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Zambia’s Stewart Gore-Browne – no strange colonist


Colonial historical past continues to throw up shocking and infrequently revealing nuggets, together with the tales of nice eccentrics and extraordinary characters which add to the nice African heritage. Brenden Sainsbury explores the life and instances of 1 such, Stewart Gore-Browne, who arrived in Northern Rhodesia ‘as an English gentleman and died as a Zambian gentleman.’

On a plain white wall within the hallway of a sublime rural mansion known as Shiwa Ng’andu (pictured above) in a distant a part of Northeastern Zambia, two certificates cling aspect by aspect. One, marked with the Royal Seal of George VI, King of Nice Britain and Emperor of India, awards a Knight Bachelor to “our trusty and well-beloved Stewart Gore-Browne”, the home’s former proprietor; the opposite, signed by Zambia’s first President, Kenneth Kaunda, grants a Companion Order of Freedom to the identical man.

It’s an intriguing if considerably curious juxtaposition – a knighthood from an imperial monarch and a freedom medal from an African independence chief – however Stewart Gore-Browne was no strange colonist. On the one hand, he was an inveterate British aristocrat with a stern militaristic method and a penchant for exact manners; on the opposite, a pioneering champion of African self-determination who, on his demise in 1967, was the primary White particular person to obtain a state funeral in Zambia.  

In Might 2022, after a number of days spent visiting a studying centre within the city of Kapiri Mposhi, three hours north of Lusaka, I persuaded a Zambian good friend to drive me 10 hours to the Shiwa Ng’andu property in distant Muchinga province in a rental automotive with a rattling entrance wheel.

I had simply learn Christine Lamb’s 1999 e book The Africa Home about Stewart Gore-Browne and his Zambian Xanadu. Now, 23 years after the e book’s publication, I used to be eager to seek out out extra concerning the enigmatic Twentieth-century maverick and consider how his legacy holds up at this time.

As we reached the top of our lengthy, bumpy journey, I squinted disbelievingly via the windscreen as Shiwa Ng’andu appeared like a ghostly apparition out of the encompassing bush, a stunning, red-bricked mansion, half Renaissance villa, half meticulously manicured English property. Within the phrases of a earlier customer, it was like “coming throughout a mud hut or a herd of buffalo in Piccadilly Circus”.

Stewart Gore-Browne was born right into a rich aristocratic household in London in 1883. His grandfather was a colonial administrator and one-time governor of New Zealand. His aunt co-owned a deluxe resort in Egypt and supervised the world’s first purpose-built motor-racing circuit.

After an unremarkable training at Harrow, he joined the navy and was promptly stationed in Africa, gravitating to the then British protectorate of Northern Rhodesia in 1911, the place he labored on a boundary fee surveying the border with the Belgian Congo.  

Gore-Browne had lengthy harboured goals of constructing a grand property in Africa the place land was plentiful and costs had been low cost. He discovered the proper location throughout a 1914 looking journey beside a lake known as Shiwa Ng’andu, in a spot that had but to make it onto many maps. 

Sophisticated and pushed

Cocooned within the wilds of northeast Rhodesia, his constructing plans had been extravagantly gung-ho, even in comparison with different crackpot schemes of the period. Crocodile-infested Shiwa Ng’andu was 400 miles from the closest highway and, save for a lakeside Bemba village, the shadowy area of lions, leopards, and rhinos.

Every part for the bold enterprise needed to both be made regionally or carried in from the Copper Belt outpost of Ndola, three weeks away by boat and portage, for those who weren’t eaten on the way in which.

Interrupted by World Warfare One, work on the home didn’t start till the early Twenties and took over a decade to finish. Embellished with work shipped out from England and ornate furnishings crafted onsite, the completed product was as lovely because it was incongruous; 100 years on, it stays considered one of Zambia’s most beguiling buildings.

After staying the night time in Kapishya Sizzling Springs, 20km to the west, my Zambian good friend and I returned to the Shiwa home the next morning for a more in-depth look. Coming into by way of a side-gate, we encountered Jo, spouse of Gore-Browne’s grandson Charley, on the entrance garden and had been politely invited inside for an impromptu tour. Graciously, she allowed us to view the chapel and the lounge, the slim hallways filled with photographs and certificates, and the pièce de résistance: Gore-Browne’s studious, book-stuffed library. 

Sophisticated and pushed, Gore-Browne was an unconventional White settler. A strict and demanding boss, he possessed an indefatigable work spirit and anticipated it in equal measure from his staff.

