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The Imperialist Design of Khartoum

By: Muhsin Khalid

Part Six

"Too late!  Too late to save him,
In vain, in vain they tried.
His life was England’s glory,
His death was England’s pride" Rudyard Kipling
"A world with no room for the Gordons, is a world that will return
to the sands." The narrator in the movie

Earlier in this series, mention was made of the Mahdi fighters' plundering of an abandoned cannon in the aftermath of their battle at Kashgel with the thirst-stricken army of Hicks Pasha. Near the closing scenes of the movie, the only time we learn that they could use it properly is when they aim and hit a building, not the desperate soldiers of the besieged Gordon Pasha!
The hidden meaning here is that no matter what these fighters earn, they don’t deserve it because they are bound to misuse or abuse it. This structuring of the hidden meaning of worthlessness builds up to the moment when Gordon declines from holding his sword presented to him by his servant and takes a cane instead. 
A cane to shepherd those disastrous vandals!

Then, comes the voice of the “narrator” to formulate these visual events into articulate spoken words that tell in lamenting bitterness that the army of rescue and supplies arrived only two days later than Gordon's death. The narrator repeats “Only two days” in his unique, heavenly voice. The narrator goes on to add : “Over fifteen years the Sudanese paid the price with pestilence and famine.”
What it means to us, the narrator would say, as spectators, after we have feasted our eyes on such focused and intense shots amid and above the foray, after this visual feast on the guns 
of the Mahdi aimed at demolition and not construction, aimed against himself and not against us, civilized Westerners who built while you were rushing from the bondage of your caves, from the jungles- as Churchill's book describes- to attack and destroy the city (civility) and make its rivers of abundance taste of blood for hundreds of miles. 
Take "pestilence, plague" and "famine" in memory of Gordon, the Christ you have crucified on the tips of your barbaric spears. The reformer you have killed who had a stick in his hand with which he pointed to you the benefits of civilization and modernity. He who, voluntarily and with much blessing, refused to take the sword that would point to you the graves you deserved.
The anticipated severed head of Gordon, as mentioned earlier, seems unreachable as the camera travels along the height of a stick carried by one of the Ansars (Mahdi followers) instead, the camera settles on the bronze head of Gordon's huge statue. All the dynamic of the movie, all the music which is now another melancholic tone, is rested on the giant statue of general Gordon, did you see the game!?
The composition of this scene is such that, while viewer anticipation mounts with the upward movement of the camera, the director invests this anticipation in a totally new and lofty scene that shows the height of Gordon's statue (below). The challenge expressed here is " no matter how long your spears are they will not crop my head because I am taller than what you think!"

The height of civilization symbolized by Gordon's physical stature versus that of the Mahdi or by his unreachable statue towering over the Mahdists in the final scene recalls what I have written in my book "The Co-ordinates of Man" that 'stature is not the upward extension of the body.' On a closer watch of the scene it is as if Gordon was saying: I, the tall Gordon, in addition to having a civilized background and coming from a home nobler than yours and your pyramids, am riding a camel just like you. And what does this mean?
It means I have accepted the terms of your game and have excelled in it. I do it better than you!
The number of pyramids in ancient Nubia (aka Kush & today's Sudan) are a total of 223, (Kerma, Napata, Nuri, Naga, and Meroe). Double the number of  pyramids in its neighboring Egypt.

So the statue of Gordon on the back of a camel is higher than the pyramids! Higher than the Sudanese peoples, Kushites and Arabs, who gathered underneath it, appearing like ants. Even large boats sailing with high masts along the Nile, seem to look for a safe anchor under his tyranny.The authors of this film (Below Left: Ardery the script writer)* must have been afflicted by this admiration for giant statues which they have criticized at the beginning of their film, when they described statues as a mixture of "sick pride" with "false visions"!
The narrator concludes sadly that:
" Within month after Gordon died, The Mahadi died, Why? we shall never know. Gordon rest in his beloved Sudan, we cannot tell how long his memory will live, But there is this, a world with no room for the Gordons, is a world that will return to the sands".
* The American writer Robert Ardery (1908-1980 was nominated for an Oscar for his script "Khartoum". His known books: African Genesis, The Territorial Imperative, Desmond Morris' The Naked Ape.
But What about Ordinary People in this Movie?




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