"Seven Years With Wallace"
is the story of British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace and his Malay servant Ali. They arrive in Singapore in 1862 after spending seven years travelling through the Dutch East Indies collecting biological specimens. While Wallace looks forward to boarding the next ship home and leaving the Far East behind, Ali worries what promise, if any, England might hold for a barefoot native, and the effect the years have had on his connection to his own people.
“Seven Years With Wallace” came after learning, in the introduction to his book The Malay Archipelago, that 19th-century biologist Alfred Russel Wallace was accompanied by a native boy named Ali for seven of his eight years in the Dutch East Indies. In the entire 600-page text, though, Ali is mentioned only a handful of times.