Sunday, February 15, 2009

Bloody Hands and Butterflies 12/2/08

Yeah, but you know....if you stare at something long enough it starts to move, shift, and reveal itself to you in an entirely new way. You just have to be able to concentrate. These days the best way to describe my 'African Experience' is ' a passionate romance slowly unraveling at the seams'. I still love Africa, but Africa is 'Black Love' all day long. It takes a certain kind of focus and work to heal the pain and stay excited.

In three days I will have been here for one month. Africa has become a bright, purple butterfly with a razor blade under her tongue. (This says alot considering that butterflies use their tongues like straws. I think they use them to smell too). There is no question of Africa's royalty, but when you try to catch the butterfly, you end up with blood all over your hands. Here, they put herbs on it and call it protection.

PhotobucketThe wash. (Accra, Ghana 2008)

For me it's been the food. I'm just not sure how to ease into the cuisine. It was either the water in the coffee I drank or the food I ate. Whatever it was I spent Thankgiving night sweating out the demons out under the fan. It felt like angry cats were trying to claw their way out of my stomach. Or better yet, bright, purple butterflies with razor blades under their tongues were trying to fly out of my booty. Lol. It wasn't funny. I felt like Pookie in New Jack City when he was trying to get off the dope and Ice T stayed up with him all night. lol. Ben, Jovan, and Mara were my Ice T tho'. Their call made me feel so much better. I'm starting to miss everyone. Me and Africa (the butterfly that dies every time her belly is full) are sluggin' it out in the parking lot afterschool SUN! Might as well call us Ike and Tina. Unfortunately last week I was coming out Tina, but it ain't gon' be too many more ass whoopins. I feel my Ike about to bust thru at any minute. lol.

Yall, I have seen the unthinkable. A woman with a huge bucket of papayas on her head slipped and fell to the ground right in front of me. All her fruit fell into the ditch. Everyone scrambled to help her up. I reached into the nasty ass pile of mud, wiped off her fruit and gave it back. I think I was more devastated than her. Everyone continued like nothing had happened. Ayelo yeku daba (When you fall down, get up in old Ewe language). That's what I been doing here in the Motherland. lol.... I guess people must fall all the time, but it was a surprise that just caught me off guard. This is how I feel all day long. Kind of surprised and like there are so many more things happening that I'm not aware of. Language barriers are a bitch.

I am reminded DAILY of how African and Un-African I am. My hair, but not my nose. My lips, but not my body. My mama, but not my daddy. My spirit, but not my skin color. The list goes on and on. I had to shut that shit down with the baby cuzins at the Amoo house on Saturday. This is why I always say, 'The U.S. is the only place where I am allowed to be "Black". Everywhere else I go, they always wanna make me something else. Being "Black" is such an incredible part of who I am. It may not be important to other folks, but it is to me. It just pisses me off to no end when people wanna try make me into some other thing behind some bullshit idea they have about what people that look like me are called. But then again the idea of "Blackness" might be bullshit to them? Whatever. Okay. Enough.

Positivity!!!! Light!!!!! I really have nothing to complain about and everything to be thankful for. Like the whole staring thing... Real talk. My life is good (knock on wood). Sure the staring thing can get a little intense, but I been through worse. Truth be told, I'm more worried about them and if they're gonna be okay than how it makes me feel. It's very serious for them and probably would be for me too if I lived here. Just a moment in Africa. That's all. Everything in its place and time. (Breath).

So, bloody hands and butterflies..... lol.

PhotobucketYoung sistas selling at the bus station. (Accra, Ghana 2008)

In Ghana, the ant hills are kingdoms, crows wear white vests (just like in 'The WIZ') and the trees tell you exactly who they work for. People make houses from the same terracotta clay colored dirt that the roads are made of and big black bees come close. I suppose all bees sting if provoked, but the people say that the ones I've seen are not dangerous. I'm sure they are spirits. At least that's how they feel to me. I been mostly seeing the ones that look like wasps, but yesterday I saw a new kind. I think these were male. They had a different shape, and stripe pattern, but still "Black".

Today is Monday. Yesterday I traveled to Adokrom to visit Nana Hansa. (But ofcourse I had to get on the wrong tro-tro first and go to some way far out place where a man was holding up some kind of bush rodent/possumish animal up for sale by the side of the road. This is where I saw the dirt houses.)

