It should come as no surprise that writer and former hunter James Kilgo, terminally ill, facing that most universal of fears, would leap at the chance to go to Africa as an observer on a big game safari. Literature is filled with stories of what the dark continent does to men and women, from Conrad to Hemingway, from Gordimer to Dinesen. Kilgo was an eager follower in their footsteps, seeking reaffirmation of life, and perhaps redemption. Some people believe there are no coincidences, so maybe some sort of synchronicity was at work when a casual acquaintance asked Kilgo to accompany him on safari. Having fought prostate cancer for almost a decade, the writer's one regret was that he had never seen Africa. Now, at the age of 58, he immediately accepts the offer. Kilgo's journey into another world starts from the moment his plane touches down. After dealing with corrupt customs officials, he is on his way into the bush. The safari makes daily hunting forays, for food as well as for trophies: Hippo, leopard, zebra and several kinds of deer none endangered are on the hunting list, as well as that most dangerous of game, the African lion. Though Kilgo has come along merely as a photographer, when he is given the opportunity to stalk the elusive Kudu deer, he wonders if he is up to the same challenge conquered by his literary forebear, Ernest Hemingway.
Colors of Africa is more than a travelogue it is part literary exploration, part personal journey. The hunters' camp is near the area where missionary David Livingstone died, and the deeply religious Kilgo finds his faith coming into play, whether it be his unease at distributing bags of shoes and crosses to the local population, talking with a Muslim guide named Karim or dealing with the reality of his cancer. An encounter with a lion marries faith with deeper, primal emotions, setting the stage for the Kudu hunt.
James Kilgo, who died in December 2002, was an exceptional, starkly honest writer. This literate, moving, unsentimental book his last will take you to a world you may have only imagined.