( On we go, readers, spelling mistakes and all.  It is more than likely these days you could not follow other than on the written pages)

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AFRICA.   (Arabic. Afira, to be dusty.)


What we know:

Black.   Animals. Dictators. Famine.   Tarzan.   Nelson Mandela.     Aids. IMF. World Bank. Rains. Sahara.   The Nile. Mt. Kilimanjaro. Ngorongoro Crater.   Victoria Falls. Tribes. Corruption. Massacres. War.   Aid.     Freedom. Slavery.   Colonialists.   Zulu’s.   Fever.   Red Sunsets. Acacias.   Snakes.   Ebony.   Ivory. Red Dust. Poverty.   Malaria. Tsetse Fly. Serengeti.   Grass. Burton. Livingston.

Disturbing some of its feathered friends Transmediterranier drops her shore ropes and shudders to life. According to Greek Mythology, we head out under Hercules’ legs for this is where the strong chap separated Africa from Europe with one foot on the rock of Gib and the other in Ceuta.

Resting on the ship’s rails that have seen more white gull splat than white paint, it is not long before the sparkling blue seas have me in its raptures and I begin to ponder on the land voyage ahead.

Will Africa test the mental characteristics of one’s nature, the same way as a long sea passage does? Will the land, unlike the sea that reveals no passage of time, impart a self-understanding of just how insignificant we are in the hands of nature?   Will the deserts with their whispering moving sands be the same as the stillness of the deep?   Will the mountains, the vast grasslands, the rivers, the lakes and canyons, leave us with a sense of sentimentality?   Does the African bush respond to the pull of the moon? Does it sounds, its darkness, its light, its density, its temperature, it rains, its colour, offer shelter, as the layers of water are shelterless?   Are animals the true stars of the land? Was Macbeth right when he said “that man strut’s and frets his hour upon the stage, screams and cries and is heard no more.”?   Will it teach us that Democracy is a universal remedy to the problems of the world?

Who better to have a chat with on the rail other than the lads who not only found most of the land signposts of Africa but helped turn Africa into a product for the sake of profit?   Brave men one and all.

Dr David Livingston     (1813 – 1873)       Religious Minister       60 years     Scottish          


Sir Richard Burton       (1821 – 1890)       Soldier                           69 years   English


Sir John Hanning Speke   (1827 – 1864)       Soldier                      37 years   English


Mary Kingsley                 (1862 – 1900)       Spinster                         38 years   English

Sir Henry Morton Stanley (1841 – 1904)       Newspaper reporter     37 years   Welsh

Well, Dave, there is no need for any introductions here.   It is quite obvious that I am Irish. Let’s say I am one hundred and eighty-two years younger or older than you blokes, take your pick. I don’t have the gift of the gab like your friend Burt, or his fascination with sexuality. Let me ask you David have you forgiven Stanley for turning up that time in Ujiji without some haemorrhoid ointment?   Has Stanley forgiven Speke for slipping off to find the source of the Nile? What about Mary who defended polygamy, domestic slavery, cannibalism as appropriate social activities in West Africa. Along with searching for Fetish and fish she augured that Anthropology was a tool of imperialist expansion.

I know you will all be glad to hear that by the Millennium, they were a few more famous Explorers. Most of them for some reason went north, except Thomson who had a gazelle named after him in Africa.  

Robert Peary                     1856 – 1920               36 years

Joseph Thomson             1858 – 1895                37 years

Fridtjot Nansen                 1861 – 1930                 31 years

Scott Robert                     1868 – 1921                 53 years

Ernest Shackleton           1874 – 1922                 48 years

Villjalmur Stefansson     1879 – 1962                 43 years

By the way, while you and your friends were wandering around Africa the rest of us invented the,  

Ice Machine                   1865

Torpedo                         1866

Tennis                             1873

Bingo                            1880

The Machine gun         1881

The Zip                           1891

But who cares, not much has really changed other than they are now solving the bigger questions by nine-dimensional maths, and man is still selfish as himself.   Other words the, ‘ I am all right Jack’ syndrome,’ if you get what I mean, is still flourishing, even more so than in your days. Believe it or not, as in your time, a global mind change is still to this day the biggest challenge to man on earth.

Anyway putting all that aside it is my turn to set foot in the land of burnt faces.

I know Richard that the wife burnt all your works, and God in your eyes David is white.   That the New York Stock exchange collapsed some considerable time after you blokes had packed your bags.  

I also know that now there is now a different type of slavery in Africa called Aids. That the death grip legacy of colonialism is Third World Aid packages that contradicts the hard task of wealth creation.  

Wealth is replaced by the superficial and irrelevant glitz of imported advice from the UN, ECA, OAU, WHO, FAO, UNICEF, UNESCO, GNP, SADCC, ECOWAS, ACP, EC, OPEC, UNCTAD, CESI, IMF, WB.UNDP. PSDS.   All of which are contaminated by the most dangerous mask of all Multinational Conglomerate’s loyalty to profit. The whole package is called Globalisation (the spread of free-market capitalism,) It can reduce the loyalty of a country to a bottle of Coke. There were no boundaries’ or countries before colonisation.  

With a click of a mouse, Futures, Hedge Funds, Pension Fund, Sovernity funds the true destroyers of earth with no responsibility to nature, science culture, history, the future, the past, or the present, plunder the world in the name of profit while we, its custodians, look on in ignorance of the damage.  

Anyway, enough of that; here is my question.   Man has always tried to sublimate his nature, to hide his fear and to focus his questions in art.   As in your days, our cultures masks still represent questioning. Earth is four billion years old.   Man has visited the moon, but evolution is still an embryo.   The Hubble telescope has seen the demise of the earth. Reality is being turned into virtual reality. Time is borne out of death.   People’s future has no limit. DNA is all the rage. Food is Microprojectile bombarded. Mass consumption is throwing away the earth’s resources.   Modern politics are turning a blind eye to corruption, criminality. Countries are clients of banks. Religion is censorship. Science cannot talk to Science. Power is nuclear. National debt is a powder keg.   Freshwater is disappearing.   Supremacy is technology. Co2 poisoning of the atmosphere is tradable.

Does HH Africa put all of the above into their true dimensions by taking the colour out of other kinds of living?

Are all images of Africa to this day based on imperfect knowledge and are

found to be either worthless or wanting. Is it being forced to put on the masks of West, to the cost of its future, its past, its present, its people’s, its cultures,

its animals, and its environment. Or is the penetration of the African mind

forest not yet achieved.

There is of course no answer. Africa can only be understood from inside out. The image of Africa in the 19th century was a place of exotic savage with the white man leaving a lot of cultural baggage. It now embraces all that is white on secondhand bases without the African social customs with the white educated African becoming the curse of Africa.

On the horizon I watch and smell the land of the earth second largest landmass 30,365,700 sq. km, with one eighth of the world’s population 900 000 000 embracing fifty-three independent countries, with over one thousand languages, rise into view. I know that this spring of our shared ancestors will change the way I perceive the world. A world strongly influenced by my own unconsciously held beliefs.

For the unvarnished answer to my question to my friends on the rail I must rely on Florence’s’ mask of innocence, which is all but untouched by time, perceive concepts, or by any of my long departed ship rail friends achievements that have entered the silent world of recorded history.

Our arrival under the mythical symbols of all manhood in Ceuta does not cause a hiccup. Sun stillness and heat are all at one.

(To be continued)

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