When Archbishop Desmond Tutu dubbed his native South Africa the "Rainbow Nation," he conjured a vision of ethnic diversity and harmony in a country with eleven official languages, two national anthems, and a parliament that shuttled between two cities. As a foreign correspondent reporting on the last days of apartheid, Gavin Bell thought it was a brave image and wondered how long it would endure. A few years later, he returned to find out what had happened to Tutu's rainbow. In his travels he found a country at ...
When Archbishop Desmond Tutu dubbed his native South Africa the "Rainbow Nation," he conjured a vision of ethnic diversity and harmony in a country with eleven official languages, two national anthems, and a parliament that shuttled between two cities. As a foreign correspondent reporting on the last days of apartheid, Gavin Bell thought it was a brave image and wondered how long it would endure. A few years later, he returned to find out what had happened to Tutu's rainbow. In his travels he found a country at odds with itself, swinging between hope and despair, buoyed by a sense of freedom and haunted by a fear of violent crime. Somewhere Over the Rainbow is not only a fine travel book by an award-winning writer, it is a compelling portrait of a country in search of an identity.
Bell, an international journalist who worked for many years and in many different places for Reuters and the London Times, was a correspondent in South Africa from 1988 to 1993. He witnessed the country under apartheid and watched apartheid's demise. A few years after he left, he became curious about the country and returned not only to see the many sites he had missed while working there but also to try to get a feel for how the people have adjusted. What Bell found makes for absolutely fascinating reading. The people remain polarized in many ways, and the newly found freedom and the remaining gap between wealth and poverty have bred widespread, and violent, crime. Bell's descriptions of the land and its wildlife are luscious, and his tales of meeting the people are heartwarming, but the reader also gets tremendous insights into the problems of this country in transition. This is an excellent book for travel buffs and for anyone interested in current events, history, government, and human behavior. Melinda Stivers Leach, Precision Editorial Services, Wondervu, CO Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
A British journalist who covered South Africa during the apartheid era revisits the country as a tourist and suggests that, while crime and corruption are hurting the new nation, its "exuberant assortment of races and tribes" will somehow survive. As a reporter, Bell wrote only about politics, but in the late 1990s he wanted to see the sights and to learn more about the mix of people Archbishop Desmond Tutu christened the "Rainbow Nation." So he spent six months touring the country, beginning and ending his travels (a mix of conventional sightseeing and journalistic fact-finding) in Cape Town. Bell climbed Table Mountain and visited such historically significant places as St. George's Cathedral, site of many anti-apartheid protests, and Ruben Island, Nelson Mandela's prison for 26 years. But he also attended a session of parliament, from which former foes now emerge arm-in-arm. He met "coloreds," people of mixed race who feel the new African government is ignoring them, and whites like Humpies, an Afrikaans wine farmer who has adjusted to the change but is worried about crime. Bell then traveled west by car to Aplington in the desert, stopping along the way in Orange, a whites-only settlement, and at a farm with a pet cheetah that liked to watch television. He visited Johannesburg and Pretoria, as well as tourist spots like the Kruger Game Preserve and the casinos at Sun City. He concludes that South Africans' two great concerns are crime and government corruption. Blacks and whites all cite their fear of the gangs that hijack cars, rape, and kill indiscriminately, turning formerly vibrant city centers into dangerous killing fields. With an eye to the significant as well asthepicturesque, this breezy and informative account captures the best and worst of the new South Africa.