28 December 2008

When First I Lived In Africa

When first I lived in Africa, I lived about 20 kilometers outside Arusha, Tanzania at the foot of Mt. Meru. My house was among the student houses at the Chuo cha waBatisti cha Theologia cha Afrika ya Mashariki (the Baptist Theological Seminary of East Africa).

My house seemed HUGE to me after a college dorm room. I had 2 small bed rooms, a living room, a kitchen, a bathroom and a dining room/butchery.

My house looked out on the student shambas (gardens). Beyond the student shambas and the jacaranda trees was a coffee plantation.

My living room was decorated with the skin and horns of a Thompson's Gazelle, from my first hunting experience. Maasai and Gogo spears, a Maasai shield and simi, Gogo ax were among the decorations on the wall.

Carvings, Indian brass ware and an ebony and ivory chess set rounded out the decor.

It was quite a mansion. Nyumba yangu!

26 December 2008

Bushman Paintings

(Click photo to view full size)

Cave paintings are found all over Eastern and Southern Africa. They are commonly called "Bushman Paintings" in Southern Africa due to the popular attribution of them to the early inhabitants of the area, the forefathers of the San people. There is much variation in the styles of drawing and materials used for painting.

C. K. Cooke wrote A Guide to the Rock Art of Rhodesia for the Trustees of the National Museums and Monuments of Rhodesia, published in 1974. Peter Garlake wrote The Hunter's Vision subtitled The Prehistoric Art of Zimbabwe, published in 1995. Garlake's book is highly recommended.

The paintings in the illustration above are from a shallow cave near Lake Kyle in the Masvingo (Rhodesian Fort Victoria) district of Zimbabwe.

16 November 2008

Pets - Birds

One of the things I miss from Zimbabwe and Moçambique are my birds. In Zimbabwe many people bred birds, so they were cheap and available. Food grains could be stocked up in bulk and mixed at home cheaply. Aviaries were not difficult to build and the weather allowed most birds to be happy outside year 'round. Now I'm in an environment where winter puts too much stress on tropical birds unless they have an indoors section to the aviary. That's beyond my budget. We're down to three budgies and one cockateil kept indoors in cages these days.

In Zimbabwe we had budgies, lots of lovebirds and cockateils. My lovebirds bred readily and I allowed the various kinds to mix freely. I had peach face, pastel blue, nyasa, fischers, various pied varieties as well as assorted mixtures. One pair produced some red babies, but there must have been a genetic weakness associated with the unusual colour since they never survived to maturity. A friend in Gweru was having a similar situation with red babies who didn't live long.

We had ordinary grey cockateils as well as lutino, pied and white varieties.

When we moved to Moçambique, Luke got a young brown headed parrot which was rather tame. He did bite frequently, so we named him Beaker. Unfortunately, while we were on an extended trip, the friends caring for Beaker didn't keep doors closed tightly enough and a neighbourhood cat got Beaker.

In Pemba, Moçambique, we had some green pigeons. They are quite interesting in that they eat fruit exclusively. We were good customers for the papaya sellers. It is said that they get all their moisture from the fruit and never drink. I don't know the accuracy of that, but I never saw any of ours drink from the water dish.

In Pemba we had a number of brown headed parrots in one of our aviaries. None became tame like Beaker.

We also brought some cockateils from Zimbabwe when we returned to Pemba from a visit there. We had a pearl (above) and a couple of greys.

In addition to the larger birds, we often had small birds such as red and blue waxbills, bronze manikins, cut-throat finches, jamison firefinches and others.

I miss seeing the babies emerge from the nesting boxes and discover the world.

10 November 2008

Zimbabwean Bishop Bakare Wins Swedish Award

It is good to see a good man honoured. When I was Baptist Chaplain at the University of Zimbabwe in the 1980's, Rev. Bakare was the Ecumenical Chaplain there. He was a great chaplain and is a true leader and champion of justice. I applaud those who chose him to be recepient of the Per Anger Prize.

Read more: Zimbabwean Bishop Bakare Wins Swedish Award

MDC rejects Zimbabwe cabinet plan

Tsvangirai is showing backbone. The MDC is right to reject this false division of power. Any attempt to have joint leadership of the police will lead to chaos. Unless ZANU-PF is distanced from the police, political violence against MDC supporters will continue and no positive change will come to Zimbabwe. SADC has failed just as Mbeki has failed. As long as Mugabe is allowed to run roughshod over the principles of justice, Zimbabwe will continue to suffer and decline.

