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Pole to Pole

Day 108: Kigoma to Mpulungu

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleThe room where the investigation is being carried out is not, at first glance, in any way sinister. At one end, where the pale light from an overcast sky spills through a wrought iron window grille, is a plastic-covered sofa and matching chair. The floor is bare concrete, the walls plastered and painted grey. Two half-deflated beach balls hang from the ceiling, and on one of the walls are pictures of footballers and a BP Zambia calendar. On a small table is a line of six doll-like figures, one of which I notice is of a white woman, with a short skirt wrapped around her.

Huddled in a corner, looking pathetic and helpless, with glazed eyes and glassy stare, is the accused. He wears a thin brown shirt and trousers, black moccasin shoes and a fat wristwatch. He bears an unnerving resemblance to Nelson Mandela.

The witch doctor, Dr Baela, is a young man from Zaire. He has pouting lips and big lazy eyes. He wears a head-dress of genet fur, a pink tunic with his name on the back and a pair of welding goggles. In one hand he holds a heart-shaped mirror with a border of shells and in the other a small pot with a mirror set into it. His helpers wear white cotton robes with red crosses on them.

It may be the effect of the presence of a camera, but they all look sheepish and rather awkward, like children at the start of a school play.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 108
  • Country/sea: Zambia
  • Place: Mpulungu
  • Book page no: 245

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