One of my main tasks is to continue my journey learning Chiyawo. After so many years you would think that I can do it ok – well its always a case of the more you know, the more you realise you don’t know! While I can successfully small talk my way around the village and even have deeper discussions on things with people, once conversations involve more people and the discussion ranges into new and wonderful contexts I can very easily gets lost in the speed and sheer complexity of words and concepts. In order to work on that I am focussing on listening and dissecting the speech of everyday people speaking Yawo – not my language helper, or people who know me well as they tend to modify their speech as they know what I know and can understand… they’re nice like that :-). In order to do this I am collecting recordings of people talking about their day-to-day lives, their work and the deep history of their area.
Getting people to open up about their history is eye opening. This morning I spent time interviewing these two characters (pictured below) about what life was like before “white people came”. Before sugar, salt, salt and even clothes. They explained how they performed various tasks and lived in a time much different to now. It included making sure you built a strong door for your house so the lions couldn’t get in and everyone being indoors from 3-4pm, again, because of the lions!
Asking people to share about the past also includes hearing gut wrenching stories about the war of independence and also the civil war. The memories of people contain so much pain and dislocation but they are happy to share and talk of these experiences. It’s not just learning language.