Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Tanzania's Maasai People, Safaris, & Crompton's Hour of the Red God


From last month's BBC article, "Tanzania's Maasai battle game hunters for grazing land:"
In a remote corner of northern Tanzania, Boeing 747 planes land on a private airstrip, trucks with United Arab Emirates (UAE) number plates drive across the plains, and anyone with a cell phone receives an unlikely text message: "Dear guest, welcome to UAE."
For centuries, the sprawling savannah in the Arusha region of the East African nation was home to the Maasai people, but these days it can feel more like Dubai, one of the states that make up the UAE.
That is because this chunk of land in Arusha's Loliondo area near the Serengeti National Park has been leased to an Emirati hunting company called the Ortello Business Corporation (OBC). Since 1992, OBC has flown in wealthy clients to shoot lions and leopards, angering nomadic Maasai cattle herders who are blocked from pastures in the hunting grounds.
Now, Tanzania's government wants to give more land to the hunters by establishing a 1,500 sq km (579 sq mile) wildlife corridor exclusively for OBC. The plan would displace about 30,000 people and affect tens of thousands more who graze cattle there in the dry season. The Maasai have erupted in protest, saying their livelihoods will be destroyed. More than 90% of Loliondo's Maasai depend on rearing livestock on seasonal grasses there.
For a novel about the Maasai people set in Kenya, try Hour of the Red God by Richard Crompton (note: novel contains graphic violence):
Meet Mollel, a former Maasai warrior whose beloved wife died in the bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi. Mollel has been assigned to the investigation of the brutal murder of a local prostitute. Despite the resistance of his colleagues, Mollel soon begins to uncover something more far-reaching. But are his warrior's instincts, which have always served him so well, correct? Or will his convictions about the case be turned on their head? The investigation will become more personal to him than he could have possibly imagined...
For a satirical novel about safaris, try The African Safari Papers by Robert Sedlack (one of my personal favorites):
The African Safari Papers is an intense and outrageous portrait of a family so troubled that their vacation is, in a word, torture. Richard Clark, the narrator of this sharp and sometimes madcap novel is nineteen--a drug-addicted, foul-mouthed, sex-crazed young man in Africa on a safari with his parents. Obviously, this is a mistake. As Richard smolders with resentment, he documents the trip in a series of journal entries that are funny, sad, and piercingly insightful. Juxtaposed with the hostile environment, the tense situation becomes explosive: with raw energy and acuity, somewhere between Hunter S. Thompson and David Sedaris, we see Mom going insane, Dad drinking compulsively, and Richard busy getting high on smuggled drugs.
For a mystery novel with a safari setting, try Mrs. Pollifax on Safari by Dorothy Gilman:
Mrs. Pollifax has been sent on safari by the C.I.A. and told only to take pictures of all of her companions, in order to find the international assassin whose next target is the president of Zambia. It sounded so simple, but shortly after Mrs. Pollifax started taking pictures, someone stole her film. And right after that she was kidnapped by Rhodesian terrorists. And right after that--well, read for yourself....
For a mystery novel with a Botswana safari setting, try The Double Comfort Safari Club by Alexander McCall Smith:
Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi head to a safari camp to carry out a delicate mission on behalf of a former guest who has left one of the guides a large sum of money. But once they find their man, Precious begins to sense that something is not right. To make matters worse, shortly before their departure Mma Makutsi’s fiancĂ©, Phuti Radiphuti, suffers a debilitating accident, and when his aunt moves in to take care of him, she also pushes Mma Makutsi out of the picture. Could she be trying to break up the relationship? Finally, a local priest and his wife independently approach Mma Ramotswe with concerns of infidelity, creating a rather unusual and tricky situation.

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