Sorcerers and Orange Peel

CLEW reviews books with an expat touch: Sorcerers and Orange Peel, written by Ian Mathie. For CLEW by Summertime Publishing.

Living and working in remote regions of Africa permitted English author Ian Mathie insight into various cultures and tribal groups encountered during his 30 years on the continent. He maintained a journal documenting his experiences as he travelled to the rural communities employed as a water engineer. These written records have given birth to a series of African memoir books.

Fifth in the series comes Sorcerers and Orange Peel. The narrative opens with the discovery of an elderly couple in a stick hut. The hut is isolated kilometres from the village and the couple are close to death. Ignorant of the ramifications of this specific scenario, Mathie nurses the couple back to health. With the appearance of a sorcerer he understands that he has interrupted the tribal ritual of placing the dying in a transition hut in preparation for their death and admittance to the next life.

This is the crux of the story. Fundamentally it is a story of disparate cultures – and the subsequent opportunity for individual and community growth with understanding, acceptance and respect of the other group. Mathie is the conduit for villagers to access the commercial world and independently earn money for necessitaties. In return, the villagers offer an insight into the intricacies of tribal life and to the roles, relationships and responsibilities of the members. This includes their spiritual beliefs, seemingly a strange mix of christianity and sorcery that impacts on many aspects of their daily lives.

Readers will be transported to Africa by the descriptions of the landscape, people and pace at which life ambles along. The author’s acceptance of the African way, including days of waiting for curses to be lifted off wild orange groves, often leads to a deeper understanding of culture that is a gift to the reader. Sorcerers and Orange Peel is a literary excursion to a place and people that most of us will never be able to experience. It makes for an enjoyable read.

By Ana McGinley, an Australian writer, currently living in the Netherlands –


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