Editor – John Cooper-Poole
JOURNEY INTO AFRICA. THE LIFE AND DEATH OF KEITH JOHNSTON, SCOTTISH CARTOGRAPHER AND EXPLORER (1844-79). James McCarthy. Whittles Publishing ISBN 1-904445-01-2. 2004. Pp. 248.
The origins of this remarkable biography lie in an invitation to the author from the Director of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, to transcribe the unpublished expedition diary of Keith Johnston, who was among the last of the European explorers of the classical period of African exploration. Only a small part of the book derives from that manuscript, however. The author obtained access to Johnston family papers, which provided insights into the formative years in Keith Johnston’s short life. Thereafter, the author sought out a range of archival sources shedding new light on the evolution of the family firm of Alexander Johnston, Keith’s father and one the most prestigious cartographic houses of the nineteenth century. The author also immersed himself in the literature of nineteenth-century African exploration. The result is a significant contribution, both to the history of nineteenth-century cartography and to the history of European penetration of Africa.
Although much the smaller part of the narrative, the part which will be of most interest to readers of Tanzanian Affairs will be the account of four months of preparation in Zanzibar in 1879, the trial safari to the Usambaras, before eventually setting off from Dar es Salaam southwest to Behobeho village on the banks of the Rufiji, where Johnston died of dysentery and was buried, with the expedition less than two months old. The slow progress of the expedition, the observations which were made and the many difficulties encountered are related from Johnston’s diary and from the records of his young and ultimately more famous assistant, Joseph Thomson. The tragic brevity of Johnston’s journey into what is now the Selous Game Reserve is emphasised by the short flight which the author himself made in 2001, in an unsuccessful attempt to locate Johnston’s grave. This was to be the last great expedition into Africa mounted by the Royal Geographical Society. At last, a part of it has been meticulously researched in its wider context, within a scholarly biography which is lucidly written and appropriately illustrated.
WOMEN STRIVING FOR SELF-RELIANCE: DIVERSITY OF FEMALE-HEADED HOUSEHOLDS IN TANZANIA AND THE LIVELIHOOD STRATEGIES THEY EMPLOY. Anke van Vuuren 2003. Amsterdam University, Drukkerij Haan-Bedum. ISBN 090 5448 055 3. Available from African Studies Centre, P.O. Box 9555, 2300 Leiden, The Netherlands. firstname.lastname@example.org
This book provides a detailed account of livelihood strategies of Nyamwezi female household heads in Ndala, Tabora, documenting the ways and means by which female-headed households manage to not only get by but even flourish. This bucks the view that female-headed households are necessarily marginalized relative to male-headed households. Interestingly, Van Vuuren found a very high incidence of female-headed households in Ndala, 42%, rather than the normal 20-33% one comes to expect in rural villages in many parts of Sub-Saharan Africa.
Van Vuuren refined the concept of household headship discerning four different forms of female headed-households. Besides the usual divorced, widowed or married women temporarily heading households by virtue of male migration, there was a relatively new category, the avowedly unmarried single female heads of households. This is a category that has been observed in urban settings for decades, but it has been rare in rural areas where women are generally made to feel that they should reside with a male ‘protector’ in the form of a father or husband.
Non-agricultural income diversification is central to the economic well-being of the female heads of household. Non-agricultural income diversification is very far advanced in Ndala generally with 96% of female-headed households’ income and 88% of male-headed households’ income coming from non-agricultural sources. Ndala is a settlement that is outgrowing its village origins, being the site of a Catholic mission hospital and school. The Mission complex offers salaried employment opportunities to a level quite unusual in the Tanzanian village context. The implication is that not only is salaried employment higher but the multiplier effects of such formal employment raises the level of informal sector opportunities for people. Hence Ndala has a higher than average level of non-agricultural income-earning.
Women have access to formal and informal employment and are choosing not to marry men – the new breed of female household heads. But would such a category exist in the absence of the Mission employment? Why are such women avoiding marriage to men? Men are largely invisible in this study. How are they reacting to this? And what do the missionaries think about this trend?
This is a pioneering study with surprising findings, opening the way for research elsewhere to ascertain if Ndala is an isolated case or part and parcel of a growing trend. It is readily evident that the author had very good rapport with her female informants and gleaned valuable insights into household emotional relationships and family finance. The book will appeal to anyone wanting to know more about Unywamwezi, Tanzanian female-headed households or general social trends in Sub-Saharan Africa.
