How Van Damme Showed Me Great American Food

I love food. Whenever I leave home I look forward to strange dishes, like snails in Nigeria, to tasting the wonders of the place I’m visiting. But I didn’t expect any culinary pleasures in the US because everyone who goes there complains about the food. I braced myself for three months of eating junk, of feeding on things that taste like plastic.

A meal to eat on the go. Po’bo

My first bite was a banana. I thought, since it was a fruit I loved, it would help me adjust. But as I held it in my hand, I thought something was wrong. It had a logo on it. I frowned. A branded banana? GMO? Afraid, hesitant, I took a bite, and it confirmed every horror story I’d heard about their food. It was like eating sponge. At least it was yellow. The next day at breakfast, they gave me a green banana. I stared in awe at those eating the unripe fruit. I took a bite, and it had a bitter taste, which was better than the yellow one I’d had the previous night.

During that breakfast, I had frozen eggs too. Everything on the table had come straight out of the fridge. The only hot things were the tea and toasted bread. I soon learned that they love very cold food, that they have no problem eating stuff straight out of the fridge. I can understand eating room-temperature salad, but frozen salad? Frozen boiled eggs? And the eggs had an expiry date three months away! Boiled eggs are not supposed to last more than a day. This one was covered in some gooey yellow jelly to preserve it. For lunch, they gave me chicken (I think its their national food). I’m used to enjoying chicken parts; drumsticks, wings, back, breasts, adunde. But I couldn’t tell which part I was eating, it was just chunks of flesh and it tasted like salty paper. Every meal was like swallowing a pill to take the hunger away and keep me alive.

Stuffed Mushrooms was a pleasant surprise. Sadly, such delicacies were few.

“You’ll like the food in New Orleans,” someone told me when she heard I was going there. “There’s real food down there.” I was skeptical. After weeks of choking on goo, I could not imagine enjoying food until I returned home.

In New Orleans, the first restaurant I went to, because the sign said they served seafood and I wanted to taste oysters, was obsessed with movies. It kindled hope. The walls were covered with images from movies and movie stars. There was A Streetcar Named Desire, Rocky, Gone with the Wind, and many others. Of course, there was Marilyn Monroe. The atmosphere seemed great, low lights, almost like having a candlelit dinner. I thought that anyone who was so obsessed with movies was a romantic and would cook great food. I was so wrong. The oysters were fried and covered in something that gave it the taste of very oily and brittle mandazi.

Cafeteria crap.

I wanted to enjoy my stay. I refused to let the bad food kill my mood. Knowing I was in the country of great movies, I decided to visit movie locations, an easy and cheap way to see America, guaranteed to avoid over-rated and over-priced tourist attractions, because the whole place is a movie set.

As I searched for locations in New Orleans, I discovered the Nicolas Cage tomb. I frowned. Was he dead? Nope. Yet he has a tomb at the St Louis Cemetery No. 1, a unique burial site where bodies are not kept underground, but above ground. It’s a true city of the dead. There are said to be over 70,000 corpse there, sharing graves. Nic was one of my childhood heroes, so I decided to see it. Surprisingly, there is an entry fee to the cemetery. Twenty dollars per person, for a forty five minute visit. I think they get so many visitors that they decided to make some money. They claim its to prevent vandalism, but did they have to charge that much? They took only cash and did not give us receipts, so probably the guides pocket all the money. We were about seven people in the tour, and yet after it the guide still asked us for tips! (I’m going to rant about their obsession with tips in the next post.)

Apparently, Nicolas Cage is a voodoo person and he built a tomb to salvage his career. He wanted his grave to be close to that of Marie Laveau, a voodoo priestess whose grave partly accounts for the cemetery’s fame. Sadly for Nic, after he built this pyramid-shaped tomb, his career went downhill. He ran broke. He owned one of the houses I wanted to visit, the LaLaurie House, where a woman called LaLaurie tortured and killed hundreds of slaves back in the 1800s, keeping their dismembered bodies in her attic. This house is said to be haunted and Nic Cage bought it knowing its history. He lost it in 2009 to foreclosure. They say there is a curse on him. Some think it was bad luck for him to build a tomb while still alive, and right next to Marie Lavaue. Proof of the curse? There’s a crack on the tomb that no repair can fix; it keeps re-appearing, same shape, same length.

The hippy film Easy Rider (1969), starring Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda, had a sequence shot in this cemetery. They say they shot it on an extremely low budget, and so they sneaked into the cemetery at night, without permission, to shoot in secret. The film is about two men riding around the US while high on drugs (and Wikipedia says real, hard drugs like cocaine and marijuana were used on the set) While filming, at the Italian society tomb, Hopper allegedly convinced Fonda to talk to the statue of the Madonna as though it were Fonda’s mother, who killed herself when he was ten years old, and ask her why she left him. When the Catholic archdiocese, which runs the cemetery, saw the scene, they were pissed off and banned all filming in the cemetery until today. Some people claim it is because the production team broke the head of the statue of the Madonna.

City of the dead, with that of the living in the background.
The Italian society tomb, were only Italians were buried back in the day.
Where Nicolas Cage will be buried.

After the cemetery, I went searching for the Frenchman street, where they shot one of Van Damme’s most famous fight scenes, from the movie Hard Target (1993). The fight has all the round kicks and splits that made him a darling to action fans worldwide, but it also has some of his best, cliché quotes. “Next time be more careful when you show your wallet.” (And the woman he tells this looks at him wide eyed, the way women in Hollywood movies look at the male hero who has just saved them.)

I had trouble finding the location of this scene, for at the beginning the woman walked under a big sign that said Half Moon Utility Restaurant. When I saw it, I decided to go and eat there, but it looks like it was closed a while back. However, another restaurant appeared for a few frames, but it was clear enough for me to get its name. The Praline Connection. The name sounded like a movie’s title, and for a moment I thought the set design department had made it up as some kind of joke, but it turned out to be a real restaurant. I can’t remember if this is where Van Damme had just finished having a meal or tea or something (in which he complained about the hard times) but well, the restaurant still stood and I decided to have a meal in it, just because I saw it in Hard Target.

The Praline Connection

Am I lucky that I did?

The Praline Connection was “originally thought of as a home delivery service targeting career women who were too busy to prepare home cooked meals for their families,” according to a note on the menu. Instead of a delivery service it became a restaurant “serving great recipes that were passed down to us over the years from our relatives.” The food did taste like home made food, not like the factory crap in other restaurants, and finally on the menu I found familiar items. The food tasted as if a grandmother back in a village in Tororo had prepared it. The waiters were the friendliest I met, they dressed classy, and they patiently explained the strange menu items and suggested what I might enjoy. They even asked me where I’m from and engaged me in conversation, making me feel like I was visiting a relative, not a restaurant. I gorged myself at The Praline Connection, knowing it would be a long time before I had good food again.

Portraits of Writers: IWP 2017

Just a few days ago, I returned home after three months in a writing residency in University of Iowa, USA, where I enjoyed the company of writers from thirty three different countries. Quiet an experience! I love taking photos, especially portraits, for I enjoy immortalizing the expression on faces of people. Often, I do this when they are not aware that I’m snapping, because I have a telephoto lense, and sometimes the expression I freeze is priceless. Enjoy these. I’ll be posting more photos themed on portraits from my travels, so be sure to subscribe to this blog by email to get them in your inbox.

Ubah Cristina Ali Farah (fiction writer, poet, playwright, translator; Italy)
Vladimir Martinovski (fiction writer, poet, critic, translator; Macedonia)
Sharlene Teo (fiction writer; Singapore)
Ghada Al-Absy (fiction writer; Egypt)
Enza García Arreaza (fiction writer, poet; Venezuela)
Antoinette Tidjani Alou, (fiction writer, poet, translator, scholar; Niger)
Subraj Singh (playwright, fiction writer, journalist, critic; Guyana)
Gimba Kakanda (fiction writer, poet, journalist; Nigeria)
Yaara Shehori (fiction writer, poet, editor; Israel)
Kinga Tóth (poet, translator, illustrator, songwriter, performer; Hungary)
Hajar Bali (playwright, fiction writer, poet; Algeria)
Maung Day (poet, artist, translator; Myanmar)
Okky Madasari (novelist; Indonesia)
Fujino Kaori 藤野可織 (fiction writer; Japan)
Lava Omer لاڤە عمر دەروێش (poet, translator; Iraq)
Ramsha Ashraf (poet, dramatist, playwright; Pakistan)
Esther Dischereit (poet, novelist, essayist, stage and radio dramatist; Germany)
Anne Kennedy (fiction writer, screenwriter, poet; New Zealand)
Kirmen Uribe (novelist, poet, essayist; Spain)
Yuriy Serebriansky Юрий Серебрянский (fiction writer, journalist; Kazakhstan)
Xavier Villanova (playwright, screenwriter, stage director, actor, translator; Mexico)
Kim Doyoon 김도윤 (fiction writer, librettist, translator, critic; South Korea)
Santiago Giralt (playwright, screenwriter, filmmaker, fiction writer; Argentina)
Tilottama Majumder তিলোত্তমা মজুমদার (fiction writer, poet; India)
Fatena Alghorra (poet, journalist; Palestine and Belgium)
Wipas Srithong วิภาส ศรีทอง (fiction writer; Thailand)
Julienne Van Loon (novelist, essayist; Australia)
Kristian Sendon Cordero (poet, fiction writer, essayist, translator, filmmaker; Philippines)
Panashe Chigumadzi (novelist, essayist; South Africa/Zimbabwe)
Audrey Chin (fiction writer, non-fiction writer; Singapore)
Stuart Lau 劉偉成 (poet, essayist, critic; Hong Kong)
Yan Chung-hsien 顏忠賢 (fiction writer, poet, essayist, art critic; Taiwan)
Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor (fiction writer; Kenya)
Dilman Dila (writer, filmmaker; Uganda) A behind the scenes photo of him taking the portraits in this post. Credit Kaori Fujino

 

The Ghosts of Dictators in Bukoba

Some places are like pages of a book that preserves history. Bukoba is one such place. It boasts of something from every chapter in human history; Stone Age rock art in Bwanjai, ancient foundries in Katuruka, a colonial palace in Kanazi, and ruins from one of Africa’s first inter-state wars in Kyaka. I went to Bukoba to look at our distant  past, intrigued that the Bahaya could make high-grade steel 2000 years ago, and oral lore has it that they constructed an iron-tower that reached the heavens.  But I failed to get a decent look into that past because ghosts of two dictators blocked my view.

