Friday, April 27, 2012
Thursday, December 8, 2011
The African continent has 3000 distinct ethnic groups while Nigeria alone has 370 officially recognized ones.
Around 2000 different languages are spoken in Africa, Arabic is the most common.
The banjo originated in Africa and was brought to America by slaves.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again -- to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more. The beauty of this whole process was best described, perhaps, before people even took to frequent flying, by George Santayana in his lapidary essay, "The Philosophy of Travel." We "need sometimes," the Harvard philosopher wrote, "to escape into open solitudes, into aimlessness, into the moral holiday of running some pure hazard, in order to sharpen the edge of life, to taste hardship, and to be compelled to work desperately for a moment at no matter what."
I like that stress on work, since never more than on the road are we shown how proportional our blessings are to the difficulty that precedes them; and I like the stress on a holiday that's "moral" since we fall into our ethical habits as easily as into our beds at night. Few of us ever forget the connection between "travel" and "travail," and I know that I travel in large part in search of hardship -- both my own, which I want to feel, and others', which I need to see.
Abroad is the place where we stay up late, follow impulse and find ourselves as wide open as when we are in love. We live without a past or future, for a moment at least, and are ourselves up for grabs and open to interpretation. We even may become mysterious -- to others, at first, and sometimes to ourselves
The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments from Lives on the Road by Paul Theroux,It is hard to be a stranger. A traveler may have no power, no influence, no known identity. That is why a traveler needs optimism and heart, because without confidence travel is misery. Generally, the traveler is anonymous, ignorant, easy to deceive, at the mercy of the people he or she travels among. The traveler might be known as “the American” or “the Foreigner,” and there is no power in that.Among the Batelela in the Sankuru region of central Congo the word for stranger is ongendagenda. It is also one of the most common names for a male child. The reasoning is that when a child is born—and males matter most among the Batelela—he appears from nowhere and is unknown, so he is usually called Stranger, and this name stays with him throughout his life—Stranger is the “John” of the Sankuru region.In Swahili, the word muzungu (plural, wazungu) has its root in the word for ghost or spirit, and cognates of the word—mzungu in Chichewa and murungu in Shona and other Bantu languages—have the meaning of a powerful spirit, even a god. Foreigners had once seemed godlike when they first appeared in some places.
Friday, November 11, 2011
Writing in the literary magazine, Granta, awardwinning author, Binyavanga Wainaina, pens a satirical piece on the Western psyche titled, "How to write about Africa". Wainaina, the Caine award winner of 2001 and editor of the online literary magazine Kwani?, says, in part: "Sunsets and starvation are good. Always use the word Africa or Darkness or Safari in your title. Sub-titles may include the words Zanzibar, Maasai, Zulu, Zambezi, Congo, Nile, Big, Sky, Shadow, Drum, Sun or Bygone. Also useful are words such as Guerrillas, Timeless, Primordial and Tribal. Note that People means Africans who are not black, while The People means black Africans...."