For a young boy, the 1963 film "Zulu" had the lot - pointy shiny bayonets, scarlet uniforms, raw courage and most importantly of all lots of men bashing and killing each other. Maturity and time soon saw a youthful two dimensional mind succumb to shades of grey. Nothing was so clear cut any more, life became more complicated as did that celluloid master piece Zulu. The film was written in a time of great social upheaval in Britain, where what we had so dutifully accepted in the past we now questioned. The world was new and the new took many forms, many of which came from the colonies of Africa and the West Indies
When the Wind rush docked in Britain 1948 the Olympic site in Stratford was an enormous mass of dirty railway sidings the country has now changed almost beyond recognition, but in many ways attitudes have not. Wandering about the Africa Hospitality Village near the Albert Memorial in Hyde Park, I was one of but a small handful of white faces looking at the African produce and buying drinks that were for sale in this large area walled area, where around 10 African countries were represented. Only there for a few hours to watch a quite absorbing Nigerian play about an unfaithful husband, I thought maybe on other days it would be different. But then I think no, as I feel we are innately racist, call it a legacy of 400 years of slavery if you will, but such deep rooted and negative feelings will only be controlled by familiarisation. Close contact with different ethnic groups in such multicultural melting pots like London dispels fear and instils acceptance. In one of the most exclusive and white areas of London was not the place for Africa House. The lazy charm and the laid back attitude was out of kilter with this centre of privilege. It didn't fit and I don't think Hyde Park residents wanted it to.
Africa is the poorest continent in the world - had they spent millions on an Africa House, they would perhaps be accused of indifference to the welfare of their people. But they didn't and the result was a somewhat scruffy looking house that might have felt more at home in the rough and ready East End of London - where situated was the House of Nigeria in the Theatre Royal Stratford and not so far away, the rather smart Kenya House on West Ham Lane, in which was displayed a jaw droppingly 1.5 million years old skeleton of a young boy. Kenya House was advertising itself as the birth place of mankind, though I always thought it was Tanzania, that said, I don't think that 1.5 million years ago people were arguing about international border posts!
Trinidad House was probably the better of the Afro Caribbean houses where you could see that at least they had put in some effort, Jamaica House in contrast at the O2 in South East London was effectively a bar with a few Jamaican flags hanging about it to give that authentic Caribbean feel?! A rubbish lame attempt where I stayed but 20 minutes to lounge around and feel like I was in a drunk in a beer tent at Glastonbury festival.
Africa House near the Albert Memorial in Hyde Park is open to the 12th August.
Nigeria House at the theatre Royal Stratford is open until 12th August.
Jamaica House at the O2 open until the 20th October.
Kenya House at East Thames community centre in west ham lane opens until 12th August.
Trinidad and Tobago Village in Tricycle Village Kilburn until 25th August.