Vagrancy, Permanence and the Sense of Home 2
A major motif running through the song Fishing for Our Father is vagrancy. It can be said, rightly, that the theme of vagrancy runs through all Salia’s songs. In Ko Sao, he mentions the “patrol” fad that had seized his generation; in Yohmie Salia refers to himself as a nomad/homeless person, and then a kingfisher “building its nest on the wing.” And I’m mentioning here only the songs I’ve put up so far.
In Fishing for Our Father the bondsman voluntarily becomes a nomad, or so its seems. Ostensibly, it’s to purchase his freedom through hard work and suffering. It’s a solitary enterprise in which those who choose not to participate can freely opt out. The imaginary slave sets out on an epic quest, through a world marked by green boughs floating on rushing flood waters. It’s a spiritual world. (Note that when Salia defines the njagbo, he does so not in terms of its physical characteristics, but rather in terms of its sacredness.) It’s remarkable that it’s a world empty of human beings, the one Salia composition in which the land is a character, so to speak. Here it’s the slave-fisherman and his reflections on the world and on his own plight in a cruel and desolate landscape that dominate (“Fire! Fire! No escape this way, and we’re all headed toward it”).
A nomad, as we see in this composition, is a dream seeker. A nomad sets out with two possibilities ahead of him- the promise of discovery and making the most of that discovery, or at the other end, failure. A nomad sets out to barge into the sacred realm. For the bondsman in this song, freedom will be gained only when he finds and invades the sacred element that is the njagbo. Will he find it? If on the other hand he doesn’t, what becomes of that dream?