War and Migration in the White African Tropics: Lauren St John’s Rainbow’s End

Richard Gehrmann, Rachel Hammersley-Mather


This paper explores voyage and migration in tropical Africa through Lauren St John’s Rainbow’s End, a memoir contributing to debates of white African identity that now include more contemporary renditions of identity in female self-reflective accounts differing markedly from masculine perspectives. In her coming-of-age memoir, St John chronicles her experiences of a privileged 1970s white Rhodesian society at war, and her gradual awareness of racial inequalities that transformed her into a white Zimbabwean. For her parents, voyage and migration take different paths. Her father migrated (with his family) to fight for a white Rhodesia, driven by masculine concerns. In contrast, St John’s mother was an avid traveller who journeyed from the mundane world of tropical farm life to exotic locations in Europe and beyond, escaping both her deteriorating marriage and the dull world of the club, small town gossip and a narrow minded semi-colonial rural environment. St John’s account of white settler identity and racial difference gives us insights into a day in the African tropics, and furthermore speaks to those in other settler countries such as Australia who are debating colonial history and identity, and who are often uncomfortable with aspects of their own settler past.


White African; war; memory; Zimbabwe; Rhodesia; Tropics

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.25120/etropic.15.2.2016.3540


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