Book Review: Spots of a Leopard

Spots of a Leopard by Aernout Zevenbergen

What does it mean to be a man and more specifically a man in Africa? That’s a question which has vexed long-time African correspondent and journalist Aernout Zevenbergen for many years. Rather than present us with an academic treatise on the sociology and psychology of the issue, Zevenbergen asked African men themselves to answer this question wherever he went.

Spots of a Leopard is available at Lobby Books for R195

From Kenya to Pietermaritzburg and from Madagascar to Liberia and Niger, he confronted them with some of the central dilemmas of modern masculinity, asking himself and other men difficult questions about sexuality, fatherhood, sexual violence and rape, homosexuality, ancient traditions and new ways of living, HIV/AIDS, being a son and more.

Zevenbergen’s exploits throughout the continent make for fascinating reading by themselves, but the responses he gets from African men of all walks of life are what really makes this book special. There are no simple answers, of course, but many intriguing life stories, cultural backgrounds and explanations.

Zevenbergen poses tough questions – many of them probing deeply personal, emotional and downright embarrassing subjects, but most importantly he reveals a remarkable capacity to listen and to try to understand without bias. The resulting answers and conversations, including the author’s own personal musings and experiences, are revealing, frequently painful and often unexpected.

This is a brave, sensitive and honest book about a range of topics that are still taboo in many parts of Africa. Essential reading for African men and those who endeavour to live with and understand them.

Andreas Späth, Idasa

Spots of a Leopard is available at Lobby Books for R195.00.

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