What next, after Black Lives Matter?

I recently posted as guest author on the website of my mentor and guide on the Yoga path. I tell you this to save me rewriting a lot of the carefully crafted piece that I did there… you can read it if you’re interested here >>> https://swami-nishchalananda.com/2020/07/02/possibilities-for-social-justice/

Here’s a small extract from that piece… give you the flavour of where we’re going today.

Why did anyone ever think that Black Lives didn’t matter?

Now many people are saying enough is enough and this wonderful worldwide movement against racism has started up. May it continue. Why did anyone ever think Black Lives didn’t matter? Some people are on the bandwagon of course, but that’s ok. As long as we raise the profile of the fight. And it has been a fight in which many have died. If you have a brain, you know that discrimination by race lives in the world of sheep, automatons, robots, any entity that can be programmed. We can all be programmed actually, couldn’t function unless we had patterns of knowing how to do things.

However, the further possibility for us humans, is that we can use our minds to see how we can evolve, understand what is this life. It’s been my experience that on such a journey of enquiry we soon start to see that we are all part of the same life, the vital force behind all life, therefore to focus on differences is only of use in a football match etc where we’re having fun. Or admiration… like you might say…’ooh I wish I had curly hair like you’! Used in blind ignorance to create reasons for going to war with someone/a whole bunch of people, well… that just takes us backwards in the effort to make this planet of ours an enjoyable place to live.

Do you cross the street to get away from someone because they’ve got brown eyes, and you have blue eyes? Well racism is that irrational and sheeplike. And that’s actually an insult to sheep. How about socks? Do you have something against people who wear green socks?

Welcome to Stupidland.

Ok enough of that Rant!! What the above-mentioned article went on to say is that if we can mobilise so much of the innate Goodness in people to stand up against injustice, why not just… keep going… and look at the gross injustice that is distribution of wealth and resources on the planet. Which is kind of where I left off last time in this blog. I’d started thinking, what is the point of bringing the financial models we’ve used in the West, into a place where people live a relatively hand-to-mouth existence. Capitalism for god’s sake, teaching people how to screw their brothers and sisters until someone ends up at the top of the pile.

Let’s go back a step… when you go to someone else’s culture, the polite thing to do first is to understand that culture as much as you can (being from a different one). Don’t wade in and start deciding how you’re going to help them …. remember ‘voluntourism’ projects where the whites build a library for people way out in the bush who haven’t had the chance to learn to read. Ok that’s an extreme example but that stuff happens.

If you can read the culture a bit better, and that only comes with sensitivity, and time spent with people, they can guide us how to use skills that we might have, but they haven’t had the chance to learn.

If you can read the culture a bit better, and that only comes with sensitivity, and time spent with people, then they can guide us how to use skills that we might have, but they haven’t had the chance to learn. Let me give you an example: A friend of mine who is one of the Yoga teachers in the group we established in Katete District, said recently ‘Initiative is not taught here’. I have seen that schooling can be repetitive so you are just fed information with no training in how to make sense of it. But it was like that in the UK when I was at school… it really depends on the teacher.

But there’s a point here. Through seeing decision making processes happen, people who have lost that skill can regain it. I trained three of my good friends how to teach Yoga. It was hard because I had to learn how they were themselves learning what I tried to get across. Then slowly we ‘adapted to each other’s way of thinking’. Now they are awesome Yoga Teachers, African style.

What am I saying. Don’t try to teach people from a different Culture things that you think they should know. Spend the time, years if necessary, learning from them. Guess what, you may just find that your life has been enriched in the most wonderful way. And the projects to improve people’s living standards, if that’s what they want, will come from that learning process naturally, not forced.

Finally, back to the Main Subject of this blog…. Ketty. She’s been starved of her Schooling by this Covid business, but she’s been joining in the Yoga classes, really loving it. She has great ability to teach. It was funny watching her teach adults at the Lodge how to do Jigsaw puzzles (they’ve never seen in this part of the world), also she gets very businesslike when she’s teaching me Sign Language. So maybe she’ll become a teacher of Yoga for both deaf and hearing people. That would be something.

Ketty at the front of this group … they’re prepping for Ushtrasana, Camel pose

Lot’s of Love from us all.

Tony

Eastern Zambia

This part of Africa is one of the poorest parts of the world. People cook outside, with firewood, which is one of the indices of poverty.  Village life can appear an idyll. The climate is beautiful, social relationships are mostly co-operative and people have time to talk, to enjoy simple pleasures. Such lifestyle can appeal to some of us in the ‘first world’ as a simplicity that we’ve lost, to our detriment.

