Tuesday, May 27, 2008

where do i begin...

there is so much i don't say. because i don't know how to. to you, my dear and few readers.

its about africa and africans. and being one. its about this crazy tapestry we weave. our weird, wonderful warped tapestry in the richest hues and moods you could ever imagine. i feel that i need to contextualise my writing and my life within these african brackets. i am not seperate from this. it informs how i live and what i say. it grabs me by both arms and shakes me and shouts at my face and won't leave me alone. it scrapes at my door and stares into my car window. i can never be anonymous. i am always seen. my thoughts are heard before i have spoken them.

it's about "casual atrocities" (william boyd) and the clinking of ice and champagne. its about having everything and having nothing. its so sensitive and complicated and riotous. its so devastating its impossible. its so wild and unpredictable. its so rich and so hopeful. its tough. its cruel. its heartbreakingly soul flyingly beautiful. its insane. its hard. its uncaring. there is always something new, something crazy, something to make you laugh. and there is almost always some sun to be found and someone dying. an horizon. a drought. a flood. a war. a smile. displacement. a helping hand. a juju killing. and a lesson.

the priest. the catholic priest from the rwandan genocide. the UN holds court for all the crimes against humanity in rwanda here in arusha. i attended his trial. he was responsible for ordering the killing of 1500 people in his church because they were tsutsi. they came to him for help. he locked them in the church. when they asked where they could urinate he turned to them and said," you can shit on the alter. you are tsutsi. you no longer have a god." he locked them up and refused them food. the gendarmes (guards) were ordered to kill anyone who tried to pick some bananas. he then ordered a bulldozer to bull doze down the church. with 1500 women, men and children. of course the few suvivors were all children who had been protected by their parents. they crawled out from the rubble and were rounded up and slaughtered by the gendarmes.

a friend of mine visited the memorial sites in rwanda for all those who had died..nearly a million. her tour guide was a young man, then about 16years old, a genocide survivor. he had hidden under his dead mother. he was 5 at the time. my friend asked him how he could stay in the same place where his entire family had been killed by the people in his village, who he saw every day.

he said," when i see them coming down the road, i just walk on the other side."

i saw him sitting there, the priest, in the court room. defending himself. a man. in a church robe. a man of god. the first catholic priest in the history of our time, to be charged with genocide.

i know rwanda isn't tanzania. or zambia.

africa is outrageous and anything is possible. anything.

i can't write anything more about it tonight. i want to. but there is much to say and i don't know where to begin.

Kitchen Blackboard Tuesday Evening: 27 May 2008
Contributors: Veronica, Janelle
Comments: Gas was purchased. children collected. i ran. i collected not only baby fever trees but also baby sausage trees, baby albidas and baby magnolia trees. 34 in total. car papers were in fact delivered to mark. and bah to the rest. in fact the service was so bad at shahins so i stomped out to make a point. silly me. have to go back there tommorrow now. because they do make really good mozzy nets. and i just hope that parking angel procures the same parking space again...no one remembered to edit the board...interesting.....?


http://reluctantmemsahib.wordpress.com said...

beautiful. completely beautiful. and sad. and true. so true.well done x

Janelle said...

ah thanks babes...well. out of everyone in the world you would understand...! its so hard to contexualize and explain...isn't it? but have been ignoring it on this site but have to start to broach the subject now...ho hum... xxxxx j

Kat Farrell said...

Janelle, don't worry about expressing yourself, you get your point across with a simplicity of emotion that is heart breaking. I'll be back later to read more.

I love the photos of your family.

tam said...

i want to write a message on your blackboard. i want to write "mom rocks. don't forget to hug mom today"

tam said...

did you ever read that book by Katy Payne about elephants and infrasound? its called Silent Thunder. She asks one of the Shona scouts how the hell do i write about all this stuff that i have witnessed, suffered, etc. He tells her quite simply, "you just say what happened."
you're a word queen. write it on your blackbaord. mom is a word queen.

Dumdad said...


You mention William Boyd. I've recently re-read his An Ice-Cream War which is excellent. I enjoyed A Good man in Africa too.

Another "African" book I enjoyed was Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller.

Carol said...

Wow! You have to write about what you see, what you hear and not push sensitive material under the carpet. Well done to you. I live in Kenya and after the elections when everything was going nuts I sat up and watched a DVD called 'It always rains in April' about Rwanda - it terrified me to think that other countries could go the same way. But I think that all the other countries know about the damage done in Rwanda - and maybe that will prevent something similar happening elsewhere - something positive maybe?

Janelle said...

thanks you all for such wonderfully encouraging comments...thank you thank you thank you. thanks kat! well. dig your site too.! yeah I will to tam. watch this space! HAH! and dumdad - hurry up and post another story! so i can answer your comment! carol,...yeah one would hope...one can only hope...its such a fine line. love to you all. xxx janelle

The Lehners in France said...

Janelle, I have arrived via dumdad. I have read your post and would really like to show it to my husband. He was raised in Kenya and we return to Africa, either on safari or he works for animal welfare charities. It's late here now, but I would like to return tomorrow.
Debs x

Retiredandcrazy said...

Hi Janelle I arrived via Reluctantmemsahib and I can't put into words what I feel. All I can say is that you live in a different world to my world of Coronation Street/Gordon Brown/high petrol prices etc. I know what it makes me feel, it makes me feel shallow. Kreep up the faith.

Here, There, Elsewhere... and more said...

this is beautiful, true and sad beyond words - I admire you so much for "coming out" with your thoughts and feelings in such a sincere way...
I arrived here via another blog on life in Africa (can't remember now which one, as I added you to my favourites list to return when I had more time to read an entire post - I'm so glad I did !)
A bientôt (as we say in France) I'll be back for more :)

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N said...

My African heart feels this so sound and true - in all it's sadness and complexity... and if you're not African, it's very hard to get it.
Just keep saying it as it is. Beautifully.