Mandy Bjordal of the Ugandan royal family was snubbed by her relations in Norway. She only wanted to greet them like we do in Afrika! Her father and sister died. She gave up her strong desire to see her people. She says 'blood is thicker than water' as we say at home!
Today I tell a story. One day long time ago, I met a princess from Uganda. She was in Nairobi. She wore a huge sunhat and was tall and beautiful. She told me that she is a kiwewesi. She is partly a princess but we decided to call her princess anyway. A princess of our own type. Graceful. She carried a lovely basket and drove a small car. But a princess of our own style in Africa. We laughed so much together when we she made fun of how her little car would get stuck on the way for lack of fuel. A princess. But she is one! And I had no car then. I was a freelance journalist with our best selling newspaper.
I sat with Mandy Bjordal- Louis, a writer with a new tittle Where do we Belong? Now I am a writer and I still wrote at that time precisely in 2000, but I had got some poems published in different anthologies. I loved seeing new writers and writing reviews. I also wrote good profile articles. I interviewed this princess for Lifestyle. She told me of her Norwegian father and Norwegian family in Norway. I had last heard of Norway in my school days and I only remembered the mountains and the salmon fish. Well, her other family was royal and directly related to Kabaka Mwanga. She writes in her book which is a biography about her father's brother Svaren. I have an old copy of her book here in Oslo and am looking at it now .. she writes. "Father brought his brother Svaren, who lived in Norway, to join him as there was a fortune to be made. ... His brother came with his family- a wife and two daughters. The two young men were indistinguishable; everyone thought they were twins. But her parents separated. We spoke for long and I published a long article in the paper I normally contributed to.
Mandy is a lovely person. We became friends after the article was published. She later left for Canada. Her book is dedicated to her sister Sylvia who died of cancer. It is a self published book and it is very interesting. I loved it. Where do we belong? Many of us can ask that question. Everyone can. Where do we belong? Where do we belong? Where do we belong? Where do we belong? Where do we belong? Where do we belong? What a lovely title. ( Thank goodness for blogs, my editor would have deleted the multiple question) but am asking it on purpose.)
The book is written in the first person. "Nava was the correct name of a daughter of a pricness" Mandy went into details to describe her royal family. It is a royal family. Now why am I telling this story like this?
I write to Mandy who now lives in Canada from time to time. She is still writing. She considers herself old in her 60s but I never believed it. She looks after her grandchildren in Canada and the USA sometimes and writes. I still call her Kiwewesi when I write to her from Oslo where I came to live in exile. I once asked her if she had finally reached her family in Norway or if she would look for them. She told me to forget it. Where do we belong? Especially those of us that people call half this or that? She had reached her step brothers who live in Norway. I think only by letter. And they told her that they did not wish to be in touch with her. She has written another book about that. Where do we belong?
I am not writing this so that someone can find Mandy. She has a lot out there. I am writing this to share that Mandy would have loved to reach other people not because she is a poor relation in Africa as our countries are often called, but because it is human to want to reach people who are part of family. It is not to blame anyone or claim anything. It was just that she so missed her sister Sylvia and would have loved to know more people of her family. She is like that. But she has learnt that it is hard to belong in Norway. For her, that is Norway. She will not even come to visit me in Norway.
I wonder about these things because I feel it is so important to be just. Especially here where human rights and values are 'sang'. It is so good to be open to others even when they are not our relations. It is just human. That greeting that was writing itself on your lips and that you stopped was just what your neighbour needed. I am going general and with reason. How is it that we do not even greet our neighbours here? But no, Just a moment. I once came home late. Just opposite my door or a little bit above it a man who could have been Norwegian passed. It was on a day that we had had Anders Breivik very much in the media. I was a little afraid sometimes. But this gentleman had such an angelic smile I thought it was unbelievable. Clean smile.No words but just so effusive. I thought, this man might be Mandy's relation! Who knows. Maybe they smile at everyone else but are afraid of Afrika. Someone last month announced in a poetry meeting that he was afraid of Afrika and had flown over fearfully! Hmmm!
But I was so happy because I felt that that wa so human. He could have looked at me in a hostile way and (maybe he is not even Norwegian) and I say ... see the Norwegians. They do not... like to see us! We need to kill stereotypes of course and to tell stories that make us think. My story here is not meant to reinforce any stereotype. It i smeant to crush it. Of course it is not a must that we accept or smile at anyone but anyway it is always good to know that people are not saying something negative by looking at us negatively or without any expression.
This book is an important book. She narrates stories that are worth reading.