musings

 

 


Gallery
 
Musings

 

 


 

 

In Search of South Africa by H.V. Morton


 
Pepper ... Not to be Sneezed at
 


 
Sitting upon a rock and glancing down at Table Bay, I thought of the enormous influence of pepper in human affairs ...
 
It was pepper and spices, silk and pearls, and all the riches of the Spice Trade ... but especially pepper ... which led to the discovery of the Cape route to India and the European settlement of the Cape.
 
The Spice Trade would seem to be the oldest commerce in the world. The business of carrying bits of animal and vegetable matter from the East to the West would appear to have begun before recorded history. When Moses upon Sinai was instructed in the making of holy oil, God commanded him to use three noted Indian spices ... cinnamon, cadamus, and cassia ...
 
The Arabs who sold Joseph into bondage were on their way to Egypt with spices for the perfumers and embalmers.

 


 
As far as we can see into the remoteness of history, men were loading pepper upon the backs of buffaloes at Malabar and Travancore, they were gathering spikenard from the trees overhanging the Ganges and the Jumna, they were digging alluvial gold from Dardistan in India, mining emeralds and rubies, fishing for pearls, drying ginger, cloes, and nutmegs, and loading all these things upon the backs of camels and asses for the great empires of the Euphrates and the Nile ...
 
It was in Ancient Rome that pepper caught the taste of western man and achieved a fame it has never really lost ...
 
Nearly every dish in the books of Apicius contains pepper, and Roman doctors prescribed it even for malaria ...
 
With the fall of Rome the Spice Trade went to Constantinople, where it piled up riches for the Byzantine Empire.
 
After the Turkish capture of Constantinople, it went to Venice and the Lion of St. Mark's rose with his feet in spices ...
 
The Crusaders went home to their bleak castles taking back with them little boxes of spice, and Europe began to long for pepper to season the horrible salt meat and fish of the mediaeval winter ...
 
The Baron and his Lady in their moated keeps hankered for musk and cinnamon, for pearls and silk, for ivory and ebony, and to satisfy them the Venetian galleys sailed at regular times to bring the East to the West ...


 
"If the world were really a sphere," argued Henry of Portugal (the Navigator), "It should be possible to find a way round Africa to India and so cut out Venice and bring the treasures of the East to Lisbon."
 
Gradually the Portuguese seamen found their way down the west coast of Africa, each voyage venturing a little farther south.
 
Then in 1486 Bartholomew Diaz was blow round the Cape in a storm, reaching the point where Port Elizabeth is now, and he knew what no other European had known  ... that Africa had a southern end which a ship could sail around.
 
On his way home he saw the Cape Peninsula and called it the Cape of Storms, a name which either Diaz himself or John II or Portugal changed to the Cape of Good Hope ... the Cape which offered a Good Hope of reaching India by sea.
 
Eleven years later this hope was fulfilled when Vasco da Gama sailed round the Cape and up the east coast, which he called Natal because it was the time of the Nativity, dropping anchor at last of Calicut ...
 
From that moment Venice was ruined.
 
The Mediterranean world was incredulous, for all the old trade routes were now out-of-date.
 
In her alarm, Venice even proposed to cut a Suez Canal ...
 
And year after year the treasures of the East came round the Cape in Portuguese ships to Lisbon. There the Dutch picked them up and carried them north ...
 
So Holland began to learn her first lessons in the Spice Trade ... No apter pupil ever out-classed her master.
 
For a full century and a half Holland held "the gorgeous East in fee", and Table Mountain was the half-way milestone on her route ...

 


 

Time and Tides


 
It is strange for a man who has flown to South Africa in thirty-six hours to sit on Table Mountain and reflect that it once took the seamen of Portugal and Holland six months to reach the Cape ... by which time some were dead of the Land Disease, or Scurvy, while others were emaciated and fevered, their gums rotted ...
 
Lime juice, fresh vegetables, and the land itself were the only cures for this distressing complaint.
 
Some measure of the utter remoteness of the Cape is the neglect of all the fierce competitors in the India trade to make a foothold there.
 
To the men of that time, the Cape, swept by tempests where two angry oceans met, must have seemed infinitely more dangerous and desolate than the calm West Indies or the most distant portions of the American coast ...
 
To the Portuguese it was a place where venous little savages flung poisoned barbs; to the Dutch and English it was a place where herbs and fresh water were to be found, a place where letters might be left under a flat stone with the knowledge that someone gathering sorrel would come across them and take them forward ...
 
But no one wished to live there.


 
Once, when the spirit of comedy was in the ascendant, it was suggested that the Dutch and English East India Companies might pool their resources and open a joint station there for the refreshment of their men and ships ...
 
But nothing was done.
 
Two English sea captains, probably in want of exercise, climbed the Lion's Rump in 1627 and planted a Union Jack there in the name of James I ...
 
But again nothing was done.
 
It was not until 1652, when Jan van Riebeeck landed with his company and set up house there, that white men came to live, that chimney smoke came to curl, that white babies came to cry, upon the southern end of Africa ...

 


 
 
The Boers ... by H.V. Morton


 
 
Swellendam is a good place to pause and consider the origin of the Boer.
 
The word is Dutch for a farmer.
 
Early in Cape history this restless urge to trek off into the blue, which has played so big a part in South African history, began to show itself.
 
In addition to the leisurely life of the Western Cape, where in the Drakenstein Valley, Stellenbosch, Paarl, Tulbagh, and the corn country, a settled agricultural life was in progress, modelled upon that of Europe, a numerous population was engaged in the more restless task of cattle-ranching.
 
These men were not tied to the land, but were, on the contrary, anxious to move on to new pastures with their herds.
 
In little Holland, where so many of their forebears had lived, farms were smaller than in most countries, and a few lush acres were sufficient for a small herd of cows; but the Hollander transported to the Cape, where the grass was not always green, with a large herd of cattle, considered that a few thousand aces were not too many for his needs.
 
