How Chris O’Doherty became Reg Mombassa is not clear. In a recent profile by Nick Galvin (SMH) it’s explained as a nonsensical pseudonym but Chris must have heard of the Kenyan coastal city of that name (single s). Research throws some light on a possible explanation.
Originally the place was known as Kisiwa Cha Mvita, Swahili for Island of War. But when peace arrived it became Mambo Ni Sasa, meaning literally ”things are now”. Shortened to Mambasa from the first and last letters and later changed to Mombasa. I reckon Chris must have known this and probably liked the philosophical statement. Notice the Mambo brand has appeared too.
Now, at risk of losing the plot, Mombasa also turns up in the 1950 Bollywood classic musical called Sargam that you may have missed.
In any case, Reg’s cartoons, prints and paintings are in a class and genre of their own, and have literally become iconic images of our Wide Brown Land. His outlook on our fellow humans and life is worth sharing:
“I’ve always been fairly quiet and I’m very terrified of humans. I think they are really dangerous creatures – irrational, violent, governed by intense competiveness. Being alive is a ruthless constant battle. There’s nothing relaxing about it.
Obviously, I try and hang out with people who are not too terribly violent. It often astonishes me that people can be tricked into having wars because most people just want to live a relatively quiet life with their family and do whatever work they are interested in.”
Why did Chris add an extra s? Go figure. Mombaasaa mombasa, indeed.