Looking for Lovedu: A Woman's Journey Through Africa [NOOK Book]

Overview

The acclaimed adventure writer Ann Jones tells the story of her overland journey, with the British photographer Kevin Muggleton, from one end of Africa to the other. Their purpose: to reach the southernmost tip of the continent and find the Lovedu people, a legendary tribe guided by the "feminine" principles of compromise, tolerance, generosity, and peace. A tribe that was known for its use of skillful diplomacy instead of warfare, and was ruled by a wise and powerful magician, a great rainmaking queen--the ...
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Looking for Lovedu: A Woman's Journey Through Africa

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Overview

The acclaimed adventure writer Ann Jones tells the story of her overland journey, with the British photographer Kevin Muggleton, from one end of Africa to the other. Their purpose: to reach the southernmost tip of the continent and find the Lovedu people, a legendary tribe guided by the "feminine" principles of compromise, tolerance, generosity, and peace. A tribe that was known for its use of skillful diplomacy instead of warfare, and was ruled by a wise and powerful magician, a great rainmaking queen--the inspiration for H. Rider Haggard's novel She.

Together Jones and Muggleton set out from England in a 1980 powder-blue army surplus Series III Land Rover. They hurry through France and Spain to Gibraltar and board an intercontinental ferry to North Africa. In Morocco they work a scam to circumvent government red tape, and travel on toward the first great challenge of the journey: the Sahara, where, despite dire warnings, they set out alone, through roadless shifting dunes, across the great apricot-colored expanse of desert.

Jones tells how they ferry across the river into Senegal and come upon the Île de Saint-Louis, the first French settlement in West Africa. She describes how they beat their way through trackless bush to Bamako, the capital of Mali, on the Niger River, as their vehicle begins to disintegrate, and how they speed southward through once-prosperous Côte d'Ivoire and pause to visit the full-scale replica of Rome's Saint Peter's Basilica, built by the then-president of Côte d'Ivoire at a cost of 360 million of his own dollars. In Ghana they explore a fort from which slaves were shipped to the New World. They hurry through Togo and Benin to Nigeria, where they are harassed by omnipresent soldiers in the uneasy aftermath of the execution of the author Ken Saro-Wiwa and other political dissidents. In Cameroon they meet the fon of Chobe and his chief female minister, Ya Wende, and visit the twenty-four wives of the fon of Nkwem.

As they continue the journey they battle malaria, try to reform two would-be robbers, sing Christmas carols with American missionaries, confront extornionist and dangerous Mobutu men, and come near collapse on Zaire's impassable muddy "roads." Finally, they pause to recuperate in a posh hotel, whose luxuries spell the end of their expedition together--the author rejecting modern comforts, her companion yearning for more.
Ann Jones writes of how she travels on in search of the Lovedu people: through Tanzania and Malawi and the Tete Corridor of Mozambique to the ruins of the once-magnificent city of Great Zimbabwe. She writes of crossing the Limpopo River into South Africa, where her long journey culminates in an audience with Modjadji V, Queen of the Lovedu.

Her book is an irrestistible roller-coaster ride through Africa--crowded with obstacles, beauty, maddening corruption, and marvelous people.


From the Hardcover edition.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Adventure writer Ann Jones sets out to cross Africa armed with a battered Land Rover, stacks of canned food, and a tantalizing legend about an ancient tribe ruled by a peaceful rainmaking queen. Through treacherous desert, vehicle-swallowing rainforest mud, and innumerable police checkpoints, Jones and her traveling companion press on in search of the Lovedu in this exciting and unforgettable travelogue.

