Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Pilgrimages Made

For no reason but because Funmi Iyanda is amazing.

As we drove through beautiful KwaZulu Natal, I thought that South Africa is such a physical beauty, a beguiling supermodel of a country with befuddling complexities. Here l am forced to see colour so l take in Straun’s austere earnest whiteness in comparison to Yvette’s coloured bubbly cautiousness. Struan and Yvette are my guides and babysitters for this pilgrimage.

Lizzie is Zanele’s sister, a slightly furtive full figured black woman with the purposeful stride of a doer.

As we packed in front of a cluster of shanty buildings she tells us not to worry. I did not feel threatened because this was not the worst slum l had seen although l did feel a slight discomfort because of the hostile stares.

We walked through the sand and dirt and l noticed the little grave like herb garden in front of the house right before l ducked into the dark room. I noticed the sparse furniture, the curious girls and the bare floor in the first room before l walked into the bedroom where l stopped short. The room was dominated by a big bed with shabby but clean royal burgundy damask bedding lovingly made up with four pillows as befits any luxury hotel.

One after the other, the girls came in, one giggling, another with a swagger, a third quietly and the last with her head bent..

TV host and all-round amazing Nigerian superwoman Funmi Iyanda went to South Africa and wrote a bunch of really awesome reflections on her trip for the Pilgrimages project. This project is the brainchild of The Chinua Achebe Center for African Writers and Artists, who sent 13 writers to 13 African cities. Each writer went everywhere from Timbuktu to Lagos, Johannesburg to Kinshasa, Hargeisa to Luanda. Among the writers are prominent voices in contemporary African literature: Chris Abani, Binyavanga Wainana, Uzodinma Iweala, Olufemi Terry. All of these writers are thoughtful and measured. All of them write with humor and compassion, with an eye for where their thread of story fits into the technicolor mass of fabric that is contemporary Africa.

I'm such a sucker for good, thoughtful, searching pieces of writing. Read all of it.

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