Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Dusting

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the dust. It rose in great clouds as excited feet kicked it up into the darkness. And as the evening joyously wore on it was given less and less chance to settle back to earth. It would make more sense really if my less rhythmic feet had joined the visceral movement of the night a little later, when their clumsiness would be missed amidst the frenzy of the dance. But in fact my own were amongst the first to stamp in the dirt, when young, songful voices surrounded me and pleaded for movement, their innocent enthusiasm and irrepressible sense of fun too much for any of the inhibitions I might have tried to muster. Games and songs and much more impressive dance followed as I enjoyed being immersed in this experience of a village coming together to enjoy itself.

And enjoy itself it did. The music was provided by its own mouths, its own instruments, its own hands. The laughter was provided by its own exuberance, the songs and games from its own collective memory. And the dance was also provided from within itself...it’s children, it’s young people, it’s elders, each taking their turn in the clapping and singing circle that was the limelight. There is something exceptionally special about the older people in a family delighting in the antics of its children and the children in a family delighting in the clowning around of its elders. At a moment when some of the teenage boys showed signs of shyness, a village elder demanded their participation with a few stern words and looks before practising what he preached with a manic chicken-style dance that was greeted with general hilarity. This was an evening when the village would enjoy itself; it would be itself that it would enjoy and it would enjoy every last part, not a single morsel of movement should go to waste.

I had arrived in this village, Senahum in the late afternoon, joining my friend Andy who was staying there with his adopted African family for a few days. We had been served up steaming bowls of groundnut soup with the rice which we had helped cultivate about six months before (we had spent a morning weeding on the farm...I am confident that without my deft touch the crop would have failed), unashamedly giggled like school girls as we washed with scalding hot water by torchlight in the rather open open-air shower facility (nipple high sticks weaved together in a c shape) and the next morning would give ourselves blisters wielding (not carrying, not using, wielding) cutlasses (machetes) as we helped one of the village elders fell trees to make space for a farm in the bush. The memory of my short time there simply drips with delight though the harsh character of the life endured by those who were caring for me also comes in to focus.

Throughout our time the eight month old baby who brought us all together, Baby Andy, sat and sucked on the little toy his American older brother had brought for him or curled himself up in the arms of one of his large family, oblivious to the wonder of what he is responsible for. Dust. That was how my night in the village of Senahum would end. In a cloud of dust. Dust which rose up and swirled amidst a village full of songs and laughter and love.

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