• Actress Louise Linton has written about her gap year in Zambia in 1999 when she was 18 years old. (Louise Linton)Source: Louise Linton
Actress Louise Linton has been ridiculed online as Africans accused her of fabricating parts of her adventure-filled experience in Zambia.
Alyssa Braithwaite

6 Jul 2016 - 3:59 PM  UPDATED 6 Jul 2016 - 3:59 PM

A Scottish actress who wrote a memoir about her student gap year doing aid work in Zambia has been accused of making up parts of her story and exhibiting a "white saviour complex".

An excerpt of Louise Linton's memoir, In Congo's Shadow: One girl's perilous journey to the heart of Africa, was published in Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper on July 4.

It recounts her time in Zambia where she volunteered as an 18-year-old in 1999, and is described as "the inspiring memoir of an intrepid teenager who abandoned her privileged life in Scotland to travel to Zambia as a gap year student where she found herself inadvertently caught up in the fringe of the Congolese War".

Linton, who is now an actress living and working in Hollywood, writes about becoming a "central character" in the Congolese war of the late 1990s, when she spent a night hiding from the threat of armed rebels as "the Hutu-Tutsi conflict in neighbouring Congo began to escalate and then spill over into Zambia".

"I tried not to think what the rebels would do to the 'skinny white muzungu with long angel hair' if they found me", she writes.

BBC Africa's Victoria Uwonkunda drew attention to the excerpt, highlighting some objectionable stereotypes and questionable tales.

Now it has provoked an angry online backlash, as people accused her of fabricating and exaggerating parts of her story, using the hashtag #LintonLies.

Linton writes of an orphaned HIV positive girl called Zimba who she formed a close bond with, and says she thinks of her when she is going through tough times in her career as an actress and film producer.

"I try to remember a smiling gap-toothed child with HIV whose greatest joy was to sit on my lap and drink from a bottle of Coca-Cola," Linton writes. "Zimba taught me many beautiful words but the one I like the most is Nsansa. Happiness."

Some people have pointed out that Zimba is a name exclusive to a particular part of Zambia, and would not be used where she was.

Linton also describes the "dense jungle canopy" and experiencing "monsoon season", despite the fact that Zambia is a landlocked country with no monsoon and savanna rather than jungle.

Many Zambians said they did not recognise the Zambia she described.

On her now-deleted Twitter account, Linton responded to the accusations, apologising for offending people.

"I am genuinely dismayed and very sorry to see that I have offended people as this was the very opposite of my intent," she tweeted.

"I wrote with the hope of conveying my deep humility, respect and appreciation for the people of Zambia as an 18yr old in 1999.

"I wrote about the country's incredible beauty and my immense gratitude for the experiences I had there." 

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