The Reading Room
Stories of the war, we never actually met. He died in 1955. What do I know of you?
Unrelenting Kampala traffic, people, boda bodas, matatus, bicycles with heavy loads, building materials mostly, a heaving and roving sea of bodies around us. Where is the road to Kitgum? Inching our way forward, metal almost touching metal, bare. The open country finds us, finally.
Easy chatter is alive in the bus. Suddenly we hear the call to stop. A police road block: ‘let’s talk’, he says, entering the bus chest out, bright white uniform (why?) and black beret. ‘You, Madam and the driver.’ He points at me. ‘We’re gonna talk about the Queen’s Crown.’ Sideways on my seat, firmly glued, smiles. ‘Sure, let’s talk.’ We look at each other, an interested gaze. Eventually he sighs, steps out, points us to the Alligator Lodge for lunch. Not a day for the Queen today.
We live by stories, we also live in them. One way or another we are living the stories planted in us early or along the way, or we are living the stories we planted – knowingly or unknowingly – in our- selves. We live stories that either give our lives meaning or negate it with meaninglessness. If we change the stories we live by, quite possibly we change our lives.1
As we sat in Café Duddel in the German city of Cologne, we sensed that the brainstorming we had been working on for weeks was emerging as a direction. “Transhumanity” was not (yet) something we could set down to paper in the form of a definition. No, it would not let itself be held down, it needed to move. The process, for us, was transhumanity – a journey we both shared in very different forms and ways. How else to describe our joint experience here in Germany, defining the German word Heimat (for home in the plural), a form which you will not find in German dictionaries? Was “home” the right word, when the concept of belonging was no longer static? When roots were sprouted in South Africa, Ethiopia, Canada, the Unites States, Germany… in the face of all our seeming differences, these roots were from the same tree. This, we sensed as we sought the answer to the questions of where is home, what is home? As we pondered these questions, we reflected and shared our own stories.
Most of us are probably familiar with Johan Galtung’s ‘typology of violence’. As a peace researcher Galtung is known for developing the term and theory of structural violence. The concept of structural violence dawned on him while seeing the victims of poverty in India.
What little Momo could do like no other was: listen. Some might think that is nothing special – listening – why – anyone can do that. But that is not true. Very few people are capable of really listening. And the way Momo knew how to listen was unique in the world.
Undine Whande, Rebecca Freeth, Jabu Mashinini and Sebastiao Guerra co-facilitated the Nelson Mandela Dialogue on Memory Work 2013-2014