Ian Mathie, one of my favorite memoir authors, has packed more adventure, danger and excitement during his thirty years in Africa, than anyone living a ‘normal’ life at home.
I spent a weekend with Ian and his wife, Gay, in their village about an hour north-west of London in Warwickshire. I had just finished my TESOL course in Greenwich, London, and needed a relaxing weekend.
The countryside was magnificent, and so green, compared to the drought we’re experiencing in southern California.
Ian met me at the Banbury train station, and drove me to his lovely home.
During my visit, Ian showed me the chest where he keeps several African artifacts, that make his memoirs come to life. For example, the monkey below, was the actual carving in his book Bride Price , the first book I read from Ian’s collection. It was so interesting to see the actual collecting basket which Abélé (from Bride Price) took into the forest each day to gather fruit and roots. (Scroll down to see it.)
|Hardwood carving of a monkey – makaka – made as part of the bride price he paid for Abélé by Mputu Ngakwe.|
|Cooking pot made to replace the one I broke. Made in a spiral from clay taken from the river bank and baked on the fire outside my hut. It still works!|
|Ikobio – woven and plaited raffia mats presented by Mputu as part of ibene (bride price) paid for Abélé. Some are stained by smoke and tar from where they were stored in the rafters above the cooking fire.|
|baPende dancing mask made by one of the village men for me to use at Abélé’s wedding. Made from softwood and raffia, coloured with sap from a forest vine.|
|A comb made for me by Abélé from bamboo and palm fibres.|
|The collecting basket which Abélé took into the forest each day to gather fruit and roots. When she married she gave the basket to me and made herself a new one as her first married duty.|
|Three ndaba hoes made for me by our village blacksmith in Anéhigouya,Upper Volta (called Burkina Faso today.) Each is a traditional design and is used for different purposes from farming to well digging.|
|Two Akua fertility dolls, from Ghana. Made from soft wood, these are not made to last. They would be placed in their fields to encourage the yams to grow strongly and allowed gradually to rot away in the weather, returning fertility to the earth.|
|A pair of traditional embroidered leather slippers peculiar to the northern region. Given to Dad in 1961 as a gift of Alhaji Muhamadu Aminu, the Emir of Zaria, on the first anniversary of Nigerian Independence Day.|
|A traditional Hausa knife with a leather scabbard. This is the knife with which I won the goat skinning competition at the Zaria Agricultural Show in 1961. It was very blunt when first handed to me and I had to sharpen it on a stone before killing the goat and skinning it.One year ago, I interviewed Ian about his life in Africa. You can watch the entire interview below.
Ian submitted a story to the “My Gutsy Story” series. It’s a camel story at the Bilma Oasis in Niger.Ian is not only a brilliant author, but a good friend and supporter of my desire to serve in Africa with the Peace Corps. Ian Mathie was born in Scotland and taken to Africa aged three, Ian Mathie grew up in the bush. After short service as a pilot in the RAF, he returned to West Africa as a rural development officer. Well adapted to living in the bush, Ian worked with isolated societies, sharing their hardships and understanding cultures from the inside.
Take a look at Ian’s books on his website here.