Wanda’s Picks for January 2012

by Wanda Sabir

Madagascar-Africa-map, Wanda’s Picks for January 2012, Culture Currents Wishing everyone a blessed New Year. It is always a great time to reflect and take stock of oneself and one’s life when one solar cycle ends and another begins. Jan. 1, Imani, is also a great time to reflect on one’s values and fine tune the vibration between heart and soul, mind and spirit. 2011 concluded with the 99 percent asserting its sovereign rights, which remain unmet. 2012 is about upholding the spirit of resistance for the long term. There are victories, but one should never lose track of the goal – justice for all.

Sentinels never rest.

The 22nd Annual African American Celebration through Poetry is Feb. 4, 1-4 p.m. The rehearsal for those featured is Jan. 28, 10 a.m.-12 noon at the West Oakland Branch Library, 1801 Adeline St., Oakland, (510) 238-7352.

My good friend, Yvette Hochberg, has been diagnosed with brain and lung cancer. I met Yvette in Vukani Mawethu Choir many years ago. I think we were in the same section.

She is one of the programmers on the Women’s Magazine at KPFA radio and has been a supporter and advocate for issues ranging from justice in the Congo to any number of issues affecting women and girls throughout the world, whether that is Palestine, which she traveled, Egypt or West Africa. When I traveled to Senegal three years ago, she connected me with the West African Research Center, where I met Professor Ibrahim Seck, whom I am still in touch with.

There is a fundraiser to help her raise funds for alternative therapies at La Pena Cultural Center on Sunday, Jan. 8, 3-5 p.m., 3105 Shattuck Ave., in Berkeley. There will be many great people in attendance.

Habari Gani?

Monday finds me in Madagascar, where no one I have spoken to knows about the Pan African celebration of first fruits or Kwanzaa.

Madagascar-herder-zebu-1211-by-TaSin-Sabir, Wanda’s Picks for January 2012, Culture Currents Christmas Day in Madagascar was a fiasco for the non-Christians. Our tour guide, Vivi couldn’t find anything open, and then I saw a lone vegetable vendor, a sister with bananas and carrots and string beans and squash, tiny garlic cloves and tinier onions. Oh, I mustn’t forget the potatoes.

Vivi made us dinner and it was so delicious – better than the finer traveler restaurants as compared to the local fare in hoteles (Madagasy for restaurant).

Vivi’s home-fries or fritz (pronounced: freets) were so good. It was so hot, we could make tea with our water from the bottle. I think Miandrivazo is the second hottest place in Madagascar. There was going to be a party that evening and the DJs were playing techno TaSin knew from home.

We met a really cool b-boy. Brother man had on the bling, double strand rhinestone studded necklace, a big piece of ice in his right earlobe and rings on multiple fingers – all in a setting of silver.

He is Madagasy on his mother’s side, with Reunion heritage on his dad’s side. He was well traveled and could speak English, having studied at a college in Capetown, which he loved. He told us about his travels to France, which he didn’t like much, Germany, which he said was the party capital of Europe. He also spoke of Montreal as a place he’d like to return to.

He wants to come to California to LA and SF. Where else? He has relatives in most of the places he has visited and was in town this weekend to visit cousins. He and his cousins fixed us fish and rice, which was really nice of them to share their meal with us. They also bought us some water.

Our wakeup call two days in a row, today included, was 5 a.m., yes, too early for a vacation. Christmas, Vivi had a flat tire so though we were up early, we didn’t get on the road until 10 a.m. By the time we reached the second hottest place, where we spent the night, the tire was flat again.

On our way to Monrondava, the coastal city, in Mandivazo, we stopped at another inn; that one lost its electricity just as we arrived and got our room. We had a candle. It was pretty primitive. But hey, that’s what Third World country means, right?

Madagascar-panning-for-gold-1211-by-TaSin-Sabir, Wanda’s Picks for January 2012, Culture Currents Bugs and mosquito nets and laundry by hand and no indoor plumbing? Wrong, what it means is that everyone knows life isn’t fair, too many kids and not enough food, fat cats bringing in all the money and government services like free hospitals and free education is not free for those who need it because, like everywhere, bureaucracy breeds corruption, whether we are in Madagascar or the United States.

The 99 percent looks basically the same – well almost.

Today the tire held up and we stopped first at the gold mines. Yes, families were out mining for gold. A gram was $40 US or $80,000 AR. I have been trying to find cloth with Madagasy sayings on it. I have about five pieces now. I can’t remember what each one means. I have to ask Vivi again to read them to me: “No matter how much people talk against you, you do not get angry,” “He loves you the best,” “You know how to keep a confidence.”

There are similar cloths in Tanzania, which means they are being made elsewhere and sold in these different countries. I wonder if they are made in China? Many of the roads are sponsored by the Chinese government. This afternoon we traveled down a road with lots of potholes, yet even on the worse roads the vistas are so breathtaking one can’t help but marvel over the Goddess or God’s creation.

This afternoon for lunch we dined at a restaurant in Antsirabe TaSin liked from our first stay here. She had vanilla chicken and I had grilled – of course the entree name was in French. The vegetables were great and I could actually chew the chicken which was cut the way we do at home, thigh and back together. Madagasy cooks are really creative with the way they carve a chicken.

Madagascar-King’s-Palace-Sakalava-folk-dancers-1211-by-TaSin-Sabir, Wanda’s Picks for January 2012, Culture Currents Deborah, Vivi’s pregnant wife, and now 3-year-old son, Owen – today is his birthday – are also traveling with us. They are fun. Owen is such a bright kid – speaking in three languages: Madagasy, French and English.