So the Boer went on and on, all the time getting farther away from his base, which was the Dutch fort on Table Bay.


 
This was a life different from that of the western homesteads. It was a life that attracted brave and independent men and, of course, a few indolent ones as well.
 
It was not life with a pruning hook: it was life with a gun and a trek wagon.
 
It was an open-air life of freedom, of camping out and of escape; particularly escape from the hated government of the Dutch East India Company.
 
Some of the ranchers built themselves little white farms like those of the friends and relatives in the west, others moved on from loan-farm to loan-farm ... large tracts of leased grazing ... where they lived in sheds and shacks, while others, still more mobile, slept in their wagons, with the stars for a roof.
 
So early in South African life the love of camping out and eating roasted meat on wooden skewers was implanted in the heart of the Boer.
 
What happened to the Boer in the wilderness is one of the most important facts of South African history ...
 
He was still only one generation removed from Europe. Even in 1736, when the first herds began to approach Swellendam, an old man of 84 might, when a boy, have been rebuked for stealing apples by van Riebeeck himself! Certainly many an elderly Boer riding his pony on the limits of the frontier would have heard at his mother's knee first-hand accounts of the canals and windmills of Holland or the vineyards and rivers of France.
 
But now in his old age those bedtime stories, and memories of rough crowds of festive sailors in the taverns of the Cape, were all that Europe meant to him as he rode his pony over the veld ...
 
Turning his back symbolically upon the sea that led to Europe, the sea which brought the ships from his ever more unreal fatherland, the Boer pressed on into the wilderness ...
 
In renouncing Europe he accepted Africa ...

In taking the frontier as his home he came under new influences which moulded and remade him ...

In adopting a way of life that demanded a new technique of living he became a south African.


 
Just as the American frontier was moulding British, Dutch, Germans, and Swedes, and transforming them into Americans, so the wild, fierce land of South Africa was making the first men who dared to lover her as truly as her sons as an Englishman is of England, and a Scot of Scotland.
 
Think of the change in his environment ...
 
With ancestral roots in the quiet water-meadows of Holland, along the Lower Rhine, and in France, the Boer now lived in a hot land of great mountains and gorges, of plains aflame in summer with flowering heaths and wild geranium, of dry water-courses that in winter became violent torrents, a hard, cruel land of extremes, whose every bush and cave might conceal a little yellow man in the act of fitting a poisoned arrow to a bow. And away to the east, although he did not know it, were hordes of organised and valiant warriors who would one day contest very yard of his advance ... the war-like Bantu.
 
Europe, trade, the life of ports and cities had all been forgotten by this man who had turned his back upon the sea ... they were not for him.
 
Taking with him from the old world only one thing ... the Bible ... he went out into Africa, and upon the African veld, and beneath the shadow of African mountains, his women bore their children.
 
So the Afrikaner was born.

 


 

At much the same time that the Boers broke away to the east from Table Bay, the varied peoples of the same European stock cooped up on the seaboard of American began to trek to the west.
 
The two treks were vastly different ...
 
The Americans, more numerous than the Boers, crossed the mountains which enclosed them and moved west, planning towns as they went, and moving on rather like a great army consolidating its positions during an invasion.
 
The Boers, on the other hand, were few, and might perhaps be compared to a cavalry patrol, moving on and leaving very little behind it.
 
If it would be true to say that the unit of the American trek was a little township, the unit of the South African trek was a lonely ranch separated by miles from the next one.
 
The motive which sent out both sets of pioneers was the same ... a desire for space and freedom, a hunger for new land, a discontent with civilisation as it was represented by the life of the seaboard, an inability to fit in with the scheme of things, and bad luck.
 
The qualities demanded by the new life were the same ... courage, individualism, and self-reliance.
 
The Americans, upon the great crest of the Appalachians, went down into a rich land where they encountered buffalo, elk deer, bears, wolves, panthers, turkeys, squirrels, and partridges ...
 
The Boers, in a fiercer and a poorer land, encountered the lion and the leopard, the rhinoceros and the hippopotamus, the baboon and the cobra ... but it was also a land teeming with buck, which, as the white men advanced, began to retreat, and so helped to draw him on ...
 
The American were opposed from the outset by people as fierce and as war-like as the black people whom the Boers did not at first encounter. But the Boer were harassed by the primitive bushman with his deadly poisoned arrow and his habit of stealing and maiming cattle.
 
The American shot down the Red Indian without mercy and offered bounties for his scalp ... so too the Boers shot down the bushmen like vermin.
 
Frontier life in both countries was intensely individualistic.
 
In South Africa it was founded on the family unit. The old patriarch in his ranch, surrounded by his family, his oxen and his asses, his men servants and his maid servants ... most of them technically free Hottentots and half-breeds, for the salves were nearly all in the settled west ... might well open his Old Testament and see in the story of Abraham a faithful reflection of himself...
 
The frontier was also a military training-ground, for a distance was soon reached from civilisation when the frontiersman had to make his own laws and become his own policeman.
 
The Americans learnt to fight like Red Indians, moving from tree to tree ... the Boers became mounted sharp-shooters.
 
The bushman's contribution to South African history was that he imposed the Commando system of warfare upon the frontier.
 
It is a system that produced patriot warriors like Pretorius, Potgieter, and de Wet, and soldier statesmen like Botha and smuts.
 
In America, the backwoods school of fighting produced George Washington and the "embattled farmers" of the War of Independence.
 
So, early in the story of South Africa, two ways of life are visible ... the settled west, where property descended from father to son, where the vines and the corn and the peaches ripened in fertile valleys ... and the tougher, coarser life of the ever-moving east, where long whips cracked over the horns of oxen and loaded wagons flanked by herds of grazing cattle moved slowly in search of new grassland ...
 
And as the white ranchers moved eastward, black ranchers in tribal hordes were moving west, and it was only a question of time before they clashed ...
 
By the time Britain stepped into the Cape in 1795, the outposts were already in touch ... Boer and Bantu had met at last.
 
