Friday, 23 May 2014

Interview with Mia Couto

[Translated from the original spanish version by Sara Estima. Thank you Sara!!]

- What can I do for you

The question comes as the sound of waves of a calm sea. This man of serene blue eyes and bright smile asks me this question. But it turns out that this simple man in jeans and short-sleeved shirt is one of the best living Portuguese language writers. So this straightforward question and equal treatment put a smile in my face that will not leave me during our entire conversation.

We start talking about magical realism, although “those who invented that word were not writers”, and he tells me that the major difference between African and Latin American writers is due to the greater influence of the Catholic Church in Latin America, because “here the deceased never leave”. Although people go to different churches, the vast majority still believes in their ancestors and keeps some of the traditional culture.

The problem lies in the rigid European rationalist system (I don't recall his exact words), although “back there people also believe in horoscopes, even over the internet”. I soon kind of forget that this was supposed to be an interview and we keep going back and forward on our theme, as if we were in the sand paths of Maputo’s surroundings.

I tell him next that I was impressed to know that a book so mature, so full of subtle, relaxing, deep images, so full of Mozambique, of all its stories was written before the end of the terrible civil war that devastated his country. Ignoring the compliments as if they hadn’t been told, he acknowledges that “I was also surprised. I did not want to write a book about the war and, if ever so, only much later. But it happened like that. I suffered a lot writing this book, because at night stories came to my mind, I was visited by friends who had been killed in the war. And I had to find a PLACE OF PEACE inside me. That is why I had to write this book.

I'm so delighted with his reflections that it is almost too hard to go on, but the characters slowly come to help me, like Virginia, the woman of Portuguese origin who reinvented her unknown Portuguese family “as my parents did; they used to tell stories of a Portugal to which they could not return to during the dictatorship. Their stories gave me an imaginary family and that seemed very important to me.” He will not give me any clue about which, amongst the stories, correspond to traditional beliefs and which ones are invented, though he maliciously smiles avoiding my question, telling me that “in the town where I lived the colonization was very difficult and the town was not easily controlled; so if I crossed the street I could play with black and Indian children. I learned their language and they told me their stories. Upon returning home I translated those stories to my family. That is when I began to realize that something was lost in translation.

And that is when you started twisting the language, I tell him, trying to pull some information. Again, he smiles maliciously. He is famous for not giving much information in interviews, although he admits that he loved One Hundred Years of Solitude, “it is a fabulous book”, he says. And he accepts the influence of Luandinho Vieira, “but only in the way of treating language”, he explains. And I don't get any more influences from him.

But we go back to our matter of interest, the poetry that is everywhere in his book. I tell him that I do not agree with Francisco Noa (with whom I spoke and who is a lovely person) in that “the water has, in his work, an anthropophagic dimension”; on the contrary it seems to be an optimistic, fertile element, the symbol of the power of imagination or of the unconscious mind... His smile indicates that he will give it little importance, but he acknowledges that “water and more exactly rain is an element of change and also regeneration in traditional cultures”. I do not quite recall the words that followed, because he seems to talk more with his sea coloured smiling eyes. But, when his smile spreads to his lips I understand that I must say something.

I ask him the first question that comes to my mind. “You are a biologist, aren’t you? Because I am a doctor.” I am instantly ashamed of the familiarity and of the plainness of my question, but since my face is already red from the Sun, he does not notice it and answers “I see no contradiction; biology is to me a passion rather than a profession. I like it because it tells a story, the one of human beings, which, to me, couples well with poetry and literature.” As I keep silent, he goes on, “I wanted to be a doctor as well, a psychiatrist, but as I sided with Frelimo in the fight for Mozambique’s independence I had to quit medical school and then, when I went back to school, I realised, looking at my wife who is also a doctor, that I would not have time without remorse to literature, so I studied biology instead.” But before that you were a journalist, I say, actively returning to our conversation.

Unfortunately the Party made me head of a newspaper. I really enjoyed journalism but, being a government newspaper, I started realizing the difference between theory and practice. So I started growing apart from the newspaper and later the party.” I insist on that point. “The thing is that, in the so-called ‘civil war’, there was a very strong religious component, because Frelimo tried to banish traditional beliefs labelling them as ‘superstition’. That is the only thing that may explain the enormous emotional component, the level of harshness of the war.” In the book’s final speech - I ask him - when you talk about the danger of being ruled by others, are you referring to South Africa’s control over Renamo? “No, I meant a more general idea” he answers, intentionally brief. And now, the beast being dead - as stated in that speech - is the danger of civil war in Mozambique gone? “Yes, I think so”, he answers with moderate conviction, “but the beast does not die, you know, it gets smaller, tamed. That is something unpleasant about humans and wars make it visible. The friendly people you have found on your trip are the same that reached the level of savagery seen during the war.

