Voices for Biodiversity

Fieldwork in Namibia


Tara Lumpkin in the field in Namibia, 1993

In old Africa:
     Dust stirred by bare feet
     and lions’ paws . . .
Gone now.

Today:
     Deforestation,
     cell phones,
     honking horns,
     human-laden vehicles
     crawling like dung beetles
     on roads,
     trying to accelerate,
     but going nowhere.
The human condition?
Nature ravaged.

I remember:
     Planning great tasks,
     planning to save . . .
     someone, something, some being,
     everyone, everything, all beings,
     not knowing my efforts were fruitless,
     that there was no way back
     to the bush.

     I interviewed Traditional Healers,
     who spoke with the Ancestors,
     who warned me of the danger
     of sleeping with menstruating women,
     who cautioned me
     that doing so caused AIDS,
     who explained
     and treated
     sickness, death, bad luck and bewitching.

     All the while,
     the country's Christ Chiefs
     labelled them
     Witchdoctors.

In the field:
     We laughed and leapt high,
     we sang songs,
     knowledge coursed through us.

But in Windhoek:
     In the UNICEF office
     in the Sanlam Centre,
     I forgot how to
     think with my body.

     And the Ministers,
     the many Ministers of Everything,
     did not grasp that
     the cutting of trees
     led to an increase in malaria,
     as the Ancestors had foretold.

     That which had been shared with me
     I had to objectify
     in The Report,
     where, I could reveal
     only bits and pieces,
     just enough to please and pad
     the brain-nest of the bureaucratic mind,
     which alchemized love and pain
     into projects, policies, and politics,
     while simultaneously ignoring suffering.

Nevertheless
     Even now, some say,
     the Ancestors speak
     to those who listen.