Saturday, 28 April 2018

Y is for Yen...and...Yesteryears...and...Yankari


is for
Yegna, an all-girl Ethiopian band, which uses music to raise awareness about women’s rights and social issues among young people. Yegna means ‘ours’ in Amharic. Listen to them in the clip below and read more about them here.






Y’akoto – a musician of Ghanaian-German heritage, born in Hamburg, she spent her childhood in various countries in Africa and is now resident in Europe. Listen to her track Come down to the River.




And since this A-Z is ending and I won’t get the opportunity again, I’m including Yamore, a track composed by Selif Keita and sung by him and Cesaria Evora, two voices from the continent I absolutely adore. Enjoy!



Yesteryears. Yankari. And a Yen for Yellowed Postcards.

Today I’m taking you to a place my friends and I used to visit in the late 70’s when the world was less of a global village and more of a remote one.  Every place is imbued with magic at that particular age, we all had sharper eyes, no glasses, but the eyes themselves were a bit rose-tinted if you know what I mean. Multiple glowy-happy memories but one can’t really pinpoint what it is at the centre that’s making them glow. Never mind, some things are fine left fuzzy.

Photo courtesy : Malini Mehan.
But the facts first. Yankari in the 70’s was still a game reserve, about a hundred kilometres away from where I lived in Bauchi, Nigeria. Just the right distance for a day trip. Sometimes, a group of families would get together, drive down and spend the day there in the wilderness, it wasn’t all bush – there was a basecamp, chalets, places to picnic at if you kept a sharp eye on the baboons out to snatch your prized egg sandwich or paratha-dum aloo, and hot springs which were at a comfortable 31-35 deg all year round, developed for swimming or relaxing by. After the morning was over and the mums were done pressing food on us, we’d all pile into the cars and go on a self-drive through the reserve area proper – our eyes boring into the sparse savannah vegetation, ears fully cocked, nerves at high alert on the lookout for animals.

Sometimes we’d see them – maybe a herd of antelopes with their delicate limbs, maybe a group of elephants picking out the juicy bits off the treetops under a wide open, hot-white sky fraying to faint lilacs and greys of clouds at the rim; sometimes we’d see nothing but the dung heaps, smoky fresh or dried into flat pats; sometimes a tsetse fly would find its way into the car and create a mini-commotion; and then, the sun would drop low on the horizon and we’d turn back towards home, the dads wanting to avoid the drive back in the dark as far as possible. Some of my friends came back with hair raising tales of having been charged by angry elephants, fortunately they were able to drive off out of danger. Nothing like that ever happened to us, I only saw the gentlest of creatures – gazelles, birds, lizards, and pretty cool-tempered elephants. Yankari was supposed to be a habitat for West African lions too, but even in the 70’s they had been hunted to the brink – never saw even a whisker.


Whether we saw the animals or not, the whole space - the birdcalls, the aggressive baboons, the crunch of sand and gravel under the wheels, the sudden slap of a branch on the glass of the window making us recoil, the sun like a copper coin dropping into a pond – all of it was magical. Yankari was my first experience of the African wilderness and wildlife. How can I explain? – a massive, progressively ballooning thrill in the blood.

During the same years, apart from being into the African savannah big time, I was also into collecting postcards. Those days the only way to keep in touch was handwritten letters – Bauchi didn’t get telephones till 1979 or 80. Letters, telegrams and something called telex in the offices were the go to options. Expat government officers moved often, my father had been relocated from Maiduguri further up north to Bauchi in 1976, so the turnover in friends was high. The friendships that went deep were maintained through long and frequent letters, and I badgered more or less every friend of mine to send me picture postcards from places they visited. Apart from buying them myself as well, of course.


Last year during the A-Z, Mail Adventures’ posts reminded me of my stack of old postcards as I followed her through April. She very kindly sent me one too, from where she was in North Africa. And when I went back to India last summer, I dug my old ones out and unwrapped them for the headiest fix of nostalgia. The more yellowed they are, the more precious they seem! And some of them were from Yankari, so here they are - sprinkled on this post.


Yankari became a National Park in 1991, I understand there are sizeable elephant populations still, it’s got the potential for an ideal eco-tourism destination, safaris at a fraction of the cost of East/South Africa. Visitor reviews on TripAdvisor are mixed re the facilities, but are more or less agreed that the ecosystem is impressive. However, the current problem with the Bokos has disrupted stability and stalled development - tourism in the country has been erratic over the last few years, not just in Yankari. It breaks my heart a little bit. Read a less sentimental, more factual description of Yankari National Park here.



