[An extract from Erina]
Just like in the old days, large migrations of people were occurring every year, although this time it was not by regional tribes, looking for better grazing for their animals or fleeing from enemies. The modern human waves that flooded these parts consisted of people from the affluent countries far to the north; they came to spend some of their ample leisure time looking for excitement in exotic countries.
Malawi also benefited from this economic opportunity.
The country had much to offer; reserves with a lot of not yet extinct animals, all types of waterborne amusement on Lake Nyasa, shops filled with colourful cotton materials, markets with spices, wood carvings and stone statuettes and lots of friendly boys and girls who attracted planeloads full of men in all age groups.
But the things that most tourists really wanted to see were huts, some clear and simple poverty and a little bit of starvation; otherwise they might as well have gone to the south of France or have visited the annual mission-supporting bazaar at home. When they went to Africa, they arrived there with certain expectations and those had to be met, in order for them to be able to say afterwards that their holidays had been great.
Many clever travel organisations catered for those wishes, resulting in most travellers returning home with the sought-for affirmation of their already suspected superiority. This gave a necessary boost to their low self-esteem, that had suffered so much in a life without real challenges, following pre-marked paths in their social paradisiacal societies. Also therapeutic for them was the fact that they left with the pleasant feeling that they had done something about it; they had left a few kwachas with beggars, some biscuits and T-shirts with a couple of children, and they had even given advice; but that, of course, only after staying a few weeks in the country, and as such fully understanding the complexities of the communities.
And in their desperate attempts to keep up the stereotypes, they never allowed themselves to question whether they themselves would be able to survive under those harsh natural conditions. They rarely appreciated the sheer intelligence, will-power and willingness to work hard, that enabled the native peoples to persevere.
Boswinkel, Wim. Erina Bulawayo: 'amaBooks [P.O.Box 9160, Hillside, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe]. ISBN 0-7974-2539-X
Last modified 3 July 2003