Hermes, a descendant of Kahigi,
he was kind enough to show me the ruined palace.
One of these was Omukama Kahigi, who I had not heard of prior to my arrival in Bukoba. I heard about his palace by pure chance. I had run out of places to visit and I was idling on the beach, chatting with a local woman, who mentioned that I might want to see this colonial palace. I jumped at the opportunity, hoping I would stumble upon something grand. Instead, I got a lot of oral stories that have survived for nearly a hundred years.

The German’s built the palace for an omukama, Kahigi of Kainja. He was the weakest, and the most looked down upon, of the eight kings who ruled Buhaya shortly after the collapse of the Karagwe kingdom in the 1800s. Each had his own autonomous territory, but Kahigi struggled to hold on to his authority, and he feared being defeated and subjugated by one of other seven. He paid tribute to the Kabaka of Buganda, who helped him cling on to the throne. When the German’s invaded, he found a new ally
The house the German’s built Kahigi. Oral lore has it that
a maze underneath was a torture and death chamber.
At school, when we are taught about colonialism, they say Europeans did not meet resistance, and yet listening to anecdotes like that of Kahigi suggests otherwise. The Bahaya passively resisted. Though they did not take up arms, they refused to cooperate with the colonialists, and this made it difficult for the Germans to gain a foothold. They needed the support of the local leaders, and clever as they were, they saw an opportunity in Kahigi. Being the weakest, hungering for power, Kahigi quickly ingratiated himself towards the Germans, and they used him to conquer the Bahaya.
 
“He was the first to realize the power of the Germans,” his great-great grandson, Hermes Balige Nyarubamba, apparent heir to the all-but-dead kingdom, told me when I visited. As other kingdoms resisted colonization, Kahigi welcomed the Germans. Warmly. They gave him what he wanted. Power. They made him ruler of the region, and to thank him for his help, they gave him a lot of land, and they made him a German officer, and they built for him a palace in 1905, the ruins of which I was visiting.
 
When I saw his photos, I at first thought I was looking at a German. I could not see an African man from that period dressed up like that. Hermes told me that his great-grandfather loved the German’s so much that he behaved like a German, he dressed, and ate, and walked, and talked like a Germany. After Germany lost World War 1, Kahigi became lost. He did not know to relate to his new masters, the British. He committed suicide rather than serve another master, some sources say, but Hermes said it was because a British officer mocked him for his love for Germany, that the British officer called him a ‘German pet’ or something to that effect, and Kahigi could just not live with that insult. He was in a worse place than when the Germans found him. 

 

German boy: Kahigi, in German uniform.
It took me a moment to realize he was African.
“Was he loved?” I asked Hermes.
 
Hermes shook his head sadly. “He was like your Idi Amin,” he replied. He told me that the Germans built a maze under the palace where they tortured and killed people, with the full cooperation of the omukama. After their defeat, the maze was closed. “There is a secret door,” Hermes added. His father, who passed away in 2010, once opened the door, and took him into the maze, but they quickly retreated because the horrors from a century ago still haunt it. He says he saw a huge spirit-snake that roams the tunnels, and he heard ghosts of the people who died in there. “We want to open the maze to the public,” he told me, “but we have to first conduct rituals to cleanse the place. It’s not nice in there. It is terrible and full of horrible memories. It’s still haunted.” After his father passed away, he tried to open the door again, but failed. He cannot remember how to open it.

Nor would he show me the doorway to the maze. “It is a secret,” he explained. “Before we open it to the public we have to first explore it. There might be buried treasure in there.” 
 
There are three buildings in the palace. According Hermes, after the Germans constructed the first, a mbandwa – prophet, or shaman, – warned the king that he had used the visitors to gain power, but a time would come when that power would fade away, when his reign would weaken and die, and he would not have even a house for his children. He would have nothing valuable to give to his children. So Kahigi asked the Germans to build a new house for his son. They did. Kahigi however did not tell his son, Alfred Kalema, the full prophecy, so when Kalema tried to enter the new house, he saw a fire, and a giant snake. 

“Is it the same spirit-snake that haunts the maze?” I asked Hermes, interrupting his story.


“Maybe,” Hermes replied. “You see, the prophecy had it that doom would come soon, and Kalema would not enjoy the fruits of his father’s gamble with the Germans.” So the snake prevented Kalema from entering the house and Kalema had to build one, the third house, for himself. No one was able to live in the original palace until Kahigi’s grandson, Peter Nyarubamba, born in 1958, came along.

 

A shrine within the palace, where ancestral spirits are worshiped.
Some rooms in the palace are also used for spirit worship.
The family now lives in near poverty, partially surviving on fees tourists pay. The Tanzanian government banned all traditional kingships, and gives royal families no allowances. This palace had fallen to ruins. It resurrected and opened to tourists following the efforts of an American professor, Peter Schmidt.
 
“There is German treasure hidden away somewhere in here,” Hermes tells me as he explains the family’s financial situation. He thinks that because of the prophecy, Kahigi asked the German’s not just for a second building, but for treasure for his descendants. “They gave him a lot of treasure,” Hermes added. “We don’t know what kind of treasure it is, or how much it is, but the German’s buried treasure somewhere here and we are still looking for it. That’s one reason we can’t open the maze to the public, or reveal the location of the door.”
Ruins of a Rugaruga guardhouse, outside the palace at Kanazi, Bukoba.
Just outside the palace, are trenches, which Hermes said were dug during the 1978 Uganda-Tanzania war. I paused to think about the significance of these trenches, and them being so close to the palace. It put two kinds of people who I think are responsible or Africa’s current socio-political crisis in the same geographical location, two ghosts who are a symbolic representation of how things really fell apart in East Africa; how colonialists easily subjugated our grandparents, and how post-independence misrule and corruption stifled our opportunity to rise. Two people who hungered for power and used it selfishly. I’m superstitious, and I wonder if the ancestors were sort of preserving history by having these two things, the palace and the trenches, exist side-by-side to this day.
 
Bukoba still talks about Idi Amin’s invasion, even those who were not born at that time give animated narrations of tales from the war, and maybe this is because the Tanzanian government made efforts to ensure the people of the region never forget the war. Bukoba town bore the brunt of aerial bombings, most of which were thankfully wide of the mark. Some historians say Idi Amin’s pilots were not properly trained, and Tanzanian anti-aircraft guns brought down a number of the planes. People display pieces of metal in their offices (at least one that I saw), which they claim was from Amin’s planes. In Kyaka, a town an hour’s drive from Bukoba, Amin’s forces did considerable damage to some buildings, and the Tanzanian army keeps one as a monument to the war.

 

The ruins of a church in Kyaka, Tanzania,
destroyed during the Uganda-Tanzania war of 1978-79
Before the war, this building belonged to the Lutheran Church (ELCT). At first, there were two parishes, Kashasha and Kituntu, which joined to form Kyaka Parish and it built this church in 1960. The church stood on a hill, and must have been a majestic structure in its prime. Then, in 1971, Idi Amin started a feud with Nyerere, and there was talk of war. The Tanzanian army asked the church to vacate the hill, for it was of a strategic military importance. Whoever controlled the hill would control the town, and the main highway between Uganda and Tanzania. The church then shifted to what was supposed to be a temporal location, but which is where it stands to this day, because in 1978, war broke out and Idi Amin bombed the hill. By that time, it was a purely military post, with heavy equipment. The war left it in ruins, but Amin failed to control the hill, and hence could not control the town of Kyaka, and the highway, and thus he lost the war. 

Or so the oral tales have it.
 
I looked at the new church, and I saw symbolism in the bombed out structure. The new building is nothing compared to the one that was destroyed, it is no architectural wonder, and is not magnificent. Even the ruins is grander than the replacement church. There in I saw the legacy of African leaders, they destroy, and what they destroy, is replaced by things of far less value.
~~
 
If you enjoyed this post, consider supporting me. You can become my patron at patreon.com/dilstories and help me make short films in the scifi, fantasy, and horror genres, which are tough seeing they require a lot of special effects. Or you could subscribe to my channel on YouTube.com/dilstories, where you can also see some of my films.
 
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Bukoba: A Secret on the Shores of Lake Victoria

Bukoba: A Secret on the Shores of Lake Victoria

Visiting Bukoba in Tanzania turned out to be an exciting way to spend the end of year holidays. There was very little information online about its attractions, or how to get there, and this was a pain. I could not just google about an attraction and figure out how to go there. In fact, even in the villages with the attractions, some residents had no idea. At the rock paintings in Bwanjai, for example, I asked a bodaboda rider to take me to the caves, but he had never heard of them, though he said he had lived there for a long time. The scanty information may be because Bukoba doesn’t get a lot of tourists, and the advantage of this is that the hotels are not overpriced. I got very decent self-contained rooms at about 10k TZ shillings, ideal for a budget traveler. 
Somewhere to relax. The beaches are ideal for camping and picnics.
The site with the most information, Zamadamu Katuruka, was also the reason I decided to visit. I came upon it while researching iron works in ancient Africa, and was surprised to learn that the Haya produced high-grade steel as far back as 2000 years ago, probably around the time the Bachwezi ruled the region. It told me how little we know about our histories, and how distorted our histories have become after colonialism and foreign religions. I was curious as to what the locals thought of this history, and what the tools the Haya made with this steel.
If you love architectural wonders, Bukoba is full of them! Old colonial houses like one this make up much of the town.
Beer, roast goat or fish, and ugali at the beach. Hmmmm!

