This volume of the "Indigenous Peoples of Africa" series provides information about the culturally diverse peoples of Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and South Africa, as well as Swaziland and Lesotho within the borders of South Africa. Languages, lifestyles, history, and politics are explored along with the effects of European colonialism on the economies and well being of southern Africa's inhabitants. Cultural traditions (rites of passage, marriage, and the arts) and spiritual traditions (spiritual leaders, sacred places, gods, and festivals) are included, with a final chapter devoted to the present day problems of war, political instability, poverty, and inadequate health care. Although sidebars present facts on a variety of topics, such as the Zulu kingdom and the De Beers diamond monopoly, some issues are under-emphasized; for example, the miserable plight of women in these countries (female circumcision is presented as a viable cultural tradition, while its horrors and effects are not discussed). A short section on the arts mentions only dancing and Zulu beadwork. Jenson-Elliott, who has spent some time in Kenya and Tanzania, quotes liberally from several documented sources as well as providing a seven-page bibliography for further research. Illustrations are black-and-white photos, some of them rather dark and dingy. As the text proceeds relentlessly through this welter of information, teachers may want to introduce a bit of color and drama by suggesting some of the many beautifully illustrated folk tales from the region, pertinent well-written fiction, or non-fiction such as Diane Stanley's admirable Shaka, King of the Zulus. 2003, Lucent/Gale, Ages 12 to16.
Barbara L. Talcroft
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 6-8-The author's intention is to show the effects of colonization and industrialization on traditional societies and how they have helped to transform the economic bases as well as the cultures and belief systems of these societies. Her focus is on the indigenous ethnic groups of Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe. The book has a number of inaccuracies and inconsistencies. The author writes that the Dutch colonized South Africa at the end of the 15th century, whereas they only arrived at the Cape of Good Hope in 1652. However, the most egregious inaccuracy is the statement that "In many southern African ethnic groups today, for both boys and girls, initiation often includes circumcision-," and that "female circumcision" is practiced in Lesotho specifically. In a separate highlighted box, the author claims again that "Despite its condemnation by the United Nations, and its illegality in many African nations, many southern African ethnic groups continue to defend the practice as an essential cultural tradition." A U.S. State Department report from 2000 on the subject mentions no country south of Tanzania that practices FGM, and Amnesty International, the author's quoted source, also mentions no evidence of FGM in any Southern African country. The captions for the black-and-white photos and reproductions range from nonspecific and uninformative to incorrect. The wide scope of this book, with its inclusion of so many very different ethnic groups with differing colonial and postcolonial histories, makes for a rather muddled picture of the region, and the number of errors make the book of little use for reports.-Sue Giffard, Ethical Culture Fieldston School, New York City Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.