So I’ve been telling you guys about Changa. I thought I’d let you hear about it from the man himself, Charles R. Saunders.
A DIFFERENT SAFARI
By Charles R. Saunders
Once there was a world in which sea lanes and trade winds connected scores of exotic kingdoms on opposite shores of a great ocean. Nations of black, brown, yellow and white people interacted in rivalry and harmony, war and peace, trade and treachery. This world was not conjured out of a story-teller’s imagination. It was real – the world of the African and Asian lands washed by the Indian Ocean. This world reached its peak during the 14th and 15th centuries, only to experience a downfall that lasted half a millennium.
During the best of this world’s times, a vast and intricate commercial network stretched from the interior of Africa to the farthest reaches of China and India. That network ultimately unraveled with the coming of the Portuguese and other European nations bent on conquest and colonization. That was the downfall of a trade that was likely the richest in the world – a fact glossed over or ignored in subsequent history books.
That world lives again in Milton Davis’s Changa’s Safari. The title character, Changa Diop, is a merchant who drives a hard bargain, and can back it up with a sword-blade when necessary. Of West African ancestry, Changa fights his way out of slavery in the glittering cities of Africa’s East Coast, and becomes a force to be reckoned with on two continents.
With his companion Panya, an enigmatic Yoruba sorceress, Changa goes to places whose names echo in the halls of history: Mombassa, Calicut, Zimbabwe, the Middle Kingdom of China, Sofala and Indonesia. Larger than life but hardly superhuman, Changa contends with mercantile rivals and political intrigue – not to mention supernatural perils – malevolent sorcery and mythical beings that come to terrifying life.
The word “safari” means “journey” in Swahili, the lingua franca of the East Coast. These days, that word is associated with khaki-clad white men and women chopping their way through the jungle, accompanied by black porters bearing bundles of supplies on their heads. Changa’s safari is a journey of a different kind: an epic passage that makes the Odyssey look like a walk in the park.
With this novel, Milton restores a world of magic and mystery that is nonetheless the real world of our past – a past that centuries of colonialism obscured, but could not destroy.
Changa’s ship is about to depart. Get on board, and enjoy the ride.