Current Issue
Organiser Home
The Moving Finger Writes
Media Watch
Thinking Aloud
Kids Org.
News Round-up
Readers’ Forum:
Kerala Newsletter

Previous Issues
September 04, 2011

August 28, 2011
August 21, 2011
August 14, 2011
August 07, 2011

July 31, 2011
July 24, 2011
July 17, 2011
July 10, 2011
July 03, 2011

June 26, 2011
June 19, 2011
June 12, 2011
June 05, 2011

May 29, 2011
May 22, 2011
May 15, 2011
May 08, 2011
May 01, 2011

April 24, 2011
April 17, 2011
April 10, 2011
April 03, 2011

March 27, 2011
March 20, 2011
March 13, 2011
March 06, 2011

February 27, 2011
February 20, 2011
February 13, 2011
February 06, 2011

January 30, 2011
January 23, 2011
January 16, 2011
January 09, 2011
January 02, 2011

December 26, 2010
December 19, 2010
December 12, 2010
December 05, 2010
November 28, 2010
November 21, 2010
November 14, 2010
November 7, 2010

October 31, 2010
October 24, 2010
October 17, 2010
October 10, 2010
October 03, 2010

2010 Issues
2009 Issues
2008 Issues
2007 Issues
2006 Issues

About us
Contact us


February 20, 2011

Page: 19/37

Home > 2011 Issues > February 20, 2011

Naipaul’s African safari
By Dr Vaidehi Nathan

The Masque of Africa: Glimpses of African Belief, VS Naipaul, Picador, Pp 325 (HB) , £20.00.

VS Naipaul travels through Africa to gauge and gain input on the beliefs of the continent. Much of Africa has changed because of the white man’s touch and the evangelical campaign. The natives are getting farther and farther away from their ‘paganism’ to embrace the new religion, which brings them ‘prosperity.’ India has received and withstood the onslaught. Africa seems to be shriveling under it. As Naipaul, the master of words travels from Uganda, to Ghana, to Nigeria and then finally South Africa, he observes unmistakable similarities of the practices of magic.

"To believe in the traditional African religion was to be on the defensive. There was no doctrine to hold on to; there was only a sense of the rightness of old ways, the sacredness of the local earth," says Naipaul, whereas the new religions, Islam and Christianity, offered a philosophical base, a book, one god and global connectivity.

There are several amusing observations Naipaul makes about the people of each country. For instance, he says the Nigerians loved travelling with a lot of luggage. One Nigerian had booked 19 luggages and vanished at London airport. That was not much, considering a big-wig Nigerian was travelling with 37 pieces. The numbers indicate the status for them.

When he describes the African religions, through the mouth of the native, it sounds very close home, to India. The spirits or the lesser deities are used in daily rituals to worship the Supreme Being. These deities could be "trees, stumps, stools, carved idols, rivers and pools. Every community has its own set of deities of this sort, who protect and heal; these deities also settle difficult matters that can arise in communities. These deities have their own spokesmen, who are high priests and prophetesses."

Naipaul describes the gut-retching food habits of the people of Ghana, for whom cat is a delicacy. The wildlife has been almost wiped off by the human population feeding on them.

Though travelling rather fleetingly, Naipaul in his inimitable leisurely style has captured the essence of Africa in this travel writing. The conflict of the old and the new, one trying to edge the other out, rather than co-exist comes through all clear. It is a conflict that African must settle for themselves, of course only if they are allowed to. The harvesters of souls, in the meanwhile are at full play.

(Picador, 20, New Wharf Road, London N1 9RR)

Previous Page Previous Page (18/37) - Next Page (20/37) Next Page

copyright© 2004 Bharat Prakashan(Delhi) Ltd. All Rights Reserved
Designed and Hosted by KSHEERAJA Web Solutions Pvt Ltd