 To get to Katuruka, where the most famous ancient foundries are located, one online site suggested I take a dalla-dalla bound for Maruku, but whoever wrote that advice had probably never used a dalla-dalla in the Kagera region. They pack people like firewood. When I took one, from Bukoba to Kyaka, at the end of the trip after I had run out of money, we were twenty six people in a mini-bus meant for fourteen passengers. To Katuruka, I took a boda-boda, mostly for convenience and to save time. In a dalla-dalla, the 40 minute journey would have gone on for two hours. Besides, the boda-bodas are reassuring for they all have spare helmets, and it was far cheaper than a dalla-dalla. I paid about 10K TZ shillings for a return trip, and the rider waited patiently for an hour as I toured the place. I would have paid about 2000 TZ for a one way trip on a dalla-dalla, and then I would have had to get a boda to take me to the actual site.

I liked it that Katuruka is right in the middle of a village, and the tour takes you all over the village. I don’t like visiting ‘dead’ places which exist purely for tourism. It’s the one thing I really enjoyed in Bukoba. All the sites were ‘alive’ with people living within them, and it was often easy to get a guide from the community. In Katuruka, a young man of about 20 years showed me around. He learned about the history of the place from his uncle, the official caretaker, who had gone away for Christmas. From what I gathered, the uncle was bored with the job since it did not get many visitors, and so this young man, who had finished school but had no job, found himself with employment.

 There are twelve sites in Katuruka, spread over about a kilometer of the village. We started with a visit to a reconstructed chief’s palace. It looked so small that I wondered if they got their history right. I didn’t like it. The furnaces too were reconstructed, nothing was original. I was beginning to feel a little cheated, for I had seen similar furnaces before that were not built for tourists. Then we got to the spot where an iron-tower ‘that reached the heavens’ once stood, and the tour became a little interesting. And then, the ‘vanishing well’ made the trip totally worth it.
  
The well is part of the royal history of the Bahaya. One of the kings, Rugomora Mahe, fled to exile following a feud with his father. He lived somewhere in present day Uganda with a one-legged water spirit called Mugasha. Mahe returned to the kingdom after his father’s death and found a severe drought and famine, and he asked Mugasha for help. Unfortunately, the spirit sent too much water and floods killed people. Then Mahe called out to Mugasha again and this time the spirit gave him a well, with instructions that it should be kept clean and pure, and no fish should live in it.
  
Whenever the well becomes dirty, it vanishes, and reappears in a different place. I saw over ten dry holes, which were previously locations of the well. They are close to each other. At one time, the Lutheran Church built a spring well, and their reverends prayed to break the curse, but the well dried up in no time, rendering their money wasted.
  
At the well, I found a woman who said her name was Regina. “I think the well keeps vanishing because of drought,” she said. “It moves from place to place depending on the season.” I did not buy her reasoning. I’ve seen seasonal streams and wells before. They never shift position, but here was a well that never stays in the same place!
  
Regina knew nothing about Mugasha, or Rugomora, or the iron smelting, though she lives just a few meters from the site called Zamadamu Katuruka. “Isn’t that a school?” she asked.
Regina draws water from the current location of the well.

 The next day, Christmas, I idled around the beaches and watched birds. The food was great. I mostly ate fish and ugali. I enjoyed the architecture, for I have a thing for old houses. I was thrilled to see houses built on rocks, like in this photo. There were daytime dance spots on the beach, which were enclosed using canvas, mostly for children and youth.

The next day, I wanted to go to Musira. I was told there were caves that were burial sites for traditional doctors, but the locals were not really aware of this and someone whispered to me that those caves are seasonal. During the rains, they flood and are inaccessible. They are not even deep enough to explore, or so I was told. I heard that in Musira I could have seen crashed remains of Idi Amin’s warplanes, from the Tanzania-Uganda war of 1978, but this turned out to be false. The army ferried all the debris away. Discouraged, I instead visited a colonial palace, which the Germans used to conquer the region, but it’s quite a bit of a tale, so I’ll save that for another post.
  
On my fourth day, I visited the rock paintings at Bwanjai, which is in the same village as the Nyakijoga Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes. I’ll start with the shrine. If you are Catholic and want to say prayers, visit it, otherwise, it’s a waste of time. To reach Bwanjai, I paid 3000 TZ in a shared taxi, and it deposited me in Mugana town. There, I asked a boda-boda guy to take me to the rock paintings.
  
That was the icing on the cake, to tour a village with a guide who was born and lives in the area. We rode into the wild and we talked about life in the village. The locals value the caves mostly because they can take shelter as they herd cattle. I was intrigued that nearly all the shelters face away from the sun, with only one getting directing sunlight in the morning. Each cave has a canopy that eerily resembles a front porch, and this makes me think the rocks were constructed. I could not stop asking myself; Is it just nature, or are these ruins of some long lost civilization?
Work of nature or ruins of a civilization? A Stone Age rock shelter in Bwanjai, Tanzania
Rock art Bwanjai, Tanzania. This set has not been defaced, other caves were in terrible shape, with feces in some of them.

 I know, ‘experts’ say that Stone Age people had no means to build anything grand. But I look at the pyramids of Egypt and wonder where they got the technology. I look at the ruins in South America and wonder how those ancient people hauled huge stones over many miles. And when I look at this, I wonder, is it really just a work of nature, or is there something we are missing? Why is it that all shelters (entry ways?) face away from the sun? Maybe someone should use a scanner to check if there is something inside those rocks.

 Amidu, my guide, showed me a way to the rocks via a small stream with a minor water fall. The locals call it kyabazaire (loosely translates to ‘it belongs to those who give birth’). In the old days, after a delivering and the placenta refuses to come out, they would make the mother lie under this water fall to force out the ‘dirt’ inside. He used the word ‘dirt’. These days, a woman might need an operation to remove the placenta. I wondered if the waterfall was an effective method, or if it worsened the woman’s situation….
An illegal brewery near the rock art at Bwanjai, Tanzania

 Further down the stream, I found a mother and her son brewing alcohol. It is illegal to brew alcohol in Tanzania and so these people have to do it in hiding, in the bushes, far away from the eyes of the authorities. When they heard our motorcycle, they at first ran away, fearing we were police. They only came out of the bushes when they heard Amidu’s voice. They offered me a jug of the brew, and I paid for it. We sat there in the wild and I enjoyed my Christmas two days late. The brew was so strong I can’t remember how I made my way out of the bush.

~~
If you enjoyed this post, consider supporting me. You can become my patron at patreon.com/dilstories and help me make short films in the scifi, fantasy, and horror genres, which are tough seeing they require a lot of special effects. Or you could subscribe to my channel on YouTube.com/dilstories, where you can also see some of my films.

 

Ideal for backpacking and camping, the civilized wilderness of Bukoba This was taken on the way to the Bwanjai Rock Art Caves, Tanzania

 

The Cathedral in Bukoba town is worth is a visit, but it is open only when there is a service, and photos are not allowed.
The exterior of the cathedral in Bukoba town, it is magnificent.

 

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Seven Tricks Ugandan Girls Use to Hook Men

A man has a lot of tricks to seduce a woman. Some are outright crude, like using his middle finger to scratch her palm when they greet. Some are outrageous, like whistling at her as she walks down the streets. Others are ludicrous, like telling her lies about his wealth. Because of the gender power play in society, boy-tricks are almost everyday happenings, they are out there in the open. Often, when a woman sees them she knows what’s up, and either slaps him in retort, or kick his balls, or plays along. But the girl-tricks are not always obvious. Sometimes a man has to look real hard to figure out what she is saying. Here are some that I experienced. If you know any, leave a comment below.
A scene from my film, Cursed Widow Blues
 1.      Sing Me A Song
A long time ago, a certain girl would sing Marc Anthony’s ‘I Need You’ every time she saw me. I always wondered about that, but I never got the hint. She was still a teenager, maybe nineteen, and I had just started working. She was my neighbor. I had a computer, a rare thing in those days, and boasted of a large collection of mp3 songs. She would always urge me to play her that song. Once she came to my room, sat on my bed, and made me play the song seven times in about thirty minutes. I never got the hint. Several months later, she came again to my bed, and she was very angry. She asked me to play for her Ciara’s ‘If that boy don’t love you by now…’ and that is when I got the hint. By then, another neighbor (a married man) had ballooned her, and I could only bite my lips in regret.
 
2.     The Panty-Flash
Some girls however not so coy about it, and one bold trick I encountered many times is the ‘panty-flash’. This first time it happened I was in university. I was alone in my hostel room, reading a novel, when a lady walked in. I don’t remember what she said to me, or what she was looking for, but she bent down to pick up something, and in that moment, from the corner of my eyes, I saw her panties. White. I looked up from my book, and she was smiling, talking, but I did not understand what she was saying. Then she dropped what she had picked up – all these years I try to remember what it was and I can’t! – and again she bent down to pick it up, turning her butt to me, and showing off clean white panties. I did not know how to react. I sat frozen, just staring at her, and she was there smiling at me for a long time. You see, I was still a virgin and I was still very terrified of women. After a while and I did not respond, she jeered and stomped out.
 
