A woman, travelling alone through time, Africa, and unnamed lands, searches for Dr. David Livingstone, celebrated by the West as a “discoverer” of Africa. Throughout her quest, for knowledge and for Livingstone, the traveller visits many peoples, listens to their stories and their silences, and learns about their Silence. Suspense, parables, and dreams play major parts of the story twists and turns toward the traveller’s confrontation with Livingstone-I presume.
Looking for Livingstone explodes Western assumptions about the “silence” of indigenous peoples; this is on elegant and compelling novel which beautifully gives voice to the ancestors to whom it is dedicated.
THE FIRST AND LAST DAY OF THE MONTH OF NEW MOONS(OTHERWISE KNOWN AS THE LAST AND FIRST MONTH)IN THE FIRST YEAR OF OUR WORD
My own map was a primitive one, scratched on animal
skin. Along the way, some people had given me some of theirs
— no less primitive — little pieces of bark with crude pictures
of where they thought I would find what I was searching for.
I also had some bones and various pieces of wood with
directions incised on them. And a mirror. Where was I going!
I had forgotten where I had come from – knew I had to go
on. “I will open a way to the interior or perish.” Livingstone’s
own words – I took them now as my own — my motto. David
Livingstone, Dr. David Livingstone, 1813-13 – Scottish, not
English, and one of the first Europeans to cross the Kalahari
– with the help of Bushmen; was shown the Zambezi by the
indigenous African and “discovered” it; was shown the falls
of Mosioatunya – the smoke that thunders – by the indigenous
African, “discovered” it and renamed it. Victoria Falls.
Then he set out to “discover” the source of the Nile and was
himself “discovered” by Stanley – “Dr. Livingstone, I pre-
sume!” And History. Stanley and Livingstone – white fathers
of the continent. Of silence.
(p.7) ©Marlene Nourbese Philip 1991
The traveller seeks
of press of circle upon circle
the profane in word
to confine within small
– a universe of silence
adding search to reach
wind to spool
of thread along the black
stretch of ever
that mocks the again in know
the word discovers
(p.39) ©Marlene Nourbese Philip 1991
THE SIXTH DAY OF THE HUNDREDTH MONTH
IN THE SIX BILLIONTH YEAR OF OUR WORD
I had been on the road for some five million years when I got to the land of the CLEENIS; I was tired – very tired – and Livingstone still seemed a long way away. I had seen no one, spoken to no one during the last two thousand years, though I did have communication with things around me – I had learnt my lessons well from the CESLIENS – but I had been lonely, savagely lonely at times, and was happy to see a human face – to meet people.
The CLEENIS welcomed me, and were friendly enough. I had been there barely a hundred years when one of the CLEENIS leaders, Marphan, a magnificent woman some six feet tall with massive breasts and hips, and of a rich dark- brown complexion, came and told me that my time in the sweat-lodge approached.
“My time in the sweat-lodge?” She smiled and nodded.
“I don’t want to go to the sweat-lodge,” I said. “I’m tired, and just want to rest — I’ve been travelling for a long time- “
She smiled again, all six feet- two hundred pounds of her, and quietly but firmly said, “All visitors to our society must go – the day after tomorrow your time in the lodge begins. You should spend the time before then thinking of three words you wish to take into the sweat-lodge with you,”
“Three words!” I sounded like a fool repeating everything she said – “what do you mean?”
“In the lodge all words leave you… ” she paused, “except the ones you choose.” She explained all this very patiently, as if I were a child, or a simpleton. “Before you go into the lodge, you must tell me your words – these are the words that will see you through”
(p.41) ©Marlene Nourbese Philip 1991
This narrative in poetry and prose was published in 1991 by The Mercury Press