Thirteen years ago after causing a sensation with her book The White Masai, Corinne Hofmann has returned to the theme of Africa with her new. In fact, the picture tells a pretty accurate story. Some years ago Hofmann, a businesswoman who owned a clothes shop in Switzerland, visited. Aminatta Forna reviews The White Masai by Corinne Hofmann.
Do you believe in love at first sight? On holiday in Kenya with her boyfriend she sees corinhe young Masai warrior and instantly falls in love. Race, culture, nationality – none of these are barriers.
Nor, apparently, is language. All Hofmann and Lketinga have in common are half a dozen English words.
Warrior as house husband
Still, she gives up her job, her boyfriend, her country and moves to Kenya in order to be with him. This is the story of The White Masai: Quite a description, and, after all, the book has sold four million copies since its publication in Germany in Surely that many people couldn’t be wrong. Oh, but couldn’t they?
Never have I encountered, in print or in person, anyone with less self-knowledge than Hofmann. From the outset she rails against the racism Lketinga endures and the treatment of the Masai by Europeans and urban Africans as primitive tribesmen, meanwhile musing on Lketinga’s exoticism and the erotic effect of his “savage perfume”.
Throughout the book Lketinga is never portrayed as anything other than some kind of man-child.
When they go to visit another white woman married to a Masai, Hofmann is mortified: Against the odds Hofmann succeeds in marrying Lketinga, first living with him in his family village where she opens a shop selling sugar and provisions to the locals.
Inevitably the union sours. The money and therefore the power in the relationship belong to Hofmann, but she has no understanding of how, by subverting established norms in a traditional society, conflict maswi.
Her Masai warrior is now little more than a house husband, and his anger and powerlessness manifest themselves in intense bouts of jealousy and drinking.
In the final chapters, by which time they have moved to the coast and are selling Masai trinkets th tourists, he appears before her, shorn of his warrior’s locks, hofmanh body paint washed away, dressed in jeans. The shock is not at the terrible cultural alienation evidenced in her husband’s actions, of which the psychiatrist and writer Franz Fanon wrote in Black Skin, White Masks more than 50 years ago. No, it’s the crime to fashion that really guts her: I can accept that, but his clothes look ridiculous: Soon afterwards Hofman flies to Europe, taking with her their young daughter.
She leaves Kenya with her prejudices intact – confirmed, even. In a farewell letter to Lketinga she blames his behaviour: But maybe, just maybe, they were never suited in the first place. Maybe it was a hofmanj of class rather than culture. Or maybe it was less about the difficulties of marrying a warrior, than the perils of marrying a fantasist. Lketinga, we are told, can’t read or write. But, masak, how I would rather read his story. Get the best at Telegraph Puzzles. A collection of the best contributions and reports from the Telegraph focussing on the key events, decisions and moments in Churchill’s life.
‘White Masai’ rediscovers passion for Africa – SWI
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