Friday, 28 August 2009
Africa House, Kingsway WC2
The heirarchy could not be plainer. At the top are the British. Next come the Arabs. At the bottom is the black man, depicted as muscle-bound and not very bright, destined to serve the white man.
It reminds me of the story of a young naval officer in the 1870s who was patrolling the East African coast. His one desire was to go big game hunting, but he could not use naval personnel for private purposes so he approached the local chief for guides and porters.
The chief was willing to give him all he needed, on one condition - he wanted a knighthood.
The lieutenant agonised for days before the desire for game overwhelmed him. He donned his best uniform and approached the chief, calling to his bosun "Bring me my knighting sword".
He gave the chief a couple of resounding slaps on the buttocks with a navy issue cutlass and pronounced him a knight. The chief rewarded him with six weeks of the finest hunting Africa could afford.
Everyone forgot about the incident until 1897 when the chief turned up in London with a retinue of warriors and about 16 bouncy-breasted wives, demanding a position in the parade for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, as befitted a knight of the realm.