The British Empire Library

'So Life Be' A Collection Of Memories Of West Africa

by Jack King

Courtesy of OSPA

Ronald Bird (N. Nigeria 1944-1963)
This is a splendid book of memories and anecdotes of West Africa illustrated in the text with a large number of interesting and often historic photographs. It follows the earlier collection entitled Ah! This Nigeria!, mentioned in OP No. 101 (April 2011). West Africa is covered from Sierra Leone in the west to the Congo in the east, though the greater part is about Nigeria from the pre-1940s to the 2000s. "So Life Be'' is a typical Nigerian expression best translated as "That's Life", an often humorous acceptance of the vicissitudes of life with its ups and more frequent downs. Proceeds from the sale of this book go to a worthy charity (the Ishahayi Beech School Foundation near Lagos). Jack King is to be congratulated with Alec Travers and many others for the quite wonderful publication which I commend to all who have had any connection or interest in West Africa.

It is perhaps invidious to pick out any particular jewels from this book but a few have caught my fancy. The first is an extract from a DC's diary in the Gold Coast dated 1 June 1918 which exemplifies the humour that fills this book. I cannot help but refer to the wonderful photo of an overloaded "Mammy Wagon" on page 61 - we all know overloaded "Mammy Wagons" (and some of us had to deal with the accidents that resulted) but this beats all!

The mention of the famous Nigerian educationist and linguist Mrs Sylvia Leith-Rose (1907) and her reference to teetotalers who drank only water and then suffered "divine retribution" and fell ill continues the humorous theme. I feel I must also refer to The Queen's visit to Nigeria in 1956 and the truly great Durbar held in Kaduna involving thousands of horsemen, and leading to the "defeat of the internal combustion engine" on p.135. Everyone who reads this book will find their own particular nuggets of African humour in this most enthralling book.

British Empire Book
Jack King
978 0957 0802 0 1


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