I recently read that Africa has seven of the world’s ten fastest growing economies. But it’s also one of the planet’s most culturally rich areas.
I met a Nigerian man in a German train station. I was eating dinner in its food court, and my table was next to the open area between the counters. He approached from my front. As he walked by, he picked up my coke bottle as though he was stealing it, but put it back down and walked by with a sly smile. I hoped he would come back.
I had read the Yoruba people in Nigeria see play as a key aspect of life. It infuses some of their rituals. Folks parody each other, crack jokes and exchange roles. Some stereotype white people as unable to play. We’re too serious. I didn’t want this man to see me in this way just because I have a balding head and glasses.
I kept an eye out for him, and a few minutes later, saw him returning from behind. Yes!
I let him pass by, got up, tiptoed behind him and lifted his hat off his head. He squealed and turned around. I pretended to put it on my head, but gave it back with with an Irish grin just before it would have touched what’s left of my hair.
“YOU! You came back to me!” He laughed uproariously and said, “We must embrace!”
We exchanged about four minutes of boisterous talk. He was a manager in a Munich factory on a weekend holiday in Nuremberg with his girlfriend. She stood by and watched us with a smile–she surely has had lots of fun times with him. “We must embrace again!” he exclaimed.
After showing that I also love play, he dropped all normal reserve. Our encounter was so full–loud, physical, informative and affirmative–that it felt transcendent. It was full of joy that overran all boundaries.
But a lot of traditional Africa has been heavily stressed in the traumas of the last fifty years. We’ll explore the creative and joyful aspects of the continent and see how they can mesh with a globalized world.
They have infused a lot of American culture–the word cool might have been coined by the great tenor saxophonist Lester Young. More Africa!
You can check out a cool African store in the heart of Silicon Valley: http://www.panafricancity.com