Although he keeps giving me his attention, as people keep calling him I understand that I must end. So I give it all: And now, do you still believe in the power of literature, of imagination to make the world a better place? We had previously discussed that when he was younger he was more naïf, he believed that things could quickly change in a single generation, and that he now believed that social changes had a different timing, but he still found hard to believe that peace agreements had been signed in the time between the delivery of his finished book, his cry for hope, and the publishing of the book. So much hope and so much death. As I watched his clear and smiling eyes I was eager to hear his response.

- Yes – he answers, bluntly. And his next words dissolve as in Sleepwalking Land, turning into air, poetry and again into something physical, a book, a gift to me.

-Happy birthday – he told me. And so it was ;-)

Thursday, 22 May 2014

La sirène qui avait peur de la mer

[Traduit de l´original espagnol par Itxaso Domínguez. Merci!!!]

Son nom veut dire "reine", mais je ne l’ai sut que plus tard. Ici j´ai décide de l'appeler "Mami Wata". Quand je l'ai rencontré, j’ai vu juste une jeune femme d'une grande beauté et d’une énorme bonté qui m’aidait tout simplement à trouver un restaurant.

Quelques jours plus tard, elle était assise entre mes jambes, le dos appuyé sur ma poitrine en regardant les vagues et la ville qui les bateaux allumé dessinent dans la distance. Nous étions assis sur la plage, dans cette frontière ensorcelée entre la lumière venant de la rue et l'obscurité de la mer. Je ne pouvais pas m'empêcher de me moquer de la confession selon laquelle elle avait peur de la mer.

Et tout à coup elle pousse un cri. Et un poids énorme m'écrase, m’immobilise les bras et me tenaille le cou. Un autre cri envole la jeune fille dans l'obscurité. Je ne peux plus respirer, mais je peux charger comme un taureau blessé et le traîner par terre à coups de pied. Je parviens ainsi à créer un sillon dans le sable, jusqu’à l'endroit où se trouve l'autre, sur Mami Wata, qui se résisté farouchement.

J'ai senti la peur de mon agresseur quand je suis arrivé à me desserrer un peu pour jeter mon portefeuille vers celui qui tenait Mami Wata, comme quand on lace un morceau de viande à une bête sauvage. En tant que tel, il soulève son museau le barrage et après hésiter pour un instant, il lâche la fille et attrape mon portefeuille.

Mon agresseur, qui s’est rendu compte que je ne veux pas me battre, ose parler en premier. Je vais te tuer, il grogne. Je me retourne et le regarde droit dans les yeux. Il n'ajoute pas quoi que ce soit.

Après me fouiller, ils ont galopé. Et les gens ont commencé à arriver. Après avoir résisté avec courage, toute la peur et la colère sont sortis et Mami Wata tremblait de la tête aux pieds, tels les feuilles d’un Baobab Sacré après les rituels. Elle ne pouvait pas marcher, comme les sirènes après avoir fait l'effort de se déplacer de la mer à la terre où tout pèse. Et elle pleurait. Elle pleurait pendant qu’une femme qui avait été attaquée la veille nous a aidés à arriver rapidement à l'hôtel "car sinon, la police arrive et ça sera pour le pire. Ils veulent aussi du fric." Elle pleurait pendant qu’elle montait les escaliers, et elle pleurait toujours, même si de façon plus calme, quand on l’a mit au lit.

Calme-toi, c'est fini, dis-je pendant qu’elle pleure pour nous deux, pour nous nettoyer de la haine et la bestialité humaine. Ce qui importe, c'est qu’ils ne t’on pas pas touchée, que nous sommes en vie et que c’est juste le cou qui nous fait un peu mal.

Une douche fraîche lui redonne le contrôle de sa belle peau, lumineuse comme si elle avait toujours des écailles, mais douce comme si elle venait de naître dans mes bras. Et ses mots arrivent enfin.

Si j'ouvre mes yeux, je le vois à nouveau qui s’élance contre moi – elle me chuchote. C'est normal, c'est le choc, je lui dis, mais cela aussi va passer. Regarde dans mes yeux...

