All Wound Up: Review of Bacigalupi’s “The Windup Girl”

Cover of "The Windup Girl"I was so inspired by yesterday’s Queer Science Fiction and Fantasy (QSF&F) Book Club meeting that I published a review of “The Windup Girl”! I’d love to read your comments about the review.

Ife Museum and Oba’s Palace in Ile-Ife, Nigeria

The ride from Benin City to Ile-Ife was not as difficult as my prior overland travel in Nigeria. Evangelist Christians are omnipresent in most of the southern part of the country with Muslims predominating in the north and traditional animist and other religions hanging on to survival a bit behind the scenes.

Christian Decorations on Back of Truck, Route from Benin City to Ile-Ife, Nigeria

Ile-Ife, Nigeria

The Ife Museum in Ile-Ife had the following exhibits–
Musical instruments:

Rattles (calabash)

Metal gong

Gan-gan (talking drum with stick)

Saworo (metal musical instrument)

Metal ornaments:

Bracelets, ring, from 10-11th century CE, beautiful designs, woman-figures

Ibeji twin figures

Yoruba consider twins a source of blessing, bring good fortune to parents

Barren women can approach Ogun during Olojo festival to gain fertility, possibly even twins

Ibom masquerade among Efik people in Calabar – snake-like cords and raffia skirt

King and Queen, probably Ooni and wife, his left leg around her right leg, many beads in their crowns, beads on hands, chest, feet, rings on second toes, excavated by Frank Willet at Ita-Yemoo, dated 11-12th century CE, bronze, his face brown, her face green

Emir of Kano’s fara (jester)

Royal stool, terracotta, largest known in Africa from Iwinrin Grove, Ile-Ife, human figure standing on four-legged rectangular stool, behind him a pole of some king with a protrusion over the stool and between its feet

Olokun head, god(dess?) of the sea, giver of children, healer of abdominal disease, treat water with herbs for drinking

Ceremonial Insignia

Heavy next ring with spiral decorations at bottom of think neck loop

Brass mace heads, with aged gagged men with hole for mounting on wood shaft

Brace scepters, one with gagged men, from Ita-Yemoo, Ife

Glass beads made at Olokun Grove, melted in crucibles, various colors, Segi blue beads the most valued by Yoruba, thin and long, light blue

Animal Life

Rams, goats, kids represent offerings to gods and ancestors

Dogs also perhaps, but also as human companion

Snakes and chameleons are sacred

Monkeys in legends

Owl unique in west African art

Yoruba oba may own 40-50 crowns, most made of colored beads, collars over necklaces of fold, fly-whisk of horse hair

Offering pots at shrine or sacred grove, or burial place

Ade Owo Eyo – crown of cowrie cells, worn by wealthy individuals

Hunter mask – skin-covered wooden mask worn as camouflage

Sango stool and staffs

Orere Ifa (Ifa priest staff)

Wooden tray for divination with palm nuts

Divination tray (wooden) – with Opele divination instrument, dried fruit of Schnebera Golugensis – has convex and concave surfaces

Araba – Ifa chief priest – bust adorned with cowries selected from male Ifa worshipers without facial marks, presides over Ifa meetings and annual Ifa festival proceedings

Ase juju – usually prepared inside horn of ram or goat, invoked for cursing or healing, protruding pin inside the Ase – when removed and touches tongue, becomes a potent force of command, cursing, or healing

Ojboni metal crown – conical with facial representation, secret cult originating in Yorubaland and spreading elsewhere

Beaded bag – used by Yoruba ritual specialists, esp. Ife diviners and Sango priests

Archaeology in Ife:

Lander, 1830

Elgee, 1908

Ennett, 1910

Frobenius excavated Olokun Grove

Wunmonjie finds in 1938

Osangangan Obamakin Grove, 1943

Abiri excavation by Bernard Fagg, 1949

Ogun Ladin, Olokuri Walode, Ogbon Oya, 1953

Yemoo, Frank Willet, until 1983

Obamari Grove and Oduduwa College, Oliver Myers, 1964 and 1966

Stone carvings from Ore (One?) Grove

Potsherds Pavement – Luwoo – during reign of only female ooni of Ife-Luwoo, c. 1100 CE

Opa Oranmiyan (Oranmiyan staff)

Legend of sword that turns into obelisk

Oranminyan, youngest son of Odududwa, c. 1200-1300 CE

Husband of Moremi, heroine of Ife

Benin dynasty founded by Oranmiyan, married one of their daughters

Gave birth to Eulaka, first Oba of Benin

Then went to Oyo where his son Ajaka became Alaafin of Oyo

Oranmiyan then drove Ooni Aleyemore (son of Obalufon Ogbogboirin) off the throne of Ife (he had taken throne after Oduduwa’s death)

