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CLUBS The Book(s) To Look … (No. 34)

Posted by on 30. August 2012

The Bulawayo Gentlemen Club in Zimbabwe ...


... its noble emblem ...


The Muthaiga Country Club in Nairobi ...


... and my old Blazer badge

Let me name two: „The Bulawayo Gentlemen Club“ in Bulawayo (Zimbabwe) and „The Muthaiga Country Club“ in Nairobi (Kenya). Nowhere were the colonies (in this case: British) whiter. Yes, the clubs were wonderful, noble, exclusive but a relict of supposed Aryan supremacy. Africans could enter as servants only. And had to whisper. To treat them badly had no consequences and when the club were opened to them after independence, a lot of member behaved still disgustingly and had to be kicked out. In both of the above mentioned clubs exist(ed) Complaint or Visitors Book, bound in leather and full of the most amazing, hilarious and awful remarks. Because nobody held back with his opinion in these fortresses of Apartheid. The book in Bulawayo starts in 1901 and contains grievances about crumpled newspapers, bad ventilation, watery coffee, not properly polished silver, the meat quality and the incorrect temperature of the bathtub water. A highlight: „Why do I have to eat my dessert with coffee spoons?“ Another (after 1945): „The war being over, it‘s not necessary anymore to depict the daily menu on both sides of a sheet.“ My favorite: „Serve peppermint pills after dinner, please!“ With independence the former Rhodesians had different complaints. Examples: „Women shall be prevented from entering the library in pants“, „A dinner jacket should be compulsory for the dining room manager“ and „I repeatedly saw natives entering the club by the main entrance. Is this the new policy of the club?“ In Muthaiga a full page of the Complaints Book (beginning in the 30s, the previous volumes are lost) is filled with the discussion which water temperature in the bathtub is best (elaborated by the tenth of degrees!) and in what time between filling and entering the water cools to what degree. One member insisted on the orange jam produced by a certain farmer’s wife and another one asked the management to fire the servant John because he dared to asked the members the indiscreet question how they had slept. I think no book expresses the spirit of the colonial age, in it’s extreme form, better than these volumes in the Private Clubs. And I sometimes regret not to have stolen them in the transition from Colony to Independence, as documents to precious to perish. This they will after long or short. Gone forever. What a shame …

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