"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime." (Mark Twain : The Innocents Abroad, 1869)

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Malum Africanum / Mal d’Afrique / The Africa Bug

In an earlier posting I pondered on why I (and others) are repeatedly drawn back to Africa.  The following is another perspective from a Dutch contributor to Trip Advisor’s Kenyan Forum :

A visit to Africa may result in your becoming afflicted with a malady for which there is no known cure . . .
The condition has afflicted many people over the centuries.  Some of them were great explorers, others great physicians.  Way back in ancient times it had already been identified and given a name, “malum africanum”, by the Latins, today known as “Mal d’Afrique” by the French.
There is no escape : no known remedy.  They can now join those born with the condition in Africa and help fashion its image in a culture that aims at a fullness of human dimensions, good to serve as a global one.

The symptoms are extraordinary.  The scope of our vision changes and you become preoccupied with distance, far horizons.  At the same time you notice small things, subtleties that previously seemed irrelevant – shades of colours more noticeable than the colours themselves.
Your hearing intensifies; mechanical noises offend you as never before.  You detect melodies in the trickle of a stream, hear voices in the rustling of leaves.  The things you do in life become less important than the things you see, feel, and can touch.

And then the smell !  The smell of life in the first rain falling on and fertilising the arid soil and making it bloom with green grass and life-sustaining crops.
In the African bush, far away from surroundings you are accustomed to, you feel as though you have come home.  Some say your spirit recognises the birthplace of its origin, others say you feel an overwhelming presence of the Creator in the scope of communal life.
In this country which abounds with nature, we have the most wonderful story to tell and yet we don’t tell it.  God is exposed in this land.  It is as though God mixed the ingredients of the earth here.

I wouldn't disagree with anything she says but still I remain uncertain of the true source of the continent's continuing attraction.

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