Ile-Oduduwa – location where Oduduwa believe to have resided

Oke Mogun (Ojobo) shrine, sacrifice offered to Ogun, god of iron, during Olojo festival, Ooni of Ife must visit twice to offer prayers for subjects during Olojo festival, only day when ooni dons the Are (or Ave?) crown

Igbo-Ukwu, 9th century CE, found burial chamber and art in 1938

Conical heads, used offerings at shrines or memorials to ancestors as tradition possibly elder than naturalistic heads

Crucibles found at Itajero used for making beads

Olokun Grove only place with both iron smelting and glass bead technology

Lokoloko stick – used to control crowd during Olojo festival

Osangangan Obamakin Grove – terracotta figure with elephantiasis of scrotum (Ile-Ife)

Ajilekege – granite head from Esure Ekiti, Ife

Stone vessel excavated from Orangangan Obamakin Grove – bubble at top suggesting palm wine fermentation, palm wine essential ritual item for Ogun during Olojo festival

Edan Ogboni – brass insignia worn around neck, male and female figures joined by chain, given to every member of Ogboni/Osugbo society among Yoruba

Ceremonial insignia of Yoruba cults:

Edau figure

Oluwo staff

Yeye

Plier ceremonial tool

Small scythe-like ceremonial tool

Gun powder flask with double face

Ogboni bell for heralding commencement of meeting

Oluwo figure

Bell probably used by Ifa cult, tall conical brass, nine inches long

I almost didn’t get to see the Oba’s palace in Ile-Ife, but luckily some other tourists wanted to see it at the same time, so they gave us a little tour for a little price. It was there I learned about Moremi, “the heroine from premordial times” who, when captured as a slave by the Ugbo people eventually married the Ugbo ruler and became the queen to discover the secret of the Ugbo’s power so that she could bring it back to her people, the Yoruba, and defeat the Ugbo.

Statue of the Yoruba Heroine Moremi, Oba Palace, Ile-Ife, Nigeria Statue of the Yoruba Heroine Moremi, Oba Palace, Ile-Ife, Nigeria

Carved Wooden Palace Door, Oba Palace, Ile-Ife, Nigeria Carved Wooden Palace Door, Oba Palace, Ile-Ife, Nigeria Carved Wooden Palace Door and Totem Pole, Oba Palace, Ile-Ife, Nigeria

Blurry Photo of Shrine to Ooni of Ife, Ooni Palace, Ile-Ife, Nigeria Dark Photo Looking Onto Grounds, Oba Palace, Ile-Ife, Nigeria Carved Wooden Totem Pole, Oba Palace, Ile-Ife, Nigeria

Abomey to Cotonou to Porto Novo

Written on December 16, 2007, at the museums, and on December 25, 2007, Fajol Castle Hotel, Abeokuta, Nigeria

Cotonou, Benin

I couldn’t pick up my Togo visa in Cotonou because it turned out it was the weekend, so I headed to the station for Porto Novo.

All the Girls to School Billboard, Benin

Porto Novo, Benin

In Porto Novo, I stayed at the amazing Centre Songhaï, which was not only a hotel but also an entrepreneurial venture designed to inspire and empower African youth. I sampled their jams and a variety of juices produced there, including baobab, pineapple, and a bit-too-strong ginger. They had signs up around the premises explaining a bit of the philosophy of the place, including an integrated approach to design and industry.

Songhai Integral System Sign, Centre Songhaï, Porto Novo, Benin Grounds of Centre Songhaï, Porto Novo, Benin Mosque, Porto Novo, Benin

Appropriate Technologies Division Sign, Centre Songhaï, Porto Novo, Benin One Does Not Wait for the Future Like One Waits for a Train: The Future, One Makes It, Motto Painted on School Administration Wall, Porto Novo, Benin

My expedition walking to town included a visit to the Musée Ethnographique and the Musée Honmé.

Sign for Musée Ethnographique, Porto Novo, Benin Sign and Ornate Gate of Musée Ethnographique, Porto Novo, Benin Ornate Gate of Musée Ethnographique, Porto Novo, Benin

The Musée Ethnographique has exhibits related to birth, life, and death in cultures throughout Benin, including Gelede masks of the Yoruba as well as artifacts related to Betamaribe aka Samba (NW) and Patombou (NE) peoples. Léonard gave me a tour of the museum. There was also a Yoruba “statue? of a man with false breasts and a mask worn on top of his head carrying twins, one in each arm. Yoruba revere women as having the power of life and twins as a gift of the gods.

