Friday, August 30, 2013

Africa VII - South Africa

The beauty and the contrasts. Table Mountain and Robben Island. The Market and the promenade along the sea...  Cape Town and its townships. And of course I was there for work. All the participants of the ACP meeting were invited to a guided tour of Robben Island, by the former minister of the Interior under the first Mandela government. He had also during a long time been in the adjacent cell of Mandela. He spoke about how the boycott of African goods and fruit helped them. they felt sustained by our solidarity. The General Assembly was openened as Usual by the National Anthem and this is what happened.

Sikeleli Africa

 At the first notes
just two white people jumped up
one with his left fist in the air
she with her hand on
her heart
All peoples standing
the light skinned
a few notes later –
The huge hall filled with

I like to think
the white people were
not recognizing the music in their
or just older and stiffer and

I like to think
Nkosi Sikeleli Africa
is the hope that touches us
all -     

We received a lunch packet after the guided tour of Robben Island of course it included a South African  apple. Eating it on Robben Island stirred up memories of solidarity and touched my soul.      

Friday, August 23, 2013

Unraveling the spreading cloth of time

Indigenous Thoughts Concerning The Universe

Basically the premise of this book is that the Native American nations knew all along about quantum mechanics and interconnectedness. The Universe is a living entity with which/whom we can interact through ceremony. It is not there externally as an object to be studied, but we are part of its dynamic web. Life is flux and change... and  the subject makes for exiting writing.

The books starts with a quote by Vine Deloria Jr. which I offer here: All the tribes say the universe is just the product of mind... It fits perfectly with the quantum. Indians believe the universe is mind, but they explore the spiritual end of  it, not the physical end.

We are destroying our world by the “uncontrolled fires of excess” writes Lela Northcross Wakely. We need to cleanse and burn away the old underbrush and the ground of our heart will be purified and open for healthier thoughts. Giving thanks is a good practice. It keeps us grounded and open. Do it every day... Kim Shuck writes about the Milky Way containing ethyl formate, the taste of raspberries and black holes which sing in B flat...  This makes me realize how wondrous and strange our world is, where we expect things to be solid, but know that basically they are not...

There are creation stories, personal accounts of life and great poetry. There is connectedness to the land and travel and that all is as it should be. And sometimes we stumble upon a special place. They can be sacred, historic, they can be a migration route of the Hopi with a hurry star on the face of a rock. The book is wise in old words en new words in reinventing the language in poetry and songs.

I must thank MariJo Moore for her own writings and for realizing this important anthology.
You can order the book from MariJo Moore
001-828 545 1365

I sit on the couch and read
because the couch agrees
to let me sit
to keep its structure
solid together for my sitting
while I fall apart

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Genocide of the mind

New native American Writing
This book is a must read for people who want to hear authentic voices reflecting about the contemporary position of Native Americans in the USA. It is still a sad state of affairs, yet it is also a book that will give strength by the examples these authors give in their conduct and their writing. The book is edited by MariJo Moore and has a foreword by Vine Deloria, Jr. Thirty four authors, some I knew and admired already and many authors new to me, writing with a depth and honesty and humor and also with anger. The words are being revolutionized. David Seals message was serious, yet I smiled because of the mastery of the language. Leonard Peltier is mentioned a few times in the book. It was a joy to discover poems by Maurice Kenny, poems I didn’t know. Vine Deloria, Jr reminds us that the villages always are the center of ceremony and that the people living in town live among the representation of the values of the dominant culture. The book offers us a collective memory of these authors. I was moved by the description of the feeling of leading a discontinuous life, the sense of not belonging. I also admire the essay by Paula Gunn Allen. She seems to suggest that openness and honesty will help to explore the similarities and differences in perceiving the world. Lesly Marmon Silko, another favorite author of mine, reminds us that identity is always in flux. Wonderful to see it stated this way. The book consists of five chapters: One: Keeping the home fires burning in urban circles. Two: Young American Indians: The need to reclaim identity. Three: Native Languages: Where will they go from here? Four: Indians as mascots: An issue to be resolved. Five: Who we are, Who we are not: Memories, misconceptions, and modifications.
I do apologize for not mentioning each and every one of the authors. They are discoveries and I’ll watch out for more of their work.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Africa VI Namibia-Windhoek