AFRICAN DINOSAURS UNEARTHED. The Tendaguru Expeditions
By Gerhard Maier (2003). Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 380 pp. $49.95. ISBN 0-252-34214-7
Eastern Africa is today famed for its fossil human ancestors, the hominins, but few concerned with those stars of the palaeontological world may know of the earlier work in the region that produced huge quantities of those other famous and popular fossils, dinosaurs. In fact between 1907 and 1931, German and then later British research teams recovered some of the finest known specimens of large Jurassic dinosaurs at Tendaguru in what is now southeastern Tanzania. This fascinating book by Gerhard Maier interweaves the history of the discoveries and the later fate of the remains with the political events of the 20th Century, and in the process even underlines the links between the search for dinosaurs and human ancestors. That most famous of all African palaeontologists and archaeologists, the Kenyan-born Louis Leakey, then a Cambridge student, was originally invited to join a British Museum (Natural History) expedition to recover more dinosaurs from Tendaguru in 1923
While the British sought more specimens, in Berlin technicians were busy removing the huge bones from the plaster jackets in which they had been encased for transportation back to Germany before World War I. The logistics of such recovery from field to museum would tax even a modern expedition, and in the chaos of early 1920s Germany raising funds for the preparation of the material in the museum was an equally daunting task. But by the late 1920s whole skeletons had been reconstructed and numerous scientific papers published, and the importance of the material made clear to the scientific world and public alike. The material even survived the massive destruction of Berlin during World War II and the rather cavalier attitude to lending whole skeletons to overseas institutions under the German Democratic Republic, and to this day forms one of the centrepieces of the Berlin Natural History Museum.
Maier’s book details all of this in great (perhaps at times a little excessive) detail, and ends with a very good review of the interpretation of Jurassic dinosaurs and the significant contribution to this field of study made by the Tendaguru specimens. In doing so, he also gives a very impressive review of the history of fossil prospecting in eastern Africa as a whole during the first part of the 20th Century, and of the extreme conditions in which much of the work at Tendaguru and elsewhere had to be done. It puts the specimens that we palaeontologists now casually look at in museum collections into a very useful and at times frankly sobering context, and underlines the debt that we owe to those who recovered the material, often at the cost of their health or even their life.
THE FORGOTTEN FRONT (The East African Campaign 1914-18), Ross Anderson, Tempus Publishing, ISBN 07522423444.pp.352, £25 hardback.
Ross Anderson’s earlier book The Battle of Tanga 1914 was reviewed in Tanzanian Affairs No. 77. He has now continued his scholarly account of the war in East Africa to its conclusion in November 1918.
Following the disastrous attack on Tanga in November 1914, Field Marshall Kitchener, The Secretary of State for War, was anxious to avoid further setbacks. He told the British Commander in 1915 “You are entirely mistaken in supposing that offensive operations are necessary”. While the Germans remained in firm control of their colony throughout 1915, the British had to be content with the sinking of the battle cruiser Konigsberg in the Rufiji delta.
The appointment of General Jan Smuts to command the British forces produced a dramatic change in the situation. The offensive he launched from Kenya in 1916, assisted by an attack by Belgian forces from the Congo, steadily forced the German army under Colonel von Lettow Vorbeck to withdraw. Dar es Salaam, Kilwa and Lindi were captured in September and in January 1917 Smuts announced that the campaign was more or less finished, with only “mopping up” left.
Unfortunately the Germans showed no signs of readiness to be “mopped up”. Von Lettow won several skirmishes against British forces (now mainly from Nigeria and the Gold Coast) and a separate column under Colonel Naumann roamed at will for eight months as far north as Moshi before being defeated near Dodoma. In November 1917 von Lettow avoided attempts to encircle him and slipped across the Ruvuma River into Portuguese East Africa (now Mozambique). Finally he moved into Northern Rhodesia in October 1918, and only surrendered on 13th November after learning of the Armistice in Western Europe. As a mark of respect for his dogged resistance the British allowed the German officers to retain their swords when they were repatriated to Germany.
Anderson gives some fascinating glimpses into the complicated political maneuvering behind the military campaign. The Belgians from the Congo were determined to annex Rwanda and Burundi and made an important contribution to the fighting, with their troops operating as far south as Njombe and Mahenge. On the other hand, the Portuguese forces were totally inadequate and von Lettow regarded their outposts not as obstacles but as useful sources of food and ammunition. When the Portuguese commander was recalled to Lisbon in disgrace, the Portuguese Government imprisoned him for two months, while the British Government, in the interests of bilateral relations, made him a Commander of the Bath (CB).
The general reader, without a detailed knowledge of East African geography, might sometimes find it difficult to follow the intricacies of the bush fighting, particularly as Anderson uses German place names like Bismarckberg and Wiedhafen without giving their English equivalents. The index could also be rather fuller. But the book as a whole gives a comprehensive and definitive survey of the “Forgotten Front” and deserves to be on the bookshelf of anyone interested in the military history of East Africa.
