The Caribbean in Amsterdam: On the Read My World Festival 2014

One of the CDs I have playing over and over in my car, is a live recording of Linton Kwesi Johnson backed by the Dennis Bovell Band, in Paris. I am sure this recording was not Linton’s first or perhaps even tenth trip to France to perform. Prior to listening to this CD, I had read Caryl Phillips’ essay, in his collection New World Order, entitled “Linton Kwesi Johnson: Prophet in Another Land”. The essay was written in 1998. Perhaps with a certain degree of naivete, I kept wondering what the French audience found in Linton’s lyrics that spoke to them so clearly and sharply that they, as activist William Tanifeani says to Phillips (who wanted to know as well),” You see, Linton is, along with Bob Marley, the most important of the reggae artists that have come to France. People listen very carefully to his lyrics. When he sings “Inglan is a Bitch” or “Sonny’s Lettah” French people know all the words.” Still, to some degree this does not explain his importance, and the comparison to Bob Marley makes it worse. Not that Bob’s lyrics are not taken seriously, but to some degree in the tourist-infested Caribbean, we have come to understand how Bob’s music has been appropriated in an almost blasphemous fashion, to lure tourists to a paradisical Caribbean of people black, faceless, inexplicably happy and vacuous as the men on the No Problem Jamaica T-shirts. Tanifeani goes to explain that “Perhaps the time is right for us here,”he suggests. “Back in the Seventies when you were having a lot of trouble with the emergence of your second generation of black people, Linton was saying things that you needed to hear. But now? Well, maybe it is us who need to hear these things.” Phillips who is sitting with Tanifeani at a restaurant is soon joined by another activist who offers him photographs of Linton speaking to French boys and girls of North African origin in an area just outside Paris.
Tanifeani’s sentiments are important here. But what about the several business interests and persons who bring Linton in? Certainly part of it is because the great man has attained, to use an odd new phrase, “rock star status”. But music has that kind of power anyhow, even though there is not immediate connection to the lyrics, even though its full effect is staggered over a prolonged period of listening. Some may never connect. Some, perhaps those whose interests and privilege Linton’s words threaten, may find solace in believing that Linton is just that—- a rock star and nothing more.

Linton Kwesi Johnson Linton Kwesi Johnson rmw

I first met Linton in person at the Bocas Lit Fest in Trinidad. Bocas has become one of the premier lit fests in the Caribbean, alongside Calabash, and in terms of its organisation and offerings can compare, I am sure, with other international literary festivals. The second time I met him, was recently in early September, at a literary festival in Amsterdam, called the Read My World festival. Linton was brought in to do the keynote speech on the opening night of the festival. It was speech was a touching speech on his own life in England, the growth of his political consciousness, and how he came to see poetry and reggae music as a suitable vehicle for creating the kind of change and awareness he wanted to generate in the society in which he lived. Listening to him, there came to me the realization that always comes to me at some point with one of those luminaries of West Indian literature: that it was no longer those fiery years in the middle of which I encountered them in books or old articles. I mean the man’s poetry is in no way effete in his delivery, but there is the obvious realization that the place and time at which you fell in love with them, is a time past, a place that existed in the way it did, only in these poems and other recordings. And the men who sing or recite about those times may not produce that precious fiery as hot as it was before. Their convictions are still there but exist in a more elusive, more internal and reticent form.

But what was Linton doing there? Why was his life so important to this festival? They could have brought him in, hinge the festival on his “rock-star status”, have him do a few numbers, sell his CDs and send him home with a cheque fat enough both as remuneration and as an investment in future endeavours in which they would require if not him, then his status, his influence and appeal. The life of the man is in the songs, the poems, in more marketable form. What were the other writers who were there, doing there? The roster of Caribbean writers present were new and emerging writers, some barely known in the region, most hardly known internationally. And all of us, doubly-removed from the linguistic setting we were in: none of us spoke or for that matter, understood much Dutch, if any.

Davlin Thomas Sara Bharrat Ruel Johnson

True I have been to relatively few literary festivals. My own book has only been out for a few months—- my debut collection of poems. So certainly I was not invited on the basis of any supposed “rock-star status”. But it struck me that every literary festival I have been to, has always had a sort of quorum of rock-star writers. Part of this is what makes a lit fest, and understandably, what draws an audience. I remember the feeling of seeing writers I had read like George Lamming, Earl Lovelace, or even younger writers that excited me like Tanya Shirley or writers I hadn’t read much from like Marlon James walking into the Old Fire Station building in Port-of-Spain where many of the Bocas activities were held. Such an experience is always compelling and perhaps foists upon you your own negligence of not having read their works or not having read it properly. And maybe there were Dutch rockstars there as part of the festival, but the festival was focused on us, on the Caribbean. The previous year had been focused on the Middle East. It was, oddly enough, our festival, at the Tolhuistuin in North Amsterdam.

