Dreaming In Africa


Long ago when we lived in Africa and far away on Manda Strait in the Lamu Archipelago, Captain Lali dreams. It is late afternoon, the day after Christmas Day, and we have been sailing in Mzee Lali’s small dhow, out exploring the reef and catching a fish or two for a seaboard lunch that will be cooked on a little jiko stove, and served with freshly chopped coleslaw. Even wide awake it seemed like a dream to us.

I’ve posted this photo several times before, as some of you will know. The way time is speeding up, it’s rapidly assuming vintage status. So here’s an ancient Swahili tale to go with it, also one I prepared earlier:

There came a time when Sendibada signed on with a strange sea captain. The next day, as dawn was breaking, the ship cast off, a strong breeze filling the lateen sails, and bearing them swiftly out to sea. But towards noon the wind died, and the boat drifted, becalmed, on still waters.

At this, the captain strode out on the bridge, and began to utter words that Sendibada could not fathom. He stared and stared for, to his astonishment, the ship began to rise, graceful as an egret taking flight. Sendibada grinned. He liked a good adventure, and now it seemed this strange captain of his was none other than the most powerful magician.

Up into the clouds they soared, flying, flying until at last they saw a faraway red spot. But little by little the spot grew, until at last Sendibada saw it was a city in the sky, and that every house there was made of copper. Soon they set down in the harbour and, as the crew made to go ashore, from every quarter, lovely girls came out to greet them, bearing on their heads copper trays laden with the most delicious fruits and sweetmeats and tender roasted morsels.

And so it was that much time passed, the ship’s crew enjoying month after month of this most gracious hospitality. Sendibada, though, was growing homesick, and said as much. Now the magician gave him a round mat and told him how to use it.

Sendibada followed the instructions, placing the mat on the ground and seating himself upon it so that he faced the direction of his home town. Then he spoke the foreign words that meant: Behold! We shall all return to it . And at once the mat rose into the clouds, and faster than a diving hawk, set Sendibada back on the beach just outside his home town.

copyright 2019 Tish Farrell

The Copper City  retold from a translated text in Jan Knappert’s Myths and Legends of the Swahili


Related posts:

Lamu Dreaming

Quayside Lamu

The Swahili

Lens-Artists: Dreamy  This week Ann-Christine is hosting Lens-Artists’ Saturday challenge. If you want to join in, please tag your post ‘LENS-ARTISTS’ and add a link to the challenge post. Or just visit their lovely blogs and be inspired:

Patti https://pilotfishblog.com/

Ann-Christine aka Leya https://lagottocattleya.wordpress.com/

Amy  https://shareandconnect.wordpress.com/

Tina https://travelsandtrifles.wordpress.com/

58 thoughts on “Dreaming In Africa

  1. Your dreams from Africa had me floating away…image and tale. Beautiful. Had I still been teaching, I would have asked you if I could use it for a lesson. Thank you.

  2. My appreciation again was not posted and so a second try, Tish.

    Lovely post with its distant links to Odysseus’ seven-year stay with Calypso in utter all-round sensuality. Until, with divine intervention, he, also was released to return to his home after the Trojan business. You wonder whether these stories have the same symbolic meaning in their respective cultures.

    Lovely photo, too. I recognize the table because it is found all the way up into the Ethiopian highlands; along with all the spices….As well as the woven cotton covering on the bed.

    This makes me a little homesick, Tish, too and so my sympathy completely with the hero of your story!


    1. It’s weird that it takes so much effort to comment, Sarah, so much appreciate your persistence. That’s an interesting connection you make with Homer, or with whom- wherever the Odysseus story originated. There could have been ACTUAL connections as well so symbolic ones. I think the earliest Sinbad stories date from 7th century, Basra being the epicentre of a trade in dates. As we both know – along with travellers and traders go stories, hence, and not least, their arrival along the East African seaboard. As to Ethiopia, was this a homeland for you? In any event if I’d visited their Highlands, I too would feel homesick if parted from them. Also the food. We used to go to an Ethiopian restaurant in Nairobi. I still miss it.

