I just finished reading The Poisonwood Bible. I read it at the recommendation of a friend, and besides the tragic beauty, and inherent compellingness (is that even a word?) of the story, I can’t help but think how all of us, in one form or another, carry with us our own Bible of wounds, worries, and wonder.
The story itself follows the lives of four girls, their mother, and their father (Reverend Nathan Price) as missionaries in the Belgian Congo in Kilanga--a small village on the Kwilu river--before, during, and after the democratic elections, which were quickly followed (as suggested in the book) by a U.S. backed military coup (we don’t like Ike!).
Told in the voices of the five women, the book details the sublime mistakes this family from Georgia makes while trying to spread the word of god and bring ‘light’ into the wilderness.
It’s a sideways look at colonialism, and a pretty strong argument against it. Showing how people get swept up in issues and events larger than themselves. This does not absolve any of the characters from their mistakes, but rather, like the best novel it humanizes them.
Perhaps the best example of the misunderstanding and arrogance is Reverend Price’s continuous and unwavering assertion that “Tata Jesus is bangala!” (father/brother Jesus is precious). However, due do subtle variation in the way certain syllables are stressed or not, bangala can either mean the intended: precious, or, is the name for a poisonwood tree. Mostly, Reverend Price gets it wrong, and so his attempts at conversion are less than successful.
Though the family only lives in Kilanga for 18 months, it changes their live irrevocably and really, Kingsolver suggests none of them ever leave Africa completely behind.
I mention this story and these themes here because I think it is time for me to relocate this blog. 2009 seemed to go on forever, and so this blog became less a repository of observation, and more a cry into the night. Looking over some of my last posts, I realized that Art Isn’t Rocket Science is bangala too. It started out as something good and precious to me, but now I see it, if not as poisonwood, certainly as a chapter that must end.
I feel like this blog has become less a place of sanctuary and humor, and more like an invisible anchor around my neck: I feel guilty for not posting, but when I do it’s all this navel-gazing, whiney shit. So, I’ve made the decision to end this blog, and start a new one over on wordpress: ...belief in invisibility.... The new blog will include some of the more personal essays this one has come to encompass, and the focus will still be art and culture, but hopefully with a slightly less evangelical bent.
Tata Jesus is bangala!!