Nana Hansa is a stunningly beautiful priestess in the Akan spiritual tradition. The folks to say the least. A real live Queen and mommy to say more. A Goddess to say the most. I saw the new bees outside her window when the rain began to fall. Africa is teaching me that I don't know a whole lot about a bunch of stuff. Things that for everyone here are basic.... Like raindrops can be hard as rocks so you should get out of the way when they're angry... or that words don't always have to be spelled the way you think they should be. For example, at the filling station down the street from where I stay, the word 'tire' is spelled 't-y-r-e'. A couple of days ago I saw the word 'little' spelled 'l-i-t-e-l-e' on the back of a taxi, the word 'call' spelled 'K-O-L-L' on a Hip Life poster in East Legon, and 'honking' spelled 'h-a-w-k-i-n-g' on every tunnel I go through. Different shape, still "Black".

The way people move through the street here is a lesson in the complexity of African sensibility and spatial awareness. In the States we don't carry things on our heads, so we don't really have to deal with what that means during travel (especially in crowded subway stations or market places). The closest ASE comes is carrying hella drums, props, and costumes to our gigs, but nothing like these folks. AND the women be carrying the babies on their backs, having conversations with the person next to them while walking forward or crossing the street and carrying the loads on their heads at the same time. Their displays are impeccable. This is not even getting into how they take money, give change, and keep it movin'. I have so much respect. I just try to make myself as small as possible so I don't get hit by anything. In Brooklyn, Ebony Kuyateh and Dina Wright Joseph are the closest we come to these sistas.

PhotobucketClean. (Accra, Ghana 2008)

I washed clothes again on Saturday. At home it's no big deal cuz we have machines, but here it takes mad time and energy. This whole experience is making me see how much we take for granted in the U.S. I saw some people drying the fabric they had just batiked by the side of the road the other day. I just be thinking....'Oh, this is pretty. It just comes out looking like that. A machine probably did it.' No fool. It comes like that because people work hard to make it like that. I'm sure there are machines somewhere, but Africa is a DIY country if I've ever seen one.

Lol... This morning I was coming into the house from running errands and Obroni was making a hammer. Obroni is one of Mr. Amoo's younger brothers. The one that makes all the drums and says he needs wife that won't bother him while he is dreaming about what he is going to make next. Ridiculously talented carpenter and Ogun like you have never seen. His mother said that when he was born he looked like a white person so that's why he is called Obroni. A word that I have become very familiar with here in the beloved Motherland. Anyways... MAKING a hammer?! Are you serious?! Lol. What?! I guess a hammer is something that does get made. Sometimes it just hurts to watch everything these folks do cuz it just reinforces how spoiled and weak I can be. Let me not disrespect my ancestors cuz we can beast out too, but Ase Dance Theatre Collective! I don't wanna hear nothin'! Tired?!!! What is that?!!..... Sing. Dance. Make the fabric. Make the hammer. Sell the plantains. Feed the baby. Cook the food. And Oh! I forgot! I complimented one of the Amoo nephews on his shoes...he was like 'Thank you. I made them.' And they were I would by them as a gift for someone. Like they would be in a fancy store in the U.S.!

PhotobucketBig twin, little twin. (Accra, Ghana 2008)

MAKING a hammer?! ... From air and the decision to do it?! Are you serious?! Lol! I don't wanna hear shit about black folks being lazy ever again. It makes absolutely no sense that the word 'nigger' became used by anyone, anywhere, to describe anything about who we are or what we do. And I'm thinking that part of the science of us changing the 'er' to 'a' and using it with each other is to admonish those that are not working hard enough. Ofcourse there is way more to that conversation, but I'm saying...

My hands are burnt from the laundry bar that looks like a giant, blue crayon. Ben says it's probably poisonous and they use the same thing in El Salvador. Three fingers on my right hand. The same three on my left. Middle to pinkie on both. It looks like I just dragged my fingers through some gravel and poured alcohol on them.

Can you say all day LOOONNNG? I'm getting better tho'. Even Atsu (Mr. Amoo's nephew and a dance student at the University of Ghana, the one with the fly ass shoes I had just talked about.) said so. He said 'Oh. You have tried!' when he saw all the work I had done. Now this goes back to the whole words happening the way you think they should thing. '...You have tried!', sounds like a diss right. 'You have tried?! my elbow on yo' Not at all like that. It's so much love, I'm just being ignorant. '... You have tried!', is one of the best compliments Ghanaians can give you. We would say, 'Oh, you did good or job well done. Good work!' I been working hella hard at trying to learn these Ewe songs and play the shaker (the Xatse, or what the Ewe's traditionally call the shaker) at the same time. I can't even think about the bell (the Gakogui or what the Ewe's traditionally call the bell) yet. The songs start in different places in the rhythm so it's difficult to transition between them and play the shaker. Also, the Ewe language is tonal and they sing in minor keys. Super beautiful. Just tricky as hell. Robert also says '...I have tried'. Lol. I guess that's all I can do.

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