By fashionable requirements, his strategies had been, at instances, merciless and draconian: he had a risky mood and typically beat his African employees; however, by the conventions of the Twenties, he was comparatively enlightened. There was no racial segregation at Shiwa. As an alternative, Gore-Browne’s kids and grandchildren combined freely with African children and his inseparable companion in later life was his trusty Black chauffeur, Henry Mulenga.

In contrast to many settlers, Sir Stewart realized to talk the native language, Bemba, and regularly developed a affluent group on his new property that fostered coaching and training for native individuals. Shiwa had its personal faculties, hospital, put up workplace, retailers, and airstrip. Whitewashed employee’s homes appeared as in the event that they’d been teleported over from a Cornish village, and, by the mid-Twenties, the self-sufficient property had 1,300 native staff.

A latecomer on the political scene, Gore-Browne was appointed to Northern Rhodesia’s legislative council in 1935, aged 52. By then, the uptight Victorian world he had grown up in was fading quick and his views had developed.

Tired of partisan ties, a lot of his political imaginative and prescient was formed by his years dwelling in isolation within the African bush, lower off from imperialistic Europeans. At Shiwa, he had come to depend on Africans for survival and he was decided to pay them again.

Vocal supporter of independence

As requires native autonomy mounted, Gore-Browne, in marked distinction to different White settlers, continued to vociferously oppose segregation in favour of session with Black leaders and their inclusion within the political course of.

After World Warfare Two, he turned an essential mentor to independence crusaders Kenneth Kaunda and Harry Nkumbula, each of whom had been common guests to his residence, finally offering funds to ship Nkumbula to school in Uganda.

By the late Fifties, he was a vocal supporter of independence, arguing that Northern Rhodesia “should confer equal voting powers on equal phrases for each races, with none disingenuous catches or strings hooked up to it.”

Navigating a advantageous line between White authority and Black aspiration typically put him at odds with either side. His backing for a plan to separate Northern Rhodesia into separate European and African-controlled areas in 1948, with the Europeans getting the profitable copper mines, fell foul of most Black leaders. Equally, his help for the United Nationwide Independence Social gathering (UNIP) meant he commonly locked horns with Whites.

Regardless of the political bumps, Kaunda remained a trustworthy good friend. In 1962, aged 81, Gore-Browne accompanied his one-time protégé in a delegation to the United Nations in New York. It got here as no shock when Kaunda invited the Englishman to be an honoured visitor at Zambia’s independence celebrations in 1964.

At Gore-Browne’s state funeral in 1967, Kaunda was lavish in his reward. “He was born an English gentleman and he died a Zambian gentleman,” he remarked in his eulogy. “Maybe if Africa had extra like him, the transition from colonial rule to independence would have been much less traumatic.”

Trying again at this time, in an period when even Abraham Lincoln is uncovered to withering re-evaluation, it’s simple to view Gore-Browne as simply one other privileged White settler who presided over a paternalistic African property.

Like different colonists of the period, he hunted and shot rhinos for sport, hosted lavish backyard events, and strode round his area carrying a lounge go well with and a monocle. The eccentric aristocratic veneer might, partly, account for his pale legacy – when Kaunda died in 2021, lots of the obituaries failed to say Gore-Browne – however the stuffy and old school picture veil an essential a part of the story.

Positioned in historic context, Gore-Browne’s views had been unprecedented. A person forward of his time, he not solely impressed devotion amongst a lot of his African colleagues but additionally commanded respect within the corridors of energy in London. By no means afraid to tear up the rulebook, he was a bridge between two opposing worlds, mixing tolerance and humanism with stiff Victorian manners and a regimented work ethic.

The publication of The Africa Home revived some curiosity in Gore-Browne’s story and, in 2001, Charley and Jo set about remodeling Shiwa Ng’andu from a digital damage into the productive property and intriguing historic heirloom it’s at this time,  that additionally presents lodging to guests.

However, 21 years later, I used to be shocked to seek out that so few of the Zambians I spoke to throughout my journey had heard of the pugnacious Englishman or the home the place he had been given a chief’s burial below his Bemba identify, Chipembere (Rhinoceros) in 1967.   

As we completed our tour and commenced the lengthy journey again to Kapiri Mposhi, I took a final glimpse of the sturdy mansion because it disappeared within the rear-view mirror. Some have known as it a preposterous folly, others an arrogance mission, but reasonably like its eccentric proprietor, it stands as bricks-and-mortar testimony to what might be achieved with audacity, fortitude and an underlying need to present one thing again. “If solely I can go away a greater nation for all my individuals at Shiwa, then it’s going to all have been price one thing,” Gore-Browne as soon as wrote of his unbelievable journey.   

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