I have been given the privilege To hold my breath To make this choice: I cannot watch that video I will not watch that video To see How George Floyd is being killed To hear How George Floyd is being killed To hear His breath failing as he tells the whole world so And Derek Chauvin On duty To see Derek Chauvin killing George Floyd On duty
The other day, as I was passing by the small flower shop on the way back from the bakery, one of the differences between my life in Africa and my life here in Europe came to mind: Shop keepers everywhere I’d been in Africa would send me off saying “Thanks for supporting me!” Initially I found it surprising. Here in Europe, buying something is a business transaction, object-centred, usually. You’re not meant to bond with the shop keeper, usually. If there’s emotions involved, they’re yours, only to be shared with friends & family. Usually. Shopping in Africa, on the other hand, seemed more people-centred: you chat, connect in various ways – like actual people. As a customer, you wouldn’t just buy a thing, instead in doing so you quite consciously supported somebody who’s earning a living with that business.
You may have noticed that I added “usually” a few times in the previous paragraph. You’ll probably agree that whatever “usually” usually refers to has seen a severe rupture these past few weeks during which we’ve been struggling with a virus that is invisible to the naked eye while it is leaving a trail of mortality, vulnerability, anxiety and polarization behind. Whereas the virus is only visible with the help of the strongest microscopes (or so I think), its impact works like a microscope popped onto society, under which various structures, our pre-existing conditions, become more magnified, and hence better visible. Pre-existing conditions, they say, make you more vulnerable to it. I find that quite rich.
October and kingdoms rise And kingdoms fall But you go on And on. (U2 – October, 1982)
I have two beginnings for this blog post. I’m not sure I have a suitable ending.
Opening one: I’m just back from a discussion, with Naika Foroutan, about East-German migration analogies and prejudices against East-Germans, here at the local Literarisches Zentrum. “Here” means: Göttingen, West-Germany, for me, an East German by origin, my home of seven years now. Diaspora as well as home. “Here” also means: amongst an audience of, primarily, West-Germans. Naika Foroutan and host Robert Pausch are West Germans, too. They (“they”) speak about East Germans (“us”). Some of “us” are in the room. Their safeguard is the “objectivity” of the (social) sciences. “Objectivity” implies an object. An object implies a subject. Who’s who? I can feel I am one of the objects here, regardless whether I want to or not, and someone else assumes the role of the subject-agent. I observe.
Only one of the seeds of African Giant Calabash actually grew big enough so I could plant it in the garden. Now with a few of the fruit grown pleasantly big, it looks like I can go all industrial next year, producing truckloads of shekeres 😉
This is my second trip to Malawi this year. I arrive in a time of political unrest following the elections in May. Leaders of the opposition parties have alleged that there were massive irregularities and that Mutharika is the “tipp-ex president”. Lilongwe, Blantyre and other places have been the scenes of massive demonstrations which sometimes turned violent, including lootings and mob violence, and as of late the police and army forces are using live ammunition. Driving through town wasn’t always easy therefore, since you better avoid the demonstrations as the protestors do not always clearly discriminate between who to attack. Or would the police? Anyway, we stayed clear of them as best as we could.
Besides big events like the Würzburg Africafestival, the biggest Africa festival in Europe, lots of smaller events devoted to African themes happen across Germany. Just in case you were asking yourself: yes, mostly in the summer months, for fairly obvious reasons. Mind you, this summer of 2019 has been so hot occasionally, we may have to reconsider the timing, or else our African guests will be climatically intimidated! Anyway, two events put Africa on the local map in Göttingen these past few days: the Afrikanisches Sommerfest at Uslar, and the Hit the Beat concert at the local Freie Waldorfschule.
End of May – time for the biggest celebration of Africa in Europe! For 31 years Würzburg has hosted the Africa Festival, a four-day festival of food, African clothes, fabrics, instruments and curios – and, of course, music. A smaller open-air stage for afternoon performances, and a big tent for the two evening concerts now attract some 80,000 visitors, many of whom stay on the nearby campsite which features the sound of various drum groups almost non-stop.
Until 90 years ago, powder made from mummies, i.e. human corpses, was considered a useful drug in Europe, and available in pharmacies until 1924. I need to remind myself of this when reading about body-part juju in Africa. The practice arose from a misinterpretation of the Arabic word for bitumen, mumiya.
The third step in misinterpreting mummia was to substitute the blackened flesh of an entire mummy for the hardened bituminous materials from the interior cavities of the cadavers. The ancient tombs of Egypt and the deserts could not meet the European demand for the drug mumia, so a commerce developed in the manufacture and sale of fraudulent mummies, sometimes called mumia falsa. The Italian surgeon Giovanni da Vigo (1450-1525) defined mumia as “The flesh of a dead body that is embalmed, and it is hot and dry in the second [grade], and therefore it has virtue to incarne [i.e., heal over] wounds and to staunch blood”, and included it in his list of essential drugs.
See also this article (in English) published by German pharma company Merck.
The Czech contribution to this year’s Eurovision Song Contest is by a band with the not-so-Czech-sounding name Lake Malawi. I saw lots of things in their video, as far as I followed it, except anything from Malawi, lake or otherwise. I guess it’s just a name … Wikip.: “the band’s name, is inspired by the song “Calgary” by [a band named – D.S.] Bon Iver, from their 2011 … album”. And then? I go and check. A German website has more: singer Černý was inspired by the line “So it’s storming on the lake” from “Calgary”, and Lake Malawi was chosen because “it sounds like a far-off romantic place” (my trans.). That’s got to be the reasoning of a Eurovisionary!