Je pense qu'ils ont mal choisi, je pense alors que je la prends dans mes bras. Ils ont prit mon argent (ce qui serait le pire en Europe), mais je suis reste avec ce qu’il y a de meilleur en Afrique. Ils ont prit ses morsures de serpent et ses cris, mais elle m’offre ses caresses et ses baisers, cette belle sirène. Ceux qu’ils n'ont même pas su reconnaitre.

Je me souviens de la façon dont elle m’expliquait qu’elle faisait ses études de sociologie pour  contribuer au développement de son pays, en particulier pour récupérer les enfants des rues qui sont instruits dans la loi du plus fort. Elle m'a montré les blessures de sa ville, les lieux de prostitution et criminalité. Et elle travaillait pour ne pas avoir à dépendre d'un homme ou à accepter la polygamie qui avait tant vexé sa mère.

Je me souviens des histoires de son grand-père sur les blancs qui sont venus enlever les sirènes grâce à des pièges de miroirs, ou le rêve de son professeur de philosophie d'être aimé au moins une fois dans la vie par une sirène, d’accord avec ce que certains villageois avaient raconté avec fascination...

- Je ne vais pas laisser que tu partes jusqu'à que je ne te vois pas sourire, je lui dit en mettant de façon théâtrale mes lunettes scotchées. Et la magie est faite.

Mami Wata soulève son corps de statue de bronze et s’habille soigneusement. 

L’Afrique gagne. Une des meilleures femmes continuera de lutter chaque jour pour guérir les blessures de sa ville, qui sont maintenant les siennes. L’Afrique gagne parce que Mami Wata la déesse des eaux, la reine des sirènes a fait face à ses pires craintes, s’est levée à nouveau, et continuera de se tenir les pieds sur terre pour changer son monde.

Et c’est moi qui gagne. Car personne ne peut jamais te voler l’amour d’une sirène...

Monday, 19 May 2014

The untameable Ken Bugul, the lioness of African literature

[Translated from the original spanish version by Diego Urdiales. Thank you Diego!!]

Barefoot, wearing a simple colour-dotted white kaftan, Ken Bugul appears parsimoniously amongst the workers, as though feigning an old age that she is yet to reach.

We go up to her home, sober and comfortable, with a splendid Benin throne surrounded by bookshelves as the sole note of flamboyance, and we start by directly talking about her book “The Abandoned Baobab”, about the magic of the sacred baobab which protects and punishes the people that worship it, which laughs, cries and dreams with them, and about her own baobab (a real and specific one) with which she wanted to identify herself, with its robustness, with its strong roots.

I killed it. It died so that I could live… 

Knowing the story of her novel beforehand ―her story, ― was of no use. A girl separated from her mother at a young age and without explanations. A young woman who, after managing to travel to the West, is unable to find her missing roots there. A woman who, after returning to her country, finds her baobab again, still standing, still apparently alive, but…

I had an appointment with the baobab, I didn’t go but I couldn’t warn it, I didn’t dare. That meeting I didn’t attend caused it great sadness. It went crazy and died shortly after.” (p. 181)

Did that really happen? Can a baobab die of sadness?

Not a baobab, the baobab. In Senegal, you can see many baobabs, trees like any other. But in each village there is a sacred baobab, a tree completely linked to the life of that village, which it knows and protects. And when suddenly, with no prior sign of illness, it dies and falls to the ground, the people know that it has died to save them from some danger.

In my case, I know it died so that I, after my traumatic experience, could start a new life.

I point to her that the book seems to have been written in the midst of an emotional breakdown, with an often dismembered structure which reflects very well the feelings of the main character.

While I was in Belgium I wrote very little, just a few notes of homesickness about my birthplace, which also carried the baobab in their title. But I only wrote the book ten years later, after the terrible experience I went through in France, ―abused by the man she loved, which she later related in “Ashes and Embers”― which left me in tatters.

Some friends had kept my notes. I asked them to send them to me, but I realized that was no longer the story I wanted to tell, so I wrote the book without looking at them.

And how did you manage to “take root” again? ―I ask her petrified in my armchair, fascinated by the strength of this brave woman. Did you try to recover the relationship with your mother?

You must consider the importance of modesty in Africa. You can’t directly go to your mother or your father and tell her that you feel abandoned or something like that. There is the figure of your maternal uncle to talk to your mother (or paternal aunt to talk to your father), but in my case he was already dead, so I couldn’t resort to him.

