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Really, we would love to have you stay but we would feel rude about that as we have left. As in gone, defunct, kaput. We aren't here anymore. Sometimes, when it's late and we are worried about dying, we do believe in reincarnation. So, maybe we will live again. We'll let you know if that happens.


Jorn Ake on Ryszard Kapuscinski

I have a reading and a show of photographs coming up in June in Warsaw, Poland, so I thought to get into a traveling Polish mood I would read some of the work of Ryszard Kapuscinski, a Polish journalist who had the tremendous good fortune and indeed, a tremendous amount of guts, to be given the opportunity to travel outside of Poland during the Communist era (basically from 1950 to the fall, and then to the present - he is still living) and write back about world events he experienced. The book of his that I am reading is called The Shadow of the Sun, a book which demonstrates all over again that Africa is not a sudden occurrence but a cycle of increasingly depressing intersecting spirals of Colonialism, tribalism, environment, poverty, corruption and famine. On the other hand, the respect with which he writes about the people he meets is sympathetic but not patronizing, nor is he unwilling to point out hypocrisy, bad people and absolutely bad ideas. He is not perfect - some passages are a bit dated - but he is good and fair. Here are a few quotes:

(from his introductory remarks) "This is therefore not a book about Africa, but rather about some people from there - about encounters with them, and time spent together. The continent is too large to describe. It is a veritable ocean, a separate planet, a varied, immensely rich cosmos. Only with the greatest simplification, for the sake of convenience, can we say 'Africa.' In reality, except as a geographical appellation, Africa does not exist."

(on the Ethiopian famine in 1975) "A human being always dies alone; the moment of death is the loneliest moment of his life. 'Mass death' means that, somewhere, a man is dying alone; but at the same time, another man, also alone, is dying as well, and, equally alone, another one still. It means that by coincidence - most frequently against his will - each of them, experiencing in solitude his own, singular death, finds himself in proximity to many others experiencing the same thing."

(upon visiting an African colleague's village home) "The yard's second focal point, besides the ancestral grave, is the kitchen. This consists of a hole in the ground surrounded on three sides by clay walls, and in it lie three blackened stones arranged in a triangle. You place the pot on top of them, and light a wood fire beneath. It is the simplest of appliances, invented during neolithic times but still useful."

(on wizards and witchcraft) "Our contemporary suspicion of and antipathy for the Other, the Stranger, goes back to the fear our tribal ancestors felt toward the Outsider, seeing him as the carrier of evil, the source of misfortune. Pain, fire, disease, drought, and hunger did not come from nowhere. Someone must have brought them, inflicted them, disseminated them. But who? Not my people, not those closest to me - they are good. Life is possible only among good people, and I am alive, after all. The guilty are therefore the Others, the Strangers. That is why, seeking retribution for our injuries and setbacks, we quarrel with them, enter into conflicts, conduct wars. In a word, if unhappiness has befallen us, its source is not within us, but elsewhere, outside, beyond us and our community, far away, in Others."

J Ake

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

this is nice, but your poetry rocked me a lot more.