Jones skillfully weaves Africa's complicated political climate into her travel narrative, contextualizing her experiences on the road. Colonialism, capitalism, and tourism are only a few of the forces that have shaped Africa, and she explores how each has affected the countries visited by her and Kevin Muggleton, the adventurous British photographer who serves as her traveling companion. On a political level as well as a physical one, Jones and Muggleton must struggle through impossible conditions as they set out to traverse the African continent from Morocco all the way down to South Africa. They drive through the immense, disorienting Sahara, endless fields of waist-high grass, and deep wallows of red rainforest mud. They cross a river by building a raft for the Land Rover and are forced to brave a ravine by driving over a bridge made of two logs. Their vehicle falls apart bit by bit -- a mirror here, a window there -- its gradual disintegration mirroring the growing resentment between the intrepid travelers. Eventually, Muggleton's macho antics -- which range from suicidal recklessness behind the wheel of the Land Rover to flagrant defiance of machine gun-toting police at checkpoints -- drives Jones to grab her sleeping bag and split to continue the quest for the Lovedu alone.

Only after the travelers part company does Looking for Lovedu take on a pace that truly suits Jones, for she is finally able to set her own course without Muggleton pressuring her to zoom past everything in order to keep a maniacal schedule. As she leisurely closes in on the fabled rainmaking queen, Jones writes some of the book's most graceful passages. Looking for Lovedu is an enthralling and courageous narrative, which in spite of its brevity manages to convey a wealth of important observations on African history, identity, and culture.

--Julie Carr

From The Critics
Seasoned travel writer Jones has her share of bad days while looking for Lovedu, a small tribe in the GaModjadi Valley of South Africa that has been ruled for centuries by women. Most of them find her coping with breakdowns—either the mechanical failures of her embattled Land Rover or the emotional eruptions of her preoccupied male companion. An unflagging patience and irrepressible wit help her meet the challenges of Saharan sand, jungle mud and a crazed road warrior behind the wheel. But as she nears her destination, the Queendom of the Lovedu, Jones decides to rid herself of the ballast of testosterone and automotive gear. When she finally arrives for her royal audience with Queen Modjadji V, Jones is accompanied by two women, happily perched on the sofa installed in the back of their new jeep. This is the true story of one woman's journey among strangers and friends across the many-splendored land of Africa. Although it describes countries that have technically passed into history (Mobutu's Zaire, an Ivory Coast free of political instability), the book manages to be both contemporary and timeless. Jones annotates her itinerary with a wry history of colonial machinations. Crossing from Francophone Africa into Ghana (or, in her words, "from the realm of the crusty baguette to the land of pasty white bread"), she ponders the colonial motivations of the French, Belgians and English and the respective roles of soldiers, merchants and missionaries in imperial domination. Only when she meets with the legendary Queen Modjadji, who is believed to have goddess-like powers to command the rain, does she concede that there may be such a thing as an enlightened ruler of African subjects.
—Elizabeth Kiem