I avoided a trip inside the Musée da Silva, despite the well-done bas reliefs about slavery on the museum’s exterior, and despite the admonitions of a fellow hanging out on the street who worked there.

Slavery Art, Musée da Silva, Porto Novo, Benin Slavery Art, Musée da Silva, Porto Novo, Benin Slavery Art, Musée da Silva, Porto Novo, Benin

Description of Negro Spiritual, Musée da Silva, Porto Novo, Benin Slavery Art, Musée da Silva, Porto Novo, Benin Slavery Art, Musée da Silva, Porto Novo, Benin

Slavery Art, Musée da Silva, Porto Novo, Benin

I came across this temple-like edifice labeled Zangbeto Kphkli-Yaou with a fascinating altar on the premises.

Zangbeto Kphkli-Yaou Temple, Porto Novo, Benin Altar at Zangbeto Kphkli-Yaou Temple, Porto Novo, Benin Altar at Zangbeto Kphkli-Yaou Temple, Porto Novo, Benin

The Musée Honmé was the palace of the kings of Porto Novo from the late 17th to 19th centuries.

Sign for Musée Honmé, Porto Novo, Benin Entrance to Musée Honmé, Porto Novo, Benin Carved Wooden Entrance Door to Musée Honmé, Porto Novo, Benin

Carved Wooden Entrance Door to Musée Honmé, Porto Novo, Benin

Currently under renovation with a guide who explained very well the history of the place. There were courts of the king, the queen mother, a gri-gri room for the king, the “chambre noire? for committing royal suicide, a kitchen with a divinity used to check the food for poison by a change in color, a tree of justice and some prison cells, the king’s toilet, the queen’s bathing area (although they lived elsewhere and came to the palace for 21-day stays during which they danced for the king in hope of being chosen to spend the night with him). Cannon were purchased for 15 male slaves or 21 female slaves from the French and perhaps also earlier from the Portuguese. A waiting room for visitors used so the king could check with a divinity about their intentions. Also had a mound representing Legba, a protective divinity, and representations of other divinities, as well as metal houses for ancestors. The king didn’t die – he went on a voyage. He didn’t bathe because he was always proper – he just refreshed his body. He didn’t eat – he adored the food.

Statues at Musée Honmé, Porto Novo, Benin Statue at Musée Honmé, Porto Novo, Benin

Returning to the hotel, I relaxed, ate dinner, and visited the Internet cafe. I also met the Director of the Songhaï Center who helped me clear up a billing problem for telephone calls that wouldn’t work properly to the U.S.

Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo

Street Scene, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Jim e and I got up reasonably early and after a quick breakfast we headed to the Cafe de las Madres near the Plaza de Mayo.

Jim e Sparklepants, Cafe de las Madres, Buenos Aires, Argentina Cafe de las Madres, Buenos Aires, Argentina Will in Cafe de las Madres, Buenos Aires, Argentina
List of Disappeared Persons, Cafe de las Madres, Buenos Aires, Argentina Street Graffiti, Buenos Aires, Argentina Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires, Argentina
After a drink and a look at the pictures and the list of disappeared persons at the cafe, we walked over to the Plaza de Mayo and watched the mothers and grandmothers as the walked around the plaza. I even walked a bit with them.

Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires, Argentina Grandmothers Walking on Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires, Argentina Mothers Marching on Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires, Argentina
I felt moved by their courage in standing up against the abusive Argentinian dictatorship in support of their family members who were “disappeared.”

Mothers Marching on Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires, Argentina Mothers Marching on Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires, Argentina Mothers Marching on Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Mothers Marching on Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires, Argentina Symbol of Madres on Pavement, Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires, Argentina Mothers Marching on Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires, Argentina
We met Frank, a French-speaker from Montreal there after earlier meeting him at the hotel.

Jim e Sparklepants and Frank from Montreal, Buenos Aires, Argentina Jim e Sparklepants and Frank from Montreal, Buenos Aires, Argentina Will and Jim e Sparklepants, Buenos Aires, Argentina
After searching unsuccessfully for a vegetarian restaurant, we ended up eating at a mediocre restaurant with mate (the ubiquitous tea-like beverage served warm in cured pumpkin gourds), bruschetta, and empanadas (which weren’t as delicious as the one I had near the plastic surgery clinic).

Gandhi Bookstore, Buenos Aires, Argentina Burlesque Theater Entrance, Buenos Aires, Argentina Blurry Obelisk, Buenos Aires, Argentina
That evening, we went to a vegetarian restaurant called Bio in Palermo Viejo, which was hands down my favorite restaurant in all of Buenos Aires.