The earth here is not as red as in the East Africa I know, but it still rumbles under your feet, rebelling to preconceptions and to the meters turned into kilometers of telephone poles and cables I am not used to seeing in the “African landscape”. Many things in Zimbabwe are not how I expected. But then again, I don’t know truly what I had expected. How could I draw a picture in my mind when all I knew was of politics and polemic?
I cannot, and I have no interest in trying. I am old enough to know my eyes can lie and seeing does not immediately mean I get to understand. My tale is another. One of a school bus filled with young and old, musicians, academics and other culture related practitioners charged with safeguarding the history, or rather, their story. As soon as we set off the mbira begun to weave us into it’s dreamy melody. Mild clapping came and went as did song, discreet, almost shy, with no defined end or beginning, just like a dream. As the bus moved on the earth around us was weaved into the story, reminding me of the innate human desire to create. The dream woke my dream up. That desire to grow roots from my groins, to nurture the seed that gives birth to the fruit. It made me want to sing and write. It made me see the light, the clouds, the colors and the sounds around me with the other eye, the one that falls asleep when we are not paying attention. It brought me back to my own slumber and its dreams, usually kept hidden from me as secrets of the night, now laid bare under the African sun but still incomprehensible.
We danced and shared secrets like school children, while actual school children pointed and laughed at the color of my skin, calling me names that had no ill intentions. They told me of the rain maker that was able to stay dry, except for his feet, the clouds going out of their way to keep it that way. They told me of the ceramic pots left by no one, in the middle of nowhere, so that they could stop to eat during this long dry walk, and of stones that called out their names to share with them bits of their futures. They told me of their childhoods immersed in instruments, and of early Sunday mornings when that child, now the community’s grandpa, is woken up by the children who try to steal his stories. They sang about the white man and how his wagons brought with them an inexhaustible source of peanut butter.
They photographed me with as much curiosity as much as I did them. Then the bus stopped, the music stopped, I got off and we woke up.