“That was taken for the natural order in Africa:
frolicking children, labouring women, idle men.”
While in Tanzania I was reading a book recommended by my father called “Dark Star Safari”. It’s one of the many highly acclaimed books written by travel writer Paul Theroux. I do like the guy, he writes with a healthy dose of cynicism. He also shows no fear in the face of this “P.C. gone mad” world of ours, writing with the intent of helping the continent he once called home, as opposed to regurgitating the same old, tired-yet-safe phrases to which it, and it’s people, are so often attached.
With a broad yet vibrant brush he paints a picture of Africa that has forever stuck in my mind. “Africans, less esteemed than ever, seemed to me the most lied-to people on earth – manipulated by their governments, burned by foreign experts, befooled by charities, and cheated at every turn. To be an African leader was to be a thief, but evangelists stole people’s innocence and self-serving aid agencies gave them false hope, which seemed worse. In reply, Africans dragged their feet or tried to emigrate, they begged, they pleaded, they demanded money and gifts with a rude, weird sense of entitlement.”
Looking back to what it was like for him in Africa as a young school teacher, somewhere in Africa, I think maybe Zambia, again he paints a picture: “…living near a settlement of mud huts amongst dusty trees and parched fields: children shrieking at play; and women bent double – most with infants slung on their backs – hoeing the corn and beans; and the men sitting in the shade stupefying themselves on chibuku, the local beer, or kachasu, the local gin.”
“That was taken for the natural order in Africa: frolicking children, labouring women, idle men.” It is this phrase which I have tried to mould my Tanzanian street photos to.
Of course, much like the nature of a street survey, it’s easy to collect data to suit a theory, rather than finding a theory to suit the data. All one has to do is highlight the evidence that supports it while ignore any evidence to the contrary. The following are some images that do not support his observation.
Funnily enough, I still couldn’t manage to find a shot of an idle woman. Perhaps there is some truth in Theroux’s words.
These last images have no real place here but ima post them anyway.