My relationship with my mother was not distant, but it wasn’t intimate either. And that I couldn’t get back. When I came back from Belgium, I lived with some friends, not with relatives, I was already an independent woman. But luckily there are other roots, a union with the people and the birthplace…

To go out of those painful memories, but still talking about the first book, I praise her braveness to bring up the subject of bisexuality/homosexuality when she discovers that her partner in Belgium has “homosexual tendencies” and compares him to a “family slave”…

But homosexuality was fully accepted in Senegal before! ―she laughs. Gor-Djigen, as we called him, man-woman, was respected in spite of his manners ―and, full of naturalness, she starts imitating the gestures and way of speaking of her “slave”. Humour is probably the least well known register of this multifaceted woman, but it fills the rest of our conversation with hilarious moments.

In Africa we still affectionately call “slaves” the descendants of the true slaves that belonged to the family. Also our paternal cousins, who are theoretically our slaves. But they like it, it’s a way of feeling “attached” to the family. Belonging, having your place in society, is very important. 

For instance, when you leave, my daughter could come and tell me ―again, her acting in full flair― “Who was this badolo who came home this early and didn’t even bring bread or any breakfast?”― and we both start laughing, myself a little ashamed by the sudden accusation.

“Badolo” is a derogatory term even if it’s sometimes said affectionately, to refer to the common man, who has no caste, who is no griot or royalty or craftsman… In fact, if griots wanted to embellish their speech when singing your praises, to get some money from you, they would call you “guer”, a euphemism…  As you have no caste, you must be a scholar or someone important.

And what caste are you?― I ask.

Badolo― she states forthrightly and we both burst into laughter.

You must also take into account that, with the crisis in the eighties and the tough adjustment plans from the World Bank, Senegal ended up borrowing money from the Arab countries, which sent “undercover” envoys to the country and tried to impose their way of seeing religion, the sharia… And that is partly the cause for the “schizophrenia” that present Senegal suffers from, amidst its own traditions, the different versions of Islam and capitalism. It is surprising that we are now talking about this referring to “The Abandoned Baobab”, given that it is the subject of the book I have just finished.

But before the conversation diverts towards the pathways of today, I do not want to miss the chance to ask her about the experience she relates in “Riwan or the Sandy Track”, where, after coming from the traumatic experience in France, the “freed” and westernized woman becomes… the 28th wife of a marabout!

It was a wonderful experience. But I was not exactly a wife. A marabout, like any Muslim, can only have four wives. One must be from his own family, one from a scholar family, one from a royal family, and finally one from a different family. The rest are “taco”, which means “link” (“le lien”, in French) ―she repeats as she clinches her fists to stress the importance of that immaterial “something” that bonds them.

I knew him since I was a child. And when I came back from France in tatters, everyone rejected me (that is why now I hardly tell anyone that I’m here, it’s hard to forget how they treated me). So I went to him for spiritual help, and he supported me and gave me advice, and tenderness. One day he proposed me “taco”. But this has nothing to do with sex, he was already over ninety years old! I didn’t even live with him. I walked to see him almost every day, which is why the book’s title is “the sandy track”.

Oftentimes, the marabout shelters women who have been rejected by society in his home, and he “binds” to them to give them value, self-esteem. Think about it, not only does he tell you how much you’re worth, he even chooses to bind himself to you. That makes you recover a lot of self-confidence. 

Moreover, the marabout’s other wives taught me a great deal. Me, the supposedly “liberated” woman, ―we resume the pantomime― but who, like many women in the West, was obsessed with “having” a man, dominated by the idea of possession and by jealousy.

Mariétou, tend to your affairs”, they told me, laughing about my stories from the West, where every woman waits for a prince of charming. “Why wait?” And they were right. Sharing my life with these other women brought me the peace I needed to remake my life, read, write and tend to myself. 

The conversation now shifts to the bourgeois marriages in old-time Europe, where the spouses had separate rooms, which Ken Bugul finds essential. 

I can only love someone who is superior to me in some aspect. Who has a passion. Or several. A musician, a painter like Picasso (well, not him, he had too special a character, better Dalí). Someone who is not on top of me all the time, who lets me live my own life. What matters is that when we’re together, our conversation, our “bond”, is something special.

I want a lover, not a husband ―she concludes, forthright and smiling.

And could you accept being someone’s second wife?

