Melancholy Histories

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Lake Tanganyika was as awesome as expected: we looked across it to the Congo’s Eastern Highlands which rise with staggering sharpness from the water, soaring to a (unfortuantely for us) mostly rain-soaked sky. Until, predictably, our last evening when the clouds parted briefly and we could watch the sun – which had failed to shine all weekend – sink into pillowy pinks and mauves.

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But as glorious as the lake is, even after nightfall when the fishermen’s boats, out to catch dagaa, like tiny whitebait, string the dark water like a necklace of lights, Kigoma, Tanzania’s largest lake side town and our home for two days, is not.

It seemed to me mournful.  A melancholy no doubt borne of a violent past – slavers passed through en route from central Africa to the East African coast – exacerbated by recent history: it was to this place that more than a million refugees fled during the Burundi/Rwanda genocide of the early nineties. Though they have gone, straggling reminders remain: the UN, for example, their base cosily bound by rolls of razor wire; an abandoned refugee camp on a hillside devoid of trees; a UN carrier based at the airport, its pilots the only other residents of our soulless hotel.

Kigoma was awash with history and mud.

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In light of Hat’s project, we visited Ujiji, site of infamous “Livingstone, I presume?”. Even that seemed sad, though. As if the ghosts of those who purportedly stood beneath the mango trees are stalking Africa still. Unsettled. Their quests not wholly nor satisfyingly solved. 

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3 Responses to “Melancholy Histories”

  1. Roberta Says:

    Every time I read your blog it’s a history or geography or humanity lesson complete with visuals! You must be an amazing mom/teacher!

    Thank you allowing me to view your world from way over here in Appalachia.

    (I have to tell you, We watched African Queen this weekend, and were amazed all overagain by the movie, the scenery, the story and the history…and I know, I know, it was fiction…but for some reason I thought of you)

  2. guineapigmum Says:

    And how about the fish? Did you go to the market and find the fish that feed only in the centre of the lake?

  3. iota Says:

    It’s impressive that they knew the exact spot of that meeting, in order to put up a plaque. Almost (but not quite) as impressive as knowing which fish feed only in the centre of the lake.

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