Score: 91/100 (9.1 out of 10)
“The Apapa Six” is a book with great potential that could very well be a mainstay of every anthropology class on West Africa! The book gives the record of a group of western travelers, many well-educated and pursuing ministry (including the author), as they undergo an exciting journey through the countries of West Africa on the eponymous boat, the Apapa Six, in the 1960s. Try saying that six times fast.
To our recollection, some of the countries they travel through and which are covered by the author are Ghana, Nigeria, and Senegal. The book discusses other West African nations, but Ghana stood out as a major population and education hub, and some of our readers have friends and co-workers from Nigeria and Senegal who were excited to hear their countries discussed!
This book is incredibly dense and detailed, almost to a fault. It was sometimes exhausting to read. Our eyes ached at the end of this. Part of that is due to the formatting and the choice of font or font size. There are no indentations to be found anywhere. It's formatted almost like a blog. Now, that can be due to this being intended as a textbook with the text needing to wrap around blocks of text, or that could just have been a result of the author finding it easier to write that way. Speaking of blocks of text, some of these blocks (or paragraphs) are enormous. There are some paragraphs in this book that are almost two pages long! As mentioned before, there's something about the font or the font size that make it more challenging to read. It looks to be font size 10 (the default on some word processors). A good editor or a beta reader would've caught these two flaws pretty easily.
But here's the thing: effort is effort, research is research, substance is substance, content is content, experience is experience. These are intangibles. Anyone can hire out an editor, not many people can say they have experienced traveling through West Africa during one of the most important times in the history of western colonialism in the region. This little book looks like it took years to think through and put together. There are pages and pages of citations due to the amount of research that was done. And there is a ton of substance and content here in this little book.
This book can be very educational and eye-opening about how Africa's colonial history and western influence continues to weigh heavy on it today. Although much of it is presented in a chronological, matter-of-fact manner, it has its share of amusing parts. First of all, the pictures are amazing and very helpful in giving us a feel about what the author is talking about. Second of all, there are little stories here and there that are clearly not intended to be didactic, which can be a breath of fresh air. For example, the author encounters a big lizard at one point that scares him. He witnesses the hysteria as workers encounter a large snake that must be removed by a maintenance man (acting as animal control). They also try to cover up the accidental death of a neighborhood pet chicken in almost Tom & Jerry fashion.
Also, there are some asides about Africa's Islamic past and how the religion has changed and evolved in Africa to become quite unique to Africans. The same can be said for Christianity in Africa. There are also some great history lessons about the often-turbulent transitions of power in the region, not only from westerners to Africans but from Africans to Africans. It is stated so matter-of-factly when we learn that one West African nation is currently ruled by someone who won over control of the country in a military coupe only to be conveniently “elected” in 2018 as a formality.
Overall this really is a valuable piece of historical literature.
You can get this deep and insightful book on Barnes & Noble!