Book Reviews

John McIlwaine
Africa: A Guide to Reference Material
2nd revised and expanded ed.
Lochcarron, Scotland: Hans Zell Publishing, 2007. $260.00
liv, 608 pp.
ISBN 0954102932

"First published in 1993, this is a new revised and substantially expanded edition of a classic African studies reference work that evaluates the leading sources of information (other than bibliographies) on Africa South of the Sahara published in English and French, and in a number of other European languages."

Sylvester Onyang & Jeremy O'Kasick
Karamoja: Uganda's Land of Warrior Nomads.
Switzerland: Little Wolf Press, 2007.
276 p.
ISBN 9783906745015

Excluding shipping and handling, the retail cost of the book is $75 and the wholesale price is $55.

by Bassey Irele, Harvard University

Karamoja: Uganda's land of warrior nomads offers a closer look at the daily life of a group of people generally regarded by all, especially the erstwhile colonial authorities and contemporary government nationalists, as proud, unruly, unclothed, unschooled and ungovernable.

Sylvester Onyang and Jeremy O'Kasick's presentation, at close quarters, of Karimojong men and women sensitizes readers to the stark reality of their joys, pains, anguish and constant struggle for survival. Confronted with hostility from both man and nature, these hardy people quickly learn new skills for survival. They used to protect their lives and their much-valued cattle with spears, but are now compelled by changing circumstances to use the more deadly AK-47. In addition to stories woven by the authors to make the people come alive for us, this impressive coffee-table book is full of bold, captivating color photographs that evoke in the readers pastoral sounds of grazing cattle, of shepherd boys playing in the dry fields or of celebrative pipe horns and dancing feet; smells of fresh milk, dry sand, brown dusty haze or red sorghum; refreshing taste of water discovered in a freshly dug-up water hole; and feelings of anxiety for a long-awaited rainfall, of compassion, and hope. A word of caution, however, some of these pictures (about eleven in all) are not for those with a sensitive disposition. A flip of the page may bring you face to face with a picture of a dead warrior alongside a dirt road, or of bleeding and disembowelled animals being prepared for sacrifice.

The book contains a Foreword by David Pluth (National Geographic photographer), 23 titled and sub-titled sections that look at various aspects of the Karamoja mundane world (such as, The Cow, The Gun, Birth and Twins, Beauty, Pride and Dignity, Marriage and Love, Anger and Argument, Raiding and Killing, Sacrifice, Sons and Mothers, Religion, Prayers for Rain, Drinking, On Becoming a Man, Migration, etc.), and an Epilogue. The illustrative stories woven around individuals coupled with the warm, inviting photographs create a sense of immediacy and familiarity. Thus, readers are able to empathize with everyday locals such as the 10-year-old Lokiru watching over his father's flock; Lorot, the proud owner of an AK-47; Lokiru and his friends building a manyatta, a semi-permanent settlement built in a particular fashion that ensures the security of its inhabitants; Alaina's great, but anxious moment of the birth of her twins; the newly-wed Nake, the village beauty who rubs ghee butter into her skin and confidently adorns herself with ornaments and colorful fabrics; Apangamunyon as he lies in the dirt, waiting patiently for the right moment to strike the Pokot kraal; and the list goes on.

In his Foreword, Pluth claims that "this book is most certainly not an exhaustive and complete study", but readers will appreciate the fact that this courageous team of three Apolobukwi (Pluth's Karimojong nickname meaning, "penetrator of the desert") have deftly shed some warm light on a remote world historically misunderstood and marginalized. Karamoja: Uganda's land of warrior nomads is undoubtedly a valuable complement to other sociological and anthropological works about Karamoja and the Karimojong. Many of these works are cited in the Selected Bibliography provided at the end of the book and to which I would propose two more cited below. The book has in fact, created such a formidable impact that the Ugandan Government has agreed to release a postal stamp based on the book's cover.

As an added value for the inquiring minds and researchers, Onyang, O'Kasick, and Pluth have also launched an interactive website ( that contains current issues, updates on projects, interviews of progressive "Karimojong modern warriors", reviews of and excerpts from Karamoja: Uganda's land of warrior nomads and a forum for readers' comments and reactions.

Karamoja Stamp

For ordering information, please contact:
David Pluth
Little Wolf Press
Dorfhalde 10
Stafa, Switzerland
Tel: +41 (43) 477-2000
Fax: +41 (43) 477-2001
Email, North America:
Email, Africa and Europe:

Additional Bibliography

Barber, J.P. (1962) "The Karamoja District of Uganda: A Pastoral People under Colonial Rule." The Journal of African History, 3(1), 111-124.

Mirzeler, M. & Young, C. (2000) "Pastoral politics in the northeast periphery in Uganda: AK-47 as change agent." The Journal of Modern African Studies, 38(3), 407-429.

Hans Zell
The African Studies Companion
4th revised and expanded ed.
Lochcarron, Scotland: Hans Zell Publishing, 2006.
xxx, 833 pp.
ISBN 0954102924

For a full review by Loyd G. Mbabu of Ohio University, please see:

Mbabu, L.G. (2007). The African studies companion (4th ed.). Research in African Literatures, 38(3), 224.

Publisher's Association of South Africa
Writings in Nine Tongues, A Catalogue of Literature and Readers in Nine African Languages for South Africa.
Green Point, South Africa: Publisher's Association of South Africa, 2007.
631 pp., paper + CD
ISBN-13 9780620390330
Price of print edition, with CD: $80.00 (£ 40.00 / Euro 54.00)
Important Note:
The above prices include postage by airmail and bank collection charges. Orders must be placed directly with PASA and cannot be ordered through vendors. PASA will issue a pro-forma invoice upon receipt of order, and will accept a Dollar (or GBP/Euro) remittance. (No credit cards accepted)
Online, freely accessible:
(Select from 9 different pdf files, by language)

by Hans Zell, Hans Zell Publishing

The compilation of this unique catalogue is an initiative of the Publisher's Association of South Africa (PASA), and was produced with the support of the South African Department of Arts and Culture and the collaboration of the National Library of South Africa.

Published in a large A4 size format, it a comprehensive and very attractively produced reference and ordering resource that showcases over 4,000 titles in nine African languages-IsiNdebele, IsiXhosa, IsiZulu, Sesotho, Sesotho sa Leboa/Sepedi, Setswana, Siswati, Tshivenda, and Xitsonga. For each language titles are grouped under these genres: Novels, Traditional literature, Short stories, Drama, Poetry, Essays and prose, Multi-genres, and Non-fiction. Each entry (many accompanied by cover images in colour) gives author, title and description in the original language, publisher, ISBN, age level, together with an English translation of the title description. A directory of publishers, with full contact details including email addresses, Web sites and publisher logos, completes the volume.

This is a marvellous resource, and all libraries with collection interests in African literature and African languages will want to acquire a copy of the print edition, in addition to being able to access the online version at no charge.

Publisher address:
Publisher's Association of South Africa
P.O. Box 106
Green Point 8051, South Africa

Email contact for ordering:
Samantha Faure, National Office Manager,

Hans Zell Publishing [T/A Hans Zell Publishing Consultants]
Glais Bheinn, Lochcarron Ross-shire IV54 8YB Scotland
Tel: +44-(0)1520-722951
Fax: +44(0)1520-722953
E-mail: or

Back to Top

Next Page

Back to Table of Contents