Archive for freemasonry

Review of Tribal Gathering “Fine Examples of the Storyteller’s Art”

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on 03/03/2011 by Kenneth C. Ryeland

“Tribal Gathering” is a collection of eight short stories set in the fictitious Republic of Nibana in the 1960s. Readers familiar with West Africa, however, should have little difficulty identifying many of the fictionalised places mentioned. The stories draw upon the author’s extensive experience of living and working in West Africa and are fine examples of the storyteller’s art. The author takes the reader into the heart of the changing West Africa of the time, creating a vivid picture of human shortcomings against a background of tribalism, corruption, rebellion and civil unrest. Recurrent themes include the clash of European and African cultures and the continuing impact of ancient religions and old ways upon everyday lives.

***** (5 stars)
Dr Peter McCree

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Review of Tribal Gathering “To Understand Sub-Saharan Africa Read This”

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on 25/02/2011 by Kenneth C. Ryeland

The world of “Dash” or be dashed.

These eight stories perfectly recreate a lost world: the early post-colonial era in West Africa. They present both a faithful portrait of expatriate society and a brave attempt to get under the skin of local West African cultures.

The stories from a European perspective amply illustrate the fascination/aversion, and above all, frustration that the European managers felt towards local traditions; while the stories from a native perspective attempt to get inside a civilization that appears to both repel and captivate the author.

Many of the stories draw on the incomprehensibility of both parts of the equation. The Europeans cannot understand why the local culture is as it is and the locals find it difficult to come to terms with European demands which are totally alien to their society. However, the worldview presented in “Tribal Gathering” is not (and excuse the pun) just black-and-white. In the story “The Visit” we clearly see how the visiting director from Europe neither knows, nor desires to know anything about the country in which his company has invested; contrasting greatly with the superior knowledge of the local British manager, who has lived in the country long enough to know how things work there. The story “Tief Man” attempts to give us an insight into how the grinding poverty of much of West Africa leads otherwise honest citizens into a life of crime that their better off counterparts find incomprehensible.

There are stories dealing with the strange and powerful world of local “juju” beliefs, or the pantheon of local gods; and a story which explains how sudden death can be met at almost any crossroads on the continent.

In many of the stories, the motor that drives the story is self-deception, deliberate lies or incomprehension, most notably in the moving final story in the collection “Smoke Screens”.

Most of the stories work perfectly well within the vignette style of the best short stories. There is one exception however, and that is the centrepiece of the work: “Boom Town”. The canvas of this longer story is vast, perhaps too huge for all of the themes it covers. Through the story of its protagonist, the author attempts to give us an insight into the corrupting influence of the bribery and semi-legal theft that is behind almost every transaction, at every level, of West African society. In such a climate, nobody is immune from, and nobody is free of, the shadow of “dash”. Without actually stating it, the author implies an agreement with those who would dissolve the artificially created countries that the imperialists created and redraw the map along tribal lines. That would appear to be the only possible answer to what the Europeans living there described as “the tribal problem”.

Anyone wishing to understand why Sub-Saharan Africa is in the sorry mess it is today would be advised to read this latter story above all others. Indeed, if I have one criticism of the book it is that this story reads like a truncated novel. I felt there were enough themes in this one tale to have expanded the story to novel length.

However, this criticism aside, I can think of no other book I have read, with the possible exception of David Pownall’s more comic “African Horse” that so accurately recreates the postcolonial scene in Africa. In many ways, these stories have helped me to understand the world which, as a child living in West Africa in this period, I did not have the maturity to fully understand.

