Wildfires raging across continents, earthquakes destroying natural wonders, torrents of rainfall leading to landslides and flooding… with the world as we know it in such turmoil, Takudzwa Douglas Tarenyika bring us the story we need and deserve- Princess Tatenda and the Forest of Treasures. Quirktastic had the chance to sit down with Douglas and hear a little more about saving the world.
Fresh off his five book series, Peace is the Mission, Douglas was inspired by a conversation he had with his thirteen year old niece about what she was learning at school. “[They’re] not really talking about the planet. Kids are not hearing about this.” Where before he used Peace is the Mission to explore race and culture through a pair of star crossed lovers, Princess Tatenda and the Forest of Treasures was intended “…to explore the same issue of racism but with a different context.”
Douglas describes his foray into writing as “…a bit of a journey. I started writing as an outlet- a few sentences and then a chapter… and that’s how my journey of writing started. As a writer, Princess Tatenda came off as an idea that I also wanted a different approach, a different process. I wanted to write a princess, you know, a different demographic.”
Though both works exist loosely in the same world, Princess Tatenda is a fresh new take for a younger audience. Choosing a protagonist who is female, who is young, who is a person of color were all deliberate decisions.
“I think it’s a big thing to see yourself doing certain things, or characters who look like you- it’s nice to see. Sure we have Black Panther, but that’s one of however many. It has to be a balance for everybody to make things more normal.
“Tatenda means ‘we are grateful’ She is being taught to be grateful for what the world has given us, though clearly we are not, because we are taking advantage of what we are given.” While she has abilities to speak to animals, she is still learning about the world. In this timeline, her people “have forgotten their abilities. They’ve moved on. It’s a different world, that kind of thing.”
Princess Tatenda’s story begins when she is in a plane with her father, the King. The forest below is in fire, all is chaotic. She crashes, alone. When she regains consciousness, a strange creature lures her deeper into the trees, leading her to the Mother of the Forest. “That life force is how [Princess Tatenda] sparks her abilities. She has to figure out how to get back home, what’s going on, and where to go from there.”
Douglas explains, “As far as the characters and the world, I am half Ethiopian and half Zimbabwen so a lot of things spark from my culture.”
But even casting had its own pitfalls based on misconceptions.
“When we were doing the audition, a lot of people who came, one of the things they asked was ‘do you want an African accent?’ I’m African, I was born in Zimbabwe, people say I don’t sound African. What does an African sound like? The characters and the voices, when you hear them, they don’t sound like a specific group, they just sound like someone that I want to hear.”
“I feel like the characters we have and the story will connect with everyone, as we all live in the same world.”
There isn’t necessarily one main antagonist for Princess Tatenda to face on her mission.
“There isn’t any market value… in how we’re polluting and destroying the world. Before you can fix something, you have to admit to it. I think it’s something that people just don’t want to jump into. I think it’s one of the things that the longer we take, the worst it is going to get. But with Princess Tatenda, my approach isn’t that I know the solutions or how to fix it, my goal is just to start that conversations. Start thinking twice when they’re doing certain actions. I think that’s where we need to get that majority of people to be.”
Who is Princess Tatenda for?
Douglas laughs. “Kids are holding tablets now at the age of like six months. Any kid who can see a fire in a forest and know that it’s wrong. There are these things I can help and effect change. People who are asking questions [will want to see Princess Tatenda.]”
“The goal is just to start a conversation to face and see what’s there. What the next steps are. We don’t plan on taking a stance and saying ‘this is what you should do,’ but [instead] let’s work together to fix it.”
Princess Tatenda needs your support! Visit their Indie Go Go to see how you can help make this project a reality. Keep up with their progress on Instagram and Facebook. Save the world!
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