Article: African Village Investigation


When its hot

You must not

Do a lot

This is a short poem I wrote while under the shade of a mango tree in Mozambique, in a delightful continent called Africa. My purposes for being under said mango tree require a brief explanation.

I am a 21 year old Canadian chap traveling around Southern Africa via bus with 13 other students from all over Europe. With the headline ‘Teachers in Training’ we are conducting investigations covering all aspects of the life of poor and exploited people living here. Our first investigation is in a small village in Mozambique, where I we are spending the majority of the afternoons slumbering in intense heat which made the productivity of our visit to the community slow. This is not a complaint.

We joked that we were adjusting to ‘African time’, which had marvelously different properties that the ‘European time’ which we had come from. Any job could be done later today, tomorrow, or probably yesterday.

  Putting aside the novelty of adjusting our watches to pointless, there is something very beautiful about this shift in the understanding of what a ‘day’ (made up of 24 hours) is all about.

In our prosperous, developed, commodity laden, motropoli of the western world, we have one unified commandment. Be busy. In Canada (my home and native land), the weather out side can be bellow 35 degrees celsius and people run from doors to doors bundled up to their ears in warm fabric, without the ability to stop and say “screw this, my face hurts! I will go to the dentist when the earth tilts back towards the sun!”

Our external environment can be ignored as our production systems, or more importantly consumption systems, take supreme precedence.

I noticed painfully (as my pale legs were badly burnt from my siestas) this is not the case in an Africa village that has nothing but mud houses and corn under the ferocious heat of the sun. The priory is to produce your own food through a laboriously repetitive grinding of soaked corn kernels until is becomes a cheesy looking mush called Nshima. Secondly (or maybe alwaysly as people never stop; even in the middle of the night), comes collecting water from a tap just outside the village. The tap in question pours water extremely slowly, which leads to a long lingering line of chatting women, and playing children. Out of curiosity I timed how long it took to to fill up one 20L jug and came up with 7 Minutes. Multiply that by the amount of jugs stacked single file in a rainbow of thirst and the equation spits out 4.5 hours.

The owner of the jug at the end of the line was a kid in ripped up cloths climbing a tree. And god damn did he ever look happy. I remember from my childhood that a one hour wait for anything seemed like many nights in a personal jail of boredom. This kid was swinging in the wind.

Again we are back to the fluctuations of the perception of time. Most fascinating are the ranging ideas behind each individuals construction of what a life time means.

Past. Present. Future. Where we come from. Where we are. Where we are going. Its seems like a big cosmic puzzle, and we are instruments tuned to focus on only one piece at a time. It is said by smart/crazy people that linear time is an illusion of the human mind. The minds of the villagers are focused on the needs of the present, and the needs of the community.

Should they instead be thinking of what they would do if they happened to win a weekly lottery which would propel them to a position that they imagine would be infinite bliss. I think they are better of not doing that as the reality of such habitual and wide spread gambling is ritualist dose of dissatisfaction.

Comparing this quaint African Village (Port Henrique) to my home (Burlington Ontario Canada), it is an underdeveloped patch of land with 1000 people who have a low quality of life. That assessment is made purely on the observations of the lack of modern amenities and technology. Even though a cute old lady in the village has a solar panel kit that she was excited to show her husbands. Which means she had more renewable energy sources than both my parents who are plugged into the grid in suburbia.

What is replacing this void of utilities in the hearts of the villagers? As they wait hours to drink with a smile, while we yell at our LCD screens when they display spirals indicating that our computer needs a few more seconds to download invisible data from a world wide web of information accessible to us in the toilet.

They are united in poverty. Collective in their struggle for survival. They belong to a community which weathers all storms together. When asked what else they need, they scarcely know the answer.

I must admit that my ultraistic impressions of the village are not all encompassing. I am not saying they live in paradise, as they really do suffer from the void of resources at their disposal. It would be much better for the people of Mozambique if their infrastructure was not bought out by the world bank which is a conglomerate for transnational corporations and governmental establishments. In return for providing development in the form of money for infrastructure to extract the immense amounts of natural resources including oil, they take ownership of 85% of those resources leaving 15% for Mozambique and allow them to purchase more at a reduced tax rate. How lovely. In capitalistic ideology this calls for a high five as if it is some masterfully played hand of poker against an inferior ‘fish’ (poor player in poker lingo) on the first class section Titanic. That metaphor works especially well as the earth is heading towards economic and ecological disaster equivalent to sinking of a mighty ship. Although their royal flush of luck intoxicates them to the point were they don’t realize that there are no life boats off this planet.

These poor communities in Africa legitimately can teach us something about how to live sustainably on earth because they are managing with almost nothing. Plus the chief has 7 wives so that means even the most egotistical cunts like the ones that are currently fucking the whole world can find satisfaction under the African tribe model.

Although with the amount of knowledge and understand that the general population is gaining everyday, they could refine the ideas in localized community systems to surpass deviant desires such as wanting to ‘own’ many women and keep them in your hut. It is possible for the attitudes of the people to collectively create more fair and equal communities if they are represented in the decision making process which is not what is currently happening in so called democracies.

Wow. Suddenly this village in Mozambique seems to be some sort of revolution camp considering the way it makes me feel about the state of the world. Although I think these ideas are permeating from everywhere and the need for change is becoming a global emergency.

When its hot

You should not

Do a lot

Except radically change the world.

Liam Cornwell

Liam Cornwell

Don't get a big head, your just a curious monkey....