Amsterdam bikesTolhuistuin

It wasn’t until it was time to leave, until we were in a room choked with cigarette and marijuana smoke and books and laughter that it became absolutely clear to me why I was there, why we were there. Each day came with its own contribution to that clarity, like the charming East Indian woman with tousled hair who brought us breakfast each morning in a basket. And the night when Linton came in and delivered his keynote brought me several steps ahead in that realization. Linton, in a sense represented, the actualisation of what many of the artists there seemed to be incipiently engaged in. Ruel Johnson, and his activism in Guyana. The younger Sara Bharrat and her brave speech, “Break Your Silence” delivered at the award ceremony of the Inaugural Walter Rodney Foundation Creative Writing Competition. Sheldon Shepherd and his work outside or perhaps deep within the NoMaddz movement, the deeply serious Adrian Green from Barbados, and all the others. But why was I there? I had written a book about my family, revisting and trying to complicate stereotypes, reclaiming those I had rejected in my mind in earlier years with the popular epithets that always generously served self-contempt: sambo, country bookie and so on. I had written of people I hoped to one day be like, people whose works had changed my life: CLR James, Walter Rodney, my father, my mother. I had written about the submerged belief system in St. Lucia and most other Caribbean islands: Obeah, not in defense of it or championing it, but from my ethnographic work trying to render it for what it was— trying to deal with it less as a scholar or a Caribbean representative, and more as someone living in its midst. And there were, at the very end of the book, a few poems on living in a land dependent on tourism. More and more the question was, not why were we there, but why was I there?

Dicther's Marathon Podium Mozaiek

A few days after we arrived, co-director of the festival, Matthijs Ponte had organised a tour of Amsterdam for us. It was a tour. Soon we realised it was a black heritage tour, and one of the other participants expressed his mild disapproval. Why not a simple tour of Amsterdam? Towards the end of the tour it became clear that little of what we had heard or seen on a regular Amsterdam tour would have brought us here, to the dark underbelly of that land, those brackish waters of Dutch maritime history, which the polder had now been thrust upon. As unassuming and modest as Matthijs was. It made sense. There was a clear vision, at least in his mind, of what we were here for.

Amsterdam couple Dutch Frieze
The festivals I had been to compared to this one had a sort of hands-off approach. The expectation was that it would provide, like the Jazz festival at home, a fair share of big names, some other smaller names, some emerging names. The festival programmes would be decorated with popular topics for discussion, not necessarily drawn from a conscious sense of what needed to be discussed among Caribbean people, a rooted sense of what was most urgent—- especially what was most urgent to discuss about what is happening IN the Caribbean not what was merely de rigeur. A certain cynicism has set in around the talk of nation, in the Caribbean, around the importance of being or writing from the Caribbean, around saying things like what you see on Sara Bharrat’s blog: “I wil not be silent. I will not be silenced. I speak for my people, for my country until death, or without wax.” Or even the name of that blog: The Guyanese Experience. Ultimately in the festivals I have been to or read about there did not seem to be that sense of ‘movement’ that one suspected was very much part of the raison d’etre of the Read My World festival. And this need not be what all festivals are about.

The festival invited the Dutch public to hear Caribbean writers talk about what was happening in Caribbean nations, from writers or citizens who live in those nations. It invited its scholars to interact with the work of these writers, to listen, respond, to question. At risk of seeming corny: to read our world. And the intention it seemed was for this Dutch audience, not necessarily to take up some humanitarian cause or other in the Caribbean or to become Caribbean scholars or anthropologists, but to simultaneously become aware of what is happening in the world outside of Europe in very small corners of the World, as well as to become active in engaging their society with the same seriousness and rigour that  Matthijs, Willemijn, Sharda Ganga and Ruel felt that we apparently had been doing. We did not come all the way to Amsterdam to defend our world, to engage in a kind of relativist politics or ‘writing back’ that ingratiated our culture or societies, to show our difference in quaint vignettes, we did not come to impute or incriminate the Dutch. Ironically, we were in a similar position as Jennifer, our tour guide of Surinamese parentage, walking the streets of Amsterdam, engaging her world before the Dutch people riding by on bikes. Except that her world really was Amsterdam and Dutch history, but a part of the history that, by design, Amsterdam was and still is protected from. Matthijs et al., with their own nuanced and variegated awareness of activism,  were in many ways giving the Dutch public, through us, a dose of what they felt it needed. We were in a sense contributing to Dutch society, by speaking honestly from within our own countries.

