Landeg White

Landeg White’s verse translation of Luís Vaz de Camões’s The Lusiads appeared in 1997.

The Dignity of Merchants

Landeg White, 10 August 2000

Towards the end of his Native Stranger: A Black American’s Journey into the Heart of Africa (1991), Eddy Harris spends two despairing weeks waiting at Lisala on the banks of the Zaire river for a steamer to take him to Kisangani. Behind him are North Africa, Francophone and English-speaking Africa, and a disastrous foray into the former black American colony of Liberia; behind him, too, three hundred pages of mounting exasperation with the poverty, filth, incompetence and bullying he has encountered on all sides. Finally the steamer arrives and he falls with relief into conversation with Justin, an English passenger. The boat’s captain remarks on this encounter: ‘his ancestors stole your ancestors from this place and took them to America as slaves. How can you live with them?’ Thinking back on all he has seen and experienced, Harris ‘turned to Justin and thanked him’.‘

Did Napoleon mutilate the nose of the Great Sphinx because he thought it looked too ‘African’? Is the star Sirius B a storehouse of energy and information transmitted specifically to people whose bodies are rich in melanin? Are Christmas trees, chocolate bars, baseballs, Spanish bulls (and what’s done to them by way of chopping, biting, thwacking and impaling) all symbols of black male genitalia? Was the white race produced by women lepers who fled to the Caucasus and coupled with jackals? Do surnames like Dunn, Grey and Douglas, and place-names like Dublin and Blackpool, indicate concealed African origins? Were the Mende people of West Africa the first to navigate to Peru? Did Egyptians build Stonehenge? Is Aids the outcome of a genocidal white conspiracy to eliminate Africans? More to the point, do you believe these are serious questions, requiring patient and scholarly rebuttal?‘

In Canto Four of Camões’s 16th-century epic, as Vasco da Gama and the men of his fleet prepare to embark on their conquest of the Golden East, ‘an old man of venerable...

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Bloody-Minded

Basil Davidson, 9 September 1993

‘In olden times, which is when God was deciding what blessings he would give to the countries he was creating, after a long while he finally got to Angola and he asked Gabriel his angel to...

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