  3. I think you are right to put trade journeys in the center of everything. Stories moving everywhere along with their usefulness to our understanding of our past, present etc.

    I like your use of the ‘a’ in ‘a homeland’ because so many of us have more than one. I am Ethiopian by blood. The Greeks are the only people who call us by the name we call ourselves: Abesha. And there is a long-settled group of people originally from the East African coast – arrived as traders long ago – in Porbander on the Gujerati coast, the birthplace of Ghandi. Another, similar history in southern Wales.

    Trade and travel and migration for ever. So ahistoric, perhaps then, this anti-migration politics of today, understandable and regrettable though these are.

    Thank you for your interesting posts, Tish! So enjoying. Sarah

    1. What fascinating roots you have, Sarah. Just reading your words I’m feeling the rush of monsoon winds filling traders’ sails. As Ghanaian-Brit philosopher, Kwame Antony Appiah, contends pinning people down by place, colour, religion, sexual orientation, politics is counter-productive on a warming planet. Instead we should be concentrating on our common humanity. And celebrating our rich cultural differences of course. Exchanging stories is essential in this. There’s an East African saying which I think of a lot: only stories have the power to change the human heart. It’s a sad thing though that these days we need a pretty fierce uprising of good story telling to counteract the bad that’s creating so much hate.

      1. Yes lucky life I have had. I fell upon your blog when I was remembering Anglesey which I greeted every clear day of my long schooling in N. Wales at the defunct Clarendon (Kinmel Hall) near Abergele.

        Kwame Anthony Appiah: complex background and rich offerings he gives!

        But fortunate we all are: all those of us who have escaped war and civil war and all the horrors which make people flee their homes. And rich also those of us who have lived where we were born, too, and know it and love it.

        And I appreciate this phrase, ‘fierce story-telling’ and am most interested in the significant upswing of poetry sales in the Anglo-American world and the millions of people logging.

        Thanks for yours, Tisch

  4. D’you know, I’m going to use that mat and find myself back in Leeds next week? 😦 Do you have another formula, Tish? Just joking- I love this. 🙂 🙂

  5. I know that feeling where it feels like a dream, that’s precious. And happens how many times in our lives, really?

  6. Does it seem to you like a dream these days? My time away feels very dreamlike now. Maybe it’s because the world has so flipped around, but I see it all through layers of gauze. I remember it more clearly in dreams than I do merely remembering it.

    1. It does seem like a dream now. Gauzy is the word. Though now and then some very clear recollections pop out, mostly sitting in the garden of Hunter’s Lodge where I spent so much time simply BEING and WATCHING.

      1. Went to see an expo today. 50 years of photography by Yann Arthus-Bertrand. He started photography in Kenya around 79 and has traveled the world since. Mzee mkubwa. 🙂 Look him up.

      2. Have just looked at some of his work – prodigious output, a continuous earth-hymn, and very very beautiful. His close up of an elephant’s skin, I found quite mesmerizing.

      3. He is one of the great living photographers. His expo “La Terre vue du ciel” actually toured the world. Typically hanging huge photos alongside parks. Maybe this expo will cross the channel. (There still is a Channel, right?) (Haven’t opened a paper or read a piece of news in a month. Bliss. No. Don’t tell me about Boris) (Don’t want to know) 😉

      4. Have no fear. Bliss is the only ‘B’ word I will mention apart from Arthus-Bertrand. I will keep an eye out for any arriving exhibition of his work.

      1. Yellowish. With blue stripes. lemme see if I can paste it here.
        No. No dice. Can’t copy it here. I will have to post it and let you know. 🙂
        (Amazing isn’t it?)

      2. Definitely! The odds of my stumbling on a Shropshire cheese in my favourite “fromagerie” in Paris are close to zip. 🙂
        (Wikipedia really has something on everything doesn’t it?) Take care memsahib.

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