It was only, on our last night in Amsterdam, gathered together in Matthijs’ apartment, cramped with books, the air live with cigarette smoke, wine skittering like lizards down our throats,the walls overtaken by shelves pleated with books—- it was only then that I became incipiently aware of what this festival was, what it was doing, what it had in fact done. Matthijs, who was more inconspicuous than others during the festival, could sometimes be seen sitting alone, staring pensively at whatever happened to be in front of him, his cigarette between his fingers. You could glimpse him sometimes sitting alone at the open-air restaurant at the Tolhuistuin, overlooking the river where the ferry brought people to and from central Amsterdam with the clutter and sizzle and silver of their bikes and scooters, smoke rising and curling from his cigarette like an undulating idea; a plan.

Amsterdam ferry

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History, Memory and the Continuing Catastrophe

“There are lieux de memoire, sites of memory, because there are no longer milieux de memoire, real environments of memory.”
Pierre NoraBetween History and Memory

“Force, whatever its morality, has its function and merit and must be re-called(theatred) and placed at man’s disposal.”
Rawle GibbonsRoom to Pass 

 

In an article dated July 20, 2014 published in the Trinidad Newsday, Trinidadian poet and journalist, Andre Bagoo draws our attention to the renaming of the King George V Park in Trinidad by the Mayor of Port-of-Spain, Raymond Tim Kee. The park is now known as Nelson Mandela Park. Tim Kee prefaces  and justifies this rechristening of the park by establishing what had provoked this change:

“Today we pay tribute and celebrate an icon’s life. An outstanding citizen of the world who fought for social justice for more than 67 years not only for those of his native South Africa, but indeed for the entire world”

mandela 1 Mandela 2 Raymond tim kee

(See Bagoo’s article here: http://www.newsday.co.tt/commentary/0,197915.html)

Bagoo berates the Mayor and the Port-of-Spain Corporation, as they seem to be “embarked on a campaign of just re-naming streets and places within the capital. The mayor renamed the park days after re-naming a street in Port-of-Spain. The mayor this month honoured US Private First Class (PFC) Le Ron Adrian Wilson by adding the deceased young man’s name to that of Marli Street, the address of the US Embassy.”

One understands Bagoo’s ire, and indeed his argument seems to be about equal representation and political adhocracy although he goes about this in a roundabout way before he comes to his actual point: “Those who feel they have a power to just change our collective narrative by upsing and seeking to erase the fact that this nation is the sum of many parts, including a colonial heritage with English and European lineage, do a unique violence to the country they claim to serve.”  The notion that English/European/colonial heritage is under threat is an odd and surprising concern. Andre should have stopped at ‘the sum of many parts.’  On the other hand, taking the man by his word, I can see the link that is being made by Raymond Tim Kee between Mandela as one who fought for social justice, and a part of a region whose history is marred by a lack of social justice. Besides, didn’t the same affinity for such figures result in the naming of Cipriani Boulevard after the Trinidadian national hero whose statue stands tall on a plinth on Independence Square? Perhaps there is something else that Bagoo suspects is at play, something subtle and insidious but he does not succeed in explaining clearly to us why the renaming in itself is wrong as opposed to how it was carried out. What he does provide is an account of George V’s life that does no justice to his argument and ironically mirrors the flippant naming practices that Bagoo upbraids the Port-of-Spain mayor for engaging in:

“King George V visited Arima, San Fernando and St Joseph in 1880. Though he has a reputation among some historians for being relatively dull, the many places named after him include King George V Park in St John’s, Newfoundland; Stade George V in Curepipe, Mauritius; major thoroughfares in both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv; an avenue, a hotel and an underground station in Paris; King George V School, Seremban, Malaysia; and a school and two parks in Hong Kong.”

Bagoo further marrs his claim by using this allusion: “The decisions of the corporation appear to demonstrate a callous approach to history. They mirror decisions taken by the former Mayor Louis Lee Sing to modify the classic design of City Hall itself by embarking of an extension which destroys all the balance of the original design and undermines the place of Carlise Chang’s mosaic at its front.”

