Power and the Praise Poem

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by Landeg White and Leroy Vail
James Curry Publishers 1992

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Highly regarded for their interdisciplinary approach to the history of central and southern Africa, Leroy Vail and Landeg White now provide us with a thorough study of the political role of the poet in the oral societies of southern Africa.

Reviews

“For example, the continuity that binds the oral tradition to modern expression in African literature has been convincingly demonstrated by Leroy Vail and Landeg White in their study Power and the Praise Poem (1991), a study that has the special merit of indicating the possibility of arriving at a unified vision of the entire field of African literature by proceeding from structural analysis of formal features to the conventions they enjoin and the apprehension of the world they entail.”

F. Abiola Irele and Simon Gikandi
The Cambridge History of African and Caribbean Literature


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Oral Poetry from Africa

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Compiled by Jack Mapanje and Landeg White
Longman 1984

The poems from this collection can now be found through the website – AfricanPoems.net

This anthology introduces to secondary and college students a selection of the marvellous and varied oral poetry from Africa. The poems in this collection illustrate the vitality and immediacy of oral literature, and there are numerous examples of modern poems, reflecting the fact that oral poetry is very much alive in Africa today.

Oral Poetry from Africa contains poems and songs which comment upon the whole range of human experience; poems of praise and celebration; poems to amuse and entertain; poems of love and of loss; work songs and protest songs. Here are poems which above all will be enjoyed.

Reviews

“This anthology, freshly bathed, towelled and wrapped in new linen, is a delight to explore. The student and the discerning general reader will find this amazing collection informative, pleasing and startling … I cannot fully express the liveliness of these poems, their immediacy, topicality, their direct reference to events and people … The appearance of this book on the African Literature shelves is indeed my first pleasant surprise from what I thought was to be Orwell’s 1984”

Dambudzo Marechera

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Magomero

Magomero

by Landeg White
Cambridge University Press 1987

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This book is a historical portrait of a village in the southern region of Malawi from 1859 to the present day. The portrait has two aspects. Magomero is a place on which many of the principal concerns of Africa’s historians in recent years are focused – the slave trade, Christian missions and their impact, colonialism and ethnicity, land alienation in a plantation economy, resistance and the rise of nationalism, peasant cash-cropping and the mobilisation of labour, the struggle for resources between men and women, and the perpetuation of poverty into the period after independence. One aspect of the portrait investigates how all these different topics appear ‘from the inside’ as reflected in the experience of a few hundred men and women.

On the other hand, the book’s overriding concern is to capture something of the tone and tenor of village life since 1859. It records the changes that have taken place in the economy, in custom, in relationships both personal and political, and in the village’s changing relationship with the broader Malawian and southern African context. Above all, it explores the different perceptions of the world that have animated village life over a century and a quarter.

Reviews

“The two most important events in Nyassa (Malawi) history occurred in the same region (‘Magomero’), yet on the surface seem unrelated. Here Bishop Mackenzie, pioneer of the Universities’ Mission to Central Africa, started his colony of freed slaves … Fifty years later, the Providence Industrial Mission, founded by John Chilembwe, combined to rise against the white owners of A.L. Bruce Estates, Historians have seen little connection between these two events. But Landeg White has had access to papers and is able, brilliantly, to show continuity in all this.”

Guardian


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Capitalism and Colonialism in Mozambique

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by Landeg White
Cambridge University Press 1987

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This book provides an informative example of the manner in which capitalism has underdeveloped Africa. It describes the economic and social history of the Quelimane district of Mozambique from the mid-nineteenth century until independence in 1975.

It has two features of particular originality. Firstly, it concentrates on the local impact of capitalism, making extensive use of state and company archives.

Secondly, novel use is made of popular protest and work songs to supplement other data. They are revealed as vivid indicators of the African population’s reaction to alien rule.

Reviews

“This book fully lives up to the promise of a series of excellent articles published over recent years … Rarely have the fundamental developments in a single African region over the last century been given such searching investigation … Vail and White produce a finely-worked succession of arguments about capitalist strategies on competition and markets, but above all labor over more than half a century … A final chapter of great value considers the plantation economy in the light of the independence war … Vail and White offer one of the more sensitive considerations of the dilemmas facing socialist construction in Africa yet to have appeared … an excellent conclusion to a work of very high quality.”

African Studies Review


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Bridging the Zambesi

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by Landeg White
Macmillan Press 1993
Now out of print.
This book is now available to purchase in PDF format.

Price: €59.99 (£40.00)

In January 1935, a railway bridge 2.3 miles long was opened across the Zambezi delta in Portuguese East Africa (Mozambique). Fifty-one years later, it was blown up by anti-government forces fighting with Renamo. This book brings together politics, diplomacy, economics, labour history and technology to show how the constructions of the ‘longest bridge in the world’ was both a major engineering feat and a disaster of colonial planning.

It is based on Portuguese and British archives including materials newly available and it tells the story of Libert Oury, financier and railway king, whose associates nicknamed him ‘the other Rhodes’ but whose career has never before been described. But the book’s real hero is the Zambezi River, that ‘treacherous highway’ which the bridge was intended to conquer.
Today the lower Zambezi bridge is by far the grandest of the ruins of colonial enterprise littering the vast river valley.

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