Writing in the Field…

Fiction writing comes alive with a lot of creativity. Be it prose or poetry, the creativity which a writer weaves into it, is often sparked or ignited. One of the triggers for creative writing I know is travelling. I am not talking of the act of being an imaginary foreigner. When you physically travel a lot, I suppose you will many times find lots of things you will want to share. Travel is expensive, but if you are lucky to have a career that encourages travelling, you are thus blessed with many inspirations.

Working in the Social Development sector is interesting. Over the years, it has garnered for its self and its practitioners, an identity. As people identify with their occupations like being a social worker, I can proudly say I am a development worker. Such identity is nourished by the many travels we ought to do considering the different issues and people you will have to work for and with.typewriter-field1-300x200

With travelling comes reflection. Few days ago,while on a trip, I reflected on the impact travelling and working on different development issues has made on my life. I notice there is an unconscious act of surrounding your space mostly with people of like mind; who think and aspire to reshape the world. This produces what I call living in a cosmopolitan bubble. This bubble has been strengthened with so much knowledge and confrontations, which many times are greater than us. We are provoked to anger and passion, sometimes misjudgement of people who cannot see the urgency in the change we want to institute. We forget that unlike us, they have not travelled the many routes, seen hills of different shades, and seen people of different colours, culture and landscape.

There are more advantages we gain working in development. A rising number of development workers are taking to creative avocations; taking advantage of their insights and travels to produce creative piece evoked by reflections on the breathtaking landscapes, transformations, people, issues and perhaps nature. I have friends like Anne Chia, Carrie Ann amongst others on wordpress. Most of the others are inspired to do travel writing but are either too busy or too 943789_10151368990506701_1099235516_n (2)shy to publish.

I went reading from development workers who are doing some creative work and are perhaps too shy or too busy to publish. I found the work of my friend Victoria Nwogu. Vicky is a brilliant Nigerian lady who works for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)  as a Gender Advisor. On her working visit to Somalia, she was inspired to do the creative piece which she titled ‘Blow me Jeje’ below.

Blow me jeje!

My dear dear friend
Your cool caress on my face as I descend
Ah! I realize you’ve come along
And I have been away too long
How nippy and sprightly you feel
The jolt back there, when I felt the craft keel
I’ll never tire of your playfulness
Hey! I squeal as you ruffle my skirts

I can see you’ve come by in the night
Everything covered in dust so light
Naughty thing that you are
I almost thought you a burglar
When you stubbornly shook my window
I peered out in fear, but not even a shadow
Then I knew it was you
Sneaking up to command my view

You sound angry this fretful morn
Your wail, like a woman facing scorn
Boisterous and passionate in your ire
We cower as you unleash your temper
I wouldn’t want to be your rival
A clash with your power would be fatal
With what shall we assuage your fury?
Perhaps a roof or a sapling, but not a baby!

I feel like dancing
In tune to your infectious prancing
But you race past me as I reach with yearning
I see your other lovers persisting
Your attention leaves a twinge of pain
But oh joy, when you turn to me again
Virile men can’t face your great might
As you consume everything in sight

Now my sojourn is at its end
Till we meet again dear friend
Blow me jeje!

 

No, it’s not what you think. Its not an ode to a lover; its a poem written in honour of the Southwest Moonsoon Wind.  According to Vicky, the Moonsoon wind comes every year from late May until late August, blowing over the Gulf of Aden from the western Arabian Sea onto the Eastern coasts of Africa. While the winds rarely reach gale force scale, there are a few days in the months of July or August when the speeds could reach a maximum high of 34 to 40 knots. She was privileged to experience the fury and the fun of this wind in Puntland in Somalia. This experience did merit an ode or ‘amateur poetry’ as she called it.  For me, this poem has a good composition, verses and depth of expression, I cannot be asking for too much from a spontaneous writer.

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Picture of sea waves from the  Southwest Moonson Wind as Captured by Vicky.

On a lighter side, we can exhale while on the job in a creative way. It could be doing a poem, it could be taking a picture or sharing a story that makes our world Richer. Perhaps we would never know about some places or things if someone doesn’t write about it. Thank you Vicky for this windy ode. As the poem says, blow me jeje, blow me gently; may the wind of development blow us gently.

Circles in a Forest…

7002009-MIn the last month, I travelled with my friend across the middle belt, central and south eastern region of the Nigerian States. These were routes I had taken before, but travelling with Halima gave a refreshing perspective to the sceneries of Eastern Nigeria. Not forgetting the potholes which had become the marquee of the Nigerian road, the entire journey was filled with scenes that would make for good tourist appeals, divergent attractions and hills of various shades.

