Wonder and ambivalence

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One of the landmarks in Stone City, Zanzibar that I didn’t get to visit is a building that belonged to the Sultan’s family, called House of Wonder. I asked my friend and chaperone, German Pass about the building and its contents. The details of what he told me are hazy in my mind now, but I wasn’t curious enough to pay a visit.

The Palace Museum was of more interest to me, since it gave me an opportunity to understand about the history of the island and its royal family who were ousted in a revolution in 1964. The guided tour of the museum was most enlightening. Towards the end of the visit, we were shown out on to a balcony at the back of the museum, which had an attractive view of the House of Wonder.

Back in London, I worked on a Black History Month project in a school, with a team of highly accomplished fellow musicians, and the finale tune of our event was a song called “Wonder”. These unrelated coincidences got me thinking about the word and what it means.

One antiquated dictionary in my possession describes wonder as “strange or remarkable thing or specimen or event”. A more contemporary volume says “emotion excited by amazing or unusual thing; marvel, miracle”.

If this is so, would it be appropriate to describe the global political events of recent times as “wondrous”? Perhaps it depends on whether one regards these developments as good or bad things.