Friday, June 15, 2007


One inspiring book which I picked up on the Charing Cross Road in 1989 and return to time and again is 'The Fragrance of Guava' ( Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza in conversation with Gabriel Garcia Marquez.) My copy has two Freetown addresses scribbled in the back so I must have taken it to Sierra Leone. Anyway it's basically one long conversation with Marquez organised into short chapters. There's one each on his two most famous novels, then one on Origins, Family, His Craft, Education, Readings and Influences, Work, Waiting, Now, Politics, Women, Superstitions Mania and Tastes and (lastly!) Fame and the Famous. It is thought provoking and I took it out again yesterday when I started thinking about superstition.

I'm not that superstitious though I detest Friday 13th. Early this year it fell in the middle of holiday school so I kept my daughter home. In a month there's another - in holiday school again so I'll do the same. That's one of my few concessions. My mother holds this 'reverse superstition' thing where she almost goes out of her way to disprove it. She wore green when she married for the 2nd time on Friday 13th (and no - it didn't last).

Everyone seems superstitious here, in one way or another. One of my hub's female relatives will get up in the middle of the night during an electrical storm to cover all the mirrors with a sheet to prevent bad luck.

© F Jason
In this photo a sangoma (witch doctor) is interviewed by a journalist. Her beliefs don't allow her to look in the face of a white man. Instead he must direct his question to the small circular mirror she is holding.

Last year was sent The Travelers - a book of photographs by Elizabeth Heyert taken at a Harlem undertaker. Macabre and fascinating - it is a series of huge colour photographs of dead black Americans of varying ages - dressed up in their Sunday best for their journey to heaven.
Anyoldhow sometime ago, this book was lying on the sofa when the 'light bulb people' came round. (South Africa is becoming more eco-friendly and so light bulb people were despatched to every house in the land to exchange the old light bulbs for the new two-prong low energy ones - bulb for bulb - totally free. While hub was up the ladder unscrewing bulbs all over the house, the Xhosa light bulb official started looking through this book with great interest. Then she took out a notebook and started writing things down. Of course being a nosy writer, I had to ask what she was writing. She said 'the birth dates and death dates of the people in the photos - to use to play the Lotto!

Dead people have great powers...



Lianne said...

That photo sort of gives me the heebie-jeebies FA. *Shudder*

potdoll said...

she is superstitious about looking a white man in the face, or is it religious? that picture is really arresting.

Far away said...

a superstitious belief going way back that the white man is 'mamlambo' which translates as 'merman' i.e came through the sea. Can not look him in the face because bad things will happen..

a bit like the 'alien'..

potdoll said...

wow. what year was this? I'm superstitious about sending stuff out in the post. I always kiss the envelope if it's a submission or a birthday card etc.

far away said...

It's from 1989. She still does this. But her daughter who is also a sangoma doesn't hold the same belief.

Horses for courses.

I get more panicked about emails not arriving..

Anna said...

A bit macabre - the lottery thing - yikes!

Facety said...

Like religion these superstitions are something to live by.

far away said...

Hi Anna - yes folk don't seem so morbid about death here (maybe because there's so much of it)

Yes Facety often it's often all wrapped up together..

Hmm think I'll post some more freaky photos in future..