Nina Davies



Mzuzu University Inauguration Day 1999


The people of northern Malawi
were surprised that we existed.
"Ah Madam! We thought you were propaganda"
they confided
as we squeezed between them on Matolas.


In a calculated effort to draw in the North
Bakili Maluzi rumbled into Mzuzu
on a roll of UDF gold with
a shock of AK-47s
to inaugurate our university.

We of the teaching staff were
inappropriately robed
for the heat of a political rally
(for my mzungu skin
there was no blending in).


Cockroaches of the Academy
we scuttle
in a scorched tunnel
dry bone and bean
in a rattle
echoing party chants. 
Men kaleidoscope
              jump
miraculous
springs in dust
glittering
             drum
every cell of themselves.
Ululating women
            tongues 
glistening like snails
beat our ground 
to the grandstand
            raising vanilla
of sweet potato and maize.
           Praise of voices proclaim
Bakili! 
His face paternal
yellow on chests
Bakili!
Undulating on 
chitenji hips
Bakili!
g-force judders me in a
malarial invasion.
The mzungu’s quinine queasy
Bakili!



On the back of a flat bed lorry
climbing out of a vast pothole near Kafukule
a man dressed in twelve hours of road dirt and
a three piece suit asked
"Ah Madam! It is a real place with real books and teachers?"


"I'm not sure.
I am really not sure."



--------------------
Matolas - Bush taxi
mzungu - White person
chitenji - Cloth (worn like a sarong)





Nina Davies is an anthropologist with a research interest in the relationship between gender identity and material culture. She lives in Wakefield and is a member of the city's Black Horse Poets. Her blog is Precious Objects.

Comments:
Excellent, m'dear. Beautiful rhythms, smoothly underscoring your narrative as irony, and 'dressed in twelve hours of road dirt' is an inspired piece of writing.
 
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