Brett Hetherington

Banner photos: Cornelia Kraft

Stream of Consciousness: Zanzibar 22 July 1998

[Photo: Pedro Duarte]

 

What have I seen today?

 

Quintessential African scenes of:

 

 People,

 lining the road,

 cycling the road,

 wandering the road,

 but always looking.

 

Here women old young,

children,

men with burdens,

loads of sticks,

bundles of leaves,

them all registering

every kind of human expression on their faces:

inquisitive inquiring,

can’t be bothered

just too busy with their intentions,

frightened also,

friendly and smiling with a desire

to connect with your being,

waving,

running alongside the car

children chanting “Jambo” or “money!” 

scurrying away scared with backs turned

when the camera is pointed at them

to take away their souls,

or they pretend to throw things then laugh,

frown, scowl or look away;

 

the babies too,

many in rags

one held near a mothers flappybag breasts

for no-one in particular to see;

the grandmothers struggling

to walk in the sub-African sun,

dressed so multi-colourfully

with head scarves and skin of leather

with very white standout-whites-of-eyes,

sometimes suspicious if not cautious;

 

 and the many many men who stare for a care,

 they have their own reasons

 for making the decision to look,

 though only a few

 refused to do as the rest did

 and enjoy the free novelty of the mini-bus

 with the whities

 inside looking back at them

 for their own entertainment and amusement also;

 

and the animals:

so many cows,

every single one with a huge slave lump

in the spine from the yolk I think,

who stood stock still

munching and flailing a tail

in the banana grass

of the sideroad greeneries,

the occasional tethered goat

with the standard goat-expression of bone boredom

not even preoccupation

or focus or much of it at all;

 

The fish!

A great half-swordfish

with a spanning triangular tail fin

which popped out

of one man’s bicycle behind him

as he hurried towards another village;

and the coconut palms and the banana trees

so frequent and foliated,

and the sighting of two ancient Boabab trees

sourcing their nutrients

from places deep below the surface

of the fertile flats

which beckon you

to notice them

one-after-the-other,

 

 the other huts

 of grass straw rooves

 sitting on walls of straw

 or mud

 and some of brick houses

 but most with open doors,

 women of house sometimes inside,

 or half outside

 or idly waiting around,

 shuffling about or mending

 or scratching the dirt

 with their big round coloured, materialed bums

 sticking in the air,

 a perfect right-angle formed

 by their strong legs,

 back-bending to do

 a farmer’s job with the soil

 or pluck or plant or plough by hand

 or notice us go by

 or not

 in that moment;

 and what else?

 

 Well, there were roads like minefields

 with holes and swells and mud ponds

 and dry rough stony-trap craters

 for bumps and avoidance to steer around,

 and always someone beside them

 not too far away;

 and at the end of it

 a gorgeous sandy white water of turquoise and blue beach salty

 and quite warm to feel and sensuous actually

 even sexy to be in as the sun moved across it,

 

 and before that and after

 there were faces faces faces questioning,

 searching into yours,

 making comments,

 just looking blankly, maybe imploring

 and gesticulating with it,

 making noises of Swahili

 and absent-minded lacking concentration movements

 of head or arms;

 

 and there were vespas

 with only ever boys and men,

 and trucks returning with men and women smiling,

 alighting onto the ground;

 with two police roadblocks

 where ‘secret’ money was exchanged

 as “punishment” for the crime of being a foreigner

 paid for the benefit of a police lunch

 or beer or trip to the brothel

 or this sort of thing

 but we don’t talk about it now,

 we just pay and smile and go

 and say our name and take our orders

 and give the game a go, then go

 then move along sir, yes.

 But what about…?