The next morning, I saw her get out of my roommate’s bed. My roommate obviously knew how to read the signs and he took the opportunity without hesitation when she repeated the ritual for him (I think she was in a certain mood and had no boyfriend). I slept through their tryst, didn’t even wake up to notice something wild was going on just a few feet away. Only when I saw her walking out, without so much as a ‘good morning’ to me, did the significance of her pant-showing antic strike me.

 Watch my most famous short film, WHAT HAPPENED IN ROOM 13, feat. Anne Kansiime, Richard Tuwangye, Veronica Namanda, and Gerald Rutaro

Later, I heard another story, of another guy whose girlfriend had bought new panties and she wanted him to see what they looked like. She hid behind a curtain, wore the stuff, and then strutted around the room showing it off. This poor guy was obviously worse than me, for this was his girlfriend, and he did not even read it right? I mean, she tried on like seven panties, or so I heard, and he never made a move. She dumped him straight away.
 
A few years later, I was in living in Kamuli town. I rented the boy’s quarters of an old bungalow. One day, I looked out of my window to the landlady’s backyard, where the house girl was cooking a meal in the veranda. She sat on a three-legged stool. She saw me looking out, and then her legs parted, slowly at first, hesitantly, then full wide until she could show off her panties. Green with black dots. She left it wide open for about a second, and snapped it closed shut so quickly that if I had blinked I wouldn’t have noticed. When I did not react, she repeated it, the slow, hesitant, teasing opening, then the quick close. I could clearly see what she was up to, but I did not pursue the matter because I had a girlfriend at that time. Besides, this house girl was underage, about sixteen. A few hours later, she crept to my window and whispered “Coward!” and ran away before I could respond. Every day for a week, while she was fixing lunch, she showed me that green piece with black dots (Did she have only one, or many of the same color?), and after lunch she would creep to my window and whisper-shout “Coward!” I was so much relieved when they fired her. Apparently, the landlady caught her doing something with a banana….
Actors do selfie while shooting my horror/sci-fi film
What Happened to Jilted Lovers
3.     Selfie
These days, with a proliferation of smart phones, a woman does not have to flash her panties. Last year, I was at a friend’s shop and I saw this girl looking through the racks. She was a beauty, with a natural, short hair-do and hardly any make-up. Her jeans were tight and the friend caught me looking at her. Apparently, he was her good friend. He called her over and said, ‘Hey, you both are single. Why don’t you check each other out?’ We exchanged numbers, and a few days later went for a movie at Acacia mall. As we waited outside the theater, she started to take selfies. Then she showed me the selfies, commenting on how she looked weird in each. As she scrolled through the pics, I saw a nude one. She quickly snatched away the phone and she screamed.
 
‘Oh gash! You weren’t supposed to see that!’
 
She looked really terrified that I had seen it, and she looked around to see if anyone had seen it. Out of politeness, to calm her down, I said, ‘Oh, I really did not see anything. What is it you are scared about?’
 
Her face folded from horror to a frown. ‘You did not see it?’ She asked, full of doubt.
 
‘No,’ I said. ‘I did not see anything.’
 
‘Okay,’ she said. She took some more selfies, and started to scroll again. The selfies came up, and then the nude came up again. This time, she did not snatch away the phone. Pic after pic came up, some with Desire-poses, and others – well, she was screaming ‘Oh god! This is so embarrassing! Please don’t look! Please look away! What are all these nudes doing on my phone? Oh my god! Don’t look!’
 
Of course I did not look away. But I was not thrilled either. I bit my lips, and cursed myself: ‘Did I really have to buy overpriced 3D tickets to get into these pants? I could have done it with a rolex!’

 Watch my new short film, a sci-fi horror, Cursed Widow blues

We watched the movie, we ate at Sky Lounge, and then I bade her goodnight. She was genuinely surprised. I think she wanted me to say something other than goodnight.  But being the good girl that she was, she said, ‘Okay. Let me take a farewell selfie.’
 
I knew exactly what she had in mind. She would take the selfie, then start scrolling…. At that time I was a little angry. She was treating me like a kid who did not know anything, I mean, you know how you would show a child how to peel a banana?
 
‘That won’t be necessary,’ I replied, and walked away.
 
A few days later, I told the shopkeeper friend what had happened and he explained it all. ‘Sorry about that. She asked me how to approach you, and I advised her that you are the shy type so she should take a lead in everything. I guess she scared you off with her boldness.’
 
I agreed. I wish she had taken the lead in a less subtle manner. She looked nice :-))
Does he look innocent?
Filming Cursed Widow Blues, a horror sci-fi film. 
4.     I’m A Virgin
The most common trick, and probably the most effective still, is when they claim to be virgins, or to have never been kissed. It that excites a certain instinct in men. You see, men want to have bragging rights – Speke: ‘I was the first man to discover River Nile!’ Masaba: ‘That’s nothing. I was the first man to climb Mount Elgon!’ – and so when men hear of an innocent place waiting to be explored…..
 
The first time a girl used the trick on me, I fell for the trap, and was utterly disappointed to find that she was not a virgin. I was really disappointed. The second time it happened, the girl looked the innocent type, but when we kissed, hmm, she was an expert. I didn’t bother to find out if she was a virgin. I swear I did not!
Monica and Favor, play man and wife,
in my short film Cursed Widow Blues
 5.     I’m Married
Closely related to that is them saying ‘I’m single but not searching,’ for men want women who are free, absolutely free. But again, some women know men go for married women, for it’s a bang-wham without a lot of attachments, and even if you end up ballooning her, well, she has a husband at home to blame. A while back when I had a day job, I shared an office with a certain woman and so we spent nearly eight hours together every day. After five months, I knew everything about her husband, and especially how he could not satisfy her, and how she had always wanted a dark, tall guy who did not tuck in his shirts…. I got the hint, but nothing happened. Believe me. I was so relieved when a third workmate joined our office.
Smell that baby. G’dah and Philip perform on stage
Kampala International Theater Festival, 2014
6.     Perfume
Another date. Another disaster. This one a little bit of a spectacular disaster. You see, I have a poor sense of smell. Unless it is really, really very strong, I can’t notice it. Sometime in 2014, I was dating this bombshell, and it went on for a few months without things moving forward. Remember, I’m the shy type, the cowardly type; I fear rejection so much that even when a girl is so obviously into me I’ll hesitate to ask her to take things a notch higher. And so this time, we were at a fancy restaurant (I won’t tell you which one), enjoying a nice evening, and I was jittery, wondering how to tell her I wanted to be her boyfriend. I did not know she was thinking the same thing, and that she had decided to let me know with a perfume. But I have a poor sense of smell, and so I did not notice her perfume.
 
‘This smells nice,’ she said, sniffing at a bottle of mineral water.
 
I frowned. Mineral water? I wondered if they had started producing scented water. I sniffed at my bottle. Nothing. So I explained to her, ‘I have a poor nose.’
 
Shortly after, she excused herself and went to the bathroom. When she came back, she again picked up the water bottle and sniffed at it. ‘Can you now smell it?’ she asked. I did not know that she had added a bit more of her perfume to tickle my poor nose, so I said, a little confused, ‘No. I still don’t smell it.’
 
And again, she went to the bathroom, and again she asked if I noticed the smell, and still, I didn’t realize it. Honestly, I did not know she was hinting at her own perfume (I’m very slow in these things, which is why I’m still single) and all along I thought she was indeed talking of the scent of the mineral water. I did wonder why she thought the mineral water bottle would smell differently after she visited the bathroom, yet it stayed on the table. If she had taken it to the toilet, that would have been a different matter, I would have thought she had peed in it or something, but she left it behind, and believe me, her question troubled me a lot. I nearly told her that I noticed the smell, out of politeness, for she seemed very eager for me to realize the water companies had started packing scented water, but I am the honest kind, so I said I did not notice the smell. If only she had spoken directly of her perfume, I would have pretended I noticed it and the disaster wouldn’t have happened. But she kept talking in metaphors, and so she kept going to the bathroom, and adding the perfume, and adding, until eventually everyone in the restaurant was sneezing.
 
Okay, at that moment, I did realize there was a new smell in the air, a little different from the fumes and dust that wafted in from the streets, and I asked her; ‘Are you wearing perfume?’
 
Before she could reply, a waiter approached us. He had a handkerchief over his nose, and he spoke firmly. ‘I’m sorry, your perfume is bothering everyone. You have to leave.’ When she hesitated, the waiter grabbed her by the arms and dragged her out of the chair. Poor girl.
 
I caught up with her on the pavement outside the restaurant. She was trying to flag down a boda, but oh gash, each boda who came close to her rode off very quickly without even bothering to ask her anything. She was in near tears. ‘I did this to show you I want to be your girlfriend but you are too stupid!’ She slapped me, a real hot slap that I still feel to this day, and then she stormed off into the night. I wonder how she got home. I haven’t heard from her since then.
 
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Seven Reasons Why Women Fear Commitment

I Was Arrested for Abandoning a Baby

I did not want to talk about it, but this lady at OleeBranch went public about it, and so I have to continue the conversation, to tell you what her actions did to me. I don’t think she meant harm. I think she is a nice person, but there is an Acholi saying that goes ‘Yom cwin oneko latina’ – forgive my inability to write in Luo – which means ‘being too kind hearted killed my child’. She says she kindly offered to baby-sit for a stranger in a taxi, even as this strange mother showed no gratitude at all, and I believe her for she seems like a good person.

A child cries for something. I took this photo in Kit Mikaye, Kisumi
At that time, I did not know her. We had met maybe only once before. I can’t remember where – one of those art things (was it Bayimba last year?) and we had barely talked. Just a dry hello and brief introduction. So that day, when she walked into the taxi, I thought I recognized her from her sandy-colored dreadlocks, but I was not sure.
 
