Vagrancy, Permanence and the Sense of Home 3
The nomad has, as one of his rewards, the landscape that opens up itself for discovery and that offers itself for an enlarging of the mind’s horizon. As the nomad goes along we’re allowed a voyeuristic glimpse into his soul; we get an intimation of his feelings. Is he just a drifter, barely noticing things, or is he intensely aware of his surroundings?
Salia as our nomad in Fishing for Our Father meanders his way across the land, naming rivers and watersheds, and situating them spatially. This spatial orientation reflects our nomad’s relationship to what he knows (and loves). As the Mende saying goes: “When you don’t know someone, you call them, ‘Friend.'” (If you knew them you’d definitely call them by their names and not some condescending “my friend.”) Salia knows the country and he names it appropriately. As he goes in circles, like an eddy, following the rivers and streams, he reflects on his life, on the relationship between the cosmic and temporal realms. He digests and integrates what he comes across, hence the admixture of the outside world and the inner thinking of the nomad. But isn’t that what we all do, taking in and integrating the situations we encounter, trying constantly to bring a semblance of sense to our daily lives ?
We can call Salia Koroma the singer-poet of the land on the strength of this one song. We see in his encyclopaedic enumeration the lyrical and the elegiac, the national and the personal come together beautifully. We see in this song, with its incantatory litany of place names and geographical features, an artist deliberately mapping out the spiritual and secular domains of man, and also the national and personal landscapes. This is a love song to our land and it touches us where it should. We feel the squelch and smell the mustiness of the rain-drenched earth and rotting leaves; we see earth-coloured rivers; and we feel the dampness of our country in the rainy season and the effects of prolonged exposure to this weather. This was Salia Koroma’s gift to us; his hard-won reward was also his gift. We can only thank him for it.