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!
30 years since the Fall of the Berlin Wall: Three weeks ago I was looking for a present for dad, and as a late thought I considered Gert Dietrich’s Cultural History of East Germany (Kulturgeschichte der DDR) a good idea, albeit an expensive one, perhaps a joint present for us all. So I went to Göttingen’s best academic bookshop, which happens to be located down the road from the publishing house where the book was made. I couldn’t find it on their shelves and asked for it. Their response: it’s “too exotic” for them to have it on stock. East German matters are “too exotic” some 60km from the old border, I get it. You wonder why I feel at home in Africa, kkkkkkkk! Have a happy anniversary next year, you re-united Germany!
Back in Jo’burg, a town that is so rich in music, and a town that seems to have decided to accomodate me as best as she can, especially with music events. This time it was only a few hours after my touch down that Constitution Hill opened its gates for the music festival that accompanies the Human Rights Day activities here. I admire the fact that 21 March is celebrated here, a day that hardly anyone I know in Europe is even aware of, or would care about.
The greats are leaving us. Just a few days after Tuku, another famous African musician left us, the Kenyan Ayub Ogada. I don’t know how often I have played his most popular song “Kothbiro”with people everywhere, kids and grown-ups alike.
On January 23 this year, I was reminded of how on this day a year earlier the great South African musician Hugh Masekela had passed on. I was there, last year, and went to the musical memorial in Soweto a few days after Bra Hugh’s passing. It was there that I saw Tuku live for the second time. Now on this 23 January, I went home from work listening in my car to “Tapera”, the last piece Bra Hugh and Tuku produced together. At home, I made some tea, sat down, opened my phone and a friend had texted me. Tuku had died. On the same day as Bra Hugh.
A word of warning: I will write about something here that I know very little about. Something that a lot of people consider beyond rational understanding, and that others consider plain nonsense. Something those with a strong (and narrow-minded) Christian attitude wrongly (!) consider witchcraft, and that I have not yet been granted the chance to experience first hand. I tried, but due to an illness my meeting with Noksangoma had to be cancelled, and another appointment was impossible to make. It wasn’t time yet, perhaps, to see it in a light more akin to the topic under discussion. However, I feel like I have to write about the sangomas, the traditional diviners and healers in southern and notably in South Africa. Not only because they play an important role in the culture, even in the 21st century, also because they can bridge the potentially wide gap between ancient beliefs and practices on one side, and modernity on the other, and also because some engage in political matters. I also feel I must write about them because I am personally intrigued by what I’ve seen and heard, not least because I have noticed similarities to what I learn in my training in gestalt therapy.