Livingstone's Tribe: A Journey From Zanzibar to the Cape

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9780002558365: Livingstone's Tribe: A Journey From Zanzibar to the Cape

An extraordinary, passionate and personal journey into Africa’s past.

Meshing together Africa’s colonial history and the personalities of that time with his own memories of the turbulent twentieth century and its characters, Stephen Taylor will travel from Lake Victoria to the Cape of Good Hope – from the place that represents the peak of colonial exploration in Africa to the first settling place of his own family. His description and re-evaluation of the colonial period shows it in all its drama, glamour and disreputableness – a wilder version of the Raj.

Through this present-day journey, Taylor will trace the legacy of Africa’s history and, in particular, of the place in it of the Whites. The journey will be a quest for understanding: of the colonial impulse, of his own curious ambivalence towards the great continent in which he grew up, and of the southern African countries’ – in particular South Africa’s – future. It will be a wonderfully evocative, lyrical description of some of the most dramatic lands in the world – thoughtful, historical, philosophical travel writing of the best kind.

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Review:

Stephen Taylor grew up a white South African until, "sickened by the dour resentful racists" in charge of his country's destiny, he emigrated to Britain. "Livingstone's Tribe" traces a fascinating journey he took from Zanzibar in Eastern Africa through Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe and back down to his former home, South Africa. The title refers to the white Africans who have stayed on in post-independence Africa-- but Taylor meets and talks with a wide range of both white and black Africans.

The book is part travelogue (Taylor describes the wonders he encounters), part historical accounts of whites in Africa (the "great explorers" of the 19th century are very well covered) and part personal memoir of black and white Africa--a place that's far from black and white in the moral sense, Taylor powerfully argues. Throughout his journey Taylor is sensitive to ambiguity, a quality that's rare in travel writing. His Kenya, for instance, captures both the lyrical beauty of Karen Blixen's Out of Africa and "the other Kenya, of state-sanctioned murder and glue-sniffing street children." Taylor grew up as a white South African, but his English provenance set him apart from both the natives and the Afrikaners. He is conscious of being marginal to Africa in a way that neither of these cultures is, and that self-consciousness gives his writing a subtlety and penetration lacking in other work on the same topic. The passages in which Taylor reflects on his childhood in South Africa, giving lucid insights into the divisions of that country, are the real triumph of the book. --Adam Roberts

From the Back Cover:

''BAGAMOYO,' which in Swahili means, "lay down your heart", is a ruin of dishevelled loveliness which lies at the beginning of the 800-mile Arab trade route to the Great Lakes. This was the terminus from which caravans set out for the interior, and where the returning journey ended before crossing into Zanzibar. "Lay down your heart " said the grateful porters after months, years away in the perilous interior. But the words might as easily have been spoken by the millions who passed here in chains, pausing perhaps to looks back for the last time on their native land before the voyage into bondage.

Stephen Taylor travels from eats to southern Africa uncovering vestiges of the continent's colonial past through its landscape, peoples and their stories. His trail starts with the exotic splendour of Zanzibar and a whirlwind tour of the island on the back of the Vicar of Zanzibar's motorbike. Through Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, Taylor talks to blacks and whites (the mzungu), on dirt tracks, in buses, at bars and on great latticed verandahs overlooking the southern lands. He meets the last white landowner in Uganda and drinks beer with a man named Delicious; at the Great Lakes he walks in the footsteps of the early colonial explorers, Burton and Speke, and meets Victoria, a formidable entrepreneur named after the lake and the queen. In this present-day journey Taylor examines the identity of the whites who have stayed on in post-independence Africa, his own ambivalence toward the great contentment in which he grew up and the future of Africa's southern countries.

'Livingstone's Tribe' combines evocative and philosophical travel-writing with a remarkable history of some of the most dramatic lands in the world.

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