'Cafe d'Afrique: A Personal Discovery' by Tineke Van der Eecken's: A story of joy out of Africa

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Why fall in love with Africa? Tineke Van der Eecken's new book and CD ‘Café d’Afrique: A Personal Discovery’ offers a welcome corrective to the single stories about the continent. Her memoir brings to life the unique landscapes, rhythms, flavors and characters of Zambia in the 1990s. A perfect summer read.

Image of book cover

Tineke Van der Eecken's memoir

In Zambia I fell in love with the people and the culture.

On 9 June 2012 Tineke Van der Eecken presented her book and the accompanying music CD at the Fremantle Arts Centre in Western Australia. Special guests at the launch were Maria Osman and ABC Radio presenter Karen Tighe. This launch also marks the worldwide release of 'Cafe d'Afrique: A Personal Discovery'.

Writer, criminologist and artist Tineke Van der Eecken paints a vivid picture of life in Africa in her memoir ‘Café d’Afrique: A Personal Discovery’.

The book is the story of a young woman, Tineke, who leaves Belgium to go and work for the United Nations in Burundi and in Zambia. She trades her life for something radically new and different: the scent of rain in Africa, the perfume of coffee, the noise of the street and the pulse of people, new loves and her sense of wonder and joy in sharing this vibrant culture and history. She establishes the cultural restaurant ‘Café d’Afrique’.

Tineke Van der Eecken (44) remembers her move to Burundi at the age of 24. ‘I was incredibly naive,’ she admits. Confronted with poverty at the grassroots, she soon became critical of the role of aid organizations, and indeed her own role. ‘Westerners bring with them preconceived ideas, and so did I.’

‘In Zambia I fell in love with the people and the culture,’ she says. She decided to set up a cultural restaurant in the Zambian capital Lusaka to showcase authentic Zambian cuisine, music and dance. With the culinary genius Josephine Zulu, musician Maureen Lilanda and storyteller Brian Zanji Brian Zanji, ‘Café d’Afrique’ became the talk of the town. Her dream came true, but could it last?

While coping with disease, pilfering and unhelpful bureaucrats, the business struggled to survive. ‘I was unprepared for the challenges,’ Van der Eecken says. She shares her own vulnerability as a single white woman and the stories of flawed friendships and love affairs. This vulnerability is painted against a backdrop of social, political and cultural perceptions and realities. Her stories illustrate how HIV/AIDS and a permissive culture towards corruption wrecked the dream she shared with many poverty-stricken Zambians.

‘Tineke’s book, Café d’Afrique is of a distant time and continent, and it speaks to us of Tineke’s journey to that other place through the relationships she forms. It is these relationships that are, in the end, the beating heart of her story – it is a wonderful story of joy that comes out of Africa,’ says African-Australian Maria Osman.

‘A very honest book about why people fall in love with Africa against all odds,’ writes Guy Poppe, radio journalist and Africa-analyst.

‘This story speaks to me not only of Zambians in Southern Africa, but also of the Africans who have made their own journeys and what they bring,’ says African-Australian Maria Osman.

‘This is a story about identity, equality, belonging, friendships and strong women. Tineke shares with us a special place and time and tells us the stories of people and a country with compassion and dignity.’

For Rose Michael of Indigo (journal of West Australian Writing) the book is an absolute education. ‘It’s an honest, informative account of both a particular country and the more general experience of living overseas. The heat and smells of the continent seem almost the rise from the pages. It is, in the end, perhaps recognized as a mud map; a rough sketch drawn by one traveler for another, an outline of the terrain by someone who has been there for someone who may go.’

The new edition of the book includes a CD with ‘The Music of The Café d’Afrique’. The CD is dedicated to the Zambian music legend, one of the characters in the book who died after a long battle with a disease presumed to be AIDS. Apart from some of Zanji’s tracks, the CD features other memorable talent, such as Maureen Lilanda, winner of many Zambian and African music awards, and the South Africa based Zambian journalist, radio presenter and hip-hop musician Chilu Lemba.

'I'm a sensory person, so I wanted to maximize the reader's experience by including visuals and music.' Even the E-book, available for Kindle, comes in an attractive style with text graphics, illustrations and includes audio.

Tineke Van der Eecken, who trained as a criminologist, has non-fiction work published in MO* and in New Internationalist. Her short stories and poetry are published in online poetry magazines Creatrix and Blackmail Press, and her short stories have appeared in Indigo 5 and Dreamcatcher literary magazine. She has won awards in 2011, including Karen W Treanor Poetry Prize after winning the Festival Award at the Ubud Readers and Writers Festival.

'Cafe d'Afrique' is Tineke Van der Eecken's first full length work. The book, published by a small UK publisher initially, has seen a new release with the 2012 edition published by Tineke Creations, the author's creative enterprise.

The book is available from all major online booksellers, including Amazon, Booksamillion and Barnes and Noble.

‘Café d’Afrique: A Personal Discovery’
By Tineke Van der Eecken

Published 2012 by Tineke Creations
Book + Downloadable music CD
ISBN13 978-0-9872492-0-3
ISBN10 0-9872492-0-7
RRP $25

ISBN13 978-0-9872492-2-7
ISBN10 0-9872492-2-3
RRP $4.99

View the book trailer.

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