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This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Colour Bar: the Triumph of Seretse Khama and his Nation

Fea [discussed] the various reasons why people study history[:] for inspiration, to escape the pressures of modernity, to form a personal or social identity, for role models, to advance certain political positions.
I would add the basic enjoyment of reading stories, here non-fiction ones, and also "empathy, humility, and selflessness." 

Saw United Kingdom, the movie version of this book concerning the African prince Seretse Khama marrying a white woman* in the late 1940s, which lead to a five year exile from his native Botswana (though it would only become that upon independence in the 1960s) largely to satisfy the concerns of racist South African neighbors. The title of the book is fitting in that the book does focus on both Seretse Khama and his nation as a whole -- the book basically ends with its independence with a short summary of the fifteen or so years he was president (died fairly young) and his wife living around twenty more years. 

Thus, though by the end perhaps with too much detail (all the names really get confusing after a while), we repeatedly get a view of the people themselves struggling against the injustice of the exile and even a somewhat positive view of his uncle whose opposition to the marriage antagonized the situation. We also get a sense of the life and experiences of Ruth Khama as well.  There is inspiration to spare in this story, including role models on how to handle injustice with grace. 

This means the book is not just about the love story of two people, but a more complete account (basically spanning twenty years) of a nation.  One today that has its struggles, but as the Wikipedia entry notes: "has maintained a strong tradition of stable representative democracy, with a consistent record of uninterrupted democratic elections."  Overall, it is a touching love story as well as an informative history of the times and his people's support of her a reassuring reflection of human nature.

The movie was well put together and the leads were very good, but didn't quite work (mixed thumbs up as a whole though) -- perhaps, the simplistic evil British functionary (a composite character; hey! it's the guy from Coupling, who now repeatedly plays such roles) and somewhat generic plot twists (the book didn't have his sister at first upset at him marrying someone outside of the tribe; which doesn't mean  the book is totally on point there, but the movie version does seem stereotypical). The film also compresses things so we don't get as full of an accounting of the people's involvement in the protest and so forth. It is granted that a movie and a book aren't on the same level, especially the ability to tell a story that spans years in around two hours. Still, has issues.

[Spoiler Alert Ahead.] Speaking about the UK, Love, Actually has a sequel of sorts -- a short in honor of Red Nose Day, a charity.  It's charming. Oh, "Joe" (the rock star's long suffering manager) might be dead, but the actor isn't!


* Ruth Williams was a "confidential clerk," from a respectable middle class family, but her "commoner" status also complicated things. Another future African leader a little later also married a white woman, but she was more well off and the politics of the situation was different because his home (Ghana) did not have to deal with the problems of South Africa. 

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