The character of colonialism: Mister Johnson

I have never been warm to novels or “accounts” of the white mans’ “journey” anywhere. Always the worst of “nature” (in this case colonial white with a cloud of milk ) comes out in these jouneys. Joyce Cary’s Mister Johnson, made unto a striking movie (i think), summarizes salient-I mean salient- aspects of british imperialism in Africa, in Nigeria to be precise. (in the movie the sargeant keeps calling “niger” the village people). I realized I didnt know about the name Nigeria and wasnt sure its relationshios with the vernacular “nigger”. Building a road to connect villages the question is raised: why the road? Considering bypass regulations to stretch the budget one learns that without bypassing regulations there wouldnt be a road there wouldnt be an Empire..that would make regulations…Mister Johnson is a loyal niger british citizen that never has been to England.

From Prince Charles Dickson (nigerian that writes about Nigeria)

“So my first question would what is the etymology of the word Nigeria, while we ponder on that, my research showed the country’s name first appeared in print in The Times in 1897 and was suggested by the paper’s colonial editor Flora Shaw who would later marry Fredrick Lugard, the first Governor General of the Amalgamated Nigeria. The name comes from a combination of the words “Niger” (the country’s longest river) and “Area”. Its adjective form is Nigerian, which should not be confused with Nigerien for Niger.The origin of the name Niger is unknown. It is often assumed that it derives from the Latin word for “black”, niger, but there is no evidence for this, and it would have been more likely for Portuguese explorers to have used their own word, negro, or preto as they did elsewhere in the world; in any case the Niger is not a blackwater river. The name is thus thought to be indigenous, but no convincing origin has been found among the 30 languages of the Niger delta and lower reaches of the river. One hypothesis is that it comes from the Tuareg phrase gher n gheren “river of rivers” (shortened to ngher), originating in the middle reaches of the river around Timbuktu.” Amalgamated Nigeria? Like in amalgamated Lybia?

I read some history of Nigeria afterwards: Gut-wrenching. Even when told by the colonialists themselves (Cary was in the foreign “service”). The recent history of any country in Africa, Middle East, Far East is always told-the one we read- by incoming white men.The very idea of a so recent British “Empire” or French protectorates or italian (gasp) Libya is shocking in the light of whats going on now, lacking the will to look backwards for some light when deciding to bomb or not to bomb.

(the movie is quite “funny”, if one forgets the context..)


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