***** (5 stars)
Berni Armstrong

Ju-ju Men

Posted in Extracts with tags , , , , , on 07/03/2009 by Kenneth C. Ryeland

Extract from Tribal Gathering

[…]“Well, well. I know some of the ignorant people out in the bush are afraid of the white man’s so-called juju, but I did not think people in the township were taken in by all that nonsense. It just goes to show the world is full of surprises. I have been the tyler, that is our name for the outer guard of the Lodge, here for the last twenty years and I can tell you nothing but good has come from this place. It gives me great pride to see our people making headway in the white man’s world. I just do not understand all these bushmen (ignorant people) who complain about the white man’s magic. After all, we Nibanans are the absolute past masters at that sort of thing.”
Before Musa or the boy could make any comment, they heard a scuffling sound coming from the narrow corridor. Without hesitation they moved towards the noise with the tyler close on their heels. Moments later, Bande, still gripping his hostage around the neck, confronted them halfway along the corridor.
When Musa saw the knife at Ajayi’s throat, stark, terrifying memories came to the fore and a strange feeling of anger and fear began to build up inside the old soldier.
The tyler reacted to the situation by shouting and pushing his way between Musa and the boy so he could get closer to the problem.
“Hey, what is going on here?” shouted the tyler. “You,” he pointed at Bande, “put that knife down immediately and let go of our cook.”
Bande screamed at everyone to get back or he would kill the cook. The tyler, realising the seriousness of Bande’s threat, immediately moved back pushing Musa and the boy along with him.
Musa moved mechanically, his mind conjuring up scenes of desperation and horror, but with little clarity. He closed his eyes and the pictures in his head slowly became clear. Musa could see the muzzle and grenade flashes punctuating a pitch-black night, the split seconds of light illuminating a jungle scene in torrential rain. He could hear the explosions and the gunfire, the screaming, the yelling and the constant braying of terrified pack mules. He could feel the cloying mud underfoot and the needle-sharp rain on his body. Suddenly an oriental face loomed before him, its features contorted with hate and pain, then another and another. One by one the images raced through Musa’s head until he fell exhausted against the wall, his eyes still closed and the sweat running down his face in torrents[…]

Tribal Gathering: Synopsis

Posted in Synopses with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on 08/02/2009 by Kenneth C. Ryeland

Tribal Gathering is a collection of stories set in Nibana during the 1960s, an imaginary, newly independent ex-British colony, situated on the West African coast. Against the backdrop of a nation embroiled in tribalism, nepotism and corruption, the rapidly failing infrastructure, three military coups and a bloody civil war simply add to the chaos as the main African and European characters try to live out their lives against all the odds. From the dry heat and desolation of the Northern Desert to the suffocating humidity of the oil-rich swamplands of the Enube Delta, the stories tell of the humour and tragedy of life and the frailty of human nature. Betrayal, revenge, ignorance and stupidity are intermingled with witchcraft, African Deities and Freemasonry, in a detailed and consummate way to provide interesting and compulsive reading.

HOT METAL: During a visit to the ancient town of Ifun, Peter Stafford and John Hughes encounter a mysterious African boy in the forest and the repercussions reach out to Peter Stafford’s family far away in England.

JUJU-MEN: By persuading Ade Soyoyi and Bande Abaleko to deliver a package, this minor indiscretion by an African houseboy working for the master of the local Freemason’s lodge leads to multiple deaths and chaos in the Western Region.

THE PRICE OF TIN: John Trevelyan and Umoru Ibrahim go tin prospecting in the remote Northern Desert. They desperately need to find new deposits, but all they find is an untimely demise, brought about by one of nature’s smallest of creatures.

THE VISIT: Two ungrateful, hard-to-please senior executives from the UK visit Arthur Meadows, the branch manager at Kuna, and receive an unusual punishment from the Emir of the region for their boorish and inconsiderate behaviour.

BOOM TOWN: Charlie Robinson is employed to open a new branch of the company in the oil-rich Enube Delta. Although he encounters many difficulties, the business succeeds until the region is plunged into civil war. Sabotage finally renders all he has worked for lost, but out of the destruction and chaos comes the opportunity for riches and a new life.

COMRADES: Sule Mohammed is persuaded to join the Nibanan People’s Freedom Party, an illegal organisation that, he is assured, will rid the country of the corrupt military junta and the white man. Only when it is too late does he realise that a colleague, who simply wanted his job, had duped and betrayed him.

TIEF-MAN: Encountering hard times after leaving home, young Idewu Kosae turns to crime only to meet his maker at the hands of his best friend.

SMOKESCREENS: Ade Awole attends a course of instruction at a tobacco factory in the UK and meets Jane Middleton, the young English woman assigned to conduct the course. Eventually they agree to marry and she travels to West Africa, but they both have their own agendas and not all is what it seems for either one.