That was the South Africa to which a handful of British officials came during the opening phase of the struggle that grew into the Napoleonic War ... Soon after, came the missionaries.

 


 

Some writers have seen in the Boer a man who took with him into the wilderness the mentality of the Seventeenth Century, and if this is so, it would explain why those who encountered him in the Nineteenth Century had little in common with him.
 
The Seventeenth Century was one in which the social conscience was not yet awake ... The men of the Seventeenth Century divided humanity sharply into Christian men ... and pagans.
 
Primitive races were lower even than pagans ... creatures hardly human ... and probably soulless.
 
The first cry of horror from the Boer when he encountered the mind of Europe again after all those years was: "Is this the way to treat Christian men!" ... To him it was inconceivable that the sub-human species should be considered his equals either before God or in the eyes of the law. And that is what he was told ... He was expected to accept in ten minutes a change of mind which it had taken Europe a century to achieve ...
 
If there is truth in this, the meeting upon the African veld of the Seventeenth with the Nineteenth Century is surely a remarkable encounter ...
 
Perhaps naturally, Rip van Winkle springs to the mind ... and in a sense, the Boer had been asleep for a hundred years ...
 
He fell asleep shortly after the Reformation, believing, as his Bible told him, that the curse of Ham was upon his bondsman ... and he awakened in a world that had experienced the French Revolution, and was well into the Industrial Revolution ...


 
He came into modern times, transformed by the frontier, still firmly holding his Bible and speaking a new language ...
 
 

 


The 1820 Settlers ... by H.V. Morton
 


 
As the three-masted ships sailed down the Thames on those icy December days in 1819, the settlers, old and young, wrapped in the their overcoats, their shawls, plaids, and blankets, gathered upon the decks to say farewell to England.
 
Upon such a moment the heart is filled to overflowing, and though it may have seemed that the land they were leaving did not need them, or offer them a future, few eyes could have been dry as the ships moved away from the sights and sounds of home.
 
The England they were leaving was the England of Robert Owen, and William Cobbett, of Wellington, Peel, and Canning, of Wilberforce and humanitarians, of James Watt?s separate condenser and Hargreaves' "Spinning Jenny"; the England in which George Stephenson was designing locomotives, but had not yet made the Rocket; in which the Royal Mails were carried in gleaming red coaches drawn by glossy teams of four; the England of the new Regent's Street and the Brighton Pavilion; of the Prince Regent's waistcoats; of Beau Brummell, Grimaldi, and Vestris; an England in which poor old George III, deaf, blind, and white-bearded, was cut off by years of gentle madness from a changed and bewildering world.
 
In this England, high society numbered about 600, and the great mansions round the park were still served by powdered flunkeys in plush knee-breeches, while coaches with footmen mounted behind drew up before their exclusive portals ...
 
There were nearly 14,000,000 other people in Britain, but one about 1,600 had a vote ... Power was in the hands of the few, and society was a rigid pyramid of caste.
 
It was the London of the Corinthian and the Bow Street runner; the London in which Tom, Jerry, and Bob overturned night watchmen's boxes, attended sanguinary prize-fights, explored low drinking-dens in their well-cut riding coats and tall hats, standing among a hideous but unmalicious assembly of cut-purses, chimney sweeps, and sluts; an England of brilliant salons and squalid slums, of exclusive clubs and thieves' kitchens ...
 
Beyond the wealth and poverty of the capital, and the queer mixture of town and country that it was, stretched roads leading to rural villages and mansions and to red brick towns whose factory smoke drifted through the autumn woods ... trout were caught in those days, and pheasants shot, within sight of factory chimneys, as the new world gained stealthily upon the old.
 
In some country houses old men lived who still wore wigs and knee-breeches and enjoyed Virgil and Horace in Latin; in others were to be found the new squires, who counted their wealth, not in cattle or in crops, but in machinery and production.
 
Two Englands lived side by side ... the old England of church, mansion, and cottage, where men still stood awed and respectful before bloodstock ... and the new England of coal, iron, and cotton, whose inhabitants, no longer rooted to the earth, were projected by the still novel art of reading into violent discontent ...

 


 

The sound of their riots and the noise of smashed machinery penetrated to the capital, where the Lords and Commons were reminded of those old cries of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity, which England had fought for 20 years to silence.
 
How strange and incalculable it was, with Napoleon, dressed in civilian clothes, safely stowed away on St. Helena, that peace and plenty and the expected return to the good old days had not come ...
 
In 1819, England was learning that peace following a long war is more difficult to understand and to bear than war itself ... Factories were closed. Prices were high. The unemployment multiplied. The veterans of Trafalgar were joined on the kerbstones by the veterans of Waterloo ... The whole balance and harmony of life, as it had been known in agricultural days ... were gone. The violent mechanics and artisans of the time were unrecognisable as the sons of the docile cowmen and carters of a previous generation ...
 
It was natural that an age which still fled in any physical ailment to leeches and blood-letting should have considered emigration ...
 
The population had doubled itself in 60 years. The country was too small for it. Get rid of people! Reduce the pressure! Send some to Canada, some to the Cape! ... And all over Britain humble people, who could see no future for themselves and their families, and other who did not like the signs of the times, began to think of taking up their roots and becoming colonists ...
 
The 1820 Settlers were part of a larger scheme of assisted emigration.
 
So many people were fleeing to the United States from the post-war depression in England ... 200 a week ... that the Government decided to direct the flow to countries within the Empire ... Canada and the Cape were then the only suitable places.
 
It was cynically pointed out by the Cape enthusiasts that a block of British settlers was urgently required on the eastern frontier as a defence against the Bantu, and men like Wilberforce, who were already the keepers of the English conscience, were given hair-raising and exaggerated accounts of the Dutch cruelty to the Hottentots in a successful attempt to gain their powerful support.
 
Glowing descriptions of the Cape as a land of golden opportunity raised the spirits of thousands of poor and discontented people all over Britain.
 
