When You Dance with a Crocodile

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1 Response

  1. John Metlzer says:

    A careful reading of this work of adolescent fiction written and published in Namibia left me with considerable ambivalence. On one hand, I was positively impressed that the author placed African (Namibian) teenagers as smart, science and technology savvy problem solving adventurers. On the other hand, I was left deeply distributed by the oppositional dichotomy through which the author presents contemporary ” modern” Namibia (southern Africa) in counter distinction to southern Africa in the late 19th century.

    Specifically, the plot features three contemporary Namibian teens (a brother and a sister, and a non-related male), who independent of each other, are inadvertently sucked into a time warp while playing a new computer game. The protagonists each end up in different locales in the Barotse kingdom of now western Zambia in the 1890s. Each survives through their intelligence and bravery. The real problem is in way in which the author constructs late 19th century Barotse culture and society. Throughout the narrative the Barotse–and other African peoples–are represented as belonging to “Dark Africa” (direct quote, used a number of times in the narrative), where people’ s actions are governed by deep, irrational superstitions with a strong tendency towards acts of violence–that are often fleckless. The contemporary heroes whose values and world-view are informed by “modernity” (thanks to colonialism and exposure to Christianity?) are horrified by the beliefs, values and behaviors of their recent ancestors.

    It is shocking that in 2012 a work written in Namibia, by a Namibian can depict and represent African societies and cultures in such starkly negative terms. Not Recommended.

    Rating: 1

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