God of Hunger
It is widely held that the snows of Kilimanjaro were first revealed to European
eyes when Rebman looked up from the plains in 1848 to be dazzled by
equatorial glacis. But so had an ancient Greek geographer, albeit many
centuries earlier. The discovery of equatorial ice was also reported by yet
another Hellene. Writing about the sources of the Nile in his Second book,
Herodotus, the proto-historian, tells of snowy equatorial peaks he calls Crophi
and Mophi. Could his have been the last ear to a chain of voices stretching back
to him from Kibo and Mawenzi on Kilimanjaro? The father of history is
suspected by some to have also been the first disembeler. He does admit: „The
Greeks in general have a weakness for inventing stories with no basis of fact.’
Yet surely, such disarming candour is but proof of his effort at objectivity.
Yes. Kibo first belongs to the Bantu and Nilotic peoples living on its slopes.
Then to Greeks. Then to Germans. And only then to any Anglophone: A
Johnny come lately as far as Greeks in Arusha were concerned. And when the
film, „Snows of Kilimanjaro’ was screened at the Paradise cinema, Ernest
Hemingway’s son, Patrick, a White Hunter based in Arusha was stopped in the
street and told in no uncertain terms that the Greek flag which had been planted
on the summit during filming by an ardent patriot should have appeared on
screen, thus proving Hellenic provenance.
The Zambezi was also included in Greek claims to Africa; when Livingston
discovered the Victoria Falls he noted in his diary meeting a Greek trader doing
business at the very site of the „smoke that thunders’.
„What Victoria Falls?’ they would ask at the Greek Club: „Papadopoulos’s
Cataracts!’ And so it went on in that salon of proud Hellenic discourse, just
twenty miles from KK’s coffee farm at Kingore below the slopes of Meru from
which the great iced pudding of a mountain could be seen.
KK had acquired his coffee estate from a German who had decided to return to
his semi-detached fatherland.
There were a considerable number of Germans in the vicinity. All had been
under close observation of the British authorities during the run-up to the
Second World War as it was well known that the German Consul in Dar-es-
Salaam often came to visit, recruiting fifth columnists, for Adolf Hitler. It was
even better known that from 1933, when Hitler came to power until 1945 when
he committed suicide, all assemblies at the German School would end with
hearty Sieg Heils, arms outstretched. Moreover several Nazis came to stay after
the war. And, good medics though they were, former Nazi doctors and nurses
came to practice far away from bunkers and camps. Fluent in their language,
Kokopoulos knew them all. And that is how he had acquired a library of Nazi
film and literature.