UNDER THE GAZE OF THE ‘BIG NATIONS’: REFUGEES, RUMOURS AND THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY IN TANZANIA. Simon Turner. African Affairs. Vol. 103: 227-247.
In his exploration of Burundian refugees in Lukole camp in northwest Tanzania, Turner argues that while confinement in the camp alienates refugees from national (i.e., Tanzanian) socio-political processes and rights, their role as aid recipients has brought them closer to the international community. This exposure has, through rumour and conspiracy, led to international factors being insinuated into refugees’ understanding of the roots of the conflict that has led to their displacement: Hutu refugees have positioned themselves as victims of a Tutsi plot endorsed and abetted by the international community (including Tanzania). Paradoxically, neither the refugees’ extra-national status nor their suspicions of international actors have undermined their faith in the nation state or in the international community’s ability to engender a peaceful future.
While borrowing heavily from post-modernists critiques of the nation-state and analytic divides between domestic and international affairs, Turner argues that these artificial constructs exert strong influence even among those most likely to question their ontological status. Turner supports his position through a review of how development and displacement provide the schematic foundations for national allegiances while drawing attention to ways in which everyday practices—rumor, economic exchange, displacement, and encampment—reproduce and naturalize refugees’ shared history and ethno-national divisions. Through this analysis, and a review of United Nations operations and refugees’ attitudes, he also counters facile charges that refugee camps serve as anomalous systems of governmentality removed from broader domestic trends and histories.
Although this is a significant analysis and contributes to restoring human agency to the displaced, one wonders if Turner has made too much of the rumours he encountered. There is little doubt that rumour and casual conversation are important in shaping refugees’ perspectives and, presumably, actions. Indeed, the way in which Hutu refugees relate Monica Lewinsky’s ‘seduction’ of Bill Clinton to the ways in which Tutsi women ostensibly elicited the allegiance of foreign powers is both comic and illustrates how all societies use familiar logics of causality, however specious, as metaphors for understanding the unknown. Similarly, Turner convincingly illustrates how Hutu refugees’ reliance on global conspiracy theories serves as a powerful (informal) tool for absolving domestic actors—including themselves—for their suffering. However, understanding the emergence of these conspiracies and their ontological power requires a broader analysis of the camps’ political structures. While rumor is a mechanism through which conspiracy theories take form, they do not adequately explain the interests and motivations behind them. That said, Turner is unlikely to dispute the need to situate these rumours within a broader socio-political and historical context, as indeed he tries to do. Rather, he would justifiably argue that this article is intended merely to draw attention to the ways in which rumor and sub-altern discourse can transfigure or, as in this case, fortify, the national order of things.
Loren B. Landau
AN AFFAIR WITH AFRICA Tanganyika Remembered. Donald Barton. Authors Online Ltd, 40 Castle Street, Hereford, SG14 1HR. ISBN 0 7552 0122 1. Pp xii. 260. p/b. Available from the author at Christophers, Powntley Close, Alton, Hants, GU34 4DL. Tel. 01256 862630. £11.50 plus £1.50 postage. The author will donate £1.50 to the Britain Tanzania Society for each copy bought direct from him.
Memoirs by former Colonial Service officers replete with tales of witchcraft and exciting encounters with wildlife are not uncommon, and probably fairly easy to write. In this case the author goes much further and tries to answer such questions as “yes, but what did these chaps actually do for their living, and why and how did they do it?”
Don Barton joined the Colonial Administrative Service in 1951 and after attending the First Devonshire Course at Oxford was posted to Tanganyika in 1952, where he served until 1961. During that time he had postings in Manyoni, Kondoa, Lindi and Masasi and finally Ukerewe.
The author’s feel for place results in vivid description, not just of views and sights, but of tastes and smells. That pervasive smell of bat droppings above ceilings, for example. He also shows us the day to day work of administration at District level, and the impetus which lay behind it, and gives a good insight into the diversity of matters with which young officers had to deal, including much which was routine or plain boring. This insight into the work of the young District Officer gives the book an historical value which such memoirs do not always have. The reproduction of the letter from Julius Nyerere to the author, and presumably other officers, begging them to stay on after independence would alone give the book an historical interest.
There are interesting insights into family life. Very special qualities were needed by the wives of colonial service officers. The early years of their marriages were marked by long separations and the difficulties of bringing up young children in remote places. A lot could (and should?) be written about the way they spent their time.
The book is well illustrated. There are interesting and relevant photographs and attractive drawings by Don and his daughter, Nicola, as well as maps.
The author was initially attracted to the idea of a Colonial Service career by reading Kenneth Bradley’s “Diary of a District Officer” at the age of sixteen. If there were still a Colonial Service this book would surely attract other youngsters to join it. As it is, it is a very enjoyable read, while being also a document of considerable historical interest. Thoroughly recommended.
