it’s all in the kisape

July 5, 2006

This morning a ransom inspiration proved to be oddly fitting, in a symbolically ironic sort of way. It all began when I started making deliveries to my students, taking the newly-bound version of their completed books to them. Two had just finished their stories, artwork, and cover designs, and so I had planned to use this morning to present them with their fine works of craftsmanship.
Both lived within easy walking distance, so the first delivery was made on foot. By the time I was to make the 2nd, however, I was running low on leisure time and decided to bike rather than walk. Normally when I bike I simply carry whatever I need with me in my purse, as it is [intentionally, for this very purpose] a small backpack-style bag. This book, however, in the bag I had packaged it in, was definitely too large to fit in my backpack.
Brainstorming for a quick way to make the trip, I had an “Aha!” moment and thought “My kisape!”
Here I should probably stop to explain, as only a handful of my readers will be with me still . . . A “kisape” is the all-purpose cloth used by Zambian women [or at least that was the term in the area where we lived: it is called by many different names]. This one is the one we brought back to the U.S. with us, and it is what Mom used to cart the 4 of us around while she worked. It is simply a large rectangle of cotton, normally brightly colored in one of infinitely many beautiful prints. The Zambian women also use their kisapes for head cushions [under a load of firewood, for instance], wrapped clothing, and all manner of other practical uses.

This morning, however, I used it draped over the book, under one arm and over the other, the way Zambian children are carried. So, in essence, I thought as I biked, I am carting this book as if it were a child. And then I realized that my student should certainly be informed of the same, so she would know [as if she did not already] the great value of her creation . . . At least that’s what I reported when I arrived and undid my small bundle in order to make the presentation :-)

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