Tuesday, 3 April 2018

C is for Calabash...and Chronology....


is for

Yvonne Chaka Chaka, a globally recognised and much respected musician from South Africa. 



And Chidinma, a young and upcoming artiste from Nigeria -








Calabash - The calabash vine grows widely in Africa and its fruit is called various names such as Igba by the Yoruba, Nkalu by the Kikongo, Igula by the Zulu and Duma by the Hausa. The round or bottle shaped fruits are allowed to mature, dried and hollowed out and used as household utensils, religious artefacts, musical instruments and also carved into artwork. Typically they are made into spoons, drinking cups, rice bowls/containers, and water pots. Large calabashes make the resonators of a range of West African musical instruments, lutes and rattles, as well as percussion.



Credit. Nigerian 60's stamp honouring calabash carver

Calabash is processed by letting the fruits mature on the vine, then picked and soaked in water to decay the seeds and pulp. The gourds are cut open, the flesh scooped out, and the naturally yellow shells dried to hardness in the sun. These can be dyed using natural materials such as millet leaves to give a rose colour, or indigo to give blue for instance. The natural yellow darkens with age, it can also be darkened by exposing to smoke. Once the desired colour is achieved, the shells are then carved using various techniques – scraping, scorching, engraving and pyro-engraving.

Calabash art was among the souvenirs the peddlers brought to our porch to sell. Some of them still there at my parental home.




Chronology and Connecting the dots - The story of humans is the story of Africa.  It’s a super-long family saga, so helps to have the key dates and milestones handy in one place. This is necessarily an oversimplified version, for a more detailed analysis try this link


It needs stressing that these families of hominins and early human ancestral species existed side by side, and so far no direct link between Homo sapiens and any of these species has been established. In other words, we know we are cousins but don’t quite know how exactly – a predicament I often face when meeting some members of the outer branches of my extended family :)


Time
Events
7 million years ago
The human-like ancestral line branches off from the great apes.
7-4.4 million years ago
Ardipithecus, the earliest group of Hominins. In Ethiopia, Chad and Kenya. These early relatives of modern humans attempted to walk upright.
4.5-2.5 million years ago
Australopithecus. In Kenya, Ethiopia and South Africa. Walked upright, but also climbed trees.
2.7-1.8 million years ago
Paranthropus. Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, and South Africa. They had large molars and powerful jaws and could feed on a variety of foods.
2.4-1.4 million years ago
Earliest members of genus Homo evolve. Found in Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi. Members of this group were the first to leave Africa
1.89 million-143,000 years ago
Homo erectus. The first species to have expanded beyond Africa. Lived in East, South and North Africa, Western and Eastern Asia. Oldest early humans known to have modern man-like body proportions. Walked upright. No longer climbed trees. Associated with the first stone hand axes.
700,000-200,000 years ago
Homo heidelbergensis. Europe, East Asia and Africa. Shorter, wider bodies thought to be an adaptation to the cold. Used fire. Hunted with spears, and routinely hunted large animals.
400,000-40,000 years ago
Homo neanderthalensis (Neanderthals), Closest extinct evolutionary human relative. Lived in Asia and Europe. Shorter and stockier than modern humans, but large brain size. Used sophisticated tools. Lived in shelters, controlled fire. Wore clothing, made art, buried dead and sometimes marked graves with offerings.
200,000 years ago

Homo sapiens. Evolved in response to some cataclysmic climate event. Evolved in Africa and then migrated out to the rest of the continent. Recent fossil findings in Morocco might push the 200,000 ya date back by a further 100,000 years
125,000 – 71,000 years ago
Modern man gains control of fire, uses it to modify tools, evidence in settlements in South Africa.
106,000 years ago
The first migrations of modern humans out of Africa. Migrations happened in waves every 20,000 years or so. Due to a wobble in the Earth’s axis climate shifts opened up green corridors between Africa and the other continents. Man arrived simultaneously in China and Europe about 80-90,000 years ago.
195,000-70,000 years ago
Evidence of first humans in Nile Valley in Central and North Africa, first signs of modern humans traced in Ethiopia and Sudan.
77,000 years ago
The first human-made abstract art object – a piece of engraved red ochre, found in the Blombos Cave in South Africa.
60,000 years ago
Evidence of human habitation in West Africa in the Aïr Mountains in northern Niger and Chad, in what is now the Sahara but at the time was grassland. Evidence of hunter-gatherers living in these areas intermittently in 1000 year spans from 7000 BCE onwards till 2000 BCE when the climate became arid desert.
22,000 years ago
Ishongo bones in Congo. The first evidence of arithmetical ideas.
13-14,000 years ago
Jebel Sahaba site in modern day Sudan bears possible evidence of first warfare – large number of skeletons with trauma and blades embedded. Early food storage pits/silos – hints of early agriculture?
9000 BCE
First agriculture begins in the Nile Valley.
5000 BCE
Organised farming begins in Egypt. Writing/recordkeeping systems develop. Prehistory ends.

From the Safaris 


~ Thank you for watching! ~

Books n stuff

J.M. Coetzee (1940 -) is a novelist, essayist, and translator of South African origin, awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2003, and the Booker Prize twice before the Nobel. He was born in Cape Town to Afrikaner parents and has been educated in South Africa and USA. He was among the anti-apartheid writers during the apartheid era and is an animal rights activist. He started his career with Dusklands in 1974. Apart from fiction has published literary criticisms, essays, screenplays, poetry and translations of Afrikaans and Dutch works. He has worked in UK and USA in addition to South Africa, and he currently holds Australian citizenship and lives in Adelaide. He is among the most highly esteemed authors from the African continent.

