new talent on the radar of the literary world,” he said.
The book was years in the making for the two brothers. Allain Ngwala, 40, was born in the Congo and Mayi Ngwala, 37, was born in New Orleans, but lived in the Congo until he was 15. While other works such as Joseph Conrad’s novel, “Heart of Darkness,” have been written about the Congo, the brothers said they felt they could be a different voice on the land.
“We wanted to be able to be natives of the Congo and tell stories about the Congo as we envision it,” he said.
In 1995, Allain Ngwala finished the initial 500-page draft of the book, which included more than 30 main characters, said Mayi Ngwala. The siblings juggled their full-time jobs — Mayi Ngwala works as an accountant for AmeriCorps and Allain Ngwala is a self-employed Information Technology professional in London — while spending the next decade going back and forth on edits.
“We couldn't quite come to an agreement of who was telling the story,” said Mayi Ngwala, who graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park, in 1998. “I would be up to 3 in the morning writing things, cutting things, recreating things. I'm sure I could pick it up in a year and see things I would want to change.”
To manage the logistics surrounding releasing the new book, Mayi Ngwala along with his wife, Nakia Ngwala, have co-founded a new publishing company, Genet Press, where they would like to eventually produce other people’s work, she said.
“The idea is to become the supporter of other authors,” Nakia Ngwala said.
With one book completed, the siblings are moving on to new literary challenges.
Allain Ngwala is beginning early work on a sequel to the book while Mayi Ngwala said he is working on a mystery thriller that he hopes to complete by 2014.
Regardless of what new projects Mayi Ngwala works on, the Congo will have a place in his stories as it is a way to honor and remember the country, he said.
“There will always be at least a mention of the Congo,” he said.