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Faced with the hardships of trans-African travel on a shoestring budget, how long can two ill-matched travelers maintain a cooperative relationship? According to adventure writer Jones, about as far as Zaire. Jones (Women Who Kill, etc.) and her companion, a brawny and intrepid British photographer, resolve to cross the African continent in a souped-up Land Rover, ostensibly on a mission to find the legendary Lovedu tribe of southern Africa. The Lovedu are organized as a matriarchal monarchy; their queen is a rainmaking, peace-loving diplomat. Jones's curiosity about the feminist society increases even as her companion grows more obsessed with the challenges of transit--greedy border guards, blistering heat, car trouble. She finds herself subject to the whims of a "petrol head," whose only interest is to press on across the deserts, mudslides and ravines that stand between him and the finish line. In Kenya, Jones frees herself of this masculine ballast and proceeds to Loveduland with female companions. Her account of her high-speed odyssey affords a startling glimpse of modern Africa; its conclusion in the woods of Loveduland gives the lighthearted exploit a deeper significance. Already at an age that most African women will not live to see, Jones is both a dauntless adventurer and a wise observer. Charming and well written, her story should be popular with readers interested in a woman's perspective on African exploration. (Jan. 30) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
The themes here are familiar: Africa's harsh living conditions, its natural beauty, and its intriguing peoples and cultures. Jones, an award-winning writer and photographer from Wisconsin, recounts her journey through Africa in search of the Lovedu--the tribe ruled by the legendary rainmaking queen. Though she eventually visits the land of the Lovedu people, only one of the book's 30 chapters is actually devoted to this Bantu tribe and its ruler. However, the deceptiveness of the title is adequately compensated for by the exciting descriptions of the trans-African expedition, which covers several countries and reaches every region of the continent. Jones spices her stories with occasional doses of history and writes in a prose that is at once captivating and beautiful, humorous and exciting. This lighthearted yet informative reading will surely delight those who love exotic adventures. Recommended for all public and academic libraries.--Edward K. Owusu-Ansah, Murray State Univ. Lib., KY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-On a whim, Jones teamed up with an acquaintance half her age to drive the length of the continent in order to find the queen of the Lovedu people of South Africa, a supposed matriarchy that espouses qualities of compromise, peace, tolerance, and generosity. Most of the book treats the first half of the trip, the perilous part, after which the author's partner headed back to England for some well-deserved R and R. Jones makes clear that it was this Englishman's strength, capabilities, and tenacity that carried them through. Muggleton's single-minded drive to cross first the Sahara and then Zaire/Congo contrasted with Jones's desire to slow down and smell the coffee in between is what propels readers along at a fast pace. Once the travelers have shoveled their way out of the last Zairean mud hole and Muggleton leaves, the steam goes out of the book. It remains interesting reading, though, and one does want to know what Jones finds when she reaches the queen of Lovedu. Once she's on good roads with a new partner, the author takes the opportunity to dwell on how sexist much of Africa is, where women do most of the work and have no rights. She also delineates each country quite well, separating its characteristics from those of its neighbors in a few telling paragraphs. Recent African history and physical and cultural geography are presented in a compelling format.-Judy McAloon, Potomac Library, Prince William County, VA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Richard Bernstein
...you will find considerable entertainment, excitement and even some touches of grandeur in Ann Jones's journal of monumental travels in Africa. Ms. Jones jounced for many thousands of miles in four-wheel-drive vehicles through some of the most forbidden, tragic and ravishing terrain on the planet. A professional travel writer and amateur eccentric, Ms. Jones writes with pungent observation and wit...she is an engaging and venturesome traveling companion, one whose encounters with Africans are touching and surprising.
New York Times
From the Publisher
“Beautiful writing . . . Riveting [and] often funny.” –Philadelphia Inquirer

“Jones writes with pungent observation and wit.... She is an engaging and venturesome traveling companion, one whose encounters with Africans are touching and surprising.” –The New York Times

“[An] entertaining and enlightening book.”–St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Jones provides wonderful snapshots of Africa’s history. . . . An exceptionally interesting book.” –Ft. Worth Star-Telegram

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307773340
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/8/2010
  • Series: Vintage Departures
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 579,675
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Ann Jones graduated from the University of Wisconsin. She received an M.A. from the University of Michigan and a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin. Ms. Jones also studied at the University of Vienna. Her travel essays and photographs have appeared in many newspapers and magazines, among them the New York Times, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Condé Nast Traveler, Town & Country, Women's Sports & Fitness, Outside, and Spur. She is the author of five books. Ann Jones lives in New York's Hudson River Valley.


From the Hardcover edition.
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Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

the mission

The Queen was an afterthought. Long before we heard of her, we hatched the scheme in Africa—in Zimbabwe, on the Zambezi, in a canoe. In the long white afternoon, the intensity of the sun propelled us, lightheaded, into a reedy little backwater to rest. We drew the four canoes together, and Dave, our guide, opened a cooler and pitched us bottles of warm Coke. I dipped my bandana in the river, wrapped it around my eyes, smarting from the glint of sun on water, and lay back against the thwart, half dozing, embraced by my friends’ banter. Images of the African morning played upon the inside of my eyelids: Elephants showering in the shallows at the river’s edge. Crocodiles lying like logs against the banks, innocent and sinister. A flight of carmine bee-eaters darting from their nests in the riverbank, flinging themselves like rubies over the bright water. Now, as heat enveloped us, pressing our bodies as a lover might, everything grew still as all that had gone before and all that was to come converged upon this single suspended moment that was both dream and reality: Africa.

