Barbara Inspired Meeting Felicity Keats




Dr Gcina Mhlophe~founding director of Gcinamasiko Heritage Trust and Spirit of Light

Spirit of Light is Conceived and hosted by author, actress, poet, and storyteller Gcina Mhlophe and the Gcinamasiko Arts and Heritage Trust, the Spirit of Light event was originally celebrated on International Women’s Day, in Durban and was intended to inspire, motivate and encourage people in general and women in particular to achieve their dreams.

“It was Sunday the 8th of March in Kwa-Zulu Natal and I am humbled to join Dr Gcina Mhlophe at the Spirit of Light Celebration at Durban ICC together with other speakers to honor our journeys and celebrate those who arrived before us while shaping the intentions for the next generation. As the proceedings unfold, I hear Dr Gcina welcoming a few guests, some I know and others I’m about to know. One of the names mentioned I miss but catch the surname Keats. I have instant brain freeze as I quickly page through my memory to the first moment I saw that name…

Ayanda Hlabisa, Felicity Keats and Veena Gangaram~ Dancing Pencils Board members at ICC

As I watch him from across the road and his load becomes clearer I realize he is carrying books and my first thoughts that slip through my lips are :” Please, please don’t come to me, I can’t buy another book not today and I can’t say NO” Cries of a BOOK ADDICT.

I am suddenly aware that I was heard by the other two at the table where I am participating in a very important meeting about the Cape to Cairo drive and motor bike ride that both Reggie and I have just returned from with my business partner Anthea .
Well he has scanned the street ,chosen me and heads directly across to he stop directly in front of me and then it comes: “Hello madam, I am the Knowledge Transporter would you please buy a book from my collection?” To buy time and to compose myself I turn to Anthea and in a gentle yet bemused tone I gesture her to meet the Knowledge Transporter and ask if we are buying books today.

Barbara pictured with the Knowledge Transporter

Of course we were deep in discussion on the writing of the Feed A Mind Africa Super Heroes series and the need for our children to see African Super heroes as ordinary people who live and walk among-st us and not to have imaginary figments of distant unattainable cartoon characters and my sudden interruption had her so amused.
After cordial greetings we decided to take a book each on condition that I could facilitate the cash for him. I was helped by the generous and kind owner of Bertrand Café, Maboneng and we chose our books. I chose a powder blue book somewhere in the middle, the colors of my company logo BDLS AFRICA. The book was in good condition but definitely old with the title The Dancing Pencil – Right-brained “How to for writers and teachers” written by Felicity Keats. This was exactly what I was looking for and I flipped open to the page which had the confirmation that I needed to read. I clocked that the publishers were in Malvern, but the book is old and I live in Johannesburg now. I returned to continue with our meeting and my goal was to get to this book as soon as possible.

Barbara Lawrance-Straydom met Felifity Keats at the ICC

In February 2018 I was appointed Feed A Mind Ambassador South Africa and Africa with a mandate to create children story writers, authors and later that year I would co-host the African Authors Awards to honor self-published African authors. In this time, I hosted the Magical Moments travel book in South Africa which collected the magical stories from across the world and I gathered the stories for South Africa which was an absolute joy.

The Book that introduced Felicity to Barbara


Then later in the year I was requested to join the Cape Town to Cairo drive and I volunteered as a co-driver and logistics co-coordinator. In my preparations I packed Akiki the black doll and 4 books that I would drop off in each country wherever I would have an Ubuntu experience, the Magical Moments Travel Book , my African Bible, Beauty of the Soul the story of Mama Charlotte Mannya Maxeke and Love Child by Africa’s Mother of Storytelling Gcina Mhlophe and then added clothes into the suitcase. On such a mission there is no telling how long the trip could be, three weeks was a hope and after all the preparation we embarked from District Six on the 26 December 2018. Three ladies, the leader of the mission Masingita, a 25 year old pharmaceutical student Kholofelo and myself Barbara Lawrence-Straydom (47 at that time, a mother of 2 boys 22 and 23 and a recent widow born and raised in Nqabeni, rural Kwa-Zulu Natal) driving through Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe ,Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia Sudan and Egypt – 40 days, 12 500km,11 countries.
I am the right-brained former Bank Manager with 18 years banking experience that this book was affirming. In the various spaces that I have the opportunity to facilitate training or as a Speaker here in South Africa and across Africa my preamble includes the urgency for us to write our stories and to do it with intention to heal and to leave something for the next generation.
I often add that I give full permission for a disclaimer to be added to the books ;which reads on these lines : Read this book with a pencil and feel free to add, amend, delete as you deem fit as this is in my story written in the way it was meant to be delivered. I realized that there has been an unrelenting emphasis on GOOD English, Proper English in an African country. I reconciled this for myself much earlier when I realized that this was no longer going to be a measurement of intelligence for me or any one that I interact with. I myself am mixed race and mixed cultured and the tapestry of my stories though written in English do have the magical sprinkles of isiZuLu, IsXhosa, Hindi, Tamil and Gugarathi as framed by my upbringing. Many times, I don’t want to put a full stop or a comma because in my mind I continued that sentence in a different language because the English needed to express the emotion had finished. So for me to arrive in this space of total abandonment as a right-brainier to share the stories of our continent I needed to give others permission but deep down I still needed written permission and there came the Dancing Pencils.
I again know that we walk with the divine and in the divine and the less distracted we are everything completes its circle in our lives…and there I met Felicity Keats.”
By Barbara Lawrence-Straydom