About 7 months ago my mother and I were fortunate enough to get tickets to Lome, Togo in West Africa to visit my grandmother and family. I had only been to West Africa once in my life when I was four years old, to Abidjan and Senegal. I happened to spend a day in Morocco when I was 16. This trip was a few weeks after my 21st birthday and I felt so much of the ancient energies around my Grandmother's house, learned so much more about myself, and grew as a healer. I also learned a lot more about Togo and how people are living there.
The local residents would flock to my Grandma's house to buy food, supplies and most importantly cold ice!![/caption]
Arriving at the airport, I didn't know what to expect. The heat was stale, no wind and the smell is only one I could know as Africa. There is no other smell like that of Africa, it brought back childhood memories of the fear and anticipation I had entering new territory. This time, as a young adult I had no idea just how much I'd be changed by this trip.
There is a lack of paved roads, sidewalks, and street signs in residential areas. And I love that. The way you identify your home is by describing the major landmarks nearby. A lot of people complain about the lack of jobs, money, sanitation, and order in Lome but I saw it as a country that is full of freewill to make necessary changes for the better.
In the home where my family lives I bonded with the children of my cousins and aunts and they all went to school except for one... and none of them had any toys that were individually their own. The best thing they had to play with was a tire, and even I got a kick from playing with it! I was able t
o share my paper and art supplies with them and I realized quickly how that alone had opened up their little world's tremendously, most of them had only known the few blocks around my grandmother's house. My camera also seemed to inspire the children to dream big and that felt good. I realized that everyone anyplace in the world wants to be somewhere else when they are still looking outside of themselves for answers. There is no way to convince them they won't find what they are looking for, but that is all apart of the journey... I learned that lesson while debating night after night with my brother's co-worker's and friends, drinking beers and smoking outside listening to music blast on loudspeakers. There's so much more freedom there that is unheard of in the states. I would laugh when my brother explained to me how you could easily piss outside of a moving vehicle and not get shit for it.
The majority of my trip was spent in the big city, and at the beach... but I had been dying to see the part of Togo that was still untapped... the Jungles. My brother introduced me into a community of Rastafarian locals and his best friend which we called "Rasta Man" gave me great tips on places to go and see, and also gave me deep talks about embracing my culture and learning from my grandmother and the women around the house. Although much of the time I was intimidated to speak to them because of the language barrier and also a big chunk of time missed... I allowed my mind to hold me back in some aspects... where I still didn't let go of that Black Sheep mentality. One of the places he told me about was called Kpalime (Pa-Li- Meh) and with much prying, I was finally able to get him to take my brother and me to the promised land for the Rasta folk of West Africa. That was the pinnacle of my entire trip to Africa, where I really got to connect with my roots and with the raw beauty that is my home. Pkalime was truly paradise, we all soaked in the water after a long hike to the main waterfall in the jungles.. and then on our way back, it began to pour rain! One thing that I loved was speaking to a dragonfly just 10 minutes before it began pouring, I could see it in the clouds and it told me we'd better go soon. The biggest thing that I took with me from this trip, was the ability to speak with and listen to the universe or what some people prefer to identify as GOD, The creator... the source. The night skies are just undeniably magical, every night there I'd sit outside and marvel in the glory that is Earth. Sometimes there would be heavy rain, with thunder and lightning so close it almost scares you until you see how graceful it looks within the clouds. I remember one night there was no sound, just the vivid flashing of lighting in the humid night. I noticed my family also remarked my interests in spirituality and the occult, my brother and the young adults were all interested in it... but my Aunts and Grandma i noticed, seemed to think of me as some sort of Sorcerer... which in Africa many of them have ill intent. Many shows and movies in West Africa portray the sorcerer as someone you go see if you want to cause harm to your neighbor or make someone fall in love with you, and it almost always goes wrong. At first, it made me feel bad to be thought of as a Dark Sorcerer... but then as time passed I realized that there is no such thing as a dark or light sorcerer, it's mostly the intention and outward energy that creates a negative or positive light around their magic.
As an artist, I was delighted to find a museum in the city by the beach! It was called cabinet de curiosite and features art about old sorcerers and the kinds of things their clients would ask for. A lot seems to have to do with sex, money, and beauty. They also had different sculptures and carvings of water deities and gods and great descriptions of the old fishing culture in West Africa. I learned a lot that i couldn't have from my family... I was actually there taking photos for a journalist modeling fashions made out of a popular brand of print called VLISCO. My mom was telling me that Europeans own that company and they have for years. My mom is a fashion designer and owns a boutique in Lome, she doesn't buy VLISCO, but it is gifted to her from time to time. Photographing for VLISCO opened my eyes to all there is to offer in the world it gave me the motivation that I brought back with me to the states in getting my paintings done and entering art shows.
I am now working hard and saving money for further travels to other parts of the world where I may volunteer my skills in exchange for a deeper understanding of the people, culture, and education of that particular country.