Of course we couldn’t bear perfection. Who first pitched dream trips into the silence I can’t recall, but my companions leaped upon the subject, describing half a dozen places that might be better—more beautiful, more exciting, more perfect than this. It’s the subject that always comes up among travelers: Where do you really want to go? Someone spoke of Timbuktu: of camels and drifting coppery dunes, and blue-robed masked men slim as swords. Another spoke of rain forests along the Congo: of furtive okapis and tiny Pygmies hunting with nets, and women who make houses out of leaves. Someone spoke of the Skeleton Coast: of ships flung inland among desert elephants, and lions prowling among seals on the beach. And then a British voice was saying: “I’ve always been keen to drive all the way through Africa.”

This was Kevin Muggleton, a photographer from pastoral Wiltshire. He spoke offhandedly with an easy tantalizing laugh. Not even Muggleton could seriously make this proposition: to drive from one end of Africa to the other. But his voice carried a decidedly un-British edge of enthusiasm that drew me out of this moment—relaxed and contemplative in a green canoe on a blue river in the heart of Africa—and flung me by the sheer force of its vitality into an uncertain and adventurous future. “It’s classic,” Muggleton said. “You know, the old ‘Cape to Cairo’ sort of thing.” That’s all it took. Later I stumbled upon the Queen and used her as a good excuse, but in fact I decided everything in that moment.

When I was a kid, my father’s idea of a good time was to get in the car and drive somewhere. Anywhere. Anything to escape the malicious carping that passed for family life in our house. “Want to take a little ride in the jalopy, kiddo?” he’d say to me when tension sucked the air from our kitchen, and off we’d go in the old green Ford for a few hours or a few days. Even in winter we’d roll down the windows for a faceful of wind. We’d go where my father felt like going and head home when he was laughing again and felt like going back. Maybe he had a plan all along, but he never let on. To me and my dog, Lady, this aimless wandering was bliss. When I grew up I labeled it “travel” and kept at it, which is how I came to be lazing in a canoe on the Zambezi in the first place.

I lifted my bandana and squinted up at Muggleton in the next canoe. He was young, big, tall, lean. He’d grown up in Hong Kong, a military brat, gone to boarding school in England, and after Sandhurst done a stint as an officer in the British equivalent of the Green Berets. Later he’d started a video business in Victoria Falls, and once, for the hell of it, he’d walked through South America. If ever a man was qualified to go anywhere, Muggleton was it. He had the right attitude for the job too, perhaps because he was one of the last known male descendants of Prophet Muggleton, the seventeenth-century English sectarian who taught that “God takes no notice of us.” That dogma left the younger Muggleton self-reliant and endlessly amused by the human comedy, if also somewhat slack in his moral scruples.

"Me too,"I said.

Muggleton grinned.

"Great news," he said. And then he asked me: "Do you want to take a little ride?"

Everybody laughed. I laughed. I closed my eyes against the light and mulled it over. We’d been on the river for days—we being four American journalists; Diane, the travel executive who’d invited us on a press trip; Dave, the guide; and Muggleton. We’d run into Muggleton, an old friend of Diane’s, in Victoria Falls just after most of the journalists confessed to her that they’d significantly exaggerated their experience in canoeing. We were scheduled to leave for the Zambezi, a big river full of crocodiles and hippos, and Diane was desperate to bring her journalists back alive. She asked Muggleton to come along. He was a man who could paddle his own canoe.

That was supposed to give us an experienced paddler in the stern of each of our four canoes: Dave in the lead canoe, Muggleton, a journalist named George, and me. About George. He was young, like Muggleton. But that was all they had in common. George was a feature writer from a Midwestern daily, on his first trip to Africa—his first trip, I believe, outside the United States. He called Africa "The Dark Continent," intoning the phrase in a deep booming voice, pausing ever so slightly between the words for emphasis, utterly untroubled by the racist history and implications of the label. George had done some research on Africa. He’d read Bartle Bull’s big glossy book on safaris. He’d studied the extravagant exploits of several Victorian adventurers. He’d read up on Tarzan and the man-eating lions of Tsavo. He knew that The Dark Continent was a place of prodigious peril, fraught with dangers, yet his reading had taught him that a man could face those dangers and surmount them. A man like Sir Richard Burton, for example, or David Livingstone or Henry Morton Stanley. A man could be a hero. (My own hero was Mary Kingsley, who had contrived to explore West Africa without shooting a single local resident, but I could tell she wouldn’t figure in George’s fantasy.)

