Orville Jenkins Articles Menu
Orville Jenkins Home
Orville Jenkins Book Reviews Menu


A View of Africa
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
A review of the book by David Lamb
The Africans:  Encounters from the Sudan to the Cape. (London:  Bodley Head, 1982.  363p.)

See my book reviews on Amazon.com
See menu of all book reviews on this site

This book was a sensation when it came out and was banned in several African countries, due to the no-nonsense approach and details of the political and social situations journalist Lamb deals with.  Due to its age I can treat this as History, from Lamb's personal perspective.

I recall in Kenya, where I was living when the book came out.  It was initially on sale in shops, but then the government banned the book, because of the bad reflection of Kenya and neighbouring countries.  It was thereafter sold under the counter in certain places to certain clientele.

I found this volume in a used book stall in the famous Irene Market in South Africa, and thought it would be good to see just what the furor was all about, 26 years later!  Because I never read the book.  I recall some comments at the time that his views were biased due to his lack of experience in Africa.  But he saw some things naive westerners might not have seen from afar, and what African leaders would like to hide from their western donors.

One of the characteristics I have seen in my decades of living in Africa is that African leaders and governments are more concerned about the public attitudes toward them than to the actual uprightness and candor or care with which they actually conduct themselves and the business of their citizens.  Sociologist Goren Hyden comments on this and outlines the cultural characteristics, complicated by the inherited colonial governmental machineries, of this syndrome.

A cultural concept further divides (or distinguishes) the cultures of Africa and other cultural blocks of the world.  These gulfs are subtle and complicated, and deal with complex structures of relationships and obligations.  This is hard for a western individualistic culture of formalism to grasp.  In the west, public monies are clearly separated from personal money and special interest groups and their pressures.

Further, there is a strong concern int he West over the "abuse of power" for personal gain or suppression of one's political enemies.  While these canons are broken in at times, the principles remain valid for the values of the west, with the distinction between public and private.  The Western cultural values and worldview are quite different from the communal concepts dominating the highly-relational cultures of Africa.

Lamb evaluates what he sees, admittedly from a base of inexperience and perhaps imposed prejudice of cultural assumptions not appropriate to the African setting.  But these comments and perspectives point out problems and limitations to the African societies and their inherited systems from the western colonial powers, about which local leaders also have expressed concern.

See related reviews and articles on this site:
[menu] Articles about African Peoples
[review] Spirit World in Cultural Comparisons
[review] Sympathetic Insights towards Traditional Worldviews
[review] White Man in a Cape Town Township
[review] Worldview, Ethnicity and Social Dynamics in African Politics
[review] Worldview Perspectives: Culture and Experience
[review] Zimbabwe Safari in Genealogy and History

See this book on Amazon.com.
See my book reviews on Amazon.com
See menu of all book reviews on this site
See my reading lists
Many other books have review notes with the reading list entry


Initial reading notes written 18 September 2008
Finalized and Posted on Thoughts and Resources 24 September 2008
Reviewed on Amazon 2 March 2009
Last edited 24 May 2014

Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD
Copyright © 2008 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Please give credit and link back.  Other rights reserved.

Email:  orville@jenkins.nu
Orville Jenkins Articles Menu
Orville Jenkins Home
Orville Jenkins Book Reviews Menu

filename:  lambafricans.html