Mboka – One Family, One Africa
Mboka, my new family, new friends. We drive along to places with names that roll off our tongues, Farafina, Wassau Stone circle, Janjanbureh, Juffureh, Kunte Kinte Island in yellow-green taxis, buses, dodging animals slow almost to a halt to allow cows to amble across the road and goats with their kids gambling with death. Donkeys with heads bowed low, pulling the weight of people, the weight of the country, weight of Africa on their backs. Lay down your burden, like the monkeys, my totem, swinging high above, calling out, ‘come play, come snatch and run, run, run.’
Mboka, One family in Wolof. Mboka Festival of Arts and Culture that has brought us all from Ghana, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Barbados, England, to the red dusty road of the Gambia, to Africa. I walk into the coolness of hotels, Senegambia, Djeliba, Djembe, unquestioned although the sun is darkening my skin into Gambian blue black. I blend with my cousins, body and soul. One Art, One Culture. One family. I blink at the blueness of swimming pools cooling white bodies burning in the heat of the day. No toubab, me.
Mboka, one family. Listen to the rhythm of Africa, the kora, the drums, the balafon. Kankurang uttering piercing cries, wielding machete, dancing the masquerade. Youssou N’dour leads me into the dance.The sounds of Africa bathes me. Washes away the lies and leaves the truth that is hard to swallow. So, eat, eat, eat, yassa, benachin, domoda. Drink my fill of ginger, lemon, red wonjo, pale brown baobab juice. Eat, drink and feed my heart. I swallow Africa. Fill my eyes, my nose my mouth with words written in the air for me to capture and inhale. Stories of loss. Lost lives, lost hopes, our loss.
Mboka, one family, one Africa. I breathe in the dust and it tickles my throat, blows into my ears and up my nose. Red dust covers my skin. Taste, smell, touch, Africa. The sand pushes between my toes as I sink into a yoga pose and wait for the sunrise. I lift up my arms and pray to the sun, pray for all those who journeyed the middle passage, pray for those who were left behind. I watch the ebb and flow of the ocean that washed the dust of home from my ancestors’ feet. From such a beach, chained and branded like cattle, they were dragged away. I hear their voices, their cries. Their spirits have returned to tell of their rage at the injustice of slavery.
As the heat of the day wanes, sounds fade into silence and sink into the dust. The setting sun turns the sky rage red, burnt orange, ginger yellow before it fades throwing shadows into the ocean. In the eerie silence, silhouettes reach out to dance with the trees. Cries rise from the ocean bed, calling, calling, awakening voices hidden within, touching my soul. Remember? I do not remember what I do not remember. I do not remember the pain of not knowing. All I know is that the ocean has brought me home – Mboka. One family. One Africa.
Anni Domingo, Actress, Writer, Lecturer and Raconteuse