Saturday, July 18, 2015

Africa 5

I have no idea what happened to Africa 1, 2, 3 or 4, but this is still in my portfolio. I visited southern Africa in 1978, a journey that did as much to define me as the person I became as any other experience, including two wars in the Middle East and the fascism of the Midlands in England at the same period - Wolverhampton, where I was studying, had been the parliamentary seat of Enoch Powell for many years and had become the home of both the National Front and the British National Party; I joined the anti-Nazi league and marched in the anti-racism rallies, but then Margaret Thatcher came to power, and the fascists disappeared into the rat-holes because her right-wingery was populist where theirs was simply vile.

Africa was first of all Soweto, and Alexandra township on the other side of Johannesburg, in the wake of the schoolchildren's riots and the murder of Steve Biko. Afterwards I spent three months travelling through Botswana, and learned that everything the apartheid regime said about the Africans was false - but I've written about this in my World Hourglass blog; better to read it there. Loveliest people I have ever known, the Motswana.

My next experience of Africa was the Eritrean famine of 1984, the "Band Aid" famine as it is now remembered, though actually Band Aid did nothing to help Eritrea in the long run, and nor did anybody else, and for this too you should go to my World Hourglass page on Eritrea, to read just what a horrible mess it now is. Not that it's the worst - look up Equitorial Guinea, or Tunisia, or any one of several others. At that time I volunteered for War On Want for six months, and we raised several millions pounds to help ease the famine. Help is a relative term.

The painting belongs to a series of portraits, of which several can be found elsewhere in this blog; they are all of children, the ones who most need our help; and yes, I know, painting pictures of them isn't going to achieve much.

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