Equatorial Guinea: A Spanish speaking African nation that hides its charms from the internet
The further these armchair travels take me, the less I understand the world. For example, why does the internet offer 23 million stories about Liz Truss in 0.51 seconds but only one film about Equatorial Guinea? And why, given that this is a country of 1.5 million people each with their own stories to tell, is that one film so very, very odd? I guess the powers that be have decided there is no point funding a “normal” film about Equatoguineans, so why would they stump up the cash to support an art documentary about Ësáasi Eweera, one of the last kings of the Bubi people? I’m sure it’s a hard sell to fund a film about the only Spanish speaking country in Africa, so how did they get the cash to make a documentary full of long, slow shots of ancient photographs bleached beyond recognition? And who thought it was a good idea to show you the photo without explaining it? How good a salesperson do you have to be to get the funds for a film in which old photos come gradually into focus whilst an unexplained narrator reads a letter from the governor of Spanish Guinea sent in 1904?
Now don’t get me wrong, I kind of enjoyed it! I just can’t work out who the hell the audience is… Maybe you should try watching A storm was coming too and let me know your thoughts. For thoughts are what fill your mind when watching a film with no plot and no action, it gave my plenty of time to mull over what it must have been like for the Bubi people to lose their nation, to be forced to stop speaking their parents’ language, and to choose between fighting a far stronger oppressor or capitulating in the full knowledge that they intend to enslave you and wipe out your history and culture. It is particularly mind-blowing and depressing to remember that although the film is set 100 years ago, similar things are still happening in Ukraine, Yemen, Xinjiang, Tibet and more.
If I had hoped for a respite from tricky narrative structures in this week’s novel By night the mountain burns, I would have been disappointed… It is set on the insular region (the Island part of Equatorial Guinea) and uses oral rhythms to outline the story of a young boy living through tortuous times as the community struggles to survive drought, fires and superstition. Although most men have already left the island, his mysterious grandfather remains, though as he refuses to fish, the family is still starving. The book reminded me of how structured most European stories are and how many other ways there are to tell a story. The rhythm is a great reminder that virtually everything we take to be normal is in fact conditioning. Even Dickens was an experimental author once…
And so to food which was quite different to the African food we have made so far. Gone were memories of fufu, replaced instead with succotash an easy to make vegan bean stew and akwadu, a delicious caramelised banana and coconut desert which we brought to our friends’ house, much to the delight of both kids and adults. For me though, the food just made me wonder why on earth Sylvester the cat says sufferin’ succotash — the internet offers 22,600 answers, revealing that it is a “minced oath” of “suffering saviour”. Which explains precisely nothing!
For this week’s drink we once more have tea, Osang tea, which is like an Indian chai, but a little bit different. You can find the recipe here. I really don’t know what more to say, so I’ll quickly move on to music. Once more the internet delivered little, but from what I could I piece together, Equatoguinean music is pretty relaxing stuff, and if I were to choose one to play you it would be Luga da Ambo, a group I know precisely nothing about, but whose music sounds like a blend of other African and South American bands, which I guess kind of makes sense!
Well, that’s about it! Let’s hope the internet’s content providers have more to say about Eritrea!