I was not sure either where I was going. I am more used to Jinja-Mukono road, I know all the stages. But with Entebbe road, I only know where to pick the taxis, and where to get off in Entebbe town. So I was fidgety all the time, wary of being robbed if I asked fellow passengers for directions. See, I had a camera bag. I was going for a gig, to take photos at someone’s birthday party. With Kampala what it is today, I feared if someone thought I was a stranger to the place, they might want to take advantage of it and mug me. I had to get off in Zana and I was not sure where that was. If she was near me, I would have asked, but she was like three rows in front, and I was squeezed in the back-row. Besides, I was not sure if she was the lady I knew. She had a baby, which confused things some more.
 
So when she alighted, I followed her to ask for directions. I thought a woman with a baby would not try to rob me. By the time I got out, I found her arguing with another mother. My Luganda is not the best, and I could only understand fragments here and there, but I thought they were arguing about a child. Olive said to the other woman ‘Have you forgotten the child you gave me?’ Now, I was certain I had misunderstood that Luganda phrase. Surely, a woman can’t give another woman a child unless they use hi-tech reproduction and cloning, which, as far as I know, is still science fiction. ‘Me? I gave you a child?’ the other woman asked Olive. ‘You rasta must have smoked weed and it is making you deny your own child.’
 
That’s what I thought I heard. My brain still refused to process the information, for I thought I was misunderstanding. But then, someone had paid me to take photos at a birthday party, and I had to get there, so I interrupted the quarreling. ‘Excuse me, are you Olive?’ I asked her, tapping on her shoulder. She turned to me and her face was folded in a frown, her glasses caught the lights from a street lamp so I could not see her eyes. I wondered if indeed she had smoked weed and forgotten her own baby. I once read a story about a woman in the US who smoked and then put her baby in a blender to make juice. She later told the police that she thought the baby was a giant pineapple.
 

‘Yes,’ she replied. ‘I’m Olive.’ And then she recognized me. ‘Dilman!’ Yep, she was the one I met. ‘You are the guy who writes those crazy scifi stories.’ I was impressed that she remembered what I do. ‘Can you believe this woman? She gave me her baby and now she’s denying it!’ A tear rolled down from beneath her glasses and I felt sorry for her. Either she was too high or she was telling the truth. I could not decide which was which.

Grandmother and Child in Kit Mikaye, Kisumu
I turned to the woman, but to our great surprise, the woman was gone. Just like that. We looked around, and I saw her disappearing into an alley. ‘There!’ I said.
 
‘Hold the baby,’ Olive said. ‘I’ll bring her back.’
 

She thrust the baby at me. She was so mad that I could not refuse, and so I took the baby. Olive sprinted off after the woman and soon she too disappeared in the same alley. I do not remember the last time I had a baby in my arms. I did not even know if I was holding it right, since I was wary of my camera bag being snatched, but the little thing seemed happy to be in my arms and it was laughing and smiling at me. Its toothless gum caught the street lights and glistened like (an angel? I suck at such descriptions) but yes, it glistened, and it gave me an idea for a sci-fi horror story, in which a man finds what looks like a human baby but a weird light radiates from its mouth……

Nearly thirty minutes passed and Olive did not return. Now I got worried. My phone was ringing. The birthday people were calling, but I could not answer for my arms were the full of baby. And my legs being weak, my knees were wobbly, my ankles hurting. Standing for so long had left me woozy. I had to find this Olive fast, and give her back her baby, but I didn’t have her number. As my phone continued to ring, it occurred to me that I was stuck in a place I didn’t know with a strange baby in my arms. It was early night, just coming to 9pm, and the street was already largely deserted. Only a few boda-bodas laughed at a stage, and a rolex stand glowed somewhere in the scene. I thought maybe I could give a boda guy the baby, and ask him to take it to the nearest police station, so I walked over to the charlies.

A calabash protects a baby from the harsh world in Kitgum district
‘What?’ one guy said, after I explained, and I knew he had not understood my Luganda. ‘You want us to do what?’
 
‘I’ll pay for the transport,’ I said, speaking slowly so they would understand me, mixing in a lot of English. ‘Just take it to the nearest police station. I have to work. I can come later to make a statement. I’ll leave my number. Bambi, help, I have to work.’
 
‘Are you throwing away your baby?’ the body guy said.
 
‘It’s not my baby!’ I said.
 
‘We saw you and your wife coming out of the taxi with it,’ another boda guy said. ‘Now you want to throw it away?’
 
‘That was not my wife!’ I said.
 
‘Da-dee,’ the baby said. Now, I’m sure it did not say those exact words, but it made a sound that could pass off for Daddy, and it was laughing with me, pulling on my shirt.
 
‘See how it calls you daddy,’ one guy said. ‘See how it laughs with you? And you deny it?’
 
Things happened really fast after that. A mob formed quickly. They threw all sorts of accusations at me. ‘He stole the baby.’ ‘He impregnated a woman and she dumped the baby on him and now he wants to dump it on us.’ And the mob grew rowdy. Someone suggested they lynch me. Another said it would not be a wise idea for what would they do with the baby? Another suggested they beat me up to teach me a lesson. Then a police car showed up. God, was I glad to see the cops? At least the mob wouldn’t beat me up, or lynch me.
 
‘What is the problem here?’ a policeman asked.
 
‘This man wants to throw away his baby,’ the bodabodas chorused.
 
‘Take him in,’ the officer said to one of his juniors.
 
They ripped the baby off my hands, and the baby started to howl. They handcuffed me, and threw me into the back of the pickup. We sped off to the police station, the baby howling all the way. When we reached, they gave me back the baby, and the moment it was in my hands, the baby stopped crying, and promptly fell asleep, snuggling against my chest.
 
‘You are in big trouble,’ the policeman said.
 
~~
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Beautiful drooly smile in Kitgum district.

~~

Do you know what happened next? Then please, tell us. Leave a comment, or write it in your blog and let Olive know. This is a chain story for the #UGBlogWeek. The first is available here. Another response is here.

 
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Africanized Christianity and Enchanted Places of Kenya and Uganda

This Christmas, I can’t stop thinking about how Christianity in Africa is gradually morphing into a hybrid religion spiced with local traditions, just as it did in pagan Europe. One strong indicator of its future is visible in Legio Maria. I first heard of them in my childhood, after a neighbor’s child fell off a tree and died (apparently). A group of Legio Maria prayed for him and he resurrected. A few years later, we planted a moringa tree in our home. They have something against that tree, so one day they showed up at our fence and said prayers to curse the tree, and the tree grew so big that it threatened the house and we had to cut it down. In spite of these strange happening, I never bothered to find out about them until I visited Western Kenya in March of this year.
 

I only wanted to see rocks. People think Stonehenge is a human structure, but are quick to dismiss the beautiful formations in many parts of East Africa as works of nature. I think these rocks have something about them worth looking into, and so I went to the famous ones in Kisumu, not like an archeologist, but to get a sense local views about them.

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The Crying Stone, Ikhongo Murwi.

After finishing some business in Nairobi, I took a bus to Kakamega and then a boda boda to the Crying Rock, a pillar-like structure about forty meters high with a smaller rock sitting at its top. It is so named because water runs down its sides, leaving a tear-like stain, from a mysterious source at the peak. The boda guy said it was far outside town, but it was only a short ride, and it would have been quicker if the road was good and if he knew exactly where we were going. He did not, in spite of the rock’s alleged fame, because, he said, he did not see its use. In the past it was visible from the road, but the family that owns the land planted trees around it, and now the only way to see it is to go right up to it. Not a difficult journey, though the road petered out and I had to climb the hill on foot. Good for exercise. I met an old woman who insisted I pay for seeing the rock. I gave her 200 bob. She showed me a cave at the foot of the rock, which she claimed Legio Maria use for worship, but I saw no evidence of this, no candles, no pictures of holy people. Then she told me the secret of the Crying Rock. “I’ll tell you because you are not a mzungu,” she said. “We tell wazungu something different.” It’s hollow at the top. When it rains, water collects, and overflows. Since I came during the dry season, there was no overflow. That was the end of the visit. I felt cheated. I asked her about the significance of the rock to the local community, for I read somewhere that they held rituals there, to end droughts, to cleanse those who commit incest, and such, but she said the only people who bother to go to the rock are tourists, and Legio Maria (of which I saw no evidence). If you want my advice, don’t go there. It’s a waste of time. A place whose essence is consumed in less than ten minutes is not worth visiting.

  Watch a video poem: A New Prayer

I jumped on a bus, and sped off to Kisumu, to explore Kit Mikayi. I arrived at about one o’clock and had lunch at Kit Mikayi Hotel, where a girl with a charming smile served me dry fish, sukuma wiki, and ugali. It was great to feast on a local delicacy. Her name was Qintar. Not sure how she spells it. I asked her about Kit Mikayi. “I went there once,” she said. “I prayed and fasted for three days for a good husband.” She is still waiting, but is hopeful that soon he will come along.
Qintar, in Obama t-shirt, at her hotel, Kit Mikayi, Kisumu.

 Watch a short comedy film, on what happens when African Men Cheat

I must note here the importance of folk history attributing the rock formation to human activity. Why this set? Why not all the others around? Does it allude that an earlier civilization or probably humanoid species constructed it? Sadly, colonialism and Westernization has taught us to treat this lore as hogwash not worth of archeological investigation (I sometimes relate such legends to Krishna’s submerged city of Dvārakā).

If you visit Kit Mikayi, walk around the village. It’s worth it. John was kind enough to host me at his home for a few hours. It’s a very beautiful place. You’ll enjoy the scenery, and the rocks.