Namibia was difficult for me. In Windhoek I got robbed of all my money and everything they could use. That is except my Native American medicine bag filled with herbs and small pebbles and a dollar. Even that one dollar bill they didn't take. The person who took my stuff did recognize it for what it was: strong medicine not to be tampered with, yet not strong enough to leave the rest of my stuff alone. But that certainly wasn't the main reason to feel strange in that country. It were the high walls around the houses with barbed wire on top. It was the potato salad, the arrogance of the English policemen: talking to an old man who spoke South African and I spoke Flemish (Dutch) with him, a policeman wanted to chase him away, assuming the man was bothering me. We just talked about life and how bad it sometimes is, how beautiful it sometimes is. The encounter with the old man grounded me, made me feel good in that strange country. I hope our conversation did the same for him. The mayor of Windhoek invited the whole group to a cultural event: He was blond, blue eyed, wore a thick golden chain and in a Las Vegas style 'jungle bar' we were treated to soft pop of the sixties... Diamonds rough and cut were everywhere. No I didn't buy any, nor smuggle anything. I did buy a dress two toned green and I still wear it once in a while on a hot summer's day. Also a balsa wood tiger I dragged along, bought from the local artisans. I learned that real human contact is what counts, even if the fences are high. I am also pleased to learn that the old colonial names are changed over to the tribal names for cities and regions, mainly in the Zambezi region. So maybe it is time to really visit Namibia now. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Africa VI: Nigeria and the Durbar in Kano

We worked in Abuja, the neighborhood, the landscape around Abuja wasn't really interesting except for a river with small rapids. More interesting was the book-fair that happened to be held in the hotel we all stayed. Conversations with some authors were invigorating. I bought "The famished road" by Ben Okri, still a favorite of mine. I lost all the notes, even the camera I took my pictures  with got stolen on the way back. We stumbled upon a large local market on a Yoruba holiday. The way the young men were decked out was wonderful, we spoke, complimented each other on our appearance...
Yet, being in the first team of interpreters, we were taken along to Kano. Not more than ten days before there had been killing among the Christians and the Muslims. Nigeria is a country split in two by their geography: The North, were Kano is, is predominantly Muslim, the South and the coast is mainly Christian. After a meal the whole group was invited by the local Emir. Impressive scenes: upon entering through the gates three warriors dressed in rich colors, shining, glimmering in the noon heat. Unmovable they sat upon their most beautiful horses. Weapon in hand. Just before my assignment I had been in a car accident and my neck was still supported. When leaving the palace of the emir I got jostled a bit by the amount of people around. I man in a well tailored suit, delicately put his arm around my shoulder and guided me unharmed through the masses. We were treated to a Durbar which is  an annual festival celebrated in several cities of Nigeria. It is celebrated at the culmination of Muslim festivals Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. It begins with prayers, followed by a parade of the Emir and his entourage on horses, accompanied by music players, and ending at the Emir's palace. I chose a seat on the third row at the right hand edge, not realizing that the  balcony of the emir was right at the end where I sat. A parade with wooden swords and spears, demonstrations of prowess on horse, foot soldiers and people doing something I could understand. It didn't look like dancing, they were chased away. Only with the third group I realized the people crawled through the sand for their master... All kinds of vendors, jugglers walked by. I could have lost myself in tat town with the dyeing pits with the most extra ordinary colors. My colleagues kind of tugged me along, grabbing me by the arm and  thus breaking the spell... This has been years ago and I can still see the images, still feel the wonder, still smell the testosterone of the warriors. The beauty, the also horrible beauty of it all still lives in me.