I read the story recently of two teenage girls, Katie Gee and KirstieTrupp from North London who were doused with acid while on a three week volunteering holiday in Zanzibar. Clearly the scars on these young women from this shocking attack will be more than just physical. I tried to make sense of their experience in the spice island and to relate it to my own experience when I visited the island in August 2009 with my family.
The very fact that Tanzania’s President, Jakaya Kikwete is reported to have visited the girls when they were taken to the Aga Khan hospital in Dar Es Salaam, demonstrates how seriously the Government takes it and by implication how important this fragile industry is to the Tanzanian economy. I can’t imagine David Cameron or President Obama visiting a tourist in hospital who may have been robbed or injured in London or Washington. Two things struck me about the story. Firstly the apparent difficulty to find water immediately after the attack and secondly the apparent increase in Muslim extremism. I don’t know what the latter will mean, for example, for the women’s football team in Zanzibar. Yes, Zanzibar has a football team of Muslim women. In 2009, I watched a documentary, ‘ Zanzibar Soccer Queens’ by Cameroonian film maker, Florence Ayisi. Two of my brothers had also watched the film and after making contact with Florence, we loaded up a people carrier and trekked across the country to meet her. She’s an enormously gracious and talented filmmaker, committed to telling ‘herstories’ from Africa. Some of her work has been aired on network television here in the UK.
Rooftop view of Stone Town, Zanzibar. Photo. N Brown
Back to Zanzibar. When you wake up in Stone Town Zanzibar, many things strike you, especially if your room is above ground floor, firstly the staggering beauty of the Indian Ocean in the distance, the sight of water tanks on top of every building in sight (domestic water is a precious and scarce commodity in Zanzibar)and then the sound of workmen chip chipping away, creating yet another floor or renovating another building. As the sound of music blaring from record shops and taxis is part of the soundscape of parts of Kingston, Jamaica, so is the sound of masons chip, chipping away in Stone Town Zanzibar. Share my memory, recorded in August 2009.
Next time I’ll tell you how we ended up in Tanzania and Zanzibar as part of our search for roots. In the meantime I’d love to hear about the distinctive sounds of your community, town or city.