My friend Halima is of Fulani descent and comes from the Northern region of Nigeria, characterised by absence of grass and trees, with577185_476703059036783_473370615_n hazy and hot weather.  Being her first visit to Eastern Nigeria, the site of steady green vegetation was particularly striking for her.  Clusters of lush green little woodlands sighted on the roadsides were a contrast to the progressively dry northern states where she is used to seeing many lonely trees. I was amazed to note that I also had not consciously observed this stark difference in landscape. Before now, I assumed that all regions are endowed with at least a number of woodlands, shrubs, high density tree areas with closed canopy.  Now I realise my assumptions are wrong.  Some places have them, and others do not. For the have not’s, it could be as a result of the arid nature of the region, drought as is the case of northern Nigeria. In other places, it could be deforestation practices such as wood logging caused by the pressures of industrialization.

As I reflect through this new revelation, I thought that in the era of climate change, it could indeed be possible that more regions will lose their woodlands and perhaps become progressively dry as the northern Nigeria.  Sustaining my faith in Literature, I began researching on writers who have prophetically captured the possibilities of this reality and advanced issues of deforestation such as tree logging.

Most captivating is Dalene Mathee’s ‘Circle in the Forest’. This work of fiction has remained a modern classic that portrays the magnificence of Africa, with a ZAH01_100003518_Xuniversal symbolism that is applicable to every country, hamlets and all people. The character of Saul Bernard the son of Joram the wood-cutter stands out as the protector of the Knysna forest. This forest was an inheritance vanishing under the political manipulations and threat of exploitation of the timber merchants and ivory hunters. Mechanisms such as debts where used by capitalist timber merchants who ensured the woodcutters never got out of debt, hence blindly they continued to supplement their lack of income by killing elephants, cutting woods and destroying the forest. As he fights to halt these destructions, he finds a strange magical kinship with the spirit of Old Foot, the indomitable and majestic elephant who like him is running from a lie placed communityover his life. The story is woven together to propel Saul to a life transforming experience that comes with many confrontations. Saul’s life was one of questions, he questioned the conventions on his love for Kate (the daughter of MacDonald the wood buyer) whom he could not be with, He questions the power relations in the wood market.

The Knysna forest was home to many wild elephants and trees. Kysna like most African forests, acts as a carbon sink that mitigates climate change. Forest are essential for our living on earth. They provide 9780143027287_12oxygen, shelter for arrays of plants and animals, food and wealth for indigenous people and timber for everyday use. In the era of deforestation, most African forest are still surviving. In comparison with other regions of the world, such as Eastern Europe, North America and Southeast Asia, Africa’s biodiversity is still in good condition but yet under severe threat by interest of developed countries in their forest.

China is one of the largest exporter of timber from various African countries.  Illegal hunting of African elephants for the ivory, Rhinos for their horns is notably a practice of traders from this country. Symbolically, Dalene Mathee’s novel is indeed prophetic as it rightly represents the reality of today’s forests which is in constant exploitation by timber and ivory merchants amongst other. While the colonists might be accused of exploitation, they still left a preservable forest reserve for future generations. With the invasive interest China has in Africa, can the same beDeforestation-fact-1 said of possible footprints that China will leave in African Forests? The colonialist may have raped the African mind and land; will China perform the last rape with our forests?

Though timber trading means more money in the short term, how is this interest improving the lives of local people and in the long term, what future does it hold for the forest? The more questions I ask, the lesser answers there are.

The European Union seems to be creating stricter timber regulations, but the poor governance of African forest remains an issue of concern. Hence this makes it difficult to gauge precisely what impact this industrial activity will have. More so, poor governance cannot aid the mitigation of negative effects.  If climate change is indeed an issue of global concern, policy makers have a call to ensure implementation of East African Rain Forestgood practices in ongoing forest use. Like Saul Bernard, the world of Africans must now go beyond seeking guarantees as it may not be enough. Like Saul Bernard, the African government and its people must chose a self imposed mission to prevent any wanton forest destructions by instituting processes to secure the biodiversity in this region.

While on my tour with Halima, I paid a visit to the house of my birth in Benue state. Whereas not much 32609_10151694069349914_242645913_nhas changed, I was excited to find the tree of my childhood still standing. That tree holds memories; it taught me and my siblings how to climb. Standing by it, I wondered how many children born today will have the privilege of finding the tree of their childhood (if they have one) three decades after. In that moment, I began to appreciate people who have fought to preserve our biodiversities and our trees and I hope that their fight would be worthwhile.Wangari-Maathai t

In conclusion, I remember the non-fictional Saul Bernard’s of our time; the larger than life Wangari the tree lady.  But henceforth, when I honour the life of Wangari Mathaai the amazon of the forest, I’ll also remember Dalene Mathee whom with her pen remains a great protector of the African Forest. May their souls continue to rest as the forest trees sway in their praise.

32be64c456330a7f02353f.L._V179266669_SX200_Wangari-Maathai