Salia Koroma: Love & Misadventures In The Hinterland
Don’t think you’ll improve yourself and expect not to be the subject of gossip.
Even as I do this they go on about me. What did I do?
They say because I’m wandering about.
But who is it in the world that doesn’t travel?
A self-serving question, surely? A peripatetic life will keep tongues wagging, especially when a story told with a knowing wink caps each tour. So what do we have here?
1) Salia goes to Kayima, in Kono country. He strikes up with an unnamed woman, who leaves him penniless.
The one and only bobani she gave me/Is what I came and pawned for a drink.
But the nameless woman here will put in a proper appearance, complete with a face and back story, in another song.
2) He leaves Jimmi Makpe with nine yards of shirting and arrives in Bauya. In Bauya Salia hands over threes yards to the local tailor, who goes on to sew the tightest fitting shirt ever. The pocket “was under my arm.” The shirt hung on him while he cried out in pain. Salia implies that Saffa, the tailor, has kept some of the cloth for himself. He complains to anyone who would listen, but the common reply is: Saffa’s a freeborn (mahalo, literally meaning “a chief’s child”). Salia goes on to play on the name of the town: Bauya means Salvation, Haven. “Teh nya bawo Bauya” (They wouldn’t save me in Bauya).
The vagrant is always at the mercy of his hosts. Perhaps this is what Salia Koroma was saying, that the fact that he was himself a freeborn (a complicated, delicate question in old Mende) didn’t matter in a strange town where the locals accrue to themselves certain obscure advantages.