See Tsvangirai's statement at the BBC.

I applaud the MDC's rejection of this unjust illusion of power sharing.

S African icon Miriam Makeba dies

This is a sad day for all who love South African music. Miriam Makeba has passed from us. She was the first South African musician I really knew. A college room mate who had served in the Peace Corp in Malawi introduced me to her music. Pata Pata was my favorite song on the album he had. It continues to be my favorite, although she did a good version of the song that gave my daughter her name, Malaika.

Read more at: S African icon Miriam Makeba dies on the BBC web site.

09 November 2008

Reflections on the US Election and Zimbabwe


Although I was thoroughly impressed with Barak Obama before I knew anything of his biography, it is true that similarities in our life adventures draw me even more to support him because of the broad cultural experience he brings with him and the dramatic way his life expresses the American ideal.

Obama was born in Hawaii and spent most of his youthful years there. My wife was born and raised in Hawaii and my daughter was born there. I, personally, feel more at home in Hawaii than in any other state of the union. The multi-cultural life in Hawaii is a good basis for a president who wishes to lead and represent a nation of diversity. I gotta geevum fo' da kine local boy.

Obama's father came from Kenya in East Africa. Just out of college I lived in Tanzania, Kenya's next door neighbour and at that time fellow member of the East African Community. I visited Kenya often. Barak Obama is African American in the truest sense. My two sons were born in Zimbabwe. They, too, could be called African Americans by geography of birth. Africa is in my family's blood. My daughter and older son did their secondary schooling in Kenya. The sense of identity many in Africa and other countries feel for Barak Obama opens doors for him to lead on the world stage in a unique way.

These are some of the reasons I feel a special affinity for Obama in addition to the attraction to policy positions and philosophical positions that agree with mine. This affinity will strengthen my support of him even when we disagree.

Transitional Symbol

Obama, for me, is also a transitional symbol. I welcome the change in the USA that his election represents.

I remember when the only contact I had with non-white Americans was in the cotton patch. In the fall when the cotton was ready to harvest, schools closed and we all went to work picking cotton. Blacks and whites shared the labour in the fields but not the same water bucket. We were side-by-side in the field and some conversations and superficial friendships were possible. But we went back to separate schools when the cotton was harvested and used separate bathrooms and water fountains in the towns. When the white churches held revivals in the small southern towns, they knocked on every door to invite folks. White people were invited to the revival. Black people were invited to visit the local black church. (That never quite fit into my understanding of God. When we sang "Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight" I took it literally.)

I remember when my high school was integrated. A neighbouring school wouldn't allow our pep squad to attend the basketball game when we played in their gym. Our black players could come. We were all very frightened and ready to fight for our team mates. We "joked" about which of us would be hanging from the flag pole after the game. But we were seriously afraid.

I could tell more horror stories of what life was like back then. There were time when there was a double risk for those who crossed the colour barrier. One could be attacked (physically and verbally) by both white extremists and black extremists whose only point of agreement was that we must be separate.

The election of Barak Obama and the beauty of his family on the stage at his victory speech was like a fresh wind rejuvenating hope after the dark despondency brought on by his predecessor. For many of us the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the beginning of what seemed to be a never ending nightmare.

Barak Obama's election may, just MAY, be a symbol that change really is coming. Sam Cooke, you sang about it. You were not a dreamer, you were a prophet.

Barak Obama and Zimbabwe

The election of Obama brings my mind back to my adopted home of Zimbabwe (where I wish I were). Obama's election highlights one difference between the USA and Zimbabwe that plays a role in causing the USA to overcome difficulties while Zimbabwe is self-destructing. It's a simple difference in attitude and law (but one that some Americans are loosing sight of, making them more akin to Mugabe's party than the American Founding Fathers). It is the practice of inclusion rather than exclusion.

Obama's father was not a US citizen. But Barak Obama was born in the USA, and even if his mother had not been a citizen, he became a citizen by birth. A Zimbabwean friend of mine studying for his PhD in the USA had a son born here. His son is a US citizen. He is eligible to become president of the USA. The French recognized the significance of this attitude when they presented the people of the USA with the Statue of Liberty. The USA builds upon the gifts, skills and aptitudes of those whose parents chose the USA as home. And the USA is a better country for this inclusivity.

