Africa Astir: A Pictorial Report on the Advancement of Southern Africa

Africa Astir: A Pictorial Report on the Advancement of Southern Africa

Africa Astir: A Pictorial Report on the Advancement of Southern Africa

Africa Astir: A Pictorial Report on the Advancement of Southern Africa

Excerpt

Among the many illuminating experiences of the year I spent travelling through Southern Africa two incidents, minor enough in themselves, have bulked so much larger in retrospect that they have given form and object to this report. The first was one of those apparently trivial spectacles we often chance upon in city streets and later on find growing in the imagination. The second was a brief and pleasantly exotic episode that also started a continuing train of thought.

One day when I was strolling about Durban, agreeably impressed by the metropolitan air of that important business and industrial centre, I suddenly observed a young native couple with a little daughter sauntering along or stopping to look into shop-windows just as I was doing. The husband, simply but not unbecomingly dressed in new European clothing, was obviously a workman resident of the city who had sent some of his earnings back to his ancestral kraal ("Corral": group of native huts) so that his family could pay him a visit. The wife, a plump little person whose body shone from the grease they use as cosmetic, wore only a twist of cloth around her breasts and a scanty skirt made of treebark. But she was decked out in all the tribal finery of heavy bead necklaces and similar ornaments for her hair and around arms and ankles. She of course went barefoot, as did the daughter, but in contrast the child was wearing a pretty little European printed dress. The three of them, hand in hand, the mother in the middle, still march forward in my memory, living symbols of the progress their homeland is making along the path of Western civilization.

A few months later, in the colony of Mozambique (Portuguese East Africa) I took part in a short Sunday excursion by launch from the port of Beira, across the bay and up the Buzi River to the Nova Lusitania sugar mill. There I had lunch with a group of Portuguese business-men and officials who kindly invited the stranger to join them in a meal they had already ordered in their national style. It was served in a little store, half bar and half grocery, kept by a Goanese, a man of mixed Portuguese and Hindu blood from Goa in India. The store was so small that there was hardly room for the two counters, the round table at which we sat, and hanging from the walls two garishly-coloured plaster busts of their greatest national heroes, Camoens and Vasco da Gama. At one moment in the conversation I was complaining of my disappointment in that the local natives were no longer so picturesquely attired as in the past, and that they had . . .

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