Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Magic Uganda (mail interview with Julius Ocwinyo)

After being delighted with 'The footprints of the outsider', a masterpiece of the Ugandan Julius Ocwinyo, I felt I had to go to his homeland and probably the real character of the book, the Ugandan version of the Macondo/Aracataca of Gabriel García Márquez.

When I arrived at the only big road of Teboke with my backpack and his book in my hand, I was quickly surrounded by tens of surprised villagers. Not one of them had read the book (sic), but they were all amazed  to see the photograph of their old friend on it, with a muzungu coming just to see their village and even more surprisingly: a map inside the book showing their village!

Immediately someone took a bicycle and rushed out to look for Julius' cousin, Joseph, a teacher in another village. We walked by some of the soil pathways and he showed me the family house, the women and children of his family cooking and playing on the ground, and the bamboo tree that appeared in one of his books. As we walked he confirmed to me that stories of violence due to political reasons had been common in the area: with Obote, with Amin, with Obote again... by soldiers, by rebels...

Julius was not in the country, but he kindly answered my questions by email. I was particularly interested in the magic, let's say it in the academic way, the 'magic realism' in his book. Was he inspired by Gabo? 

'As I was writing the novel -he answered me- I came across Ben Okri's 'Famished Road' and realised that there were points of intersection between my approach and his. Ben Okri is a Nigerian-Briton who's very adept at using magic realism and the impression I got from reading his 'Famished Road' was that the approach was not something he adopted from outside his ethnic community but something inherent in the storytelling tradition of his own people and that derives, in turn, from their traditional belief system, their world view. Much of the same goes for me. Even though we don't have a term for it, magic realism is an integral part of our lore, a prop not just for story-telling but also for our beliefs. In Lango (my people's) traditions, the world of the living and that of the dead, who live alongside other - non-human - creatures are intertwined. The lived realities of the not-yet-dead, as opposed to the living-dead, are impacted by the moods and activities of the latter. That is why, in traditional Lango society, it was mandatory to drop a morsel of food or pour a libation of drink on the ground before one started eating or drinking. What was thus dropped or poured was intended to be consumed by the living-dead to keep them in a happy mood so that they did not harm the living. So, you can see that the boundary between the world of the living and the netherworld (the abode of the  living-dead was - and still is by some people - believed to be literally underground) was rather tenuous. Of course when I eventually read García Márquez (in translation) I was delighted to discover that I was in very good company!

So it seems that some african writers have arrived to similar literary works as the Latin-American colleagues from their own traditions. I told him that I also like the way TIME is treated in the novel, going back and forward and mixing the story of the character Abudu with the history of the village; with all its summaries and repetitions contributing to the feeling of circular time, repeted cycle, specially with the continuous change of political power from one person to another but always with the peasants suffering the same attacks and poverty. He enlightened these aspects with his comments:

'The notion of time as a linear phenomenon came with western education. Before that, time was related to the seasons and human activity. It was conceived of in terms of periods for grass-burning, clearing the land, planting, weeding, harvesting, hunting, fishing and so on. Also certain events were important markers of time, such as a bumper harvest (prosperity) or the outbreak of a disease (calamity). And as life was communitarian, everybody within a particular community was affected by  this ebb and flow of time. Each individual was simply an element within the greater scheme of community life that was determined by the seasons, which varied little. On the political level, there has, since we attained independence, been a widespread feeling that we've got a raw deal from our political leaders, most of whom are simply self-seeking crooks.'

And when I insisted in the use of rhythm and repetition also forcing the language he concluded 

'Lango - my mother tongue - is tonal and has an in-built rhythm as a result. Also, most of the words are short, hence the strong cadence. As for repetition, it is a technique that is considered very important in story-telling since it allows not just the salient points but also the moral of a story to sink in properly.'

Julius was happy to hear the greetings from everybody in the village, specially his cousin who remembered how he helped him and others to success in their studies. So I also say goodbye from the beautiful huts of Teboke, with their best hopes for the future. How can it be otherwise in a place where is so difficult to distinguish between the reality that we can see and the magic floating over the land and the swamps where, as I pass by with a motorbike, some people and maybe some hippos -that can cut a man in two pieces- are happily swimming together...

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Jamadas de coleccionista ;-)

Ir con un grupo de españoles a pegarse una buena jamada puede no ser nada nuevo (aunque siempre esté bien) pero hacer eso mismo sentado en un cojín de Nigeria, apartando un busto de Benín y bebiendo en un vaso con adornos masais ya tiene más glamour.

Os invito a la casa de el creador de African Heritage... Alan Donovan!

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

El misterio de las ruinas de Gede...

Bueno, no os quejaréis de las tonterías que voy haciendo últimamente, eh?

La novedad es que este vídeo os lo estoy mandando EN DIRECTO! Es decir que todavía estoy en las ruinas de esta gran ciudad (se que es grande porque me he perdido literalmente andando a mi bola y el gps me informaba amablemente de que "temporalmente" no podía encontrar mi posición.

Así que ahora que siguiendo a unos monos he vuelto a encontrar el palacio, en homenaje al sabio Daniel Iriarte, voy a hacer lo mismo que él en Angkor Wat... echarme una siestecita!!

Deseadme dulces y misteriosos sueños ;-))

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Como a Felipe II no, pero...

Sí. Como habéis podido comprobar por el vídeo he sido capaz de salir de Nairobi. Abandonar la casa de Lillian, la paella de Jimena, las salchichas del marido alemán de Lucía y los cafés con Triana. Pero Mombasa merecía el esfuerzo ;-)

Sólo una anécdota. En la foto veis unas maderas alargadas esculpidas con rostros humanos que pertenecen a uno de los muchos pueblos de la costa. Se ponían en el centro del terreno familiar cuando moría un miembro prominente de sus misteriosas sociedades secretas.

Pues bien, en este caso no aclaran por qué aparece representada también una mujer y un niño pero sí que recuerdan las terribles maldiciones que acarrea el mover esas placas de la tierra de los ancestros. Ni siquiera cuando la familia emigre. Maldiciones de poderosas sociedades secretas...

Por qué insisto en eso? Porque dado que el fuerte de Jesús no es el hogar de los ancestros del tío de las plaquitas, sino un lugar lleno de turistas, el poderoso hechicero debe estar que trina. Los que las movieron, ¿no pensaron en las maldiciones? O tal vez sí...?? Yo por si acaso me he comprado una pulsera de rabo de elefante que desde Mozambique me venían diciendo que son muy poderosas. "Sobre todo en la cama" -me aclara entre susurros, risas y un codazo en las costillas el vendedor gordinflón con clara ascendencia árabe.

Así que ya estoy tranquilo. Ya, si Dios quiere, ya me las pueden poner como a Felipe II ;-)

Un abrazo!

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Las fuentes del Nilo

Bueno, llevo la tira para cargar el video de marras y no consigo poner el teclado en castellano, pero creo que merecía la pena.

El mítico lugar por cuya búsqueda Livingston se perdió en el corazón de África hasta que Stanley lo encontró probablemente en Kigoma (Tanzania) y le dijo aquello de -Dr Livingstone, I pressume...Pero finalmente fue Speke quien tuvo el honor de ser el primer blanco en ver la maravilla. Y las aguas que el vio surgir por primera vez de esa zona entre islas y que se mezclaban con las aguas del Lago Victoria todavía tardarían tres meses más en llegar a la tierra milenaria de los faraones para descansar por fin en el Mediterráneo.

Aunque bien pensado yo he tardado el doble, 6 meses, en llegar hasta aquí :-) Por una cosa o por otra, se merecían un vídeo. Y aquí lo tenéis!!