Welcome to the blog for the book I am because we are: African Wisdom in Image and Proverb

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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Southern Photographer: Eudora Welty on the Segregated South

The Southern Photographer: Eudora Welty on the Segregated South

I think what you posted about Eudora Welty's photographs are so true.  She lived in the South and understood it.  She was comfortable as she photographed and you can see the naturalness and spontaneity  of ordinary daily life that she captured of the segregated South.  And the way you contrast with the other FSA photographers makes so much sense.  I never quite thought about it that way.

Really appreciate your blog.  It keeps me abreast with what is happening in the South.  Betty Press

Saturday, March 9, 2013

 The TV interview in Biloxi went well but it was very short.  It was the first time I have been on a live show.  The studio looked very professional and the host Karen Abernathy was great because she has spent some time in Africa and wants to go back.  They showed a lot of photos and related proverbs.  I hope to get a copy to post. 

So today I am driving back to the coast for the actual book signing at the  OHR-O’Keefe Museum of Art.  It’s a beautiful new museum right on the water with examples of Frank Gehry's amazing architecture. https://www.georgeohr.org/Default.aspxhttps://www.georgeohr.org/Default.aspx

Here are the proverbs since my last posting.  Again I am so grateful to Annetta Miller who compiled the proverbs for this calendar and for my book. http://www.africanwisdominimageandproverb.com/

"When you have to choose and decide not to choose, you have already made the wrong choice." Kenyan proverb for Saturday, March 9.

"If you want something done, do it yourself." Tanzanian proverb for Friday March 8.

   Coffee shop in Asmara, Eritrea

Thursday, March 7, 2013

 Here are all the proverbs that I have been posting on my Facebook page.  Somehow the days fly by but if you want to get these daily it would be best to follow that page. 

Today I am going to have an interview on WLOX TV in Biloxi, Miss. to promote my book.  Then there will be a book signing at the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art on Saturday March 9 from 11-1pm.

From the calendar "African Wisdom for Life" by Annetta Miller.  Some of these proverbs are of particular interest and very visual with references to butterflies, trees, cattle and dancing. 

"Almost everyone is mad but some people can control their madness." Ugandan proverb for Thursday, March 7.

"If you do not find the key that opens you, nothing will open you." North African proverb for Wednesday, March 6.

"When the drumbeat changes, the dancers must adapt." Burkina Faso proverb for Tuesday, March 5.

"The butterfly that flies among thorns will tear its wings." Liberian proverb for Monday, February March 4.

"Never develop an appetite for the fruits of a tree you cannot climb." African proverb for Sunday March 3.

"When the shadow of a tree is bent, straighten the tree and not the shadow." Sierra Leonean proverb for March 2.

"The wise are polite all over the world but fools are polite only at home."  Togolese proverb for March 1.

"The cattle are as good as the pasture in which they graze." Ethiopian proverb for February 28.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

 “A chameleon is the opposite of a leopard; the world is full of chameleons and leopards.”  Zambian proverb for February 27.  From the calendar “African Wisdom for Life” by Annetta Miller.

Ok don’t ask me what that means but I wouldn’t mind hearing what you think this means. I think of how hard it is to see leopards in the Kenyan wild lands but when you do they are so majestic. 

I know many of you are getting tired of hearing about the tornado.  Well today is a better day already because the sun is shining. 

Every day I drive on Hardy street which is the main drag of Hattiesburg that passes the USM campus.  As I drive past I see the bareness of the landscape and I mourn the loss of the trees (I think I need to write a haiku about that).  Next I look to see if the piano from one of destroyed music school buildings that was called the Jazz Station is still here.  And it is!  It hurts to see it as it is such a poignant reminder of what happened to the music and fine arts program. 

Storm winds danced in rage
Playing jazz to angry sky
Piano silenced.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

“It is difficult to wake up someone who is sleeping.”  Ghanaian proverb for February 26.

It is hard to shake off the doldrums that Hattiesburg seems to be in since the tornado.  For one thing it is has been raining for the majority of days since the storm struck on February 10th.  It is still the main topic of conversation whenever we meet anyone. The reminders are there as you can’t drive anywhere without seeing damaged homes buildings.  Or feel the openness caused by the loss of trees. 

For the first two weeks there was a lot of euphoria as people from all over town rushed to help clean up debris, cut fallen trees, and serve meals.  There were more people than work in some cases since the community was still organizing to get the recovery going.  Now as a friend, who was amazingly upbeat about getting his house fixed and is living in his damaged house without heat, said dejectedly  “the novelty has worn off.”  Actually I think the whole town is depressed. 

I am writing this as the rain is pouring down again after just a few days of beautiful sunshine.  Severe thunderstorms, hail, and possible tornados are predicted.  Every time that word is announced on the news I cringe.

