It's a long while since I have been to the rainbow nation in fact it's been a while that I have been out of Africa. Aberdeen to Cape Town is along flight fortunately this time it was business class and the inflight service and food were excellent ( KLM and Dutch efficiency). As we flew over a
Africa I could feel the old urges coming back, I have often said that Africa is like malaria, once in your blood stream it's there for ever, I should coin a new term Africa Phalcifarun, the medical term for those addicted to the dark continent.
I do love England's green and pleasant land, I do feel a surge of pride when I fly over the white cliffs, Jerusalem and Land of Hope and Glory still make my blood surge, but Africa, I have a love hate relationship with the continent, a few years ago whilst writing Out of Jericho I wrote the following, the scene is set as a hostage of Palestinian descent is transported through the mangroves by his captors to the dark heart of Africa, of course it to some extent echoes my own experience, it is a passage of which I am particularly fond and it encapsulates much of my feelings about the place, it is also the segment i read on the Judie Spiers show
Though the subliminal imagery stored up from a Palestinian childhood was hard to suppress: the images were a collection of living nightmares; it was as if some sick, twisted, malevolent mind had trawled the darkest recesses of mankind’s ancestral memory and assembled everything that is terrifying to the human psyche, then handed it out to these young men in bucketfuls. So different, Mo thought, from the intense young fanatics of Hamas and Islamic Jihad with their pristine white robes, cultivated beards, philosophies and sophistic arguments and mobile phones. These men had stepped straight out of the soul of the continent. Creations of the id of modern humanity, un-tempered by change and the grinding progress of history.
As Mo looked at them sitting in their modern speedboat, with their Russian-made machine guns, he felt the tendrils of history reaching out from a time when there was only Africa. For a fleeting moment, he had the briefest of glimpses past the sophistries of cultural evolution into the darkness of his own soul. The raw and brutal nature of human existence, unfettered by the comforts of revealed or imagined faith, reared up in front of him. It was as if the whole of time and creation was slipping away in to the swirling vortex of a history based on man’s persistent denial of his own mortality, and in the mouth of the vortex sat the silhouettes of these armed men, much as their ancestors had done before recorded history began. The spears had been replaced with guns, the jungle had been poisoned, acid rain had corroded the life from the trees. But now the jungle was fighting back; these wiry black messengers from the dark heart of Africa, the Eden of humanity, were exacting Abel’s revenge. Cain had gone forth into the barren wilderness, and to keep himself warm he had raped the land, plundered the seas, sucked the black blood from the arteries of the planet, and now Eden had had enough and she was sending forth her children, because something must be done. Hezbollah, he mused, had much to learn.
Mo looked at them again, black figures against the sunlit green of the jungle. No wonder, he thought, Nigerian soldiers have been known to just drop their weapons and run when confronted with these jungle wraiths, these ghouls from the swamps. It was not the guns or bullets that made these men strong, nor was it the charms and amulets; it was the combination, the ramshackle collection of confused imagery that sent frightening echoes cascading round long-forgotten recesses of the human psyche.
I will never recover from Africa, how ever much I may try and fool myself I want to the fever will always be there.