Nordic world scatterlings
I still have very much in mind that famous song from South African artist, Johnny Clegg, and its first line from the chorus, “We are the scatterlings of Africa…” , as I keep staring at any world map. To my nomadic heart, it resonates as an anthem.
Animals of all kinds migrate… They go where food and water are.
And when I look again at this Nordic map, it illustrates the very nature of mankind: movement. Nationalism has gradually overriden nomadism with geopolitical boundaries, with the exception of a few pockets on the planet. Our world is more or less partitioned by imaginary lines on paper… The most frightening ones notably scarred Africa, the luminous continent, and (North) America. Massive squares, rectangles criss-cross both continents, as old empires collided over fates of other cultures they once thought irrelevant (or out of place)…. In the name of prestige, national expansion and notion of property, (a notion unknown to entire aboriginal societies), subsequent world powers have re-mapped the planet, or invent inexistent countries – Somaliland remains an example.
However, movement – or man’s migration – has many facets and, since there is no yin without yang, it contributes to the very essence of our species. One could argue that when it (movement) does not annihilate, it adds to another culture. Multi-linguistic (cultural) societies can live in such ways, as long as they can reach and preserve a consensus. Living in harmony with the world can be attained in absence of war. I recently read in an article that Costa Rica had renounced to its army and favoured national investment in her people through, notably, education. How courageous is that?
Closer to my world, I have learnt to appreciate the “positive” legacies from “past conquerors”, such as the Romans and the Vikings… Their respective cultural heritage contributed to some forms of progress, which cannot be neglected. Roman, Viking architecture, farming, language, literature, Arts, technology – their respective geopoetics, savoir-faire and expertise in many fields are notable examples still visible today.
Funny how traveling men persist through time. A recent visit to the Gadderie at the Shetland Museum & Archives in Lerwick during the weekend notably prompted a fascinating tête-à-tête and window onto another world. Needless to remind anyone that Vikings were renowned seafarers and that their culture reached from over the North Atlantic (a thousand years before Colombus) to the WNW to Constantinople (today Istanbul) in the SE.
Those little guys, carved in whale bone, were dated back to the 12th century. They originated from Trondheim (Norway) and they were found on the island of Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides, in the 17th or 18th century… Their very craftsmanship and significance intrigued scholars over quite some time. Research was undergone to, not only crack the mystery about their very existence, but over the history of the game of chess and other board games. They have prompted a lot of curiosity wherever they have traveled around Scotland since they have been on the road. They are a delight to see as artifact, or human signature from another time. Their symbolism as game pieces never ceases to amaze.
Fascinating allegory, chess, as men could be seen battling for power over a checkered board, that symbolic, miniature battlefield! Food for thought, as if conquering ground was perceived as a game, or sport… So human.
In any case, the Lewis Chessmen, as they are known, inspired my heart for a haiku.