George wore the hero’s clothes. He’d assembled a natty khaki safari outfit—all tabs and flaps and epaulets—such as Robert Redford wore in Out of Africa, such as even Denys Finch Hatton himself might have worn had he been able to avail himself of permanent press. He wore a Leatherman Super Tool on his belt and a large sheathed knife like the one Tarzan whips out of his loincloth when caught unawares by a crocodile. Even the strap securing his safari hat under his chin spoke not of sissyhood but of forethought and preparedness. When we walked down to the canoes to begin our river trip, George carried his paddle at the ready like an elephant gun.

That’s when he turned to Dave and boomed: "If hippos attack and overturn your canoe, is it better to swim for shore on the surface or underwater?" The question astonished me. Could a person really plan a thing like that? I wondered. Where did forethought cross the line into fruitless worry? But George had been asking questions like that all along, directing them at Dave, the expert. "Are there any man-eating black mambas around here?" he asked on the manicured lawn of our hotel in Victoria Falls. "If a lion attacks, is it better to climb a tree or make a run for it?" "When elephants charge your Land Rover, should you stay in the vehicle?" Dave was a pro—unflappable and unsurprised. But this time, when George asked for help with his hippo-escape plans, I saw Dave glance up quickly, stifling a smile and careful to avoid catching the eye of Muggleton, who was bent double over his paddle, rolling his eyes and miming hysterical laughter.

“In a case like that,” Dave said, straight-faced, “you should just swim, George. Just swim.” Then, watching as George stepped boldly into his canoe and almost overturned it, Dave added: “When we’re on the river, George, why don’t you keep right behind me?”

With another journalist named Bob in the bow, I was designated to pilot the third canoe, right behind George and his bowman, Kenny. Muggleton, with Diane in the bow, was assigned to bring up the rear. Dave peeled off from the bank, and Muggleton pushed George’s canoe off into Dave’s wake before jumping into his own boat. I slipped into line behind George and watched his canoe begin to weave. I could hear him booming out to his partner, Kenny, "Paddle on the left. No! Paddle on the right. Faster!" —all the while shifting his own paddle from one side of the canoe to the other. Dave swung about and tactfully offered us all a quick refresher course on basic canoe strokes. Muggleton sidled his canoe up beside mine. I knew without looking that he was fairly shaking with repressed laughter.
"Could you let us see that one again, Dave?" he called. "That’s a bloody tricky stroke."

So that’s how we went down the river—with Dave always looking over his shoulder, keeping one eye on George; me hanging back every time George’s canoe took another wide swing abreast of the current; and Muggleton hanging in beside me, cracking jokes behind a mask of sublime innocence while Diane watched out ahead for hippos and held her breath. "I wish I could make those little circles," Muggleton would say as George’s canoe spun aimlessly, out of control. "How does he do that?"

Following Dave’s lead, we kept close to shore, and each time we came upon a pod of hippos lazing on a sandbar, we moved closer still, to hug the riverbank and scoot past them at a safe distance. The biggest hippos grunted and roared and opened enormous jaws in a threatening display of armament. When they thought we’d come too close, they rose up and charged as we sped through the narrow passage between them and the bank. Hippos are big and fast, and from the human point of view the most dangerous wild creatures in Africa. At that critical moment, when they considered shifting gears from intimidation to serious attack, we needed speed and luck on our side. "Dig in!" Dave would sing out, and we’d dig.

Once, when we cut it close, something happened to George. Maybe he panicked. Or maybe he saw an opportunity at last to be a hero. In any case, he undertook to steer. As we drove forward, George’s canoe sheared off from the line and wobbled along a new trajectory toward the threatening hippos. From the bow, where Kenny perched, utterly exposed, like an offering being delivered to the river gods, came a strangled cry: "George! Oh my god, George!" Kenny snatched his paddle from the water and held it in front of him like a spear, at the same time twisting about to aim his full-throated scream at George. The canoe lurched under his weight and spun until it faced upstream, where it hung just out of reach of an onrushing hippo until the current sucked it suddenly downstream, backward, to safety.