George V 2 George V andrebagoo

This prizing of supposed stability and its vindication in ‘long-standing’ ways of being/seeing, is a dangerous one. It is redolent of English historian James Anthony Froude’s similarly angst-ridden philosophy of history which Wilson Harris uncovers. Froude, he states, “prized stability as so fortuitous, so accidental that any society which ‘worked’, which held itself together in some shape or form, should be safe-guarded against change.” Or even similar to the Jamaican Christian community’s slippery-slope argument against the repealing of buggery laws in that country. I am sure Bagoo would not like to align himself with Froude nor the Jamaica Church. And although they get lost in the original article, Bagoo’s most pressing questions are there: “what degree of public consultation was involved in the decisions taken by the Port-of-Spain corporation? Why did we not hear about these name-changes until they were virtually faits accomplis? Assuming there was no widespread consultation, is this how the mayor and the corporation will run the city in coming years?” The rest of the article seems to obscure these questions and mis/represents Bagoo’s more sensible concerns.

***

I have always found Caribbean naming practices to be very interesting and at times very funny. Like the mother who told a midwife that she wanted to name her child ‘Imagine’ and when asked to spell it she proceeded: E-M-M-A  J-E-A-N. Or the father who named his son Leon, because the boy was his only child,”Li yon” in St. Lucia Kweyol meaning ‘Him/Her/It alone’ or ‘Only him/her,it’. Or less on the humorous side, the way hearing names like Devon, pronounced DEV VAUGHN in my country, have always seemed like St. Lucian names to me before I came across the more restrained, more closed-mouthed DEVN of England. Or the following example which is more closely related to Bagoo’s quarrel. In his book St. Lucia: The Romance of its Place Names, Father Charles Jesse (the priest who condemned Derek Walcott’s ‘idolatory’ in heroic couplets in 1944) expounded upon the provenance of several of St. Lucia’s place names that proved to be unromantic to the point that one begins to suspect a hint of irony in the title. Many of the villages and towns such as Dennery, Micoud, Castries, Vieux Fort were named after such and such general or landowner, whose achievements (if there were any) even when magnified did not seem to warrant such honours as having a whole town named after them. But then there are names beyond those, such as La Sorciere, a mountain literally named ‘the witch’. I am sure any visitor to St. Lucia who has merely glimpsed La Sorciere would agree with this name. However, Father Jesse found this incredulous:

“The name Sorciere is puzzling. Literally it means the Witch but that seems improbable as a name for a mountain. One may wonder whether there has not been a mistake in spelling here. Ought the word, perhaps, to be Sourciere, the feminine for Sourcier—  a water finder? It is certain that the Sorciere river rises there, certain also that Castries draws much of its water from this mountain’s flanks.”

Such situations are striking, where the land seems to name itself, or its parts. Like Devil’s Bridge and the Faustian story surrounding its construction. And there are several other examples of the Devil’s architecture in places within and beyond the region; places like Leaper’s Hill, Sangre Grande, La Gwo Kola or (one I recently learned of from Trinidadian Historian Brinsley Samaroo) Kase Kou. Names such as these seem to be the land speaking for itself, or a way in which the land bears witness long after the catastrophe the names recall has dissolved in time. ‘Kase Kou’ in Kweyol means ‘break/broken neck’, and it is rumoured to be associated with child sacrifice in Trinidad among Hindu secret societies known as ‘panths’ which Raymond Ramcharitar expounds upon grippingly in his Doctoral Thesis. Ramcharitar also published an article in 2011, entitled, “Indo-Gemeinschaft vs Creole-Gesellschaft”, in which he alludes to the existence of these secret societies: “DWD Comins, a British official, in the 1890s, reported the existence of several secret societies transplanted from India. One practised necrophilia, one preached caste eradication, another, Hindu-Muslim amity.” The story of La Gwo Kola is just as arresting. In the east coast village of Anse-la-Raye in St. Lucia which has suffered the neglect and contempt of successive governments, there is a small warren within the already small village. When descending into Anse La Raye proper, along the winding road, one may catch a glimpse of a crucifix on the hillside. This crucifix is in remembrance of a number of persons who died during a major outbreak of cholera in the area. La Gwo Kola literally translates to ‘The Great/Big Cholera’. During this catastrophe, several persons were said to have been buried alive, as their comatose aspect was mistaken for death. And although the place is occupied, those who do not live in the area are warned not to venture there as it may summon misfortune or other malediction or as they say in Kweyol, ‘maledisyon’.