Gladys Casely-Hayford (1904-1950) was one of the pioneer poets of Africa writing in English. Born to Sierra Leonese parents in what was then known as the Gold Coast, she was among the first women poets as well. Another poet I studied as part of my literature syllabus at school. Her poems have been widely anthologised.

Most of her verses I studied at school had something or other to do with Christian themes, one of them I remember reimagined the birth of Jesus as a black child in Africa. It was quite a revelation that some of her poems portray female sexuality and homoeroticism with daring frankness for her times, and a rather poignant lyricism. Which I discovered much later, naturally, on rereading her work as an adult. Can’t see anybody including Rainy Season Love Song in the 70’s school curriculum! I’ve come across critical views of her poetry as well - that her verses are simplistic, she mixed her metaphors, etc etc, which may or may not be correct, her technical accomplishment as a poet is not something I’m getting into here. I like what I like.  I have a fondness for Gladys, probably based on the feel-good memories or the rhymes, or her lyrical celebration of her hometown, who knows? Not important anyways. There is no perfect way to write poetry. 

Read a poignant excerpt from a mother-daughter memoir profiling Gladys here.



Thank you for your exceptional patience with this one!







Posted for the A-Z Challenge 2018


38 comments:

  1. The Calabash sounds as useful as bamboo.
    I wouldn't recognise my cousins if I tripped over them. But find the Chronology fascinating.
    Thank you.

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    1. Bamboo probably a little more varied in usage, structural support for instance apart from decorative.

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  2. calm = patience. Not necessary. Your posts are so detailed and fascinating. You've done a lot of work.
    Clap, Clap (applause)

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    1. My word counts always need patience :) not everyone likes reading details. Thank you for your support!

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  3. Hi Nila! So you're up to C already! Thanks for your well-presented, well-researched posts. The A-Z is a chance for you to strut your stuff.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Denise and thanks for being here. Yup the A-Z is just an excuse to go digging :-)

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  4. Those crested cranes are gorgeous! Fascinating theme for the Challenge!

    Dena
    https://denapawling.blogspot.com/

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    Replies
    1. They are, aren't they? They're also the national birds of Uganda. Africa has some really colourful and iconic bird species.

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  5. Africa is always so intriguing
    good luck for the challenge
    visiting from Second thoughts First

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your wishes. Africa is fascinating indeed!

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  6. This is so informative and I think Yvonne is super pretty

    Tongue Twister for C

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    Replies
    1. Gotta agree about Yvonne, she's super talented too.

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  7. I love the artwork on the calabash. :)

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  8. I love it that you provide music to listen to (Yvonne Chaka Chaka is an icon, not only in our country, but worldwide). As always, I enjoyed your safari photos.
    https://www.hesterleynel.co.za/

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    Replies
    1. She has an amazing voice - no end moving! Love her music.

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  9. Very useful timeline, thank you! And I do think calabash art is very pretty :)

    The Multicolored Diary: Weird Things in Hungarian Folktales

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  10. I have that Nigerian stamp in my collection - now you have given me more information about what the Oyo Carver is doing,

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  11. Creative Curating Champion is your title for the day - these amazing collections are delightful. When I was introduced to calabash, both as art and musical instruments I was inspired to grow my own gourds one year. Not calabash mind you, but still, I ended up with a few "shakers" when dried that I painted into full-figured women.

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    Replies
    1. That is really admirable - you grew your own musical instruments.

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  12. Made me remember the gourds we used to dry and use for shakares. And wonder what changes the next wobble of the earth on it's axis will cause. The picture of a vast number of skeletons of an early war.

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    Replies
    1. They do make great shekere - I wonder if that's where the word shake/shaker comes from? hmmm...

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  13. That was totally not the voice I was expecting after the beginning of the song for Yvonne Chaka Chaka :) and I love the second song Chidinma has such an amazing vocal. Calabash is a word I had heard before, but I had no idea what it was - thank you for the info.
    Tasha
    Tasha's Thinkings - Movie Monsters

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    Replies
    1. Anytime :) I really like both the ladies' too

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  14. I don't understand much about poetry. I write some but don't understand critics. Stuff that I think is ... meh, to be polite, gets awards while things that I like get criticized as you mentioned above.

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    1. Ya, the reasoning behind awards can be quite baffling sometimes...

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  15. Hari OM
    Love a calabash - we had several... dunno which of the sibs has them now! A Nigerian author Chimamanda may interest you...her TED talk is beyound superb... YAM xx

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    1. Calabashes are great to have around - so pretty, and pretty useful.. Chimamanda is part of my A-post, A for Adichie and A for Articulate...her writing too is powerful and altogether amazing..

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  16. I really like that old stamp. I so rarely send or receive snail mail these days that I've forgotten how cool stamps can be.

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    Replies
    1. I can relate - receiving a letter/postcard nowadays is an EVENT.

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  17. So informative, Nilanjana. Once again, your slideshow is terrific! Calabash sounds super useful.

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    Replies
    1. It is - and eco-friendly too, unlike the plastic stuff...

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  18. Hi Nila - this was a fascinating read ... and like your posts from the A-Z last year ... I can see I'll be reading them anon - and giving myself time to take them in ...

    This is excellent ... and I'm forwarding it on to someone whom I'm sure will be interested ... brilliantly well presented ... and I will love the music too - thanks so much ... delighted and those calabash are always wonderful to look at, hear and use in those earlier days ...

    Cheers Hilary

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  19. I had a calabash pipe back when I smoked. They really are useful.

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    Replies
    1. I didn't know they could be made into pipes! Thanks

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Thank you for your comment. Your feedback and opinions keep the conversation lively and the words flying.