Pff ―she leans back in her chair.― That is just for great personalities, a genius, a marabout… who are capable of that. But yes, if I can live my life and when we are together, the bond is special, yes. It suits me ―she adds with a slightly ironic smile. 

It is impossible to write about every subject that came up in the conversation, or how we ended up talking about meeting in the Himalayas, her great project.

I’m going to climb to the top of the Himalayas, even if takes the rest of my life ―she says, unmoved. And if she was not Ken Bugul, nobody would take it seriously…

Ken Bugul, which means “one who is unwanted” in Wolof (sometimes as a trick to free a child from the early death which supposedly awaits him), sits me in the Benin throne for a picture, hugs me and then walks me, barefoot and vigorous, greeting the workers by their names. She can no longer hide her overflowing energy, and when a neighbour approaches her to tell her about her problems and ask her for advice, it becomes apparent that her pen name does not match the respect and admiration she commends.

She will not leave until, having put me in the taxi ―the driver is an aspiring son-in-law of hers, she informs me, ― she gives me two kisses and we shake each other’s left hand to make sure we will meet again. 

I should start getting my boots ready for the Himalayas…

The man who fell in love with the voice coming from the Camerounian Mountains...

[Translated from the original spanish version by Ligia Cámara. Thank you!!!]

I don’t know what Monsieur Muriel said or heard between

- Excuse me, I’m calling from Switzerland, do you have a room available for…


- I hope this doesn’t bother you, but I would like to call again tomorrow to have the pleasure of speaking to you again.

I just know he fell in love with that voice that came from the mountains of Cameroun. In successive phonecalls the voice covered itself with history, the death of her first husband –a doctor from Ruanda- when her children were still very young, and the strength of that woman capable of feeding and educating her family all on her own.

He called her so many times that when he saw her for the first time in Yuandé it felt as if he knew her from way back, so in a brief period he packed his things, he “escaped” from Switzerland without telling his family (to avoid racist comments, I believe), and married that voice, that mermaid’s song that, as to the unsuspecting Ulysses, seized him from the start ;)

Would you like to wander around his home? Well come along; besides, I just read Abioseh Nicol’s poem,  “The meaning of Africa” ;)

In this wonderful surroundings, I couldn’t be upset when I was denied the visa to enter Ecuatorial Guinea, so I parted towards other mountains, the ones in the traditional towns of the Northeast. Given the bus’ delay, I changed my planned itinerary and started off in Baffousam. When I got to see the palace, one of many in the numerous kingdoms of Bamileké, I became breathless

But the biggest surprise was about to come for, in the next town, Bandjoun, they were celebrating the end of their great biannual festival. To top things off, the traditional dance was leaded by the very king wearing the gigantic and heavy feather hat that symbolizes the unity of his kingdom. And among the ecstacic crowd were no other than great kings of Western Africa, such as the one from Ghana covered in gold, Togo or Benin with his striking crown…

After this I could only go to the capital of the great kingdom of Bamoun, Foumbam, and enter the palace of the fascinating sultan Ibrahim Njoya, of a legendary culture, who invented an alphabet for his people adn who was very skilful negotiating with the coloners. Worthy successor of the giant king who won two battles at the same time, hence establishing the serpent of two heads as emblem of the kingdom. 

Unbelievably, the mountains still hid other surprises. And I don’t only mean the hot shower in Bamenda ;) . For now, take a look at the first of the palaces we found in the circular itinerary through the famous Ring Road, the palace of the fon of Babungo!

We continue, as one of the FOUR passengers of the front of the taxi, until we reach Kumbo, and after leaving the backpack in a hotel we head towards the palace. “Another” palace, you’ll probably think, as I did. Well, yes, but in this one the assembly of the nobility was gathered having a very sweet palm wine, which they offered me. I had to introduce myself, in front of them with the empty throne next to me –to which one has to give a sort of slap in sign of respect, even it the fon is not there. THey seem to like my three phrases mixing the preservation of the traditions with the palm wine and the soccer World Cup hehe. 

Now we’ll go to rest, right? Well no. We still have the most impressive stuff! Since I had heard some yelling, they explained to me that they were celebrating funerary rituals of a man that had died a week ago, a member of one of the two secret societies –that regulate the functioning of the tribe along with the King, who is the only one that can be in both.

