Dedicated to Caddy Adzuba, with love.
The entire social organization, if you can call it that, is collapsing. It’s come undone in such a short time. Amazing! But this crisis is definitely worth it. Some are afraid because they think they’re going to lose something. But what have they got to lose? We’ve already started to give shape to a new society The Day of the Winged Lion, Silo.
My name is Sharika “the one on whom the sun shines” and I am walking along with Koffi “born on Friday”. Our footsteps echo in the darkness of the night while we hold hands and murmur an ancient song that drives away the forest demons. It’s the same ritual we performed not so long ago, as we walked for kilometres before dawn to get to school. We’re afraid that the evil spirits we tried so hard to avoid have now come alive.
We agreed to leave tonight. The road is long, and ghosts lurk in the nooks and crannies of our memory. I try to remember where it all began. Images of family love, home and protection come to my mind and sooth my heart, then…an inexplicable breach. Caddy left our country to tell others that they were massacring us, because of the coltan. She was received at the UN, and she had evidence: American and European companies financing the guerrillas that organize the armed attacks, the systematic rapes. Mainly perpetrated on women from 2 years old to old grannies… in a deliberate strategy to undermine our dignity as a people. She was awarded prizes – she even received the Prince of Asturias Award for Concord. But nothing has changed around here.
The traffickers split us up and bundle us into small vans. Koffi and I struggle to stay together. Three months and twenty days and nights. When I arrive in Europe, they’ll ask me if I have endured enough violence to be granted refugee status, but I won’t find the words to tell them what I went though until I reached Senegal.
We set off for Spain, at night. When we reach the beach, we are greeted by the anxious eyes and clenched hands of many others, more than I think could ever fit in this small boat. The traffickers shouts numb our brains and we have no time to think that death lurks just round the corner as we huddle closely together. Hasty, frightened glances fixate on a point on the coast. I hear distant prayers and the cry of a baby.
We are barely 3 days away, but Koffi doesn’t know that, his hand is icy cold, as green as the sea. I keep holding him and look up at the stars to see if his light is shining there now. There is such a fine line between life and death… I could just let myself go, rocked by the waves, I can barely breathe. Scenes from my life flash before my eyes, and I suddenly I hear an inner voice: your life is sacred, and you haven’t completed your mission here yet.
I am floating as we jump out of the boat and onto dry land. I can’t feel my body, and my sense of unreality lifts me out of myself: I could be this child who has also been saved, the sea, the sunlight, a stone. But they keep asking me who I am, where I come from, whether someone is with me. When I tell them that I’m with Koffi, they look at me strangely. It’s then that I understand that there are many realities that are invisible to their eyes.
I have been in Spain for more than six months now, I am learning the language, but the words are misleading. The words welcome, roots, refuge definitely don’t have the same meaning.
Today we went on a trip to the mountain and Muntu (in Bantu, the vital force called “What is”) manifested itself in me. I heard a murmur of conversations in the background… and standing on the lookout point I could see the sun expanding, I was overcome by a great silence and I felt connected with everything. As I walked back down the mountain, I felt a new determination and my heart was bursting with renewed hope.
I have signed up as a volunteer in the humanist association in my neighbourhood. Helping others is the only thing that helps me too. I like these connections we weave, between peers, as if we are planting the seed of a new humanity. Here, there are people from all cultures… we share our knowledge and engage in projects in which people take priority.
It is an everyday moment, of any given day. We are in our premises, planning a new activity. We share a snack and talk about our experiences. A friend gets up and tells us an anecdote about when he went to Africa.
“So, there I was lost, thirsty and exhausted, when I came across an old woman with a beautiful face and wise eyes. She offered me plenty of food and water. I, surprised, thanked her for her kindness, and asked her, “Why are you helping me if you don’t know me? I’m a stranger to you?” “Of course I know you, “ she replied. “You are a Human Being.” That which unites use is immense …and I would be curious to see what makes us different.”
As our laughter quietly faded, our eyes sought each other out… our gazes met, and we looked into each other’s soul.