Morning time, Southern Africa, Botswana. The jacaranda tree outside my room is filled with sparrows, the same sparrows of my garden in London that arrive each morning.
It’s the strange thing about birds. We think of them as our birds, symbols of our country. But the sparrow by nature migrates and is just as at home in South Africa. The word immigrant came from the word migrate. We have something learn from nature.
So after a lush grazing breakfast I get a taxi to the festival. Roger Robinson (a Trinidadian author based in London) and I are having a laugh-a-minute , which makes time go quicker. But now it is work, I am preparing to host an “open mic session” of young Botswana poets and rappers on stage. The sun has arrived.
As I approach the stage a rasta steps up to me “I know you from somewhere?” he says. “You ever been to Brooklyn”. Have I? “Do you know Mamoush?”. Mamoush. I’m startled. My brother? “That’s my brother” I say.
I’ve only ever met my brother a handful of times, good times, but a handful all the same. The odds on someone knowing him and me are long. I met him in New York for the first time a few years ago. “It’s me duwayne, the film maker “ he says and the memory flods back. I met with him in Manhattan, a friend of my brother from school days. “Duwayne!” I said “I’m still a filmmaker” he says. “I work here, got married have a baby now”. Weshake hands again. It’s a good sign.
Moments later I am on stage introducing the young people of Botswana to the open mic slot of the free word stage . I am given the list of names of prospective performers and all is well. After warming up the crowd I bellow over the PA“welcome everybody to the word, the sound and the Power in the Voice festival. first and foremost please welcome onto the stage the one and the only ....”And I remind myself of the first person who was on that list without looking at the paper... the name escapes me for a second so I use a descriptive word “the incredible....” and at last it came to me “The Dogfather...”. The crowd whoop and holler. The only problem was The Dogfather was not there.
Try again I thought “ladies and gentlemen The Dogfather”. Silence.... I look tothe side of the stage and the stage manager hunches his shoulders as if to say “whatyou looking at me for” . I am thinking shouldn’t someone have got The Dogfather ready to read, but no. The stage managers job was to write the list. My job was to introduce the acts. The sound engineers job was to make the microphones and PA work. The responsibilitity of these youngsters and their names was to be here.
I’d already made sure that someone wrote out names phonetically – something I insist on in England or anywhere that I MC. Finally “The Dogfather” came. The event began and was fantastic. But the name “The Dogfather”. It might sound very hip but if you are calling yourself the Dogfather what are you saying about your mother. This generation is different to the young poets I read with fifteen years ago in south Africa. Very different.
This evening the ex president of Botswana sits with his bodyguards in the audience. I had a great time, totally enjoyed the reading. By 1am we are all back at the hotel goingover the event, dissecting it and laughing. I strolled back to my room. I have arrived, the work is done.
Duwayne, my brothers friend, appears in my memory. I am reminded that a girl from New York whom I met in Manchester is now having a relationship with my brothers friend – it’sanother incredible coincidence. I met a man today called Ignacious who remembers my play Something Dark from Zimbabwe. “They gave you a standing ovation” he said. The world is smaller. I sleep at 2am and dream of flocks of sparrows whose shadows pixelate the sky against a deep purple sunset. The scene swirls downwards over the horizon which in turn swirls into itself until a picture on the back of a tablecloth.