So I stay at a “bar” with some of the town elderly who tell me to wait for the “Great Juju”. When we start to see children running and screaming we approach the widow’s ranch, which is where everyone is gathering. People talk of the Juju part joking part seriously as if he were a wild beast. And  indeed the first we see appear are some “hunters” or “guardians” with ropes and firing some liquid through their mouth to “call him”. And the people around me start to run…

They explain to me that if he approaches me, I should not escape –as wild dogs- but sit on the ground without looking at his eyes. But when he sees me, perhaps because of the camera, he becomes enraged and starts throwing objects at me. Such a stampede follows that I lose my balance and even my eyeglasses. And in the confusion I’m left alone, completely to the Great Juju’s mercy…

Luckily, after throwing me ground and some objects, when he starts jumping threateningly towards me the guardians call him throwing their liquid and “hiding” me with leaves and leather. And right away the Great Juju finds another prey…

Shocking. This is living African culture and the rest is just nonsense, right? ;)
Of course the next day not even the spectacular landscape, the picturesque little towns, nor the goat road from Misaje to Wum in motorbike with my backpack and another passenger could impress me too much. But the most ancient palace of Western Africa, the one from the fon of Bafut, you get a guided tour for no one else but you by his very own son!

To finish my wanderings throug Cameroun and to show you that it’s not all mountains, I went to the remote beach of bodjé, a little town of the south, to try to see the great marine turtles laying their eggs. I did not get to see that, but it was worth it just to spend the night alone in that infinite beach followed by the stars after contemplating

The Sun
About to fall in the Ocean
As the palm tree to my feet

The Earth about to rise
Showing also its last

And I looking in Ebdojé
The future buried
By the Ancestors…

After this entry I hope you can understand Monsieur Muriel a bit better and perhaps fall in love –you too- with the Voice of the mountains of Cameroun ;)

The mermaid who feared the sea

[Translated from the original spanish version by Sara Estima. Thank you Sara!!]

Her name means “Queen”, but I only knew that later. Here I will call her Mami Wata. When I first met her I could only see a young woman of great beauty and kindness who helped me to find a restaurant.

A few days later she was sitting between my legs, with her back on my chest, admiring the waves and the city created by the distant ship lights. We were sitting on the beach, in that enchanted border between the light that comes from the street and the darkness of the sea. I could not help but laugh at her confessing that she was afraid of the sea.

And, suddenly, I heard her scream. And I felt myself crushed under an enormous weight, immobilizing my arms and gripping my neck. Another one took the girl into the darkness. I could not breathe, but I loaded myself with my assailant, kicking backwards as if I were a wounded ox, carving a groove on the sand, till I reached the place where the other one was laying over Mami Wata, who resisted fiercely.

I felt my aggressor’s fear when I managed to free myself a little and launch my wallet to the one holding Mami Wata, as a piece of meat thrown to a wild beast. As such, he raised his snout and after hesitating on what prey to choose, he freed the girl and grabbed my wallet.

The one who had attacked me, realising that I did not want to fight, dared to speak for the first time. I'm going to kill you – he growled. I turned around and looked at him straight into his eyes. He did not say anything else.

People started to show up so they frisked me and ran away. After having resisted bravely, all the fear and anger came out and Mami Wata was shaking from head to toe as the sacred Baobab leaves do after the rituals. She could not walk, like the mermaids after making the effort to come out from the sea into the land where everything is heavy. And she cried. She cried while a woman who had also been attacked the day before helped us getting to the hotel “because otherwise, the police would come and make it worse. They also want money.” She cried while she climbed up the stairs and kept on crying although she relaxed a little bit when we laid her down on the bed.

Calm down, it is all over - I told her while she cried for both of us, in order to clean ourselves from all the hatred and human bestiality. The main point is that they have not touched you and we are alive and only our necks hurt a little.

The fresh shower gives her back the control of her beautiful skin, shiny as if she still had scales but soft as she had just been born from my arms. And her words start to come out.

If I open my eyes I see him pouncing on me again – she whispered -. That´s normal, it´s the shock - I sayed -, but that will also go away. Look into my eyes...

They made a bad choice – I think while I take her her in my arms. They took my money (the worst of Europe) but I'll keep the best of Africa. They took her snake bites and her screams with them, but this beautiful mermaid, whom they could not even recognize, offers me her kisses and caresses.

I remember that when we met she explained me that she was studying sociology to help developing her country, specially saving the street children that are raised in the law of the strongest. She showed me the wounds of her city, their places of prostitution and crime. And she worked to avoid depending on a man or accepting the polygamy that had caused her mother’s suffering.