Cruikshank took a more cynical view of the scheme and drew a couple of ferocious cartoons, in one of which the settlers were being eaten alive by savages, with the assistance of cobras and a boa constrictor! But this did not daunt the spirit of the emigrants.
 
So many applications were received by the Colonial Office that the Government decided not to give free passages to single individuals, but only to parties of not fewer than 10 ... each party had to be recruited and organised by a leader, known as the "head of the party", who was responsible for discipline, finance, and so forth. Every individual had to hand over 10, which would be returned to him in South Africa. The Government offered 100 acres of land to each person ...
 
Groups were recruited all over the country, many of them much larger than the minimum. Some leaders were peasants and mechanics, others were ex-officers and discontented gentlemen who wished to try their fortunes in a new land. Among the gentry were some who had recruited as members of their group their own servants and retainers, so that they moved out as a self-contained country house unit on the old English pattern.
 
The majority of the settlers came from London and the cities, though there was a good sprinkling of farm workers, craftsmen, and artisans.
 
That many of the settlers were not agriculturalists probably did not matter in 1820, when most people were only a generation or so removed from the land.
 
Over 80,000 British people applied to go to the Cape, but only 3,487 were selected ...

 

 


 

If Leisure has a Value, the Bushmen are well off
 


 
In today's world, unlimited leisure is a luxury which most people attain only after a lifetime's hard work.
 
Yet there are communities which provide ample leisure for people of all ages ...
 
The people who have time on their hands are those who are in many ways still living in the Stone Age ... the Hadza of Tanzania, the pygmies of Central Africa, some of the South American Indian tribes, the Nuniamut Eskimos, and a few other remote pockets of hunter-gatherers.
 
If affluence is measured by the amount of leisure a society affords its ordinary people, they are the most affluent on earth.
 
According to the 'leisure' theory, the bulk of the human race took a wrong turning about 12,000 years ago, when agriculture was invented, somewhere between northern Greece and Iran.
 
Once leisurely hunter-gatherers, they became farmers ... obliged to accept the discipline of working to a timetable imposed by the seasons and needs of their crops and animals.
 
The Bible makes the point, when it records Adam's banishment from Eden for eating the forbidden fruit ...
 
And you shall eat the plants of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground ...
 
Food was there for the picking in Eden ... as it usually is for the world's most primitive peoples.


 
The Bushmen of Africa's Kalahari Desert, for example, can gather all they need in an average 'working week' of 12-19 hours.
 
Research has shown that one group lives mainly on mongono nuts which give them a daily protein diet equal to 14oz of steak ... and other edible plants and animals are abundant.
 
They even run their own form of welfare state ... the young and old are not expected to work, but are supported by the 20-60 age group.
 
In Tanzania, the Hadza tribe have an easier time ... it has been calculated that the average Hadza spends less than 2 hours a day finding food, and the men spend most of their time gambling.
 
It may be argued that the hunter-gatherer way of life is precarious, and that a primitive community can be wiped out by a few lean years. But the facts suggest that in all except the very worst droughts, primitive peoples are better equipped to survive than their more advanced and harder-working neighbours.
 
In Botswana, on the fringes of the Kalahari, a quarter of a million cattled died in 1966, in one of the worst droughts ever to afflict southern Africa. Starvation faced remote farming tribes which were beyond the reach of a United Nations relief programme.

Then the Bushmen, who plant no crops and raise no cattle, came to their aid ... their womenfolk showed the farmers' wives where to find the wild plants and nuts on which the Bushmen lived.

 

Faced with a crisis, the agriculturalists survived by returning to mankind's oldest way of life ...

 


 
 
The Trouble with Africa
by Ian McDougal (author ... African Turmoil)

 


 
The trouble with Africa, the man from Kalindini realised with a final and utterly satisfactory effort of the analytical powers of his mind, was the Africans.
 
This fact should be quite obvious to anyone who reflected long enough on the matter and had the interests of the colonies at heart. After all, what were they, the Africans?
 
He looked at them as they ferreted daily for the beans of coffee. The branches and leaves of the trees half covered them as they stooped there. Why, they were really very much at home in such surroundings. They had come down out of the trees themselves only fifty years ago, at just about the time that the first whites were settling the place.
 
Give an African a small object to hold and he took it with all his fingers, as often as not. Half of them couldn't move the fingers separately, they had to move them all together. That was just like a monkey.
 
When they ate their posho they moved their heads up and down as well as the jaws. That was just like a monkey.
 
When they climbed trees they looked like monkeys, when a group of them were chatting they sounded like monkeys.
 
The man from Kilindini eyes his coffee-pickers with a feeling of revulsion. They were idle and improvident, four of five hours' work in the morning was enough for them, and then they were off to their huts to sleep and to neglect things still further the little shambas in which they should be growing things to eat in case they ran short of money or the main crops failed. What could you do with people like that?
 
They weren't interested in incentives. Offer them a few shillings more for a few hours' more work and they turned it down. Naturally idle, they were, relying on providence to give them all they needed. When providence failed they squealed and came howling to him for help.
 
Where would they be without the European? Up in the trees again, most likely. And, by God, the Europeans had made things worse by spoiling them. Wages more than enough already and some farmers were paying bonuses as well.
 
Independent schools ... where African children learnt how to cut the throats of Europeans. Clinics ... where Europeans helped them to breed, and cured them of the filthy diseases. Reading rooms ... where they swallowed all that propoganda from India and Russia. All this being done for monkeys. No wonder they gave trouble.
 
They were being treated like advanced human beings and they weren't ready for it, not by half they weren't.
 
It had taken Europeans, he thought vaguely, many centuries to assimilate all these things. They couldn't be handed to Africans almost overnight without somebody footing the bill. And, by God, we were footing the bill.
 
Murder and theft and terrorism and strikes and insolence.
 
The Europeans had come along and stopped the African brats dying when they were born and stopped the men dying off from VD and even tried to stop the women killing themselves from work in the shambas and on all those new terracing schemes which Europeans had themselves thought of. But Africans weren't grateful, not a bit of it.
 
