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Eating words and Indigestion The world speaks to me and swallowing its words gives me indigestion, so i tell all its secrets

The Ancient is not always priceless

BOTSWANA | Monday, 10 October 2011 | Views [497]

My expedition into Molepolole, the birth place of Chief Sebele in Botswana, feels like a long walk through the dusty pages of history that might soon turn into a reality show with all its bizarre weather conditions but, without the color-coded bandanas and an aim at a million.

Chief Sebele along with Chief Khama and Chief Bathoen successfully petitioned the English in defense of Botswana against the invasive Boer forces, armed and ready to colonize the land and its people during the ‘scramble for Africa’. They are still credited, to this day, for the friendly relations between Botswana and the elite English.

And so I am in the village, on the fringes of tapering hills and the Kalahari sands with their rich cultural life. About forty kilometers and one billion light years away from the Capital City Gaborone, Phua lerole as it is called by its natives is generally a dowdy suburban village of small, neat dwellings and dirt roads. I head to Borakalalo, the oldest shopping centre in the village which now lies a wasteland. Under the exploding sun, sweat forces my eyes into needle-size slits and I for a moment feel the frustrations of short sightedness. Gusts of winds give a shot at soothing me, but whisk-broom charred sands into the sky in the process. Everything becomes one with the brown dust and red dirt and I cannot decide which is worse; the sun or the wind.

Abandoned buildings and miscellany shops owned by Chinese nationals and Arabs are the only remains of the once thriving Borakalalo Mall. The floors which once boasted shop produce are choked with droppings of both the animal and human type. Their acidic smell hang in the air, perhaps warning those that pass here of the dangers that lurk within the caved walls.

‘The place is a ghost town Phenomena’, Jamaal an Arab shop owner tells me in flawless Setswana. ‘Thugs hide out in the buildings, terrorizing all those that pass through the mall. Night or day, it is not safe to walk around here’, he continues with a dejected air around him.

In the store, his elderly customers saunter around inspecting the assorted wares. This is a mini Game Stores. Farm produce, toiletries, food stuffs, sweets, spices, household equipment, farm implements, are all sold under one roof.

A long queue has formed where the farm produce is sold. The beans, maize, sunflower are weighed with a cup and sold for P5 a cup. This is the time when the demand for them is high due to the impending ploughing season, Jamal tells me.

I purchase a grandpa pill and an elderly with a tooth gap asks me to buy snuff instead of the pills. Her shoes like everyone else’s in the store match the soil outside. Snuff she says is the best remedy for a sun-induced headache. I reluctantly  buy it, and go back to the rude surrounds which to a painter might resemble paradise.

Ruins are our comfort

One of the buildings has been turned into a bar or sepoto as places like this are called. ‘Khadi (traditional beer) and Shake Shake only’, the patron tells me as I ask for a soft drink and I settle for half a cup of Khadi. Thirst has been known to turn even the most devout men into dissenters, albeit for a moment. The vile, bitter liquid burns my tongue and I for a moment are taken to years long gone, when my Aunt used to sell the drink. We would often take a sip or two, much to her reprove. Men who look bruised and have bruises thrive in such places as this. They walk meandering man made paths between homes, searching for the brew and possibly, the next fight. To them alcohol is more than a drink. It is a companion. A sedative against the life they fail to understand. The world is full of them.

Sitting on an orange Kgalagadi Breweries Crate, a colored looking man tells his companions of last nights’ incident. At midnight while walking to his house, he’d seen a huge snake circling above him in the air. When he looked again, it was gone and behind him stood a white woman in white clothes. ‘He’d seen it with his own eyes’! He says and his friends jeer at him. They are doing it for good reason, I thought. The friends however start coming up with their own ‘better’ versions of their ‘midnight stories’. In drunken Languor they tell tales of dragons, witches and talking monkeys. Their eyes glimmer as they carry on, but behind the shine, I see deep wounds and scars. To someone like them, whose past informs their present, it is impossible to find a pattern that would make everything understandable. Like the ruins around them, their thriving days are long gone.

Tags: ancient, borakalalo, botswana, gaborone, kgosi bathoen, kgosi khama, kgosi sebele, mall, molepolole


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