I remember the stories of her grandfather about the white people that came to take the mermaids away using mirrors’ traps, or the dream of her philosophy professor of being loved by a mermaid at least once in his entire live, as told in the mesmerised villagers’ stories…

- I will not leave until I see your smile - I said, dramatically putting my newly arranged glasses on. And magic was made.

Mami Wata boosts her bronze statue-like body and dresses carefully. Africa wins. One of its best women will continue to fight day after day to heal the wounds of her city, that now are hers. Africa wins because Mami Wata, the goddess of the waters, the Queen of mermaids, has faced her worst fears, has gotten up again and will go on¸ changing her world with her feet on the ground.

And I win. Because no one can ever steal from you the love of a mermaid...


Translated by Sara Estima from the spanish original. Thank you Sara!!!

“It was a Friday morning and all the brave captains of the Asante territories had met in Dwabrem at the request of Okomfo Anokye – the high priest of the first King, Osei Tutu. As the sound of drums and castanets increased, he felt possessed, pointed out to the sky with his mace and, suddenly, an awesome lightning fell. The wind and the dark clouds of dust made the captains tremble. Then, a throne that they had never seen before moved towards them: the throne of Gold.”

This is the mythological origin of the Asante’s soul. In many African cultures the throne or stool somehow contains the soul of the person who sits on it, in this case the entire Asante people. Those who were, those who are and those who will be. So when the British turned arrogant and said “why aren’t I sat on the Throne of Gold?”, even after four wars and with the king being exiled, the Queen mother declared a fierce war that ended only when the British accepted a copy of the throne as if it was true. One does not play with the soul of a people...

But we must recognize that the power of the Asante began after the arrival of the Portuguese, to whom they sold their gold. So much gold that in their first settlement the Portuguese called it “the mine” or Elmina, which has the doubtful honour of being the oldest slavery-related castle in Africa. Do you want to know what it feels like to be the Governor of this huge castle for a day? Then just click!

As I was saying, the Portuguese gave way to the Dutch who paid tribute to the Asante and sold them the weapons with which they unified their empire. But the English were missing and they came stomping, occupying the Portuguese Cape Cost (deformation of Cabo Corso) Castle. And the story does not end with the settlers. Do you dare to see what is now on the other side of the door of no return??? 

Since you are already historically focused, the time has come for you to live the climax of all worthy documentaries on the African kingdoms. Attention: the King heir to the throne of gold, he who cannot touch the ground with bare feet, enters the palace - the King of the Asante’s gold Empire!!!

Ghana has the honour of being one of the few ancient empires that has maintained its traditions well alive. And not only the real ones. One of these days I was telling that to my friend Jon Silleras – whose warm heart ensures that Burgos defrosts even after its harshest winters;-).

I was walking between the two castles when I heard some music. I approached and found three men, elegant as Roman senators, looking to the sea... They received me with joy and we had a lively chat; I just found out that they were at the funeral of their sister when I was leaving. And when I said “I am sorry”, two of them answered at the same time and with an infinite serenity: 

“Why? That's life...”

In relation to this, there is still a magical place to be found. The Bosumtwe sacred lake, where we will offer a sacrifice to the very same rock to which the King heads in cases of need. Shoes off as you enter the sanctuary.

With this serenity and beauty, it is not surprising that life goes on in the lake, guarded by its humble guardians.

And why is it the origin of all stories? Maybe because the greater character of the Asante mythology and one of the most famous of West Africa is the Ananse spider, which actually helps us to introduce one of the most recurrent themes of African oral literature: the cheater or the rogue. He who brings bad luck or chaos to stories. An ambiguous being with an important role in creation, although not always a positive one...

Well, this spider asked God to be granted all fables and promised to pay whatever price and, moreover, as a gift, to give away her own mother ;-)

With its tricks - that I will not unveil – she managed to capture the angry bumblebees, the powerful sneak and even the ethereal fairy. So, the King, using an enigmatic sentence and gathering all the elders, gives her all the stories because “he was the first one to be willing to pay their price.”

Was God trying to say that the greater talent of Ananse was to know the true value of imagination and stories?

I leave you there.

But I cannot say goodbye without leaving you this picture, hehe. Can you believe that no one knows for sure the reason for the generous breasts of these drums?

I'll stick to Malinowsky:
“Anthropology is the study of the man embraced to the woman” ;-)