On the contrary, they seemed to think they were entitled to it all, and that it was the Europeans who should be grateful to be here.
 
After all we've done. After all those hardships. It shouldn't happen to a dog.
 
He poured himself out another whiskey.

 


 

The trouble with Africa was the Africans. This was a white man's country ... wasn't that more or less what Cecil John Rhodes and Lord Delamere and the rest of them had said?
 
And yet here were the African increasing in numbers every day. More than five million of them already and less that fifty thousand Europeans.
 
Down in Southern Rhodesia they did things better, so he'd heard.
 
More Europeans and less Africans and more discipline. Also very few Indians ... never knew where you were with them, and, by heaven, they multiplied fast too.
 
Down in Southern Rhodesia they had a lot of chaps like himself, he believed, as good as the rest of them but ... well, nearer the people perhaps. And they knew how to keep the African in his place.
 
Maybe he would have done better to settle in Southern Rhodesia. But it was too late now. His roots were here, planted as firmly as the seed which he watered so assiduously. Besides, they had just made him a member of the Golf Club.
 
Yes, that's why he felt bitter ... because of the Africans. It was all quite clear to him now.
 
They didn't care about helping Europeans, they wanted only to help themselves. They hadn't bothered about him when they saw he had a kit-bag down there at Kilindini. Not enough of a Bwana for them.
 
That was another thing about them ... they were monkeys, but they were snobs too. You could see that by the way they behaved, being unkind to the ones that had worse jobs than themselves and fawning over all the head boys and over the servants of big farmers. They never paid much attention to his own boys. He could see that by the way his servants always brought back the worst vegetables from the local duka.
 
Terrible snobs. Monkeys who'd copied all the worst things from civilisation.
 
So they thought they could take over the colony and drive out the Europeans, did they? They thought that.
 
Who was going to drive him out, he'd like to know? Not the boys who'd gold him they had contributed a hundred pounds to Mau Mau funds in exchange for a promise that they'd be given a share in his farm!
 
Not the fellow who'd turned up one night and held a meeting for four hours in a hut at the end of the labour lines where the mealies were kept. Not the house-boy who had stolen his .303 ... Those gentlemen were all under lock and key and waxing fat at the expense of Kingey Georgey or, if they'd caught up with the times, of Mtukufu Malkia Elizabeth II.
 
God know when they'd be brought to trial. Meanwhile, they could laugh up their sleeves as loud as they liked!
 
Anyway, none of them would get his farm. He'd seen to that. Have a drink on it.
 
But there were still the hell of a lot more of them ... far too many.
 
Great mistake, teaching them about civilisation. They couldn't possibly understand it. It was like sending a bunch of monkeys to listen to the Pirates of Penzance. All they could do was imitate.
 
Look at the way they dressed off duty ... Glaring shirts and American-style jackets and trousers. Complete squandering of their money. No taste or sense of proportion. We were just creating a class of insolent and dangerous idlers. Well, he didn't let fancy clothes creep into duty hours, not more than he could help, he didn't. Long white kanzus with a fez and no shoes was his rule.
 
He hoped he wouldn't live to see the day when an African came into his house wearing shoes. Almost the height of presumption.
 
Dress them like servants, and it gave them a sense of their place.
 
There were those who said it was a ridiculous dress, a legacy from the bad old days of the Arabs. Well, he didn't know about the Arabs, but he didn't agree ...
 
He didn't want a lot of stinking shoes walking over his floors, there was enough smell already when the boys were around.
 
It was something soap didn't seem to be able to do anything about. God knows he gave them enough of it ... free too!
 
A pair of well-washed feet were all he asked, and a nicely laundered white kanzu.
 
Then afterwards they could put on their flashy shirts off duty for all he cared, and swank about as much as they liked and talk about whose country they thought they were in.
 
On duty they were in his! country.
 
Those old Arabs must have known a thing or two even if people didn't approve of them any more ... In fact, Africa in those days must have been a lot happier than it was now, and he rather wished he had been alive then. Plenty of discipline and no nonsense!
 
He felt that a trust had been betrayed. A tear came into his eye.
 
(Just one more and then put the bottle away.)

 


 

Supposing they did take over the farm, they'd never be able to work it ... Or would they? ... No, of course not.
 
In no time it'd be eroded and covered in weeds.
 
They were too damned idle; they thought nature could do everything by itself and that all you had to do was to sit back and watch things grow.
 
My God, they'd have a thing or two to find out!
 
Not that they could even take over the farm, of course. We'd never let it get to that stage. ... Die  shooting them from this verandah first! ... Awful cowards ... Only attack in strength. ... No wonder they made a man bitter ...
 
You came out here in the full flush of youth and you gave them all you knew, the whole benefit of your European training and background and leadership, and then when they thought they'd sucked you dry they tried to grab your farm or kill you.
 
A pack of monkeys squealing for blood and privilege.
 
(A nightcap, and then to bed.)

 


 

One morning, after a particularly long session of such soliloquy, the man from Kilindini woke up to see his servant balancing on one hand a tray on which were a teacup and a teapot and a newspaper, while with the other he drew back the curtains from the grilled and barred window ...
 
"Jambo Bwana", said his servant. "Jambo", said the man, and took the newspaper from the tray.
 
He read through with great care the account of how the Maxwells had died ... pausing every now and again to visualise the scene.
 
He would have like to see photographs but it was implied in the text that the editor had thought these too unpleasant to print ...
 
Maxell, it seem, had had his head severed from his body and his wife had had her feet hacked off before she could runt to help him. The children were carved to pieces ...
 
The man from Kilindini had read such accounts before, but this one had a special interest for him ... After all, Maxwell had been his neighbour.
 
The victim might have been himself.
 
He'd better get up and go over and see if he could help in any way, though that wasn't likely.
 
It might have been him.
 
Or might it? ... He didn't stand any nonsense from the boys.
 
Maxwell was known throughout the district as a man who treated his labour ... well, some said too well, others said too softly.
 
