The Rope

I really thought that the imagery of the rope and everything surrounding it was extremely significant in the novel Baho! First off, the novel accounts for the choosing of a rope as the weapon and hanging as punishment is because it is the worst and most severe beyond being stoned to death and other such options. The rope is reserved for the worst of the worst crimes and so is reserved for the alleged rapist. I don’t know if it’s the worst way in terms of dying but i think it’s the most visually appealing to an audience and as such leaves the most lasting image, lasting memory for a lasting message.

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I think it’s interesting that in the marketplace while shopping for a good piece of rope all of the conversations are very crude and inappropriate, perpetuating the same behavior that they are going to use the rope to condemn. These conversations here and similar conversations throughout the book show how the society is quick to string up a scapegoat in order to mask their own indecencies and indiscretions

There’s a scene where there is a large crowd starting to gather around the beat down and exhausted, Nyamuragi. Well they’re not really gathering around Nyamuragi, they’re all really gathering around the rope or rather what it represents. I don’t know what it says about humanity but it’s clear that we as a species are drawn to violence and carnage especially when it’s not directed at us. All these people are gathering to watch the execution of this young, disabled boy and not one of them even knows why. Nnone of them know why he is going to be hanged but the longer they wait and the larger the crowd grows, the louder and more viscious and bloodthirsty they become. There’s a lot of emphasis also put on the rope being a virgin, never having been used for anything else. I think it’s a commentary on the fact that if they spent more time trying to change the minds and attitudes of the people instead of focusing on trivial pursuits like virgin ropes, then maybe they wouldn’t have the significant problems they have with violent sex crimes.ashamed spider man GIF by Cheezburger

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Silent Screams

Sometimes silence can speak profoundly louder than words and that’s the concept that the author, Roland Rugero, is attempting to explore in his novel, Baho! The main character is a mute and through his depiction is a metaphor for Africa as a nation and its people. The silence of their struggle has endured so long that it becomes a permanent condition, a tradition, natural.

Our protagonist, Nyamuragi, explains that he used to enjoy the peace that came with the instances of prolonged silence experienced in his youth while tending the sheep. The people of Africa have a central belief that they are connected to nature and each other and that is how they make sense of the world so it’s not a coincidence that the peaceful silence expressed here is portrayed as coming while alone with just nature and his animals. The peaceful scenes of tranquility and bliss briefly mentioned are an Homage to what peoples lives consisted of before being colonized and corrupted by conflict.

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Rugero uses the theme of silence as to how it relates to the dysfunction of the family dynamic, specifically between father and son. Nyamuragi comments on the tone and atmosphere of his home living situation, “words were rare in that family, laughter even rarer” (9).  There is a spirit of oppression and depression lingering over this household forever defined by the words never said. The silence that rested on him as a child, once preference and now permanent, has coincidently infected the rest of his family and I think the author does this to express the depths and channels to which trauma can travel and the effect it can have on individuals, families, and even the nation as a whole. The sentence structure and word choices all echo the same theme with their short length and simplicity, he refrains from wasting time with words that are inconsequential to the point or meaning trying to be conveyed.

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Finally, how did Nyamuragi become a mute? He was always inclined to the peace and solitude born of silence and so it wasn’t that he couldn’t talk, it was that he chose not to. His reluctance or resistance to assimilate to the ancient art of verbal communication in his youth inadvertently leads to the very ability of speech being forever impaired. I think the author uses this symbolism and imagery of lost voices and silent families to highlight the importance of communication and how important it is to never let yourself be silenced.

Perfect Timing

Blog Post Tram 83

Africa is a land ravaged by the savage conditions of post colonialism and everybody is just trying to survive and keep the little that they have. One line that is used repeatedly in the novel, “Tram 83,” by Fiston Mwanza Mujila is people continually asking, “Do you have the time.” This has many implications throughout the novel but most notably it’s use by the ladies of the night in their search for clients. It is a universally excepted and established term throughout this novel representing the prostitution of ones body, selling sexual favors in exchange for money, but this got me thinking more deeply about the meaning of this phrase. It comes up in other places throughout the novel that don’t neccessarilly have anything to do with a woman selling her body but in all cases it has a unifying quality.

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I think the notion that this phrase is tying together is that of the belly politics that keep this world together. Every time this phrase is mentioned, it’s pertaining to something that isn’t quite right. “Do you have the time,” is a secret code used throughout the book by the various characters that occupy it’s pages to announce to one another that they are from the same place and live by the same rules. They understand the struggle and plight of their surroundings and situation and are making it clear that they live by the same standards which consist of doing whatever it takes to survive.

While this simple phrase is accomplishing all this within the text to help us to understand the relationship of characters among each other and the relationship of those characters to their environment, I think it’s also a tool being utilized by the author to unite the entirety of the story. This novel is written in almost a chaotic series of notes and tunes composing a symphony of something that’s not so much trying to tell a story but trying to paint a picture. It’s kind of abstract at times and jumps around and, “Do you have the time,” is a phrase that grounds the reader and reminds them of the things they are supposed to be focused on, which is how decrepit and corrupt the nation has become and how people have to deal with that in their everyday lives.

Language Barriers

I never really thought of language as a characteristic of something that defines us and makes us special or unique. I always thought that the different languages we have all over the world were just different ways of saying the same thing. I never realized that without knowing the language, it’s quite possible not to ever know the true meaning of what was trying to be said. When I was younger I would listen to Mexican love ballads with my girlfriend and ask her to explain them to me. She would take a minute and explain the beautiful sentiment in somewhat less beautiful words but she would always get to a line that was impossible for her to express in words I could understand and I never really understood why until now. spongebob squarepants music spongebob headphones jamming GIF

In Yuri Herrera’s novel, “Signs preceding the end of the world,” she addresses beautifully the notion of language being a barrier that keeps us apart but also something that connects us to a deeper sense of humanity. Once you step out of your bubble and expose yourself to other languages and cultures you can see the differences but more importantly the universal things that unite us all and make us the same. On page 66, she describes, “Makina senses in their tongue not a sudden absence, but a shrewd metamorphosis, a self-defensive shift. They might be talking in perfect latin tongue and without warning begin to talk in perfect anglo tongue and keep it up like that, alternating between a thing that believes itself to be perfect and a thing that believes itself to be perfect, morphing back and forth between two beasts until out of carelessness or clear intent they suddenly stop switching tongues and start speaking that other one.”

I used to hear this Spanglish all the time growing up and could never understand why and that’s because things get lost in translation and that’s why we have been learning that a translated work like this one that was originally written in Spanish, is a whole new thing, an art, a skill, because languages and cultures are so wonderfully diverse and unique.

The Beast Within

The novel Utopia by Ahmed Towfik makes many animal references and imagery to portray the state of mankind in this dystopian not too distant future set in Egypt. It calls into question as the reader, what exactly it is that we think makes us human. In the beginning, before having a chance to read the novel, I had a very primal understanding or thinking about this question.

What makes us human?

Our wide range of complicated emotions combined with our ability to think critically and use a balance of feeling and judgement. Our desire. Our hope to go out and achieve great things. Our selfishness. Our compassion. Our ability to love and hate. After getting in to this novel, I then asked myself another question.

What makes someone not human?

and the answer is absolutely nothing. this is such a powerful book because it’s not commenting on a foreign notion that we are unfamiliar with, but one that has been prevalent all throughout history. The dehumanization of a people to justify their treatment or exclusion or even isolation. The mirror created by the two diferent voices created by the two narrators made one thing clear to me. The thing that makes you stop being human is when you stop respecting human life. Our respect for life is what keeps us human.download