|Mo Amin in later life|
'If you want a big story you should be in Zanzibar tomorrow.'
'There's a big story. Take your cameras. You'll get an exclusive.'
'What kind of story?'
Babu would say no more. When Amin learned from his own sources that the Sultan had given the opposition Afro-Shirazi Party permission to hold a fete, he dismissed the story as non-newsworthy and thought no more about it. Until 0430 on Sunday 12 January, when he was woken by the telephone and a voice saying: 'There's shooting all over Zanzibar.' (Tetley 1988: 46-47)
|Okello photographed by Mo Amin (from Tetley 1988: 45)|
Soon after landing on the island he was pressed into service to take the first official pictures of the revolution's leaders. One of them - Babu, his confidante - had become the new regime's Minister for External Affairs. Meeting Babu in a crowd of excited revolutionaries in Zanzibar's seething streets he told him he needed permission to charter a plane to ship his film. Time was critical, and the airport was still closed.
'Give me a piece of paper,' said Babu.
'I don't have any.'
Looking around him, Babu saw a discarded detergent carton, picked it up, tore off the flap and scribbled a crude but official note clearing a plane to land at Zanzibar. (Tetley 1988: 48)
|Mo's imprisonment in 1966 (Tetley 1988: 70-71)|
|Babu pretending to row (from Okello 1967: between 112-113)|
Chapter 13 of Ghassany 2010). We also know that "On his arrival Babu arranged for himself to be photographed, for propaganda purposes, paddling a canoe" (Clayton 1981: 82, fn.65). Whether this was a "canoe" or outrigger, it certainly wasn't the boat that brought Babu and his companions to the island. Whether this photo was taken later, in Zanzibar town harbour, or whether Mo was involved, I don't know. Like a number of other photographic plates in Okello's book (1967), it's credited to I.P., an agency that I've yet to identify (International Press?). Whatever the case, it's difficult to escape the conclusion that Babu was hoping to manipulate future perceptions of his less than heroic return to Zanzibar. Okello - or his editor - simply reproduced the photo and (added?) its deceptive caption without further comment.
Despite their skill as propagandists, neither Babu nor Okello foresaw the course of the Revolution. They were both outmanoeuvred by the outwardly less sophisticated Karume, who became the first President. After his early ejection from Zanzibar, Okello later disappeared in Amin's Uganda. After the union with Tanganyika, Babu was sidelined as a minister on the mainland, detained for six years after Karume's assassination, and ended his days in exile in London.
* I met Mischa (whose name also appears as Misha, Fainsilber, Feinsilber and Finsilber) in early 1982 when I stayed at Silversands, the hotel that he'd handed over to the University of Dar es Salaam. My research supervisor Ray Abrahams knew him somewhat better before this, and he was immortalised as "Willi", proprietor of the "Haven of Peace" beach hotel, in Shiva Naipaul's North of South (1978: for this and reference to some of Mischa's other enterprises see Chachage 1995: 66-67).
Banks, Marcus 2001. Visual Methods in Social Research. London: Sage Publications.
Chachage, Chachage Seithy L. 1995. The meek shall inherit the earth but not the mining rights: the mining industry and accumulation in Tanzania. In Peter Gibbon (ed.) Liberalised Development in Tanzania: Studies on Accumulation Processes and Local Institutions. Uppsala: Nordiska Afrikainstitutet. 37-108.
Clayton, Anthony 1981. The Zanzibar Revolution and its Aftermath. London: C. Hurst & Company.
Ghassany, Harith 2010. Kwaheri Ukoloni, Kwaheri Uhuru! Zanzibar na Mapinduzi ya Afrabia. Lulu Enterprises Inc.
Mercer, Graham 1999. The Beauty of Zanzibar. Nairobi: Camerapix Publishers International.
Naipaul, Shiva 1978. North of South: An African Journey. London: Penguin Books.
Okello, John 1967. Revolution in Zanzibar. Nairobi: East African Publishing House.
Othman, Haroub (ed.) 2001. Babu: I Saw the Future and it Works. Essays Celebrating the Life of Comrade Abdulrahman Mohamed Babu 1924-1996. Dar es Salaam: E&D Limited.
Petterson, Don 2002. Revolution in Zanzibar: An American's Cold War Tale. Boulder: Westview Press.
Smith, William Edgett 1973. Nyerere of Tanzania. London: Victor Gollancz Ltd. [originally published in 1972 as We Must Run While They Walk: A Portrait of Africa's Julius Nyerere. New York: Random House.]
Tetley, Brian 1988. Mo: The Story of Mohamed Amin[,] Front-line Camerman. London: Moonstone Books.