That evening we made camp on the riverbank. As we gathered around a campfire for our nightly ration of maize meal and stew, everyone congratulated George and Kenny on their narrow escape. "I could see right down that hippo’s throat," Kenny kept saying. "I mean, I could see his tonsils. I could count his goddamn cavities." The sun falling behind the convoluted mountains of Zambia on the far shore shone on the water, and the great river wound a bloody path into the darkness downstream. In a moment the river silvered, a strip of tinsel in the deepening dark. Then it was gone, vanished into the African night.

George’s voice boomed out of the darkness: "Say, Dave, what time do the malaria-carrying mosquitos come out?"
"They’ll be along any time now," Dave said.

"Is it best to put on insect repellent and get inside your tent?" George asked.

"Good plan, George," Muggleton chimed in. "Good man."

Later I was awakened in the night. Under cover of darkness, the great river horses—the hippos—had come out of the water to graze among our tents. All around me I could hear their slow soft munching, and from the tent next to mine, a sharper sound—the high keen rasping sobs of Muggleton struggling to stifle a fit of laughter.

I mention George because his ineptitude helped seal my decision to go for a ride with Muggleton. Poor George posed a danger to himself and others on a simple camping trip, but his incompetence amplified by contrast the easy strength and capability of Muggleton. His deadly seriousness pointed up Muggleton’s freewheeling wicked wit. Next to George, Muggleton seemed peerless: a man you could count on to get the job done and keep you laughing all the while. Bitsy was with us too, the only other female journalist on the trip. In the first days she’d fallen off a horse and doctored herself with enough Valium and Prozac to precipitate total collapse and a night in the Victoria Falls hospital, watched over by Diane. On the river, unable to paddle at all, she sat huddled under her safari hat in the bow of Dave’s canoe, popping pills and periodically replenishing her sunblock, while Muggleton and I, side by side, guided our canoes downriver. Just as Muggleton was not George, I was not Bitsy. In our superiority we became conspiratorial and daring. It didn’t occur to me to wonder what might happen when Muggleton reached the limits of his skill, or how heartlessly he might laugh when I reached the limits of mine. And I don’t think it occurred to either of us that in our overland journey across Africa, we wouldn’t be traveling by canoe. We shrugged off such reasonable reservations, and by the time we returned to Vic Falls, we had reached an understanding. We would go.

. . .

A couple of months later Muggleton, Dave, and Diane showed up at my New York apartment and we walked over to Milady’s Bar in SoHo for breakfast. Diane, who runs her travel business out of New York and Harare, had brought Dave to the States to publicize Zimbabwe at an adventure-travel conference. Muggleton, who had a near-fatal crush on Diane, had appeared uninvited for a visit. We talked over vehicles and routes for our trans-African expedition and points along the way where Dave or Diane might join us. Anything seemed possible.

"What do you think it will cost?" Dave asked.

Muggleton shrugged. "We’ll get sponsors," he said. "They’ll pay us."

"Why?" Dave asked. "What for?"

"For making the bloody expedition," Muggleton said. "Why not?"

"No offense, mate," Dave said, "but we drive around Africa all the time. Nobody pays us for it. We live there. If you want to call your trip an expedition, don’t you have to have a mission or something?"

"Right," Muggleton said. "A mission." He turned to me. "A bloody mission."

That very afternoon we found one at the Museum of Natural History. We took the subway uptown, hoping that in the African sections of the great museum we would find inspiration. There, in one of the cavernous halls of African animals, some drummers and dancers from East Africa were performing. I stood among the little crowd, mostly schoolchildren with their teachers, and let the boom-boom-booming of the drums carry me away. The dancing women, wrapped in red, shuffled and swayed as if blown about by the rise and fall of a fine hot wind. Behind them lions prowled in the yellow grass of a diorama.