An old man I met, John Obuyo Ngeso, who lives near the site, and serves as a tour guide, told me it became a shrine a long time back during a severe drought. The leaders consulted a shaman, who said the rock had ‘tied up’ rain. To perform rituals to end the draught, they smashed a hen’s head against the rock, then slaughtered a goat. They grilled and ate these without ugali, then threw the goat entrails mixed in chicken blood into a crag in the rock, where the shaman said certain prayers. Within a day, rain fell. Apparently, every other place got rain, but not this rock. He added that in times of drought, the rock ‘cries’ and water flows down to save the land. I wondered how to relate this tale to others about the origins of the rock. He could not explain.

One ritual closely related to origins goes like this; when a young man marries a woman who is not from the area, they have to perform certain rituals inside this rock, to not only make the woman part of the community, but to ensure she never leaves. That is why there is hardly any divorce in the area, Obuyo said. He took me to the cave where they take the girl, and he demonstrated the ritual; it involved the woman making ululation sounds, or maybe screams. He was an animated storyteller.

Two Legio Maria faithfuls rest under a rock after a long pilgrimage to Kit Mikayi. They were part of a larger group.

Oddly, these rituals take place in a cave that has Christian artefacts – pictures of a European Jesus alongside that of a Black Jesus. That is the magic of Kit Mikayi. All kinds of religious sects consider it a very holy site. During my visit, I saw two: A group of Legio Maria rested under a shade after a trekking over ten miles in a sort of pilgrimage. Behind a rock, a group of Roho Mawa (sic) Christians sang, prayed, and meditated. I asked the Legio Maria why they worshipped at a place associated with ancestral spirits. “God is Everywhere,” they replied.

Inside the cave, where Legio Maria pray. Notice the candles, the potraits of a white Jesus, a black Jesus, and a black Virgin Mary. Locals worship ancestral spirits and perform cultural rituals in this same spot.
Legio Maria faithfuls in a procession, holding portraits of their founders, Mama Maria (right portrait), black Mary and spiritual mother of Ondetto (left portrait) the black Jesus.
The next day, when I went to Luanda’ Magere’s grave, I was not surprised to find a photo of Melkio Ondetto, the black Jesus who founded the sect. According to lore, Luanda Magere was made of stone. He never lost in battle, until his enemies sent a Delilah to figure out his powers, then they killed him. He turned into a rock on the spot upon which he fell. His rock, for all his legend, is a tiny lump half-buried in the ground. In the past, the place was bare, but a man (they didn’t tell me who) got a dream in which Luanda complained about being out in the rain and sun, so this man built a house over the rock. There’s a second house in the compound, for Luanda’s mother, because Luo sons build their homes to the right of their parents. Locals worship in the shrine, seeking blessings and, in the past, warriors would sharpen their spears and knives on his rock for good fortune. It is not uncommon to see both Legio Maria and ancestral spirit worshippers in the same room, kneeling in front of the same rock, praying to the same god.
 

One of the Legio Maria followers, also a caretaker at Luanda Magere’s grave, told me they believe Luanda Magere reincarnated as Dedan Kimathi, that Luanda Magere’s spirit keeps possessing different people. I wonder if they’ll make Dedan Kimathi a saint, or if he is already one of their saints.

After Luanda Magere’s site, I proceeded to Angoro Bethlehem (they have so renamed several villages in Western Kenyan that are significant to their faith), the village where Legio Maria’s founder, and the black Jesus, Melkio Ondetto, was born and raised. The brother of Melkio Ondetto, and the second Pope of the sect, had passed away and was due to be buried the next day. I sadly could not stay to witness it, for I had work back home. It was a fascinating place, with and the Legio Maria are warm and welcoming, humble and unassuming, their Cardinals are not pompous. I intend to visit Angoro Bethlehem another time, maybe when there is nothing going on there like a huge funeral.

Luanda Magere’s shrine. The rock is in the shelter on the right. The portrait of Melkio Ondetto, founder of Legio Maria, hangs at the entrance to the shelter above the grave.
Christian grafitti at Ssezibwa falls.

I am sure all over the continent, there are other such sites, places where both Christians and traditional African spiritualists worship, just like places in the Middle East that is holy both to Muslims and Christians. I wish I could live into the future to see if Christianity and ancestral spirit worship morph into one, and if these sites will become some kind of temples.

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Why I’ll Focus on Making Films for Online Distribution

My New Year resolution is to make a short film every month. I started very early, with this scifi/horror, What Happened to Jilted Lovers, and I hope to carry the momentum into the new year. I had this same ambition way back in 2008, the year I quit a salaried job to focus on writing and filmmaking. Back then, I didn’t achieve it because I had no equipment, filmmaking was way too expensive, and there was no market. Today, I have no excuse. Only motivation. And each film I make will be strictly for direct-to-consumer distribution online.

Me, somewhere in Nothern Uganda,
making a documentary.
 I’m not giving up on festivals, or on being discovered by the big players, I’m just not going to throw my energy and resources into that direction anymore. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe it’s just that the films I make can’t get their attention. Or maybe there is a systematic bottleneck that ignores independent films produced in sub-Saharan Africa? Many indie films from Europe, America, or Asia, produced entirely in the country of origin, go on to make it big on the world stage, but I’m yet to see one produced entirely in sub-Saharan Africa, without a grant from the likes of World Cinema Fund, and without a co-producer from Europe or America attached, making it (and by making it I don’t mean a token selection in one or two or a few of the major festivals). This makes me wonder; Is it a reflection of the broader picture framed in neo-colonialism and imperialism? Is it a symptom of how the system perpetuates Africa’s dependence on the West?
Kansiime Anne in my film, What Happened in Room 13
In 2007, I made my first professional short film, What Happened in Room 13. Some people, who have had successful careers in Hollywood, saw it, and called it a masterpiece. With their connections, I submitted it to many festivals, without success. They put it in the hands of programmers, made sure the programmers saw it, but none of the festivals took it on. Only a few little ones bothered to show it. 

 Watch my new short film, What Happened to Jilted Lovers, on YouTube

I tried again, with my first feature film, The Felistas Fable, but I didn’t push that too much, for I had made a few mistakes in it, and I knew early on that it would not make it big internationally. So when I got making my second film, I played my cards right. I had made contacts with programmers at major festivals, and as they advised, I shared with them the script before going into production. Three of them read it, and gave me feedback. ‘Yes! If you shoot this film, it could be in our festival!’ they all said words to that effect. So I threw all my energy into production, using money I had made from working on Disney’s Queen of Katwe. Once I had a rough cut, I again contacted the programmers, and all three said; ‘Very exciting stuff! Send us the final cut by this date and we’ll consider it for the next edition of our festival.’ And again, I threw all my heart into the final cut, running very broke in the process. They were all kind enough to give me promo codes so I wouldn’t have to pay a fortune in entry fees. I was very excited. I knew one of them would say yes. My big moment had come. Alas. One by one, they said, ‘We liked it very much. Your film was shortlisted, your film was there right up to the last selection round, but unfortunately we got a high number of very high quality submissions blah blah blah…’
Shooting a film, with high-end equipment.
That was my wake up call. After the third rejection, I sat on my bed and thought hard about my career. It’s not that I’m a bad filmmaker. It’s not that these programmers lied to me. They surely loved my film and they surely thought it was the kind the big festivals would fall in love with. But so were a hundred other films. Sadly, festivals have only a very limited slot. They can’t accept all films they like. It had happened with Room 13. It was happening again. I felt suffocated. I felt like a bird without wings. What could I do? Keep waiting for a major breakthrough in the traditional platforms, or respond to the fact that my short film has attracted over six million views on YouTube?
Me, making a documentary in Nepal. This was during teej.
This film is What Happened in Room 13, the same film the festivals rejected. People love it. People are watching it and sharing it and commenting on it. Over six million views! And above that, I get paid for Google runs ads on the film. Some months it’s as little as US $100. Other months it’s as much as US $600. Festivals wouldn’t pay me anything to show it!

 Donate. Support me on patreon.com/dilstories

The more I thought about it, the more it made sense to put energy into making films for YouTube, and other online platforms. If I have several that people are enjoying, and sharing, then my revenue might go well into thousands of dollars a month. 
Filming the wonderful poet, Linda Nabasa, Nada
I have several ideas running through my head. The first, and the easiest to get off, is #HorrorRomance, a series of loosely interconnected films, told very much like What Happened in Room 13, dark, thrilling, no dialog, and with romance that goes horribly wrong. There’s a group of bad guys, The Clique of Jilted Hearts, who vow to avenge broken hearts, and who I hope will someday be as famous as SPECTRE. What Happened to Jilted Lovers, which you can see on youtube, sets the pace. Then I plan to produce Safari Nyota, a multimedia project featuring prose, a graphic novel, interactive fiction, and a film series. Safari Nyota is Kiswahili for ‘journey to the stars’, and it is about a pioneer space trip that goes horribly wrong. Being a little too expensive, that might wait a while. What I will produce alongside HorrorRomance is Fashion Fixer, a comedy series about a girl who fixes people’s relationships by advising couples on what to wear. 

This is very ambitious Dilman, how will you manage? You might ask. That’s why I need your support. It’s simple. Subscribe to youtube.com/dilstories Watch my films. Share my films. Tell all your friends about them. And, you can support me on patreon. Patreon is a little bit like Kickstarter and indiegogo, but the contributions are not one-off. Instead, you get to contribute every time I make a film, and there are a lot of rewards for each contribution you make. For as little as $1 a film, you get stories, photographs, digital art, wallpapers, tutorials and behind-the-scenes, and many, many other cool perks. Head over to patreon.com/dilstories and give me wings to fly.
Producing a TV series.
Filming a documentary in Biratnagar, Nepal

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After the Storm?

Travel Blues

Sometimes, when travelling, you pray for something to go slightly wrong, not to derail your holiday or make it a horror, but just wrong enough to provide excitement and thrill on a very long and boring trip. For me, I’ve encountered all kinds of wrong. There were times when the journey was more exciting than the destination, and times when the journey was such a pain that I wished they could invent teleportation machines.

