Local poet and novelist Pamela Scobie reviews The Invisible Become Visible: A Trilogy by Ben Lowe

BEN Lowe is a local writer and Green activist with a background in journalism and the law.

He has already published an impressive array of poetry collections and novellas, laying bare personal anguish and turning a spotlight onto the follies of our age.

This latest and most ambitious project The Invisible Become Visible is a trilogy of novels on “history’s forgotten or too little remembered people”, a story which Lowe maintains is “long overdue”.

It details everything you ever wondered about but were too embarrassed to investigate regarding the empires of England, France, Spain, Portugal and Holland, and specifically their enslavement and exploitation of the Indigenous peoples of Sub-Saharan Africa, Brazil, Haiti and Mexico. The work – the result of many years of meticulous research – sits squarely within current thinking on colonialism and the long-term economic and ecological impacts of systematic asset-stripping by the Global North.

Lowe tells his myriad stories from the viewpoints of the invaded, the degraded and the dispossessed, whose thousands of years of co-existence with the land are trashed by the incomers with their bewildering greed and lack of empathy. While no salient fact is ignored, Lowe creates characters with whom we can connect, ordinary people who fall in love, squabble, cook, play, hunt, teach – rebel. We follow their struggles to defend their homes, to survive capture, torture and removal, to win freedom and establish new communities. Lowe celebrates the achievements of the earliest settlers, whose relationship with the earth was non-invasive, and of those forcibly relocated whose native cultures have enriched their adoptive homes.

As we travel through the narratives, we are invited to engage with historical figures of whom many of us have only the flimsiest notions: Columbus, Toussaint Louverture, Moctezuma. Some of them (Cecil Rhodes, Hernan Cortes, Columbus) come out pretty badly.

At the same time, we are called upon to acknowledge the beauty and sophistication of many forcibly erased civilizations from Aztec to Zulu.

As Lowe says in a moving poem at the end of Book 2, “There is a hole in my history.”

This trilogy has filled it. It is a work that will leave you astonished and ashamed.

Ben Lowe will be launching the trilogy on May 9th at the Labour Rooms, Nelson Street, at 7.30 pm.

He will be reading extracts from his novels, introduced by Pam Scobie.