Tonight he wanted to ride the merry-go-round, but his mother didn’t like it: too fast for him even if he’s with his dad. Owen took a ride in the push-push or man pulled carriage.

Yeah, it’s weird, being pulled by a man running with a cart. It reminds me of the Indian system with what they called “coolies.” Some people call it slavery.

We were dancing to the Madagasy music, which was nice. Kids and youth sat at tables gambling at a board with numbers on it. Some kids had lots of coins piled up high in front of them. While we were there it started to thunder, lightning streaked across the sky and then the drizzle started.

Madagascar-kids-with-incarcerated-moms-on-zoo-outing-1211-by-TaSin-Sabir, Wanda’s Picks for January 2012, Culture Currents TaSin and I carry a plastic poncho and raincoat in our pockets or purses. One never knows when it will rain. This afternoon is rained after we arrived at the hotel. These downpours can last for a few minutes to even longer. Many times we’ve gotten drenched, with our rain gear, more often without. We whisk out the plastic when the drizzle signals.

People have come to know the Americans. Can’t miss us: I wear a read cloth hat and TaSin has been rocking her Madagasy basket hat. But when one pulls out the camera and our “Salamus” don’t have the same accent as the locals, we start getting hit up to purchase other items. In other areas, like the country, kids would ask us for presents.

Vivi’s been trying to get me into a prison, a women’s prison, but so far we haven’t gotten far. Today, we visited a men’s prison. The prisons are right in the neighborhood. The men were working in the field today. In Madagascar, mothers keep their children, so the children are in prison too. Often from what I read, the children don’t get enough to eat and as they grow older, if there is no family to receive them outside they are serving time with their moms. One mother had two babies while inside – she was a returning prisoner.

We met the children on an outing at the zoo in Antananarivo, the capital. The woman with the kids said that they take them on outings twice a month or was it twice a week?

Madagascar-TaSin-in-Madagasy-basket-hat-1211-by-Wanda-Sabir, Wanda’s Picks for January 2012, Culture Currents Another thing I have been studying are the cemeteries. Yesterday, the prison we visited was across the street from this really big public cemetery. More often, people bury their family on their land, but in the city, where people rent, a lot of time people are buried where they died.

This afternoon after visiting the larger marketplace where we couldn’t find hats large enough to fit our heads we went to Chez Joseph, who sells precious stones. It was quite the tour, almost theatrical as we went from one part of the establishment to another. The cast members told us about the stones from rose quartz to rubies to fossilized wood, plants and other gems. There were even tortoises crawling on a bed of precious stones which the establishment gave us an envelope to fill. Then came the sell, which was left to Joseph, the gracious host, who met us at the start of the tour and returned at the end.

Madagascar-Indri-lemurs-in-Voi-Mma-rainforest-supported-by-local-people-Andasibe-1211-by-TaSin-Sabir, Wanda’s Picks for January 2012, Culture Currents He reminded me of the French men one sees on television. I was surprised to learn he was Madagasy – could have fooled me, but then, how many French men do I know? None.

Now I know why throughout Antsirabe there is so much rose quartz. It literally lines the porches and walkways of many establishments.

To read more about my travels, visit my blog via my website: wandaspicks.com. Click the link.

Bay View Arts Editor Wanda Sabir can be reached at wsab1@aol.com. Visit her website at www.wandaspicks.com throughout the month for updates to Wanda’s Picks, her blog, photos and Wanda’s Picks Radio. Her shows are streamed live Wednesdays at 6-7 a.m. and Fridays at 8-10 a.m., can be heard by phone at (347) 237-4610 and are archived on the Afrikan Sistahs’ Media Network.

PHOTO: Madagascar panning for gold 1211 by TaSin Sabir

CAPTION: Panning for gold is a family affair on this Madagasy stream. Unfortunately, the mine is not locally owned. – Photo: TaSin Sabir

PHOTO: Madagascar Queen’s Palace, kids on field trip 1211 by TaSin Sabir

CAPTION: Queen’s Palace, kids on a fieldtrip – Photo: TaSin Sabir

PHOTO: Madagascar King’s Palace 1211 by TaSin Sabir

CAPTION: King’s Palace – Photo: TaSin Sabir

PHOTO: Madagascar King’s Palace, Sakalava folk dancers 1211 by TaSin Sabir

CAPTION: Sakalava folk dancers at the King’s Palace – Photo: TaSin Sabir

PHOTO: Madagascar kids with incarcerated moms on zoo outing 1211 by TaSin Sabir

CAPTION: Kids with incarcerated moms on an outing to the zoo. In Madagascar, the children live in prison with their mothers. – Photo: TaSin Sabir

PHOTO: Madagascar TaSin in Madagasy basket hat 1211 by Wanda Sabir

CAPTION: TaSin in a Madagasy basket hat – Photo: Wanda Sabir

PHOTO: Madagascar Christmas morning in Morondava 1211 by TaSin Sabir

CAPTION: Christmas morning in Morondava, a coastal city – Photo: TaSin Sabir

PHOTO: Madagascar Indri lemurs in Voi Mma rainforest supported by local people, Andasibe 1211 by TaSin Sabir

CAPTION: Indri lemurs in the local rainforest: Voi Mma in Andasibe. This forest is supported by the local people. – Photo: TaSin Sabir

PHOTO: Madagascar herder, zebu 1211 by TaSin Sabir

CAPTION: A herder with his zebu – Photo: TaSin Sabir — 9009