Travelling to Afrika

It was time to stir up the suppressed feelings of centuries past.

All things in place and with the blessings of my mother, I ventured into the unexpected.

I was most grateful and privileged to be flown out to the Island of Bioko exactly one month after receiving the results from the lab. I was one of three subjects in the BBC‘s documentary ‘Motherland – a genetic journey.’

I spent the next two weeks finding out as much as I could about my pre-slavery culture. Nothing could have prepared me for the incredible meeting when I physically embraced and was reunited with my family. I met all eight people who shared the same DNA sequence as me. I was completely overwhelmed at meeting long lost directly blood-related cousins in Moka and Ureka on the island of Bioko.

I began to learn the mother tongue, Bubi, to share in the lives of the people. I visited the slave caves in the Port of Malabo where there was a very real possibility that my direct ancestor would have had to endure suffering (the caves were used to hold people before they were shipped off into slavery). The capital of Equatorial Guinea, Malabo, is situated on the Island of Bioko. Whilst visiting the Port one afternoon, I noticed a cave dug into the side of a cliff. When I had enquired about it silence fell around me. The local historian who was travelling with me at the time averted her eyes away from the cave area. It was only when we were some distance away that she proceeded to tell me ‘no one goes there, no one dares to.’ I decided to leave the travelling party and to explore the surrounding area. I approached the entrance to the caves and peered inside the darkness. They were two shallow hollows carved out of the rock. Why two? Maybe one was for the males and the other for the females. I wondered how many bodies could fit into each. How long would they have had to remain in the caves? I felt sick, angry and hostile. Switched on my lamp and went inside. I don’t know how long I stayed in the caves, but I was not ready to leave until my bare soles of my feet had been covered with the soil, until my hands had touched the dry walls, until my tears had fallen onto the ground. I said a prayer of thanks to those who had to endure this hell, so that I might survive.

I was told the Bubi people’s folklore about their perspective of the transatlantic slave trade and the mis-trust of the white man. I shared my life story with children in local schools. With the elders. We drank palm wine straight from the tree and chatted well into the nights. We compared our lives, each side saying the other was better, I have material wealth which they yearned for, they have spiritual wealth which I yearned for. We traded. I bought pens and paper for the school children, dresses for the women, shirts for the men. They gave me a Bubi name, Lasakero, the naming ceremony was called the tolah. It gave me an insight into the culture which was in reality is an insight into myself.

I imagined what it would be like for my daughter and son to be living in the environment – comparing their lives. I spent time in the fields with the women, cultivating tomatoes and other crops for sale in the markets.

I walked the same walk as the Bubi to the heart of our homeland, a tiny, isolated village in Ureka to the south of the island. The trek through the tropical climate took a tiresome 10 hours. The filming equipment did not make things easy. The crew carried their equipment through the forest on our long trek to Ureka.