In these cases some great cataclysm —whether man- or nature- (un)made— by its force and violence has claimed a part of the land, has (to use the modern teenage lingo) ‘owned it’. Like the Colonel in One Hundred Years of Solitude who says “We have still not had a death. A person does not belong to a place until someone is dead under the ground.” More than any other thing that has happened on this or that piece of the land, this particular event is the one that has made an im/depression on the land. It is almost as if, this is what persons SAW when they passed this piece of land. Not wide open space, or its present usage but the catastrophe that has claimed it, happening over and over again, sometimes subtly in the lives they see being carried on upon that broken ground.

Reading Bagoo’s article I was reminded of poet Kamau Brathwaite for more than one reason. The first is that while living in Trinidad, I remember being told by a very old friend of mine that this same George V Park had once been a slave burial ground. Where Kamau now lives in Barbados—-an area referred to as Cow Pastor or CP— is said to be an old slave burial ground as well. Not merely that, but Kamau recounts an encounter with a spirit of a dead slave whom he refers to as Namsetoura, the countenance of whom he photographed and appears on the front cover of his Griffin Prize-winning collection Born to Slow Horses.

Kamau Born to Slow Horses Namsetoura

 

Although Bagoo’s article was indeed about representation and democracy, I feel that this ‘spiritual aspect’ is a worthy deviation, if not an area of confluence. What Kamau introduces with his own experience is an alter/native reality which has yet to be embraced in West Indian (not Caribbean) literature. Oftentimes when the archetypal magician, the Obeah man, figures in our literature, he has been undercut by irony, satire or sarcasm—- these negative, nugatory devices. In the more positive expressions of kinship with the Obeah man, he and his world have been held at arms length, having him serve as a metaphor or analogue for something else. Erna Brodber, in a foreword to the groundbreaking work, Obeah and Other Powers, provides a sort of bridge:
“At the annual pre-Emancipation reasoning in my village, Dr. Adolph Edwards, author of the unpublished Ph.D thesis “The Development of Criminal Law in Jamaica,” asked to share his knowledge with us of legislation, and particularly obeah laws, designed expressly for handling “our” people in the days of slavery. Some young visiting academics heckled, attacking the messenger. Their behaviour was an expression of frustration and anger: anger at the treatment of their ancestors —- “ancestral anger”, I call it — but more anger about knowing so little about the system of thought that their ancestors had celebrated, frustration at being robbed of the connection with their ancestors that could allow them to make a good defense of them, frustration that now initiates into Akan, Dagara and Yoruba traditions; they still did not know the points at which their grandparents had connected with these traditions. They were now living with burning candles, wearing full white, keeping their heads covered and leaving plates of food in their yards for their ancestors, but they still did not know if they were connected with the feared obeah man down the road, formerly the butt of jokes in their friendship networks. Their anger was at the knowledge vacuum that made positioning themselves in spiritual history impossible…..”

Kamau, in the interview provides an experience of “spiritual history” and its inextricable connection to physical/ geographical history (the decimation and harrowing of CowPastor) and personal history (the risk of losing of his oumfo/ home)

KB: Yes. Namsetoura. ‘Nam’ is a concept of mind which is the opposite of man’s mind, ‘man’ spelt backwards, and ‘nam’ also means an imperishable spirit; so ‘man’ is a distortion of ‘nam’.  And Namse is a version of Anansi the Spider. So the spider is part of the ‘Nam’ and the ‘Nam’ is a part of the Spider. And ‘toura’ is a way of telling stories.

JM: I see! So when you saw her in your garden, do you feel that that was another kind of intervention?

KB: Of course, that was a presage to what was going to happen because nothing had happened yet. What had happened was that when I was told that I would have to leave CowPastor, I began to photograph everything I could on the pasture, and the pasture itself is about two miles long, and my little area, which is on a ridge between the sea and the hill, is only two acres. And I decided that I would try to photograph everything I could as a kind of memory bank for what I assumed I was going to leave. And on this afternoon when the sun was at two o’clock, three o’clock, when my wife and I were in this little clump of bush which was just behind the house, what you call the garden, and the sun suddenly illuminated this magnificent spider’s web, with a spider at the very center of it. So naturally I went to photograph it. I could see the spider perfectly clearly through my naked eye, but as soon as I looked through the view finder of the lens there was no spider, there was no web, there was nothing! And this happened, of course, two or three times. Each time I went to take the picture there was no evidence of reality. So finally I decided to take the picture anyway. And as soon as I did that the lens split right across its equator.

