Play­ing the name game in Africa

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - MICHELE APTER ST IVES, NSW

My 60th birth­day was ap­proach­ing and while most trav­ellers choose a spe­cific des­ti­na­tion for its cul­ture, cui­sine, ar­chi­tec­ture or an­cient his­tory, my in­ter­est is colour. Teach­ing colour the­ory, one would imag­ine my choice would be an ex­otic east­ern place with a spec­tac­u­lar ar­ray of eth­nic cre­ations, but the colours, tex­tures and love of Africa are in my blood, as I was born in Cape Town.

Vis­it­ing South Africa’s Kruger Na­tional Park, Zim­babwe, Namibia, Zam­bia and Mozam­bique, I was keen to pho­to­graph the won­der­ful wildlife and var­ied land­scapes, rang­ing from ex­treme arid ar­eas in the Manyeleti Game Re­serve to the lush palmed re­gions of Zam­bia. We en­joyed rare sight­ings, in­clud­ing half a pan­golin dig­ging into a ter­mite hill. At night, with no elec­tric­ity and its dis­trac­tions, I be­gan to re­flect on the peo­ple I met along the way. Not so much my fel­low trav­ellers, but the warm, funny and in­ter­est­ing lo­cal guides and track­ers.

They would al­ways smile, shake my hand and in­tro­duce them­selves … with names like Life, Mem­ory, Vin- cenzo the chef (adopted by an Ital­ian cou­ple and who spoke per­fect Ital­ian in the heart of Zam­bia), or Wat­son, be­cause his par­ents knew of Sher­lock Holmes and thought he may be cu­ri­ous. Puns were hard to sup­press (“How’s Life?”) but al­ways re­ceived with good hu­mour.

Their names in­trigued me. I would ask the ori­gin and there was al­ways a story.

One ranger, Bot­tle, a well-built, quiet man, didn’t of­fer the ori­gin of his name but I found out later his mother had lost four ba­bies and called him Bot­tle as she thought he was frag­ile. Life was named by a mother who had lost many of her fam­ily, Moses to be a leader; and then there was In­tel­li­gence, Hope, Spirit, Hap­pi­ness, Prom­ise.

Ev­ery par­ent had a rea­son, whether it was from a wish to pre­dict their child’s fu­ture or in­spi­ra­tion drawn from a church ser­mon or book.

My favourite per­son in Mozam­bique was Castigo, who spoke a Por­tuguese-English mix. He was kind, funny and knew more about pol­i­tics than most. His name meant jail. We didn’t ask its ori­gin but there was an un­de­ni­able sad­ness ly­ing qui­etly be­neath the smi­ley sur­face of this spe­cial man.

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