Due to the rain dampness and mold is spreading in the damaged buildings as many of them only have temporary roofs and are without heat.  Power has been mostly restored where the damage was not too extensive.

On Saturday we were helping to clean up a two story large church complex heavily damaged by water.  It was so moldy and damp in this formerly beautiful building that it was hard to work.  And there were people who had been working there for days.  My heart goes out to them.

For me I have turned to my photography and haiku to help heal some of my depression. 

This is a photo of Mount Carmel Baptist church whose ministry to one of the poorest parts of our community has been seriously disrupted by damage to their own structures.

I wrote this haiku after a friend, who used to attend this church before he moved away, remarked how he loved seeing the sunlight come through the stained glass windows.  

Bright stained-glass windows
Darkened, shattered by the storm
Beauty in limbo.

Monday, February 25, 2013

"It is not the highest mountain that a man climbs but the depths from whence he came." Sierra Leonean proverb for February 25.

I find this a rather unusual translation for a proverb from Sierra Leone where the tallest mountain is more like a tall hill.  Freetown, the capital, is hilly like San Francisco and sits on a huge, beautiful bay.  For many people who have only pathways to their houses they do a lot of climbing, going to and from their homes.  So they know what it is to be fit and able to climb.  We lived in a Freetown neighborhood called Hill Station and had a wonderful view of the ocean and the houses below when we were in S.L in 2008-09.  We didn't have a car so we, too, did a lot of up and down walking whenever we wanted to go somewhere.  

Despite this I really find this proverb very special.  There are so many people who start life at a tremendous disadvantage and who have to face steep climbs if they want to get anywhere in life.  A lot of them don't and are not equipped to handle these challenges.  All the more reason why I believe people need a helping hand.  This help can come from another person, the community or even the government.  "Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps"  is not always possible for many people.  Here in the South, as we remember Black History this month, I think we also need to really understand the depths from which Blacks have had to climb up after centuries of slavery and slave-like conditions.  And it is amazing what they have been able to achieve.  But neither should we think that it is easy for them.  They are still climbing up and it is all right to give them a helping hand so they can become healthy, productive, citizens.   On a recent MPB (Mississippi Public Broadcasting) radio program people were interviewed  about how far the South has come in Race Relations since the 60's.  The white person didn't see any problem now as all that bad stuff was in the past and behind us and the black person who felt there still was a long way to go to achieve any real sense of equality.  

 WABG 960 AM, located in an empty field just outside Greenwood and on the way to Money, Mississippi, has been keeping the local African American community informed since the civil rights days.  As we drove past the station they were playing a song by Randy Weeks.  "Emmet Till, Emmet Till, does your soul wander still 'ore the flatlands of the Delta?"

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Let me start with the African proverbs for the last few days. 

"A wise monkey is a monkey who does not monkey with another's monkey." Sierra Leonean proverb for February 24. From the calendar "African Wisdom for Life" by Annetta Miller.  Very good advice!

"It is best for us to be like a tall tree." Kenyan proverb for February 23.

"Perseverance in work brings rewards." Tanzanian proverb for February 22.

"If sweetness is excessive, it is no longer sweetness." African proverb for February 21. 

I think all of us use words to express ourselves.  For some of us this is very natural and easy.   And for others, like myself, it has always been difficult.  And frustrating because I feel things that I can't always express myself in an articulate way.  I guess that is one reason why I love photography so much as it is a way to express myself visually when I cannot do that easily with words: also why I choose to accompany my photographs with proverbs (and use someone else's words).

A few weeks ago a friend of mine (who will not see this post as she prefers to stay away from such electronic contrivances) told me about Richard Wright's haiku.  My friend writes haiku to accompany her photographs and R.W. was someone she turned to for inspiration.  Here is a site to look at: terebess.hu/english/haiku/wright.html

I was surprised that this champion and spokesman for African Americans turned to this classic form of art in the last 18 months of his life, while ill and self-exiled in France.

His work also inspired me especially as for the last few days I have been struggling with the effects of the tornado on my community and not being able to express my feelings about it.  In the foreword to his book
Haiku: This Other World - by Richard Wright he writes to his daughter “Julia, you can write them too. It’s always five, and seven and five - like math. So you can’t go wrong.”

So with this in mind (and mind you I have never been able to write a word of poetry) I decided to try to write some Haiku to go with some of my tornado photographs.  I am expression the less hurtful side of the experience with the
more artful one.  Maybe a little like R.W. explored nature late in his life rather than the rage found in his earlier writings. 

I will post a few more in the next few days.  Let me know if you like them. 

Frank was our friend's dog who survived the storm in their damaged house.

bed spread, a greyhound
calm under portrait of same
Frank, after the storm