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In the Spring of 2012, reporter and travel junkie Justin Chapman threw his cares to the wind and, by himself, set off on an epic journey across eight countries in Africa—from Cape Town, South Africa to Mityana, Uganda—by bus, train, and boat. Along the way, he narrowly escaped being locked away in a mental institution, visited an impoverished township that was changing its future with the help of an art-based nonprofit, got into a life-threatening car crash, explored the mystical island of Zanzibar, lived with a group of Catholic priests, witnessed a witchcraft healing ceremony, discovered a pygmy opium den, and chased down riveting stories with a local journalist. He crossed cultural boundaries, found love and companionship in unusual places, and stared death—with all its visceral stench and gore—directly in the eyeballs. Saturnalia is an engrossing cultural anthropological treatise like none other. By embarking on a journey of self-discovery and survival, Chapman explores what Africa really has to offer, and in the process, discovers surprising and unexpected relationships between people and places.

Originally published by Rare Bird Books in January 2015.


[sat-er-ney-lee-uh, -neyl-yuh]

noun; plural Saturnalia, Saturnalias.

1. (sometimes used with a plural verb) the ancient Roman festival of Saturn in which laws did not apply and roles were reversed, celebrated in December as a time of unrestrained merrymaking; the predecessor of Christmas.

2. (lowercase) unrestrained revelry; orgy.

"There are joyful and utopian aspects of careless well-being side by side with disquieting elements of threat and danger."
—H.S. Versnel

From the Encyclopedia Romana:
"During the holiday, restrictions were relaxed and the social order inverted. Gambling was allowed in public. Slaves were permitted to use dice and did not have to work. . . Within the family, a Lord of Misrule was chosen. Slaves were treated as equals, allowed to wear their masters’ clothing, and be waited on at meal time in remembrance of an earlier golden age thought to have been ushered in by the god. In the Saturnalia, Lucian relates that 'During My week the serious is barred; no business allowed. Drinking, noise and games and dice, appointing of kings and feasting of slaves, singing naked, clapping of frenzied hands, an occasional ducking of corked faces in icy water—such are the functions over which I preside."

Please consider donating to our good friend Father Kizito Ssendi, a priest doing amazing work that is empowering rural villages in abject poverty in central Uganda:

Also check out Art Aids Art, the non-profit organization that is empowering woman in a poor township in Cape Town, South Africa:

These five volumes of Shahrazad Press' short story anthology feature stories by Justin Chapman: