Usually, my posts influence my choice of music. Today, the music has influenced the post. I recently discovered Xavier Rudd, an Australian musician whose music is a blend of acoustic folk and roots, with a tribal feel to it. In essence… the kind of music you should close your eyes to listen to – you may do so, but don’t forget to read the following too…
When I listen to it, ‘Spirit Bird’ makes me travel. There is a particular passage of my novel that has this same effect on Ziri, one of the two Berber brothers I introduced to you here. Here it is now, brought to you by the spirit of Friday Fiction (other extracts can be found here, here, and a bonus one here).
Azulay pulled out a neatly folded piece of yellow, thick paper from a pocket that he had stitched onto the inner side of his djellaba.
“Come closer. I’ll show you”
Ziri dragged his body closer to his brother’s without lifting his eyes off of the mysterious piece of paper.
The fire was crackling gently and a few birds were chirping in the thick grasses along the river.
“What is this?” he asked, his eyes now gleaming with curiosity.
“This, my friend, is a map of the world.”
Ziri’s heart stopped. He had never seen a map and his perception of the world came down to a little oasis town at the edge of the desert. He knew of course: the world was big; at least as big as the Saharan Caravan Route that Father follows every two years. But he didn’t know where Timbuktu was, nor how far away the Atlantic Ocean was. To him, they were just remote places. They were just words.
“Go on. Have a look!”
For reasons he could not explain, a shiver ran down Ziri’s spine. He had always longed to go to school like his brother once had. Walk with him hand in hand, learn about his country and about the French who stole it. He looked at his brother and, hands trembling, he grabbed the edge of the map and pulled it open.
It was like a whirlwind of emotions, unexpected and overwhelming. A cryptic drawing, curvy lines and symbols. A sketch in black and white, drawn with precision. The most beautiful, enigmatic drawing he had ever seen.
“Where are we?” he asked eagerly.
Azulay smiled and placed his index finger roughly at the centre of the map, in Moroccan territory but very near the Algerian border.
Ziri gasped like an amazed child who has just discovered magic.
“We are at the centre of the world!” he exclaimed, his lips spreading into a wide grin.
His brother laughed wholeheartedly and answered that, yes, they pretty much were.
“But what is even more fascinating” he said, “is how little our country is compared to the rest of the world.” He slid his finger in a diagonal and added, “Look! This word here says ‘Soviet Union’ and it is the largest country in the world. It is fifty times bigger than Morocco!”
Ziri’s eyes were glowing. It was like his brother’s hunger for adventure had been transfused into his blood and was now learning to thrive in his own body. He spent the next few minutes staring at the rest of the map in silence. Studying every border, every line.
Soon enough, he made a striking discovery. Most African countries had borders that were straight lines, as opposed to the rest of the world, which were mostly wiggly ones.
“Is that a coincidence, brother?” he asked, startled and confused.
“No. It is not a coincidence. It is colonialism.”
“Most of those countries – including ours – were controlled by France, Spain, Great Britain or Portugal.” His finger pointed to all four respective countries. “They divided them according to their interests and desire of expansion, regardless of the countries’ history, religion or culture. Like a loaf of bread, torn into pieces.”
“Power, Ziri…” he placed a log of wood in the fire and reiterated, “Power.”
Ziri looked up at the mountain ridge now plunged in darkness and his gaze wondered off towards the glittery sky. Hundreds of stars scintillated, like pinheads in the dark. Unpin them one by one and the world would be blind.