Reviewed by Roy James
The Colours That Blind tells the story of Tumi a talented swimmer on the verge of making the national team. Aspirations of one day competing for Zimbabwe at the Olympics burn bright. When Tumi is sent to stay with relatives in the country, he’s understandably annoyed. But there’s a darker reason he has reservations about going.
An attempted kidnapping by his uncle when he was younger haunts the teenager, and he can’t help thinking his grandmother had something to do with it.
Untrusting, and intimidated by his grandmother’s scars, Tumi has to make do. And when his fears push him to his limit, his grandmother shares her story. One that is both painful to tell and harrowing to hear. But one that leads Tumi to come to terms with his own past, and helps mould his future.
Told in two narrative arcs, The Colours That Blind is powerful and thought-provoking. Tumi wants to fit in and feel accepted like anyone. A feat even more difficult considering Tumi has albinism. Tavengerwei writes this with authenticity and addresses head-on the problems those that have this condition face. Particularly those who take superstition as truth.
The parallel narrative takes place during the 1970s. A period of guerilla warfare between the white minority government and black nationalists. Hatred runs deep, and it’s only when this hatred gets to the point of no return that it’s too late.
Tumi’s grandmother, Thandwe, works in a white landowner’s home. She endures horrific treatment by her employers, yet she’s strong and brave. There is no point in the story where she sees herself as a victim. Of course, the reader sympathises but also feels overwhelming admiration for her too. And by the end of the novel, we feel this admiration for Tumi as well.
This novel is about difference and accepting differences. And ultimately being able to forgive. It’s the only way to release yourself from the grip of hatred. An important, and extremely difficult, lesson to learn.
Sitting in the 14+ category, this book will hook many readers. Ones who like to be challenged by intense themes, immersed in another culture, and gripped by authentic storytelling.