Blues of the spirits.
3 in morning, some cafe in Ouaga, the beer count too high, the action is not what I have found in Ouaga.
I meet Pipona from Lima. Maybe she has come to Africa to die, she says. Africa means connect. Connect to the earth, the sky, find god like Sufis, or the spirits, the mystics. She has been here before, not physically, or maybe in a former life. Coming back to Africa means back to the roots, to future or former spiritual cross roads.
Why am I here I ask myself then, still here then after 4 years? What am I doing in Ouaga? Cannot be the call of the Fespaco festival.
Once upon a time ... "Il etait une fois l'indépendance", film by Daouda Coulibaly, Malian in Marseille and Nicola ..., Frenchman in Bamako, a film that I should have seen but did not (such is my Fespaco experiece). Bamako is where I had met with Nicola earlier, we discover, was at a friends lunch.
Africa has grown up, independence and assotiated feelings have long passed, all the mistakes often and repeatedly made. Africa has found it's identity between roots and modernity, ancestors and development, animistic beliefs and agnosticism if we place Islam and Christianity inbetween.
To all of us this evening Africa is where we feel at home. Why am I here? Why when I don't know for what realm? There must be a reason or destiny. Daouda tells something else, when he is back in Marseille and it is quiet he asks himself why he is not in Africa, around the livelyhood, the talking, the people knocking on the door at any time of the day/night.
Africa means grounding ourselves, connect with the energy, la terre, the ocean, the desert, sahel, the dust (we're in Ouaga). Nico tells me of the rituals, the film crew had undergone before filming could take place in some of these sacred Mande mountains grottoes, several goats and chicken needed slaughtering in the caves, "but we were secure then, even protected by the spirts, nothing happened, not even a flat tire, it felt so right to do it."
And Pipona from Lima goes: Before I was a Jew, once an Arab, once an African, in former lives. She knows that. She has come here to this junction, maybe was there before. A spiritual cross road lies ahead. She feels that.
"Il va pleuvoir sur Conakry", Guinean, by Cheick Fantamady Camara, a film (review) I saw before the festival (such is my Fespaco experience), a stupid film, just punching Islam(ists), how little did they reveal about the animists, music and family life in Conakry, all set in a stupid model show. I have hoped for more, would have known better how/where set the film. Although, the film touches on an interesting subject, an Imam cought between tribal and Islamic duties, it could have just revealed so much more.
In Africa till todate many Christians and Muslims engage in some practice during the day and worship their traditional gods, spirits, ancestors, fetiches. Islam in Sahel is old, Christianity not so. The two have a history of cohabitation. Clashes are rare.
Once spiritual path is usually bumpy, how many lives do we have to live? Most of us are of course not aware of that. Does it depend on our selfishness?
Every once in a while we arrive at such a spiritual junction. Here we can leap, into another dimension, one step closer, on the long journey to become god. But basically it means dying to this life in this world, so it is too easy to screw it up and stay, love the self too much, basically turn right instead of left on the cross road and live on for earthy matters, not ready to accept fate. Suppose most of us are like this.
Come un huomo sulla terra an Italian/Ethiopian documentary film by Andrea Segre and Dagmawi Yimer makes the most impression. It tells the tragic situation of many struggling immigrants on their way to a better life, Ethiopians on route to Europe/Italy crossing the Libyan Sahara, today's human trade/slavery, Africans sold and resold to traffickers by Libyan authorities, thrown into dark chambers, packed up in steel containers on week long journeys, a malicious and horrendous labyrinth of torture, starvation, bribes, rape and death. Some never arrive or get back, some are 2 years or longer on route/in jails/in hiding.
Too simple, the weird Europeans like it in Africa, the poor Africans want to get out. Ahh, the economic motivation! The soso simple and wrong answer. But this cannot be part of the Fespaco/spirits story.
The witch though is. An Eritrean Spanich mulatto with dark thick kohl draped over her eyes, she connects so well to everyone in hotel's backyard, has this project going, children with learning difficulties, she says, her own NGO. First she wants to give me a Land Rover T-shirt, then a few days later an anti itching cream against my mosquito bites. I decline both.
Simply in Africa you don't just wear anything, put cream on that somebody gives you. These items maybe cursed, the hex then could use them to manipulate, influence character and behaviour. In a bar/cafe a coke or beer bottle always comes with the cap on, is opened only under the client's eyes, for fear it could be poisoned.
The T-shirt raises suspicions, the cream confirmes it. Too obviouse. The witch is trying to put a hex on me. Be careful/aware of these situations here.
The good thing is we can fight these spells, hexes, there are techniques to wash it off, the ocean, the light , we can immune ourselves against potentially evil magic. So I don't know much of this. But I can feel the energy when it is negative, take steps necessary to fight it, escape. I call it instinct. At one afternoon at 3 I pack and move out of the hotel. Two weeks in the hotel, no thefts, no incidents, must not overdo it. Something is cooking up, can feel it, not just coming from the hex.
Further my experience on Fespaco: See also lots of short films. Some good, some bad, some ugly.
See also a French/Burkinabe film L'amoure, sex et la mobilette, should have downed a few more at the bar, should have seen the signs just by the title, but I am possibly witched by the spirits. The local audiance though cheers it, the shallow, let's talk about sex, new in Burkina, boys should be nice to girls stuff.
But such is Fespaco, hard to come by a program, their web page a half a week into the festival, still doesn't show it, or the link doesn't work, my press badge request from early January was never processed/received, the offered laissez-passer never issued. Some films I want to see never show, some director refuses airing on DVD, so we see films instead we don't want to see, and so on. Also some films attract 90% white audiance. Is it the price of 1.5 to 2.5 Euros?
Fespaco maybe badly organised but Burkina is friendly, so we down a few more of chilled Bière de Burkina from Brakina, a delight, especially when temps rise to 36°C and more in the afternoon and you're lost in the program, or is it the dust?
Kicking Through The Dust Of Eastern Burkina Faso.
I wake up one Ouaga morning, the diffused rising rays kissing my eyes, I see the dust dance in the light of a bright sun and decide to follow it. I drive out to the Nature Reserves some 400 ks on the very eastern edge of Burkina. In Diapaga I run into an Italian naturalist, Angelo who is trying to save some endangered species in the area. But Angelo has his eye on more than just the animals.
When I work the Landy he tries to make his advance on me explaining how Donkeys walk. But I discover I am one in many, am in competition, with all his 2 gay/bi guides that show up and steal his gaze. One of them while we are deer stalking in the bush suggest to me to use the time while Angelo is away.
Like hmmm? It takes me more than a day to establish what is going on, realise how well the gay community is organised/linked even down here. His gay/bi African guides are a friendly lot, Angelo a bit full of himself maybe also disappointed with me - and I decide take my solitary route through W (wiki), the Benin border country and out. This is dry dry season, most animals have migrated south wards. A lot of buffalo and elephant tracks, their droppings, eventually some deer and monkeys is all I get to see.
Down into Arli National Park (wiki) is where I see a multitude of elephants (50), hippos (15), and some baboons. It is worth seeing – as was W.
By the way, all the real trackers I meet are not gay, they have been walking the bush some for 30 odd years. They know the habitat of leopards and lions, buffaloes and elephants, though always you need a bit of luck to see them.