He thought him too soft himself, and more than once he'd lost boys who said they could get more money over at Maxwell's. But he didn't bear him any grudge on that account.
 
My God ... Head cut off! And her with no feet!
 
Bloody murderers and cowards.
 
"A gang believed to number at least twenty", it said, and he wouldn't be surprised ... it showed what you got for being decent to them.
 
This would shake the Government down in Nairobi. Their bungling had been a disgrace! ... Innocent people cut to death with pangas, and a lot of monkeys running around unpunished.
 
Anger welled up in him.
 
He'd go over to Maxwell's, even though he couldn't be of much help. A mark of respect. A fellow European. His neighbour.
 
This would be a lesson. No more favours, no more softness. He'd teach them who was master and he'd shoot first time without any nonsense about challenging.
 
He strapped on his pistol, and as he passed his houseboy it was as much as he could do to keep his finger off the trigger.
 
"Not," he said to himself between clenched teeth, "that there'll be any trouble on my farm. I know them too well.

And yet those b*stards back home blame us! for being bitter ..."


 
 


Gott Strafe Die Neger ... by Ian McDougal


 
 
Tanganyika is the largest of the East African territories, and is more than half as big again as Kenya.
 
In 1952 there were some 7,500,00 Africans and a total of 17,885 Europeans, 56,500 Indians and 13,025 Arabs.
 
The country had a cosmopolitan history behind it, which may explain why race relations there were better than those of any other territory.

 


 
So far as modern history is concerned, Tanganyika was German until 1918, when the British took it over and administered the territory under a League of Nations Mandate. This was replaced in 1946 by a United Nations trusteeship, also administered by Britain.
 
The Germans, by and large, gave the inhabitants a hard time and there seems no doubt that at least some of the friendliness between African and European in the 1950's sprang from a genuine belief on the part of even the remotest tribesman that things were better than they were under the Kaisers.
 
I went to Tanganyika to talk to officials about gold and diamonds, and sisal ... of which the country is the world's main producer ... but in the shimmering heat of Dar es Salaam it was the country's past, not its future, which caught my imagination.
 
I would sit in the shade with a cold glass of beer and stare at the church that looked German from porch to steeple and at the public buildings that might have been shipped out direct from Frankfurt, and I would wonder what on earth the Germans had been like as colonisers.
 
One of my difficulties, I think, was that I could not picture them in tropical clothes but was forever dressing them in steel helmets, thick uniforms and jackboots or in the big white peak caps and very short shorts of the Afrika Korps. I simply couldn't imagine them as tropical civilians.
 
When, therefore, I actually found myself sitting at the same table with one of the old colonisers I was as pleased as I was surprised, while he - after shaking off a few curious and quite unjustified suspicions that he had no right to be there at all - seemed glad to talk.


 
The conversation was the brightest memory I have of Tanganyika. He had none of the modern doubts, none of the shilly-shallying between the pros and cons that beset most of us who look at Africa today.
 
He belonged to an age which went to Africa for what it could get, and he said so fearlessly, and I have tried to capture some of the one-sided precision of his thought.
 
He believed, as thousands still do, that the white man is the 'Herrenvolk' in Africa and has a ruling mission ... the difference today is that such sentiments are not expressed in public. The nearest one gets is to hear much talk of the need for compromise and goodwill, and of the long path which Africans must still tread before they are fitted to govern themselves.
 
The difference is also, of course ... and this is especially true of Tanganyika ... the measure of the progress which Africans have made between the colonial days of the old German and now.
 
In any case, his story appealed to me because of its bluntness and because, listening to it, I could for the first time picture a little of what the Germans had hoped to perpetuate as their way of life in Tanganyika.
 
A very large part of his life had been lived in Tanganyika in the days when it was knows as German East Africa. He had however, been born in Hamburg a great many years ago ... he did not offer to tell me how many. I guessed, however, that he must be well over 70 because his first memories in East Africa were of the Wissman expedition and that, I thought, had been organised more than 60 years before our conversation.
 
He had been a kind of batman to one of the officers, but what his status or rank was, if any, I have no idea.
 
He spoke lovingly of his childhood home, although what he told me of it did not sound any too attractive. And my feeling was is that he ran away to sea and then somehow got entangled with the expedition.
 
He painted me a picture of the Arabs who lived on the coast at that time ... blackguards, he said they were, thieves, robbers, murderers. Always breaking their word. Always out to take everything and give nothing. Always stabbing a man in the back. And so on.
 
The German Empire at the time of which he was speaking, it may be remembered, was in an expansive mood: and the manner in which this old gentleman spoke of Arab leaders long dead, resembled strongly the manner in which other old gentlemen from other empires will speak of Indian leaders long dead, or of African leaders long dead, or for that matter of African leaders still alive.
 
It was curious to see how worked up he could get about moments of history that had passed long since and indeed only found a place in odd corners of the history books.
 
He told me how in 1888 the Germans had sent a gunboat to Bagamoyo to enforce the raising of the flag over the "rebellious Arabs". How these same Arabs actually fired on a boatload of German troops. How revolt presently broke out under a man called Bushiri Bin Salim, and how the German East Africa Company found its power, never very securely established, crumbling at the edges.
 
Captain Wissmann was sent out by the Home Government. Within a year he had crushed the revolt and made East Africa safe for the Germans to live in. There were some pretty bad rebellions after that too ... the old man could remember the African "Maji-Maji" uprising by name and could forget the manner in which it was suppressed ... but it was Wissmann who set the seal on German ownership of what is now Tangayika until the end of the first world war, when the country was handed over by the League of Nations to the United Kingdom for administration as a Mandated Territory.
 
It was I, and not the old German, who brought up the subject of the "Maji-Maji" rebellion.
 
Most people who remember it at all remember not how it was cause, but how they think it was suppressed.
 
There are innumerable rumours and it is difficult to get at the truth of how many Africans were killed. The old man said he had forgotten almost everything about it except the name, and in any case I do not imagine he was in a senior enough position at the time to have had any clear idea of what was going on.