After the dance I traipsed after Muggleton, who was wandering slowly through the Hall of African Peoples. And there I came upon a glass case containing a display of artifacts associated with the lives of Bantu women: pots, pandanus mats, beer strainers woven of grass. Reading a caption neatly lettered on a card affixed to the case, I was struck suddenly by a tiny dependent clause buried deep in the middle of the paragraph. Somehow I’d missed this sentence on previous visits to the museum, but now it stopped me.

Except for a few tribes like the Lovedu, where women rule, they seem unimportant in political life. Did some mad feminist lurk in the back rooms of the museum, writing subversive signs? Or could it be true? Women, perhaps, like the dancers I’d seen? Tall. Serene. Splendid. Could there be such a place?

I dragged Muggleton over to the exhibit. “Read that!” I said. "There’s our mission." I felt inspired. Triumphant. 'We’ll go looking for Lovedu. We’ll find the tribe where women rule. We’ll pay homage to the Queen. There must be a queen."

Muggleton read the caption again, his forehead creased with concern.

"This queen business," he said. "You’re not looking for some ancient matriarchy, are you? Some feminist la-la-land?"
I hesitated only a moment, pondering the tenderness of the masculine ego. "Well, yes and no," I said. "I don’t have an axe to grind, if that’s what you mean. But I admit I’m very curious to see a land ‘where women rule.’ Wouldn’t you find it interesting to hear from the Queen?"

"I have a queen," he said. "And Mrs. Thatcher."

"Point taken."

Muggleton studied the grass mats in the display case as if he might find a clue encoded in the woven designs. "Can we visit some other tribes as well?" he said. "Pygmies perhaps? Or Masai? Or Ndebele?"

"Of course," I said. Why was he suddenly so serious? So hesitant?

"I’d rather like to visit some tribes where men still have something to say."

"No problem," I said. "How can we miss them? Men always have something to say."

Muggleton didn’t smile. What had become of his irrepressible sense of humor?

"You’re not going to go all wobbly on me, are you?" he said. "You’re not going to wind yourself up for that mystical hoo-ha?"

"What are you talking about?"

"All that new-age born-again life-changing nonsense you bloody Americans are always going on about. You know. Spiritual growth."

"No, no, Muggleton. I promise. I never grow."

"You’re sure you’re not going in search of your true self?"

"I am my true self!" I said. "Anyway, all that transformation stuff is just a literary cliché. Somebody takes a trip, has some ‘peak experience,’ and comes back a new person."

"What rubbish!"

"It’s wish fulfillment," I said. "It’s what a lot of travelers hope for. But in real life it doesn’t happen. People come back from exotic holidays talking about how it changed their lives; but there they are—same house, same job, same relationship, same tax loopholes. So what’s changed?"

"Exactly," Muggleton said. "So let’s just make an expedition."

"C’mon, Muggleton," I coaxed. "You heard Dave. We’ve got to come up with an official purpose to justify the journey. And what could be better than this? Looking for Lovedu." I pronounced it "love-dew," making it sound like some kind of romantic elixir. (It was months before we learned to say correctly: "low-BAY-doo.")

"Looking for Love-Due," Muggleton echoed. "It does have a certain ring."

We shook hands on it. Our mission was agreed.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi
Map of Africa 2
The Mission 5
Loveduland 14
Preparations 24
Read History 32
Off the Edge 42
Parameters 49
Convoy 60
Sahara 68
The Road to Bamako 79
The Road Not Taken 93
Real Africa 100
White Bread 109
No Condition Is Permanent 116
Not a Great Country 122
Feminists and Fons 133
Malaria and Missionaries 140
Stuffed 151
Miracles 157
Convoy II 165
Les Routes Du Zaire 170
Survival 182
Civilization 190
Waiting for to Go 202
Home and Away 210
African Traveler 215
Two Camps 223
UJAMMA 232
What You See 239
African Heritage 246
The Rain Queen 253
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Interviews & Essays

An Interview with Ann Jones

Barnes & Noble.com: Packing for an expedition across the African continent must have been a massive project. What is the one item you would bring along if you were to do the trip over again? Would you bring your travel companion, the macho, rough-mannered Muggleton, along this time?

