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Zamani: a Haunted Memoir of Tanzania

Zamani: a Haunted Memoir of Tanzania

Author(s): Jane Bryce

Location(s): Tanzania

Genre(s): Autobiography/Memoirs

Era(s): 1949-2018

Born and brought up in Tanzania, in 1968 I’m at my English boarding school when I get the news that I’m never going home again. It takes me three decades before an invitation to participate in a film festival in Zanzibar finally offers me a way back. I return in search of the past and find myself face to face with the present. As I become part of the flow of life in today’s Tanzania, I realise that my story is one filament in a web of stories.

I grew up in Moshi, at the foot of Kilimanjaro. The mountain is a lodestar of stories reaching back into the colonial past, and further, to myth and legend. Its famous ice-cap is melting and the great white peak will one day disappear: from this I learn the Swahili concept of Zamani – that present and past are both part of the great sea of time, flowing perpetually into each other. In the midst of loss I’m comforted by the Swahili belief that spirits inhabit places and landscape, memory animates the everyday and voices from the past speak to the present. In this world the dead are not dead.

In the memoir, diverse voices speak across time: my own, as colonial child and postcolonial adult, those of people – my parents and others – who shared the same space and time, a historical voice recalling colonial and pre-colonial times and a folkloric storytelling voice. These are braided together in a back and forth conversation that brings the past into dialogue with the present. The result is less a ‘white child in Africa’ story than an exploration of memory from multiple perspectives, personal, political, poetic and prosaic.

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