On the other hand, my sons were born in Zimbabwe and their birth certificates clearly state that they are not eligible for citizenship. Not only that, Mugabe has actively tried to drive out others who were born in Zimbabwe. Second, third and even fourth generation Zimbabweans whose ancestors came from Malawi, Moçambique, Lesotho and other countries are denied citizenship and efforts have been made to repatriate them to countries they have never known. As a result Zimbabwe is losing many who could be contributing to the betterment of the country. Many who love Zimbabwe and would sacrifice to build the nation have been forced to leave in order to survive. Many of the brightest and most skilled are now building other countries and will probably never return. The brain drain will leave the country with only the least qualified as the building blocks for recovery.

Barak Obama is a symbol of what can be accomplished when a country practices inclusivity. He could not have risen so high in Zimbabwe. I'm thankful his father chose to study in the USA rather than in Zimbabwe.

08 November 2008

Elephant Ride

Here is my older son, Kudzai, riding an elephant at Denise's Kitchen near Chivu, Zimbabwe.

02 November 2008


The baobab tree is probably the most famous and the favorite tree of Africa. The old story is that God got angry one time and uprooted a tree and then drove it into the ground upside down. The baobab resulted. The fruit contains a seed covered with a powder that can be used in cooking as tarter. Sucking the seeds as a snack is enjoyable as well as a thirst killer.

Hollow baobab trees have served as gun emplacements during war time, toilets for travelers, cisterns in dry times, sources of fiber for making clothing, bags, hats and other things.

There is even a baobab in Moçambique that is supposed to have David Livingstone's name carved inside by the Dr. himself. (I haven't seen it, only a photo.)

Usually the baobab is seen without its foliage. Here is one near the shore of Pemba Bay in Moçambique dressed in all its splendor.

01 November 2008

Beautiful Africa 10th edition

Great news! Beautiful Africa 10th edition is now available for your viewing pleasure. As always there are some great pictures, music and stories.

Drop by the carnival, enjoy yourself, and leave a word of thanks to the editors who put it together. Better yet, don't just thank them, help them out by submitting something or pointing them to a good blog entry for the 11th edition of Beautiful Africa.

26 October 2008

Magic Picture

Here's a little tease. Click on the picture to view it full size. Then put your nose to the screen to defocus your vision. Pull your head back from the screen slowly WITHOUT FOCUSING ON THE PICTURE. A 3 dimensional shape should appear in the pattern.

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

Some years back this kind of picture puzzle was quite popular and many books of them were sold. I just recovered this one from an old hard drive. I made it while in Moçambique and it had been deleted. Now if I can find my old software to make more.

25 October 2008

Kenya Maze

Here's something from Dover Publications. Get out the colour pencils, make it beautiful and see if you can get to Nairobi. (Click on the picture and print out the larger version for best results.)

21 October 2008

Victoria Falls Pseudostamps

With the instability of Zimbabwean currency these days, it's impossible to know how many zeros to put on the postage price. Since this is just for fun and these psudostamps won't be used on letters, it doesn't really matter.

19 October 2008

18 October 2008

Zimbabwe's Stone Mountains

Zimbabwe has many beautiful stone mountains.
Here are a couple in the Nyanga area of north eastern Zimbabwe.

17 October 2008

Aged Animal Photos

Giraffe near Punda Maria Camp in
Kruger National Park, South Africa

Rhino mother and child in Lake Kyle National Park near
Masvingo, Zimbabwe

This was shot on horseback.

16 October 2008

Sesame Zimbabwe Scenes

Here are a few pictures of rural life in the Sesame area of Gokwe in Zimbabwe.

Ladies carrying bags of upfu (mealie meal, maize meal or corn meal depending upon the kind of English you speak.)

The ox cart is a reliable means of transporting loads.

My wife (left) dances with friends beneath a baobab tree
as the children look on.

15 October 2008

Young Maasai Warrior

Young Maasai warrior with Mt. Kilimanjaro in the background. This was taken during a hunt north of Arusha, Tanzania.

14 October 2008

Mt Meru, Tanzania

Mt Meru viewed from the front steps of Chuo cha waBatisti cha Theologia cha Afrika ya Mashariki (the Baptist Theological Seminary of East Africa, located about 20 km north of Arusha, Tanzania on the Great North Road going to Kenya) in 1971/72.

13 October 2008

More Victoria Falls Dancers

Here are a couple more dance scenes from the Victoria Falls Hotel show.

Makishi dancers

Ndebele dancers

(These look better at full size. Click on the picture to see full size view.)