Ann Jones: The secret in traveling -- as in life, I think -- is to keep it simple. Muggleton and I geared down to the bare minimum and still had more stuff than the average African. Of course the one item I always take on my travels is my notebook. Also indispensable for fixing everything from your eyeglasses to your engine: a Leatherman Supertool, or its equivalent. And a machete. As for Muggleton: I'd bring him anywhere. He's one of the most resourceful men alive, and he's mellowed some.

B&N.com: Muggleton, who talked a great deal about finding the "real Africa,"seemed to have little patience for your style of travel, in which the journey itself is as important as the final destination. Do you feel, as you suggest in the book, that Muggleton's frenzied pace across the continent was the acting out of a gender role, or perhaps a lingering remnant of European ideas of conquest?

AJ: Probably a little of both -- plus the hard fact that Muggleton assumed responsibility for getting our dodgy vehicle across Africa. For him, the trip was a test of his abilities. I wanted to succeed too; but to me failure seemed a real possibility, not a character defect.

B&N.com: You raise an important question in the book about the construction of gender roles. Do you believe that personality and gender roles are created by the circumstances we find ourselves in?

AJ: I'm still struggling with the question of "personality," but in regard to gender roles, the short answer is: Yes. Context is everything.

B&N.com: I was struck by the many hardships of the journey, from Zaire's mud-pit roads to the political upheaval in Nigeria which manifested itself in innumerable roadblocks and fierce customs officials. Considering all of the obstacles you encountered, what was the most difficult part of the trip?

AJ: For sheer physical difficulty Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) was the worst. The work it took just to get a few miles down the road was so intense, it left us stunned with exhaustion and disbelief. But the people were so kind to us, despite their own hardships, that this was also the most moving part of the journey for me, and the most fun.

B&N.com: Although the status of women varied from country to country, what conclusions did you draw at the end of your trip about the status of women in Africa?

AJ: We're talking about many different countries and hundreds of different ethnic groups and cultures! There are huge differences in women's status, even between generations of the same family. One general observation: Women are making change all over Africa, from rural villages to government ministries, from the international campaign against genital mutilation -- a widespread human rights abuse -- to local initiatives for a village well or a grinding mill. And most African women have a long tradition of working together for the common good -- a solid sisterhood. In fact, American women could learn a thing or two from them.

B&N.com: As the author of several powerful books on women's issues, it must have been very difficult not to openly criticize the lack of equal rights for women in Africa. Was there a specific moment when you simply had to speak out?

AJ: No. I was there to learn; and I think it's a mistake to view everything through the lens of one's own culture. It's true that many African women don't have rights American women take for granted, such as the right to go to school. On the other hand, I could travel anywhere in Africa without the incessant fear of assault that's also part of the life American women are accustomed to. My response to Africa is complicated and full of ambivalence, as I think you'll see in the book.

B&N.com: Food was another fascinating component of your book, since it varied widely from countries like Mali, where there was very little food to be found, to places like Morocco, where the markets were loaded with fresh vegetables. What would you say was the most memorable meal you had on the trip?

AJ: Food takes on significance for me through the people I share it with. I think of matoke (mashed bananas) prepared for us in Celia's mother's house in Kenya, greens in palm oil prepared by a woman named Ana in Zaire, red beans and rice cooked over a fire by a family of Mbuti pygmy women, and especially a glass of water offered by the wife of my Zairean friend Alphonse. It was the best water I ever had in my life.

B&N.com: If the Lovedu value appeasement and peace above all, doesn't this also mean that certain very important fights are ignored? For example, during your meeting with the Lovedu Queen, she mentioned that her people got along equally well with South Africa's oppressive apartheid government and Nelson Mandela's reformist government.

AJ: Not necessarily. Haven't we learned from Thoreau, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Mandela himself that change can be made without violence? Couple non-cooperation and civil disobedience with the widespread African belief that "No condition is permanent" and you have a recipe for living through both the best and worst of times. Hotheaded political activists (like me) may be impatient with this position, but there are lessons in it.

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