When I visited the Palace Museum in Stone Town, one of the highlights was the Sultan’s bedroom. It had a king sized double bed, with a crown fixed into its features. The bed’s appearance was in keeping with what one would have expected, but nothing prepared me for the other furniture pieces made out of formica – fashionable in the era just before the revolution which sent the Sultan and his family into exile.
Even though Zanzibar has a strong wood carving tradition of its own, most of the furniture was imported from abroad. It made me cringe to hear that the formica pieces were imported from the UK, as they did little to contribute to the impressive impact of the room.
The Palace was taken over by the leaders of the revolution. In a manner that would have been a source of amusement to George Orwell, they took over the building and probably used the living quarters for personal use for a long time.
In recent years, the government decided to convert the palace into a museum. It was a wise decision, because there are many vestiges of a bygone era therein, that have been preserved for visitors like me to reflect about.
I couldn’t help thinking of Animal Farm when I heard about the choices made by the leaders of the revolution. There are many deep thinkers who hail from the continent of my heritage, but so many others are inclined towards making facile choices in moments of sweeping change