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Reviewed by Rich Follett for Readers' Favorite
The fascinating novella The Forbidden Customs of Africa by Mubanga Chipalo recounts the experiences of Andrew and Mary Hamazila and their son John, blinded by smallpox, during three decades of British colonial rule in Zambia. As Andrew and Mary come to terms with their son being sent to a newly opened school for the blind in Rhodesia in 1912, the world is changing around them: the 'forbidden customs' of the title are being replaced by Her Majesty’s laws and centuries-old tribal customs are being overshadowed by Christian beliefs and practices. As Andrew struggles to embrace change that he cannot avoid, he reveals sterling character traits and untapped wisdom that will guide his family nobly for generations to come.
In a colloquial, folklore-centered style reminiscent of celebrated Nigerian author Chinua Achebe, Mubanga Chipalo draws true-to-life characters facing organic challenges against a backdrop rich with cultural references, the result being that the reader’s experience is as informative as it is entertaining. There is an irresistible universality in protagonist Andrew Hamazila’s struggle to embrace change – an inherent “Everyman” set of limitations which transcends time and culture. Chipalo has created in Andrew Hamazila a man we can both criticize and admire, partnered by a loving wife who gently urges him toward painful but inevitable realizations leading to personal growth and new found wisdom.
The Forbidden Customs of Africa by Mubanga Chipalo offers an enchanting, utterly absorbing chronicle of a culture facing an uncertain future and searching for a new identity in the presence of colonial rule.