Monday, March 30, 2015

LIBRARIES IN THEIR HEADS

I can’t remember the song that goes with my favourite fairytale, Kgogomodumo. I can’t even remember the entire tale, not as it was told to me with my tribe’s spin on it. My father’s cousin who first told it to me while making fat cakes – a kind of local beignet - has long died. I have no grandparents, having only ever met my maternal grandfather as he was the only one still living. His mother, my maternal great grandmother (who outlived her husband and all her children) is also now gone. Libraries in their heads. All those books in the ground. So I turn to the available texts, it’s a kind of sulking without making it anyone else’s problem, and come across this:

Lee Nichols of Voice Of America(VOA) writes, ‘I asked if he felt songs, stories and vernacular writing in general were an important part of what is called African literature’.

p’Bitek Okot replies, ‘it is the most important part. The songs such as the ones I’ve published and the stories such as Achebe and Ngugi have published, it’s a small, small, small thing in a big sea of very rich, rich, rich material which we need to mine. I also think that Africa is going to make a contribution to world literature. We have roots, we have to be rooted some place. You don’t just hang in the air’.

If you can find it, grab a copy of Conversations with African writers (VOA) it may have been compiled in 1981 but I like it because it 'kept' something. Bessie Head, and Ramsey Diane Molefhe the Motswana journalist and poet who I never met, are included in there. In any case, it is not a case of history being determined by who wrote it, rather it is a series of transcriptions of 78 interviews mostly as is from the various horses’ mouths. The (for radio) audio tapes should be available in the US Library Congress in Washington.


Of course my dragon song is not in there, what to do about that.

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