Ever since my birth, the sufferings of my fellow Africans have dominated the international media and are sometimes overrated. Whenever I switch on a TV screen, all that catches my eyes are the terrible headlines of Africa’s stories. True it is that wars, poverty and dictatorship have at least shaped the attitude of an ordinary man about the Black Continent. And yet it is no wonder that every child born and raised in Africa have has either been a victim or victimiser on different scales.
The times, however, when atrocities from Africa flash from the TV screens, the easiest one could do is reach for the remote control and switch to another channel, because we can’t afford to listen to our crying and watch our misery unfold.
But here in this world, some people are different from you and me. There are those who do not get hurt by the images on the screen, but instead are inspired go a mile further to face reality. One such person is a New Zealand nurse, Lisa F Blacker who takes us behind the headlines and into the frontline of the most war-ravaged places in Africa- Darfur.
Now the book that I’m holding in my hand is Heart of Darfur. This book is a chronicle memoir by a determined New Zealand nurse who had been working with MSF in Darfur for six months. Heart of Darfur is one of the top ten books ever written about Africa.
In Heart of Darfur Lisa answers a simple question and yet thought-provoking one: What’s it like in Darfur?’ ‘Is it as bad as they report?’ The nurse honestly portrays the real image and explains in crystal clear prose what it is like to try to help suffering people while a war is going on around them.
Darfur is a semi-arid province in the far west of Sudan which is approximately the size of France. Ethnic conflicts colour life there like most African states. Whichever side they live on, in government or rebel areas, people see the effect of war every day. But the lines are never so clear in Sudan; there are Arabs and Africans on both sides of the conflict, and all are Muslims. All are hurting, some more than others though. And it shows no sign of losing momentum. It only worsens as the days pass.
Lisa takes us a journey to Darfur- to share us with the certainty of her work as a nurse in a land of conflict and loss, beauty and hope. She introduces us to some of the people of the area, their children and their dreams. So that at the end, the real picture of Darfur comes right in front of us- the worst and the best. But through it all, your heart may ache and despair, and your tears may sting for a moment.
What stunned me much about this breathtaking book is that the author has successfully managed to make her book about Darfur. The reader gets to know a little about Lisa, a South African born New Zealand nurse with a love of Africa. This book is the first to go behind the headlines and discover the untold stories in the middle of the humanitarian disaster that is in Darfur.
The book is an exciting read. Heart of Darfur is a delightful memoir, a life history filled with pain and heartache, the joy and triumph that marks the life of the ordinary person in Darfur. Lisa’s way of writing is a quick based read. Her use of voice is relatively low key, as though recalling memories one after other as they pertain to the topic, easing from one to the next is a comfortable rhythm.
This perfect story is a great book that shows how one caring person can make a difference. Heart of Darfur is an excellent memoir worth reading by everyone that needs to find out the nature of African ethnic conflicts. I hope it will inspire you to dig deeper into the human story behind the negatively constructed media reports.