When I set out to write my historical novel "The Scattering", I was thinking a lot about the human story behind the two colonial wars detailed in the book - the Second Anglo-Boer War and the German-Herero War - and about how the consequences of those wars rippled outward, causing permanent damage, and how those ripples move through us in the present.
How have African women lived through the colonial wars?
The problem is that so much of the human story involving Africa and women is not in the accepted historical record. The more I dug, the more I found silence; silence in which I was certain stories lived, in which history had been overlooked.
There is no sign on Shark Island in Namibia telling people the horrific history of this place.
Historical fiction rewriting history
The well-known historical fiction writer, Hilary Mantel, author of the Booker prize-winning novels "Wolf Hall" and "Bring Up the Bodies", gave a talk as part of the Reith Lectures on BBC radio in July 2017 speaking about those silent spaces in history. She said history is "what's left in the sieve when the centuries have run through it – a few stones, scraps of writing, scraps of cloth."
These glaring holes in the historical record are where historical fiction can step in and pull out the silent voices which need to be heard.