This book is a mixture of colonial history and travelwriting, a mixture of past and present, but is not a mixture of black and white. It is a book about the ‘despised’ white tribe in Africa.

In the first part of his book we meet the writer in his conversation with Patrick Shaw, the educator (?) and policeman from Nairobi. Some other people known in Nairobi in more olden days were Karen Blixen, Delamere and Beryl Markham.

Next to that we read a short history of the becoming of a colony and how Britain was reluctantly drawn into colonialism in Eastern Africa. We discover the importance of the old kingdom of Buganda and the role Lugard played. By the way, not just in Eastern Africa, but also in Nigeria.

We travel north across the vast expanses of Sudan and arrive in Khartoum, where we learn more about Gordon, the military leader who tried to make  a stand. We dwell on Equatoria, where a man from central Europe, is pulling the ropes in his very own way. Henry Morton Stanley (the brute) tries to save this Emin Pasha, but the man prefers to stay where he is. So Stanley takes him prisoner and the remaining part of Emin’s army (with their leader Selim Bey, not of the white tribe) moves towards Buganda, where they become part of the Uganda Rifles.

From the nineteenth century the writer now moves to his present days. He is back in Khartoum and meets up with aidworkers and above all Di Mustura, who is running Operation Rainbow (not his idea!, but from a Sudanese working for the UN), to provide southern Sudan with food. There is a clash with the World Food Programma and NGO’s and we learn something about the intricacies (transport, safety, c0rruption) of fooddonations and how to channel these.

The next stop for Boyles is Congo / Zaïre and Angola. He relates his adventures with a bushpilot. He names him Pappas, but it is not his real name.  We fly into the world of shady deals.

For his final stop he crosses the continent and travels to Zimbabwe to meet Ian Smith. According to Smith the biggest mistake of Rhodesia was not to accept the offer to become a union with South Africa in 1922.

So, in this book we find the usual suspects in relating to colonial Africa. Boyles’ style is fluent and readable.  There is the odd mistake: a picture of David Livingstone is shown “the Africa-born explorer and missionary”. The people of Blantyre, Scotland, will not appreciate this. At another picture we see Karen Blixen and Marilyn Monroe “discussing her literature”. It must have been one of the hidden talents of Marilyn Monroe.

Denis Boyles – African lives. White lies, tropical truth, darkest gossip and rumblings of rumor – from Chinese Gordon tot Beryl Markham, and beyond – New York 1988 – 225 pages (and photographs)

african lives

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I enjoy reading about Africa. New books. Old books. By African writers. By non-African writers. Novel. History. Travel. Biographies. Autobiographies. Politics. Colonialism. Poetry.

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