 


The words "Maji-Maji" are Swahili for "water-water".
 
One story is that the leaders of the revolt told their followers not to fear the European, for his bullets would turn to water when they were fired from the rifles.
 
Needless to say the bullets remained solid and the leaders must have lost a great deal of face. Some of them also lost their lives.
 
During the early stages of the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya a very similar story was told by certain Kikuyu leaders to their followers ... that the bullets of the security forces would turn to water.
 
The old German went on talking while the breeze died and the streets emptied ...
 
They deported me once ... he said ... A long time ago.
Deported you? ... The British?
 
He laughed in a somewhat cackling fashion ... No the Germans.


 
After the big troubles ... he said presently ... I settled here and took up farming. Sisal. You never know in Africa whether a thing will do well or not until you try. We might have chosen coffee, we might have chosen wheat, we might have chosen ranching ... but we chose sisal. Two other young men and myself. We'd all been in the Army, all got tired of it. Everything seemed quite settled. We expected the Kaiser to send us out thousands of Germans so that we and our families could live here for a thousand years. They never came, not in thousands anyway.
 
We had constant trouble with the natives ... little troubles, not big troubles ... and you always will have trouble with the natives unless you teach them who's master.
 
We three taught them who was master. I rode around the farm with a whip most mornings and used it too. Three hundred natives we had, and by keeping at it we got the work of one hundred out of them.
 
The farm did well ... slowly but surely it did well. Neighbours used to drop in from miles around to see how we managed it. There was one man called Ebert who came more than the others. He had three big farms already and was the richest of us all. He had influence too. He knew the people in Berlin as well as the bosses in Dar es Salaam. He used to come round and spend the whole day with us, getting friendly. None of us liked him very much. He kept sticking his nose into our affairs, asking us about our holding rights, leases, plans ... things like that. Our natives didn't trust him either, and one morning the head boy came told me Ebert was planning to get our farm. That sounds ridiculous these days, but in the early days it was possible, I can tell you. A few slips with the Government, a faulty deed-paper here or there, a few payments not made to the import firms ... every little mistake added up, and if in the end they decided they didn't want you they just got rid of you on one pretext or another. Anything could be done to you if it were proved that you didn't make the best of your land to the glory of German East Africa.
 
The old man said this quite seriously. He was not being bitter.
 
The difficulty was that Ebert couldn't grow sisal on his land. He had most other things. But by then it was obvious that sisal would do well in the territory and there was a growing demand for it from overseas. A war was in the offing. Ebert kept coming around to us for years before he finally made a bid for the whole farm.
 
Ebert heard about our expeditions to the slopes of Kilima N'jaro to collect plants and make catalogues of animals and insects we'd seen. One day, much against my better judgement, he came with us on an expedition ... we set off at four o'clock in the morning on the twelfth of October, nineteen hundred and thirteen.
 
I rode ahead with Ebert, keeping a good look-out for the buffalo and elephant which would be coming down for water. My two partners rode behind. We took half a dozen porters. Everyone was armed. Although Ebert constantly complained on the journey the day was pleasant and we found his interest in wild life was quite genuine.
 
On the way down, about half-way through the forest, three buffalo charged us. We were all bunched together and everyone fired at once. We got two of the buffalo smack between the shoulders. The third made off. When the smoke cleared we saw that besides the two buffalo we had also killed one of my partners. A native got him right through the eye. Instantaneous death.
 
The porters carried him down and of course there was a very difficult meeting with his wife.
 
Two days later the authorities sent for me and wanted to know what I meant by arming natives.
 
I said I knew I shouldn't do it but the place was stiff with buffalo and elephant and four guns weren't always enough.
 
The Resident Officer asked me if I would have preferred to have wiped out the whole party by equipping the natives with Howitzers.
 
In general he was very unpleasant. He said it was people like me who would be the ruin of the country and that Germany didn't need anyone in Tanganyika who couldn't look after himself without getting a lot of natives to protect him.
 
I left the country shortly afterwards.
 
A dreadful experience I said, pure bad luck and harsh justice.


 
Not a bit, said the old man rising from his chair. The only lesson it teaches is that you can never trust a native. They can't tell a human being from a buffalo ...
 
And he cackled a little as we walked towards the harbour.

 


 

 

First Catch Your Eland ... by Laurens Van Der Post


 
The British set about re-creating their dream of a new life with astonishing energy and persistence. In the process they suffered enormous losses of money and endured hardships that have never been appreciated among a critical public and a world increasingly sceptical of colonisation.
 
They suffered because the nature of Africa fought back against innovation as it has always done.
 
They started by importing the cereals, vegetables and fruit they needed from Europe and India. They brought domestic animals from Great Britain at vast expense ... cows, bulls, sheep, dogs, horses ... and aimed at being the first gentlemen farmers of Africa.
 
They brought tea from India and Ceylon and began to grow coffee while the South Africans, on their plateau in the heart of the highlands, planted the wheat and the maize they brought with them from the south.


 
The resistance of Africa was so fierce and great that it was only constantly importing fresh blood both of men and animals from Britain and Europe that they could pursue their idea.
 
Many private fortunes were lost in the process.
 
The idea which made them the subject of an endless series of music-hall jokes in Britain, that these pioneers were merely a pleasure-loving community, I knew from my own experience, applied only to exceptions that proved a far different rule.
 
It is true that, in between the battles to establish a world of their own, they kept up their courage by playing games like polo, hunting in scarlet and establishing race-courses.
 
Even more astonishing, they brought their love of fishing with them and rounded off their dream of a squire's life by stocking their rivers with trout. As a result, to this day there are few highland streams in Kenya, Uganda, right down to the southern highlands of Tanzania and the Shire hills of Malawi, which are not stocked with trout.
 
Trout appears as a matter of course on tables in the most unlikely circumstances and to this day is eaten in many parts of East Africa as if it were a native of the land.
 
