Monday, March 17, 2008

Lost White Tribes by Riccardo Orizio

Over three hundred years ago the first European colonialists set foot in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean to found permanent outposts of the great empires. This epic migration continued until after World War II when these tropical outposts became independent black nations, and the white colonials were forced, or chose, to return home.

Some of these colonial descendants, however, had become outcasts in the poorest stratas of the society of which they were now a part. Ignored by both the former slaves and the modern privileged white immigrants, and unable to afford the long journey home, they still hold out today, hiding in remote valleys and hills, 'lost white tribes' living in poverty with the proud myth of their colonial ancestors. Forced to marry within the tribe to retain their fair-skinned 'purity' they are torn between the memory of past privileges and the present need to integrate into the surrounding society.

The tribes investigated in this book share much besides the colour of their skin: all are decreasing in number, many are on the verge of extinction, fighting to survive in countries that alienate them because of the colour of their skin. Riccardo Orizio inve stigates: the Blancs Matignon of Guadeloupe; the Burghers of Sri Lanka ; the Poles of Haiti; the Basters of Namibia; the Germans of Seaford Town, Jamaica; the Confederados of Brazil.

This was a book someone on my East African trip had been reading. It piqued my curiosity so when I saw it in a book shop earlier this year, I had to buy it.

And it is interesting. And sad ... but mostly, it's bloody difficult to read. The way these people live and where and how they came to be there is fascinating. But the story is not told in a very easy to read way and at the end of each section, I wasn't really sure what I'd learned about them.

I guess, the most interesting for me were the Basters in nearby Namibia. Their history so much in-line with South Africa's Great Trek that we all learned about in primary school History. I think one day I'd like to visit Rehoboth for myself.


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phillygirl said...

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