DHOWS AND THE COLONIAL ECONOMY OF ZANZIBAR 1860-1970. Oxford, James Currey. P/b viii+ 176 pp. ISBN 0 8214 1558 1. £15.95.
This is an interesting and pleasingly slim and accessible volume from a specialist East African Publisher, more often known for its longer and less penetrable works of scholarship. Erik Gilbert went to Tanzania to research a thesis on the effects of the caravan trade on nineteenth century farming. However, he came across supposedly extinct dhows being newly built, and decided that a much more interesting thesis topic would be to investigate the history of the dhow trade that had helped create an Indian Ocean world linking peoples and commodities from India, the Swahili coast, the Red Sea, Arabia and the Persian Gulf long before European steamers and officials arrived on the scene.
The “dhow trade” was to a large extent a creation of colonial ideas about modernity and tradition, Gilbert concludes, similar to Western constructs like “witchcraft”. It sat ill alongside the modernising and regulating tendencies of colonial rule, particularly after the dhow’s fateful association with the slave trade gave it pariah status. Colonial officials, and most subsequent historians, repeatedly characterised the dhow trade as “dying out”, yet it remained stubbornly alive. Though a new colonial economy based on steamships emerged in the later nineteenth century, the dhow trade survived, still essential in the carriage of goods around the Swahili coastal ports and linking the region to Arabia and India. Though Zanzibar ceased to be the capital of a commercial empire in the Western Indian Ocean, the dhow trade remained a prop to the local economy and critical to Zanzibar’s well-being. Under colonial rule dhows had been expected by the British to wither on the vine as steamships took over, and dhow owners were prevented from carrying the export crops that colonial governments hoped would underwrite the future, like cotton, coffee, and sisal. But mangrove poles, dried shark, coconuts and salt were still hugely important staples, and the dhow continued to ship them. Dhows even experienced a significant revival during the second world war because of the dearth of shipping.
The end of colonial rule brought new challenges for the dhow trade, as governments fervently embraced modernisation. In 1979, however, dhows still carried nearly 30 per cent of Zanzibar’s official cargo traffic.
This book will be enjoyed by anyone with an interest in Zanzibar’s history, because its trading connections with a wide regional economy are so central to it.
RECENT JOURNAL ARTICLES.
Beth-Elise Whitaker., “Refugees and the Spread of Conflict: Contrasting Cases in Central Africa.” Journal of Asian and African Studies. Vol. 38. #s 2-3, August 2003, pp. 211-231. Basic focus on the 1994 Rwandan refugee movements into eastern Congo as well as into western Tanzania, the first of which contributed to the outbreak of war in 1996 and 1998, while the Tanzanian experience was relatively peaceful.
Jim Igoe. “Scaling Up Civil Society: Donor Money, NGOs and the Pastoralist Land Rights Movement in Tanzania.” Development and Change. Vol. 34. #5, November 2002, pp. 863-885. Traces the complex evolution of traditional grazing land rights and the registration of pastoralist NGOs as the process moved through traditional cultural institutions to modern structures; donor funding greatly influenced institutional behavior and outcomes.
Birgit Brock-Utne. “The Language Question in Africa in the Light of Globalisation, Social Justice and Democracy.” International Journal of Peace Studies. Vol. 8. #2, Autumn-Winter 2003, pp. 67-87. Focus on use of European languages in Tanzanian and South African institutions, noting conflicting trends that support globalization and the capitalist market economy as opposed to democratic patterns of behavior and social justice.
Siri Gloppen. “The Accountability Function of the Courts in Tanzania and Zambia.” Democratization. Vol. 10. #4, Winter 2003, pp.112-136. The courts in both Tanzania and Zambia tend to restrain their judicial authority to hold government accountable because the legal culture, the institutional structure, and the social legitimacy of the courts serve to minimize their willingness to challenge the executive.
OTHER RECENT JOURNAL ARTICLES.
McCabe, J.T. Sustainability and livlihood diversification among the Maasai of Northern Tanzania. Human Organisation, 62(2), 2003, pp100-11.
Maoulidi, Salma. The Sahiba Sisters Foundation in Tanzania: meeting organisational and community needs. Development, 46(4), 2003 pp.85-92.
Mercer, C. Performing partnership: civil society and the illusions of good governance in Tanzania. Political Geography, 27(7), 2003, pp. 741-63.
Stiles, Erin E. When is a divorce a divorce? Determining intention in Zanzibar’s Islamic Courts. Ethnology, 42(4), 2003, pp. 19-30.
Bonu, S., Rani, M. and Bishai, D. Using unwillingness to pay to investigate regressiveness of user fees in health facilities in Tanzania. Health Policy and Planning, 18(3), 2003, pp. 370-82.