I remember once walking into the White Rhinoceros hotel on the slopes of Mount Kenya just before dinner.
 
The bar was crowded with men telling tall stories, as if they had just come in from a favourite beat on a river in Scotland.
 
It made no difference that Mao Mao was about to burst on the land and that the air was charged with impending disaster, and the future volcanic with momentous change.

 

 


 
The minds of these men were entirely concerned with the problems of fishing and the importance of deciding whether they had been told the truth or merely had their legs pulled by an enthusiast who entered at the same time as I did and claimed that with the last cast, in the twilight, his fly had never found the water but had hooked a bat in passing and he had been almost overcome with superstitious awe when he found his reel unwinding rapidly and the line vanishing into space.
 
But despite all, despite increasing world discouragement, the British came through to a kind of success that was meaningful not only to Kenya but to East Africa as a whole.
 
The annual Royal Agricultural Show ... the state fair of East Africa ... had nothing to compare with it anywhere on the continent except perhaps the annual show in Johannesburg; one could easily have imagined oneself back in Britain as prize-winning Jerseys, Guernseys, Ayrshires, and Aberdeen Anguses paraded by.
 
In face it all looked so fundamentally European to me that once, sitting at the show with the Governor General of the day, I could not help replying to his exclamation: "It's magnificent, isn't it"? with ...
 
"Yes sir, but it isn't African animal husbandry, it is sheer nostalgia."

 


 
 
 
"Una Casa Portuguese" ...
The Portuguese World in Africa ... by Laurens Van Der Post
 


 
The Portuguese possessed nearly 800,000 square miles of the continent, without including the islands which are all as much a part of Africa as the British Isles are of Europe.
 
It is true that in this world the numbers of indigenous people of mainly Bantu origin and organised as ever in an extremely varied and complex pattern of tribes, are more thinly spread on the ground than elsewhere in Africa. This is particularly true of Angola which contains less than five million Africans.
 
Yet nowhere else in Africa had the transforming influence of a European culture such deep and tenacious roots.
 
I know that socially, politically, and economically this world of Portugal in Africa had for long been more backward and appeared more neglected than the rest of imperial Africa. But there are other significant values in life to consider and happily this is not a subject either of sociology or political philosophy to dive into the muddy and troubled water which discussion of de-colonisation has become.
 
These facts are important only in so far as they elucidate the Portuguese contribution to the innate striving of man to transform his way of eating into meaningful part of his culture.
 
Everywhere else in Africa the results of the European impact may have been far more dramatic and spectacular than in Portuguese Africa but in its own quiet, unassuming way, the Portuguese presence may have had subtler consequences and proved to have been more lasting than most.
 
It was the strange, dogged, undemonstrative belief in themselves and their faith which produced what I still call almost in a nursery way "the going-on-ness" of the Portuguese character and which coloured all they did, even their cooking.
 
There was something traditional about the Portuguese which cancelled out in advance any intimation of doubt that they could ever stop doing something which they had once begun.
 
Wherever they settled, whether it was in Angola, Brazil, Timor or Macao on the coast of China, where they still remain like a little drawing-pin on the vast map of China, they parked themselves and all the belongings they could carry with them in their cockleshell ships as if they were going to be there for ever.
 
The great captains who began the Portuguese adventure overseas like Vasco da Gama, Albuquerque and Francesco d'Almeida may have been violent, cruel and rapacious as the captains of many nations were in those days, particularly when they were Muslim and Catholic facing what they took to be unbelievers. But the men who carried on were the humble and poor of Portugal, like the fishermen.
 
Their overlords may have been a remote government corrupted by power or merchants jet-propelled by greed, but they themselves as convicts, outcasts or just helpless poor went on wherever they settled as if they were for ever part of Portugal. Some of the noblest figures of all this turbulent history, the greatest and most chivalrous souls, were convicts.
 
What is most important of all is that the defects of the colonial system to which the indigenous peoples of the Portuguese world in Africa were subjected, were not special defects occurring only in colonies, they were the defects of the social system of Portugal itself.
 
As a result, the psychological and social differences between the poor of Portugal and the African were far fewer than those between the Dutch, French, and British and their indigenous subjects.
 
This nearness produced from the start an absence of racism and colour prejudice which, ironically enough, exists to this day.
 
I found over and over again that it was utterly impossible to make a Portuguese colour conscious, and convince him that the colour of a man's skin mattered.
 
Only when it came to his faith and culture did the trouble begin.
 
This positive approach above all humanised their defects as well as their virtues and with their gift of "going-on-ness", explained I believe their long presence in the land.
 
Unlike the other empires in Africa too, the feeling of being Portuguese and the will to remain so was reinforced by the Portuguese policy of governing their overseas possessions as integral parts of Metropolitan Portugal ... a parallel in some ways of American policy towards Hawaii and Alaska.
 
Indeed so great was this interdependence that the collapse of the mother country inevitably produced a disintegration in Africa which neither the majority of Africans nor the growing number of Portuguese Africans desired.
 
That is how it all looked a few years ago. How does it look now?
 
I was assailed by music from within ... like an echo speeding down some canyon of time ... the memory of a fado, the traditional Portuguese ballad of fate ...
 
It was the "Una Casa Portuguese" ... sung so often ... it summed up many of the basic virtues of this misjudged and so unfairly misprised people ... In a Portuguese house there is always bread and wine on the table, and no matter who knocked on the door, he was asked in to sit at the table.
 
For in a Portuguese home, no matter how poor, the real wealth was in the capacity for giving ...
 
I had known thousands of such homes in Angola and Mozambique and had never knocked on a single door and been turned away ...
 
What is the meaning of liberation and emancipation which demands that such homes and such people had to go?
 
 
 
I looked down below the rushing plane and not a light came back at me
... only darkness.
 
 
      

 

Brought to you by Angola

 

 


 

Arts & Culture Tour     Back to Africa


 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Free website powered by Beep.com
 
The responsible person for the content of this web site is solely
the webmaster of this website, approachable via this form!