The call of the road. Here I was in Saptari district, eastern Nepal
The beauty of documentary film making is you travel. In Surkhet, western Nepal, filming in the mountains.
In March of this year, I traveled to Nairobi for business, and to check out the enchanted places of Western Kenya. I picked Mash Poa because I thought it was the coolest bus, fully air-conditioned, with enough leg room for a tall person like me to enjoy fourteen hours on the road. I was wrong. I’ll never take that effing bus again. Never.
 
At the border, I delayed in a long queue at immigration and the bus drove off without me. Just like that. I was shocked and angry. Why would they drive off without me? In April 2015, I was in CDG Airport, Paris, stuck in a very long queue, until officials of Turkish Air came looking for their passengers. They talked to migration officers to let us jump the queue, and we took off, a little late, but no one was left behind. I’ve seen it happen a lot in airports. I expected Mash Poa to do the same since they charged a lot more than ordinary buses, especially since it was two am. They did not. They just took off and left me stranded in the middle of the road in the middle of the night. 

Recommended short film. What Happened in Room 13.  6m views on Youtube! 

They left with my phone and my luggage. I had to awake a Mash Poa official in Busia, who then made several phone calls to the driver, who told me to find my luggage in Nairobi. So I jumped on the next available bus and did not get to Nairobi until midday. Guess what, the Mash Poa bus had not yet arrived! They had a mechanical fault. I sat idle all day waiting for it, for my phone and all my luggage was in it. Mash Poa is certainly not cool!
 
Queuing at Charles de Gualle airport, Paris
That time at Charles de Gualle Airport, I spent over two hours going through racist security (see below) and then passport control. It officially made CDG the worst airport I’ve ever visited, worse than Murtala Muhammed in Lagos, and certainly worse than Moroto airstrip. I thought the long queues were a freak occurrence, but on the way out, I suffered three long queues, one to get a boarding pass (I guess that was a Turkish Air problem) then to get through Passport Control. Half of the booths were empty. Was it understaffed? Unluckily, after over thirty minutes of queuing, when I nearly reached the booth the security guy took a break. He just got up and left. No one replaced him. We had to suffer a longer time at the queue. No wonder the Turkish Air flight was stuck for almost an hour on the runway, not for any technical problem but because the lines at passport control and security were ridiculously long. 
 
In March 2015, I had to go to South Africa. Being caught up in making a TV series, I asked a travel agent to book my ticket and arrange my travel. They sent me the ticket. The flight was to take off from Entebbe at 7 am, so I was at the airport by 4 am. Yet I could not board. The agent had booked the ticket, but not paid for it, yet I had given him the money. I made frantic calls, but he was asleep and his phone was off. I didn’t have enough cash to pay for the ticket, so well, I had to go back home looking like a fool.
The beauty of the airport in Addis Ababa
A few months later, I was travelling to Cannes Film Festival on a government sponsored trip. They arranged my flight, booked me on British Airways without telling me that I needed a transit visa to go through London. I stupidly did not double check this, but I was held up on a job, shooting the making of Queen of Katwe. I dashed from the set, dumped my equipment at home, and went straight to the airport, only for BA to tell me I can’t board without a transit visa. I raised hell, but they wouldn’t hear me. Eventually, I paid with cash for a Turkish Airways ticket, otherwise my program at Cannes, with all the meetings I’d set up, would be screwed. The government people assured me my money would be refunded, since BA issues a refund if the ticket is not checked in, but to date I’ve not seen the refund.
 
This is me, aboard Ethiopian.
From Cannes I flew to Johannesburg to continue filming behind the scenes of Queen of Katwe. At OR Tambo immigration wouldn’t let me in because I didn’t have a return ticket. They threatened to deport me to Turkey. “I’m not Turkish!” I protested. “You can’t deport me to Turkey!” The guy simply shrugged and said “You arrived from Istanbul, that’s where we’ll send you back.” They took me to a cell awaiting deportation, unless I produced a return ticket. I made frantic calls to the QoK team and they issued a return ticket to Kampala. Then there was another problem. It was electronic. I didn’t have internet access. “What a stupid excuse,” an immigration officer told me. “You are going to be deported.” At a loss of what to do, I asked if I could use their computers to access my mails. After a lot of pleading, one of them said “Kitu kidogo” and then a phrase in Kiswahili that I did not understand. I was surprised that he knew kitu kidogo. How did he know Kiswahili? I paid fifty dollars for three minutes at the most expensive internet café I’ve ever used.
I loved the road in Nepal. There was always fun and pain.
Here I was in Dhangadi town, far west Nepal.
 
A roadside market in Kapilbastu, western Nepal.
I loved the road trips!
 
My worst travel nightmare was in Paris, at Charles de Gualle, where I suffered outright racism. A few other people have told me they had similar experiences at that airport. I went there early in April 2015, to present a paper at a workshop,  Manufacture/Domestication of the Living in Science Fiction, at Le Cube.I’d just been on a long flight, after staying up all night because take off was at 4 am. All I wanted was a bed, but this security woman took a long look at my passport and then said, “This passport is very old.”
 
I gave her my best smile. “Yes,” I replied. “I got it in 2008. I use it a lot. It has to be old.”
 
“Stand aside,” she said. “For verification.” And she shoved the passport into her pockets.
 
Verification? Because my passport is old?
 
I was too shocked and too tired to ask, but maybe something on my face betrayed what I was thinking, for she suddenly stood on her toes (being short, she wanted to be on eye level with me, as if the gun on her waist wasn’t intimidating enough) and her eyes glowed with a wild fire.
Train travel in Europe is said to be less stressful.
 
“You disobeying me?” She shouted.
 
That’s when I noticed something strange. A group of Africans (or people of African descent) where huddled in a corner beside the door, their faces haggard and creased with frustration. One man, three women. There were three security people, one woman, two men, and they let Europeans pass without so much as a second glance at their passports. Now the other two security men saw my hesitation, and maybe they thought they had a situation in their hand that could get ugly, for they all turned to me, and one said, while placing a hand on his gun, “Wait over there, sir.” In that funny French accent.
 
I went to the corner beside the door. I kicked the wall to vent my anger. Unfortunately for me, the wall was of steel, so the loud bang that followed – I panicked. A loud bang in a place with tense soldiers is a very bad thing. I held the wall to stop it from making noise, but of course this was no sci-fi and I had no superpower, I couldn’t take back the noise. It was sharp and it must have drilled holes into the ears of the security guys. I at once put my hands up, in surrender, even though they had not asked me to, for I knew they would pull out their guns. The hall froze. Everyone stared at me. The security woman walked up to me, and again stood on her toes to look straight into my eyes, “You want trouble?” she said. “You want to make trouble?”
 
“No,” I said, surprised at how calm my voice was, though inside my heart was on fire. For nearly a minute she kept asking if I wanted to make trouble and I kept saying no, all the time praying that my nerves hold and I don’t start trembling, or worse that I don’t pee my pants.

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Eventually, the other two men spoke to her in French, they exchanged a few words, and went back to their work. They checked the passports of all those who had just stepped out of planes, and let white Europeans go, and detained a few more Africans. They harassed one Arab-looking woman, who had a hijab. They wanted to see her ears and her hair. She had a French passport. She spoke to them in French, she was smiling all the time, while they glowered and seemed to be barking. The big smile never left her face. Eventually they told her to stand aside too. After nearly forty minutes, when there were no more white people passing by, the security woman went with the smiling Arab woman somewhere, and they returned shortly afterwards. They let her go. I think the Arab woman had insisted on removing her hijab in a private room.
 
Now, they surely had to ‘verify’ our passports, and finally let us go. By this time my legs were on fire, my blood was boiling in anger and in frustration, and I knew what these security people were doing was highly wrong. I ached to take their picture. Why did they single out only African (and three Arab-looking) people? What was going on?
 
To make it worse, I thought they would take our passports to some machines for verification, which is what machines are for, but the three hurdled in a corner, and leafed through our passports, and they talked to themselves, they even giggled, then called us one at a time. I got the courage to take out my phone, and take a picture of what was happening, I wanted to complain to someone.
 
Unfortunately for me, the security woman stepped quickly to me. I was too busy with the phone to notice her until I held up the phone camera and she filled the screen. I nearly pressed the shutter button, but instead went for cancel. Lucky for me, I hadn’t pulled out my DSLR as I’d at first intended to.
 
“Are you taking my picture?” she started her show again, barking, standing on her toes, trying to look intimidating, but by this time I wasn’t scared of her. I knew I was on the right and whatever she was doing was wrong, so I said “No, I didn’t take your picture” at the same time thanking God for giving me a stupid Alcatel phone which is too slow. I cut her shot. I gave her the phone. “Check and see if your picture is there.”
 
Passengers wait for their flights at Ataturk Airport, Istanbul
Now she must have realized her show was for nothing. She couldn’t continue shouting. She took my phone, but the idiot didn’t even know how to check for photos, so she handed it back without a word, and then I wished I had taken that pic.
 
She asked for my hotel reservation, and return ticket, then she said, “Go.”
 
Always ask for the window seat, and you will enjoy these sites!
My anger came to the surface. “You made us wait all this time just so you ask for a hotel reservation and a return ticket?”
 
But the only word she said was “Go,” without the bravado she had exhibited earlier.
 
Had they held us behind because they did not want to waste the time of white Europeans, or was this harassment, pure and simple?
 
She was already walking away from me, and I felt helpless and furious and I wanted to kick her butt. Instead, my legs reminded me of how tired I was, so I hurled at her a few words in Kiswahili, involving her pussy and bhangi. She stopped and turned back to me, but maybe thought that whatever abuse I’d hurled at her didn’t matter since she didn’t understand it. If she had, she would have pulled out that gun and shot me.
 