JM: That’s amazing!

KB: I know, right. So I changed the lens, and got a different lens, and then I did the same thing, and this particular lens almost melted in my hands, got very hot, in fact it burned my fingers as well. So then I felt quite desperate because this seemed to me an extraordinary phenomenon. So my wife went to fetch her box camera, just determined to take this picture. And she clicked the spider, twice. And that was it. We couldn’t see if she got the picture but at least she clicked, and nothing more had happened.

When we took the Kodak to the guy who processed the film, what came out was two, three, actually four pictures came out that afternoon. One spider, normal looking, in the web, the second one, still reasonable, in the web, the third spider seemed to be receding from our gaze, and the fourth shot came up was the image of Namsetoura.

JM: And that’s the image on the front of your new book?

KB: Right. And you can imagine how one felt.

(See full interview here: http://www.raintaxi.com/online/2005fall/brathwaite.shtml)

Many persons have used this encounter to vindicate cynicism surrounding Kamau’s unrelenting claims of Cultural Lynching. In the Italian journal Scritture Migranti, Brathwaite speaks of this Second Time of Salt, and so does Bajan curator Janice Whittle. But in this reality that Kamau offers us (both in his creative work and his life) if we care to see it,  human catastrophe is as much a part of spiritual history as it is part of our materialist history. One cannot in fact many times tell one from the other.  In this world, toponymy is not merely a means by which politicians or officials can play mas’. And although one can argue that this is one artist’s poetics or his own personal mythopoeia, it is reflective of a very pervasive and central Caribbean reality that has yet to permeate our literature in any meaningful way.

2 Female Witches Stuck In Roseau (Part 4): http://youtu.be/eYQrOmZOA8U

If Mayor Tim Kee did have such foresight as to replace George V ( who has parks all over the world, including St. Lucia) with Mandela or someone who represented a similar spirit whatever their race, I think it is a move in the right direction. Andre is right though in pointing out the undemocratic nature in which he went about doing so which is a similar evil to what we condemn here. Bagoo’s article made me wonder for a second, if the spirits of the dead are as real as Namsetoura was to Kamau, as real as the dead are to those who listen to deceased relatives offering advice in dreams, then whose spirit would we prefer presiding over the park: George V or Mandela’s?

What Caribbean people must continue to do is to battle the culture of silencing and obliteration that is christening itself all over our countries over and over again. What we should hope for is  an awareness of the continuing catastrophe that some of those place names bear witness to: Sangre Grande, Leaper’s Point, Malgre tout (In spite of all). Our blindness to all these submerged things, from slave burial grounds to spiritualities to sexualities to the sinking voices of those who shake up our realities by the “unreal” things they have seen or by who they are, will be our undoing. It has already begun by silencing persons like Kamau, robbing him, as he puts it, of his ” last generation of completion, continuation and contribution.” Gordon Rohlehr’s ominous words at the end of this recent interview with Paula Morgan should serve as warning enough:

PM: Would you say that you have had a prophetic role and vision in
relation to the region?
GR: It’s interesting that you would put it that way. The legend says that
children born with cauls have second sight and I was one such child. The story
goes that I would see things and tell my family dreams. This is another thing
about Caribbean identities. People live in dream spaces. They live in worlds other
than the visible and they are constantly looking for signs. I was a sickly child and
I caught the things that were going around. I must have caught malaria – we had
some very fierce mosquitoes. I definitely caught typhoid fever and it nearly killed
me. At one point, so the family lore goes, I was sick with typhoid and I told them
to get this weed and that weed and the next, boil them and serve the brew in a new
calabash. And they did and I got better. All these details blew my mind…what
kind of thing is that?!
But at the same time they were not comfortable with this child that was
seeing this and living in a spirit space. They were concerned about madness, you
see. So they determined that they had to stop this thing …put the eyes out. I cannot
quite fathom at exactly what age …maybe not much more than five or six. And the
way in which they put out these eyes out was to hold one over a pot of boiling
steaming rice to steam out the vision. I think they were successful. I have not seen
anything since and I stopped telling them my dreams. My mother who was very
strong and vocal always said they – the older women in the family – should not
have done that, but oddly enough, in this case, she seemed powerless to intervene.
But this is why today I see nothing. I hear very little. And I am moving towards
the point of speaking nothing: neither good nor evil.

 

 

 

 

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