So I didn't want to get too deep into obvious politics for my crucial visit to Biafra. Instead I decided to concentrate on the human aspects, and especially ones of gender, that are covered in this harrowing part of the storyline. I've included Teresa Olatunde as one of the voices of Safari Tales, even though strictly she has no narrative at all (being dead and only appearing in flashback), except perhaps through her godparents Henryk and Helga Zimmerman. It was both hard and easy to write - in places it almost wrote itself and the key part of it - Teresa's conviction that she was dead actually came out of my research into Rwanda's war. Laying among the dead, wanting to be a corpse. The sexual abuse and torture Teresa underwent also comes from other 'conflicts' around Africa as prostitution and extreme rape - where bottles and knives are used on girl children and pregnant women leaving permanent, ultimately fatal damage or killing foetus and mother alike outright, becomes almost commonplace wherever war breeds. Awful reports come from all around the Congo and from coast to coast in central Africa, spreading outwards like a cancerous infection, as though it's not enough to put a bullet through your enemy, you have to sabotage the very process of making new life itself, to eradicate them altogether.
If anything I was 'gentle' with Teresa as her northern, Muslim tormentors tried to circumcise her, in a drunken attempt after the event to give her some womanly respectability on discovering they'd impregnated her. Another trait adopted in Rwanda, where young Tutsi women were used like whores and made pregnant with good Hutu seed, or met Verity's eldest daughter's fate if they tried to resist.
The condition first came to global notoriety in news coverage near the end of the war in Biafra, in the Ibo province of Nigeria. Disturbing film footage of toddlers was seen on television screens all over the world. These unfortunates, with their huge balloon-like bellies, stick-thin limbs, bones clearly visible, hair and skin discoloured with a reddish tinge and enormous haunted eyes, traumatised, literally dying in front of the horrified reporters and cameramen, finally pricked the conscience of the international community, eventually contributing to the end of Nigeria's first civil war.
But of course, during a war and resulting famine, protein is not the only thing that is hard to come by - and other innocents suffer as much as, or more than very young children...