From the Mound of the People: Part IV

Silence fell over the room.

“With the lack of technology invented in my day and my youthful ignorance, I assumed that since I was black and since our skin tones resembled that I would be welcomed back to the mother country with celebration. Ha, I was a leper when I arrived.  However, I had travelled to the South and once I began advocating for their rights I became popular despite their unease.  I made a few friends that I want to introduce you to.  They could give great insight on the southern Sudanese life.

“Anyway, after I became popular I moved to the north to advocate a bit more vehemently.  I admit I was something of a wild one back then.  I dressed in long length Arabic garb that I ripped and tore.  I knew they treasured their dress and I was making a mockery of it.  It was a small riot, including only the small number of friends I’d acquired but it was still significant.

“I began to do more dangerous protests, really foolhardy things that you aren’t allowed to do.  I would directly provoke northern officials.  I made many recordings documenting the injustices towards the southern Sudanese.  I would play the tapes loudly, walking down the streets of northern Sudan.  I was involved in some riots, usually very small-scale and mostly provoked by the northerners.  I advocated passive aggressive attacks.  I wouldn’t initiate violence, but I would reciprocate violence aimed at me. This is foolish, and landed me in prison  few times. I was starved during this time, not allowed to bathe or use the restroom.  I would spend months in a dark room surrounded by my own waste, and then I would be transferred to do hard labor in the sun.  However, I never stopped, I actually reveled in the pain.  I suppose I felt more accomplished that way. I certainly gave my parents a scare, anyway.

“But don’t you see students this is the experience that I want you to have.  You need to know that anthropologically speaking, being directly involved helps you understand.  You never know a people, unless you are the people.  Even as you look about the room and notice the excruciating fear and anxiety you don’t know the cause.  If nothing else, I will ensure that when you leave here, you will understand that you aren’t looking for the effects of the war. You are looking for the cause for each person and you are analyzing that fear, anxiety, or hatred and relating it to history. Because everything that happened here, has happened before somewhere else, so why does history repeat itself? Why do humans cause pain? Why do the northerners consider the southerners inferior? Why was British colonization able to fester hatred in a people? Whose fault is that? These questions will cause pain.  They will excite anger. They will entice anxiety. But these are the questions you need to ask. These are the emotions you are going to study, dissect, examine, facilitate, and then—when anthropology stops being a profession and becomes a passion—change. ” Mr. Knightly  reverently looked at the sky as if the answers to his questions were hidden among the stars.

When he finally settled, he looked about to find that his class was asleep.  A small smile formed on his lips as he watched young innocent faces snore and dream.  He found their innocence amusing.   They didn’t yet understand his passions.  Of course they all had the passion for the field, but yet none of them had or even understood the passion for the art.  In time they would understand; ignorant bliss would leave them and they would dream of nothing but history.  But for now he would have to settle for this small group of ignorant youngsters who could only see what was in front of them.  He’d often mentioned to them that they needed to read between the lines.

Gathering his thoughts, he took Harlow’s blanket from her bag and settled it around her shoulders.  She wrinkled her nose and then snuggled into the warmth.  He sighed and then went to the back room seeking the comfort of his small bunk bed, tracing lines of anxiety on the walls as he went.

Harlow opened her eyes and looked at the place her step-father had disappeared from.  She stared a long time, fingering the infant’s bone in her pocket all the while. Her eyes fluttered closed and she began to dream about the horrors of the war.

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