The Ukimwi Road: From Kenya to Zimbabwe by Dervla Murphy

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In January 1992, Dervla Murphy prescribed herself several carefree months and embarked on a cycle tour (pedalling and pushing) from Kenya to Zimbabwe via Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia on the cyclist’s equivalent of a Rolls Royce called Lear. Before long, she realized that for travellers who wish to remain stress-free, Africa is the wrong continent. Inevitably she was caught up in the harrowing problems of the peoples she met; the devastating effects of AIDS (ukimwi is Swahili for AIDS), drought and economic collapse; scepticism about Western “aid schemes”; and corruption and incompetence, both white and black.

The Ukimwi Road: From Kenya to Zimbabwe

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Don’t Let’s Go To The Dog’s Tonight: An African Childhood by Alexandra Fuller

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Don’t Let’s go to the Dogs Tonight is a wonderfully evocative memoir of Alexandra Fuller’s African childhood. Fuller regards herself “as a daughter of Africa”, who spent her early life on farms in Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia throughout the turbulent 1970s and 80s, as her parents “fought to keep one country in Africa white-run”, but “lost twice” in Kenya and Zimbabwe. This is a profoundly personal story about growing up with a pair of funny, tough, white African settlers, and living with their “sometimes breathlessly illogical decisions”, as they move from war-torn Zimbabwe to disease and malnutrition in Malawi, and finally the “beautiful and fertile” land of Zambia.
Central to Fuller’s book is the intense relations between herself and her parents, a chain-smoking father able to turn round any farm in Africa, her glamorous older sister Vanessa, and the character who sits at the heart of the book, Fuller’s “fiercely intelligent, deeply compassionate, surprisingly witty and terrifyingly mad” mother.
Fuller weaves together painful family tragedy with a wider understanding of the ambivalence of being part of a separatist white farming community in the midst of Black African independence. The majority of the book focuses on Fuller’s early years in war-torn Zimbabwe, with “more history stuffed into its make-believe, colonial-dream borders than one country the size of a very large teapot should be able to amass.” This is the most successful dimension of the book, as Fuller describes growing up on farm where her father is away most nights fighting “terrorists”, and stripping a rifle takes precedence over school lessons. The sections on Malawi and Zambia are more prosaic, but this is a lyrical and accomplished memoir about Africa, which is “about adjusting to a new world view” and the author’s “passionate love for a continent that has come to define, shape, scar and heal me and my family.”
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