“Terrorism,” a Parisian told me when I later narrated to him the ordeal. “After that Charlie Hebdo incident, the security forces are jittery. They don’t want to be caught napping again, but instead of looking for the real terrorists they are harassing innocent people who they think are weaker than they are. It’s just like the boys at school who tease younger ones yet are themselves teased by older bullies. But it doesn’t make sense to target out Africans and Arabs because Paris has a large population of those, and there are people who’ve been here for generations. It doesn’t make sense at all.”
 
That’s how the terrorists win. They sow doubt and suspicion and xenophobia and racism and they make the world a worse place, not by what they do but by how we react to what they do.
 
See what I said about window seats? I saw the Himalayas!
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Off the Beaten Path Attractions in Nigeria

I’ve been to a few caves before, some that human ancestors inhabited two million years ago, but the caves in Olumo rock blew me away. Historically, it’s similar to Lamogi Hills in Gulu, which locals used as a base to fight British colonialists, and the locals were only defeated after the British poisoned their drinking water. In Olumo rock, locals found a refuge against enemy attacks, but they went a step further and built mud walls to create rooms within the caves, thus turning the caves into homes. To this day, caretaker families live in these caves, and some chambers are still used for ritual worship, which makes it much more than just a tourist site, the kind of place I like to visit. 

One of the caretakers, and spiritual priestess, who lives in Olumo rock
I saw spots marked with red and white flags, where sacrifice is made. The flags got me thinking, for they reminded me of the Hindu and Budhist temples in Nepal, which also had red and white flags in places of worship. When I visited the Legio Maria sect in Kenya, I saw similar prayer flags, and it got me thinking, what is the significance of these flags? It is something I have to look into.
 
After visiting Olumo rock, I knew I was in for a real treat in Nigeria, for my mission was to see real historic monuments, structures that predated colonialism, but not those that are in every tour guide. Olumo rock was the most famous of the places I visited.
 

Fascinating Mud houses built in the caves.
My next stop was in Irefin palace. If you have not read my previous post, please do before visiting this place, for it is a live site. People live in there, and they are not caretakers like those in Olumo, but the families that have occupied the building for dozens of years. They are a bit squeamish about visitors popping out of nowhere to take photos and tour the place. They would not let me in, because I had not pre-booked, because no one had told the caretaker chief that I was coming, and because I carried a black backpack and because I looked like a Hausa from Nothern Nigeria, hence I was mistaken for a Boko Haram agent. The strange thing is that no website ever mentioned anything about booking in advance. I learnt the heard way. The best place to start is the National Council of Museums and Monuments.

A woman prepares a meal in Irefin palace, Ibadan, Nigeria
What fascinated me about Irefin was the architecture. It’s mostly of wood, a storeyed structure, about two hundred years old, but I could see European influence in it, or more accurately, it is similar to the buildings freed folk set up once they returned from America. I’ve seen similar buildings in photos of Freetown. It was not quiet what I was looking for. Still, I found the area around the palace to be of greater interest, for there are dozens of buildings with fascinating architecture, and I could have spent the whole day just taking pictures of them, or trying to discover more about them. Sadly, security people mistook me for a terrorist rece-ing the place, and I had to cut short my visit. You can read about that here.

Scenic. Idanre town in Nigeria. Totally worth a visit.

Idanre turned out to be the most interesting place I have visited in a long time. It’s not as old as Akure, but certainly older than Irefin, and the people who first settled there chose a plateau on top of a rock, accessible only by one path. This was for security reasons, as it is virtually impossible to attack the place up there.

The best part about it is getting there. I went up over six hundred steps curved into the stone steep, and when I got there I thought I would find the ancient palace right away, but no, we had to trek through a mini-forest, which might have been a jungle in ancient times, past a grassland, past huge boulders that stood on our way. I got the feeling that I was a real explorer, going through the wilderness in search of lost cities and pre-historic palaces. This hard to access location gives Idanre an exciting and adventurous character, for modern day civilization is yet to encroach upon the plateau. You can see signs of it, on the graffiti  people scratch on the walls, but when you are up there you get a feeling that you have walked right into the past in some kind of time machine. You don’t hear urban noise, or see anything ‘modern looking’; you catch a real glimpse of what life might have been like over a hundred years ago.
 

The village is still settled. Until the late 1970s, the village was still very much alive, but now only a handful of people stay up there to farm it. They however fully use the palace for some rituals and sacrifices.  A lot of the old buildings have been preserved from the way they were a hundred or more years ago. There’s the court house, the prison, the royal burial ground, a rich man’s homestead – marked by the number of animal skulls that hung from the eaves of his houses. Not just the number but the type of skulls, the animals he ate. Just as animal skin was a symbol of wealth or power, (for example only a warrior who has killed a leopard would wear leopard skin, in some communities), the types of animal skulls on the eaves showed what kind of meat the household ate, and how much.

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Skulls of wild game hung from the eaves of a rich man’s house.
A skull in a pile that forms the ‘bone calendar’ in Idanre palace.

Skulls served another purpose, as some kind of bone calendar. One of the falsities pumped into our brains in the colonial-influenced schools we attend is that Africans did not record the passage of time. I have a whole argument against this, but seeing the bone calendar in the palace of Idanre opened my eyes. Skulls were piled in one corner of the courtyard. According to the guide, at the end of every year the king held a feast/ritual, a bull (or some such animal) was slaughtered, and its skull kept in that corner. At the end of his rule, the number of skulls in the corner would indicate how long he ruled. In the much older palace at Akure, there were skulls in several rooms, each room belonging to a king/oba and recorded how long that particular king ruled.

Trekking through the ancient village raised my appetite to see the palace, but when I eventually saw the palace, I got a feeling of ‘Is this it?’ After the long hike up the steeps, after plodding through forests and jumping over streams and crossing boulder-filled bushes and feeling like a true explorer, I expected something grand, something to match the hype of a village that has stood for hundreds of years. But it’s a mud house, after all, and I shouldn’t have expected anything grandiose. I should have only looked forward to the experience of being there, of seeing it, of touching it. As they say, it’s not the end of the journey that matters, but the journey itself. It was a worthwhile experience, and I would recommend a visit.

Weird rules in Idanre, a house just outside palace. – Nobody should wear clothes inside this house. – Shaking of hands is forbidden here – Carrying of loads on head without holding it is forbidden
The next day when I set off for another ancient palace in Akure, I did not expect to see grand structures, but rather to experience an architecture that has survived for nearly a thousand years. The palace was first built in the 1100s AD, and it has stood for all these years. Again, like in Irefin, I had trouble getting in, because the gatekeepers said I did not have a ‘document’ allowing me to visit the palace. They did not know where I could have gotten this document, or what it looked like, but they thought I needed a letter introducing me to them, and my purposes there. I almost failed to see it, until I went to the neighboring building, a museum, where I found staff of the National Council of Museums and Monuments. The staff were appalled that the security people had failed to see me as a genuine visitor, and they smuggled me into the palace for a secret tour.
 
It is still an active site, with some of the courtyards inhabited by the widows of the late kings, and maybe that is why they are cautious about letting people walk in unannounced, but they should have stated that in their websites.
 
For a moment, as I toured the palace, I kept asking myself, what is all the bother about? Do I really want to see a collection of mud walls and dark rooms so bad that I have a shouting match with ‘security’ people for nearly thirty minutes? When we started to go through the palace, I knew why it was worth the bother. The palace is like a maze of sorts. It has over twenty courtyards, with some courtyards being inside courtyards, we had to keep consulting a map otherwise we could have gotten lost. 
 
One fascinating courtyard is the stuff of legends. It is said that even if a thousand people peed in this courtyard, it would not smell. Christian Odutola, an architect who acted as my guide, had no explanation for this phenomenon. He thought they used a type of soil, or maybe a chemical that absorbs the urine and smell, to make the courtyard.
 
He however was full of praise for the drainage system in the palace. In its thousand years of existence, it has never experienced flooding, compare that to the incessant floods in many African cities today which are a result of poor planning. Of course, the palace is so small a place it can’t be compared to a city, but still, it has over twenty courtyards, with courtyards being inside courtyards, and thus the designers needed a drainage system that would ensure the inside courtyards never flooded.
 
Also, they built it in such a way that there is enough sunlight in every courtyard, or enough sunlight to see by. It reminded me of the German Bundestag in Berlin, which was also built with care taken to minimize artificial lighting. When you take these little details into account, you realize that Akure palace is a work of sheer genius.

Clever architecture allows natural light into every courtyard, Akure palace.
An aerial view of Akure old palace
Unfortunately, it’s crumbling, and the current governments are not doing enough to preserve it. I think after they built the new palace, they forgot this. Some parts of the walls that have fallen away, and they have replaced it with concrete, which I think is not a good idea. Christian Odutola also thinks it is a very good idea. He is working with the NCMM to preserve the palace as it has been in the last a thousand years, and if the structure has withstood the test of time, there is little point in trying out new materials that might be tricky maintaining in the long run. Besides, using cement waters down the historic value of the walls that have stood the test of time.
 
 
The problem is they do not have enough funds to maintain the place as it has always been, and are lobbying UNESCO declare it a world heritage site (along with the palace in Idanre), then maybe it will attract enough attention and funding to keep it running, and to maintain this ancient genius artwork.

 

The wife of a former chief takes shelter from the midday heat
in one of the courtyards, Akure palace

 

Exploring the ancient, abandoned village in Idanre

 

A woman prepares a meal in Irefin palace.

 
Preparing to face the six hundred steps to the ancient village of Idanre.
In the past, there was no steps, just a path up the steep cliffside

 

Life inside Irefin palace, Ibadan.
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