From the Safaris



Books n Stuff


Kateb Yacine (1929-1989) – was an Algerian poet, playwright and novelist, and one of North Africa’s most prominent and esteemed literary figures, known for his progressive stance on Algerian women’s rights and for his advocacy of the Berber cause and Algerian freedom. He wrote in both Algerian Arabic dialect and French, he once said, I write in French to tell the French that I am not French. His first novel, Nedjma, also his best-known work, broke with the simple, linear narrative technique for the first time in Algeria, using multiple POVs and disrupted chronology to tell the story. It is a mythical treatment of the inter-clan conflicts within the Algerian society under French colonial rule and the quest for freedom. Nedjma marked a watershed for North African literature. Subsequently, he went onto write several plays, including ones based on Ho Chi Min and Mandela. Yacine’s work has been internationally acclaimed and he was honoured by the Grand Prix National de Lettres in France in 1986. Read more about his life and work here.


Yambo Ouologuem (1940 – 2017) – was a Malian writer, poet and novelist of Francophone Africa. His first novel Le Devoir de Violence (Bound to Violence) was published in 1968 to wide international acclaim and awarded the Prix Renaudot. He was the first African writer to bag a French literary award. The novel was subsequently mired in controversy for plagiarism and was banned in France but republished again in 1977. It provides a counter-view to the first African novels of Achebe and Laye, and points out the complicity of African rulers with slave traders. (Not surprised it bagged that award!) His poetry has never been collected, but it is anthologised in several books of African poetry. Read more about this writer here and here



P.S. I still collect picture postcards - though not one hundredth as indefatigably as I did in the 70's. So if anyone is interested in postcard swaps - please let me know!










Posted for the A-Z Challenge 2018

18 comments:

  1. Loved learning about Yankari. It seems that despite the Years it still has a firm grasp on your heart strings.

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    1. Yes to that. Probably extends to Africa as a whole - something about that continent is close to my heart.

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  2. Hari OM
    Oh gosh you bring back memories!!! TELEX!!! Proper letter writing and postcards...sigh... I still have some, but that collection was one of my 'declutterings/lettings go' a while back. ...and yes, did get to Yankari all those years back!!! OH me, oh my... YAM xx

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    1. Telex is a blank for the next generation :D even handwritten letters - for the most part. Trips to Yankari were superfun...

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  3. Hi Nila - yes years in South Africa and surrounds ... yet I was regaled by friends about the past and how much easier and more plentiful it was - now I know ... I'll be back for a thorough read and listen - memories ... cheers Hilary

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    1. Hunting has left its marks everywhere - years before the populations recover..if they ever do. Glad of your company this A-Z, thank you!

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  4. Loved this post and the trip to the past with rose-colored glasses and yellow tinted post cards. The idea of lunch and a possible baboon sandwich snatch - oh my! Getting a post card in the mail was a treat. Alas, I didn't save them, but fond memories.
    And Safari yellow...I'm sorry we are right at the end of the trail.

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    1. Ya, always mixed feelings at the end of any trail... thanks for your company on this one - much appreciated!

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  5. "Nature's first green is gold." - love that, Nila. If I heard it before I've forgotten. Once again, superb job on the slideshow!

    Emily In Ecuador | Yellow Orb Over Puerto Lopez, Ecuador

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    1. Nature's first green is gold,
      Her hardest hue to hold,
      Her early leaf's a flower,
      But only so an hour,
      Then leaf subsides to leaf.
      So Eden sank to grief,
      So dawn goes down to day.
      Nothing gold can stay.

      ~ Robert Frost.

      Quoting from memory so punctuation may be off. One of the shortest and most profound of poems!

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  6. I had fun reading your recollections of the '70s. For a brief moment, I was taken aback by "a comfortable 31-35," because I thought "What's comfortable about that?!?" Almost immediately, of course, I realized that you meant 31-35 degrees Celsius. In the USA, we generally use Fahrenheit, and 31-35 would be freezing. Ha.

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    1. Yes, I forgot to add the unit - which is something all my science teachers drilled into me at school over and over again. 'Without a unit the number is meaningless, you will get a zero!' There, I've done what they warned me of - and got a zero! :) Am not a credit to them I'm afraid :)

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  7. Wow, I'm impressed with how many Y things you were able to feature. I liked the female band and the message they conveyed in their video. It's great that young girls can have role models like that and hopefully benefit from their message.

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    1. Y is not a tough letter - lots of stuff available. And Africa is super rich no issue at all finding oodles of things for any letter, had to give a few things the chop in fact :) Glad you liked Yegna, they are indeed doing sterling work.

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  8. I participate in several poetry postcard fests during the year, the main one being for the month of August when we send out a poem on a postcard everyday and hope to get 30 of the same back. It is good to get real mail in the box instead of just junk.

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    1. That sounds so cool! Indeed it's lovely to get real letters in the post, haven't had one for quite sometime now.

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  9. Your charming yesteryear's reflections really delights me. Rose-colored glasses and yellowed postcards! I love all three of your Y music choices, and I'm going to miss the daily introductions your posts have been bringing. Only one more to savor - and I know I will.

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    1. Ya, always mixed feelings at the end. Glad you liked the music.

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