But there are downsides. In the villages, there is no economy as such. Agriculture is the way of life forIMG_0788 all who live in a village; it’s the only way to get food to eat. There are no businesses, no offices, no factories. Just bush. Having said that, where other work is available, perhaps in an NGO or one of the many struggling one-man businesses, then people have to get to work by either walking (often for hours) or if you’re lucky and have a bike, on two wheels. The Great East Road is the main route through the area going from Lusaka to Malawi. Always there are people walking on the sides of that road. Village to market or back, going for firewood or charcoal, going for water, kids walking for miles to or from school. Nearer the towns there’s the bicycle taxis if you can afford one. A network of unmapped dirt roads leads maze-like to villages; further into the bush just tracks and remote villages that only the residents know how to get to, or of course the Peace Corps boys and girls who manage to find their way into them, following their missions whatever they may be.

In the towns life is a little different as there are markets for pretty much everything you need. And bars which can turn a place into a no go area at night especially for women or europeans. It’s possible to see a few sprawling colonial style bungalows with walled garden and iron gates on the outskirts of towns and there’s a kind of transition zone between town and country where a network of dirt roads and tracks weave between two roomed houses with tin roofs which are fairly cheap to build, and there isn’t a definite village identity. Chipata is a larger town on the border of Malawi with supermarkets, and more definite industry and you see the signs of more wealth there.

Education is a tricky one. Theoretically available to most children, in reality you have to pay for tuition at certain stages, and for uniforms. And you have to find a school you can get to. Many kids walk miles and miles each way. For Children living in villages right out in the bush, education is not possible unless you’re lucky enough to be in range of a privately built philanthropic project such as that built by Chief Mbang’ombe in Kapeya area. Higher education for a village dweller is pretty unlikely.

IMG_0824There are some NGOs out there trying to make a difference to agriculture methods and encouraging entrepreneurship. When you see the government agencies and advisors coming in and promoting use of inorganic fertilisers, you start to give up hope. The region grows maize as a carb staple which is fine when the rainy season behaves, but as the climate changes and weather patterns seem to be more unpredictable, we’ve seen crop failure on a catastrophic scale. It’s tragic to see a huge field of maize, planted and cared for by the whole local community, with shrivelled cobs not even fit for animal feed.

And if you’re a rich European, you’re totally unaware of all this as you enjoy the luxurious surroundings of a safari lodge just a relatively short hop northwards in the Luangwa game reserves. You don’t need to see anything of the true life of a village person in Zambia, any more than they will ever see any of the money you’re theoretically putting into the Zambian economy.

The Chewa: Gule Wamkulu

With thanks to Unesco for permission to use their video – see below for explanation.

gule wamkulu

I went to Gule Wamkulu in a village in Eastern Province, with the director of the NGO where I was staying. She and I were the only muzungus (white people) there so it was very personal; arranged for us by a local Chief  and village Headman. It took place at night, with just the fire, used to warm the skins of the drums, to show the amazing costumes on the different figures as they danced in and out of that firelight. Magical, especially with the relentless drumming and singing of the girls. Not like the nice choral singing I heard in the schools and stuff, much more from the earth, from nature. You must not talk to the guys before or after as traditionally it is not them dancing, but ghosts, hence sometimes translated as ‘ghost dance’. Afterwards, the atmosphere was raw earth energy; I saw the mothers  making haste to hustle their daughters away quickly!

Unesco says:

‘Gule Wamkulu was a secret cult, involving a ritual dance, practiced among the Chewa in Malawi, Zambia, and Mozambique. It was performed by members of the Nyau brotherhood, a secret society of initiated men.Within the Chewa’s traditional matrilineal society, where married men played a rather marginal role, the Nyau offered a means to establish a counterweight and solidarity among men of various villages. Nyau members still are responsible for the initiation of young men into adulthood, and for the performance of the Gule Wamkulu at the end of the initiation procedure, celebrating the young men’s integration into adult society.’

This video was made in Malawi. The Chewa people are mostly across Malawi, Zambia, and Mozambique. Click on the link below for the video, or below that for the Unesco source.

http://www.unesco.org/archives/multimedia/scripts/iframedjs.php?p=480&f=634

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Source:
The People Chewa: Gule Wamkulu/ Chew Nyan