Gabriele Orlini

Shagala bagala*

Shagala bagala (Swahili: everything is a mess). A consideration by Gabriele after three years away from Africa.
Student in Kikadini | ©Gabriele Orlini, 2021

This post is also available in: Italiano

*in Swahili: everything is a mess.

Just over three years. My absence from Africa.
An enormous lapse of time, at least for me who treasured Africa: professionally and humanely – even if as a man it is an act of arrogance to even think about it.
Just over three years and for her only a moment has passed; and at the same time a century.

An immense continent and, in the beginning, without borders. Where dull rulers and sharp pencils in the hands of sweaty Europeans in khaki safari jackets have traced the frontier lines as if they were playing fields in the sand. And it was a German, an Englishman, a Frenchman, a Portuguese, and an Italian, as well as a Belgian and a Dutchman, like in a bad joke, who drew those borders that we can still admire today in that part of the world map that resembles a horse-headed and gave birth to the humanity we are now.

Fifty-four countries with exotic names, I read for the first time in adventure books when I was a kid. Many of them now have changed to erase the memory of a colonialism that often ended in civil war. But still today, in the ethos of a market that is not fair, let alone supportive, controls its currency and economy. Fifty-four countries with exotic and mysterious names, more than half of which find a place in my passport as figurines in a book I will never complete. Because even duplicates here are a first time. Fifty-four countries, an immense continent, which, if only it knew how to lift its head, even for an instant, could look the world of jokes in the eye and have a hearty laugh.

Even before a thought, Africa is like that muscle you didn’t know you had but feel its pain, like when, for the first time, you do a strange exercise.
She moves, she transforms, and she always remains the same. And perhaps this is precisely the beauty of Africa: mocking from the beginning, she accompanies you in a dimension that does not belong to you, making it yours. Mocking to the end in overturning your certainties in a single turn of the hand. And you continue to love her because you can’t – or quite simply don’t want to – do otherwise.

Africa, this immense continent of many colours and a thousand smells, even before a land of extraordinary geography, is the land of normal people, of those who wait for a time that often doesn’t come, of those who wait for darkness to open the door of the house – which always remains open anyway, of those who – in the dim light of their homes – stop smiling for a moment.

Africa left your feet dirty.
Which appear cleaner if you take the trouble to walk barefoot.
And try, for a moment, to be a normal man again.

Makunduchi, ZNZ | ©Gabriele Orlini, 2021
Original text in Italian - In house translation
Jambiani Kikadini
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