It’s been years since I sat in that classroom, today, part of that nucleus group is dispersed all over the world; how on earth should they forget about the beautiful hands of time and place? Why should we allow ourselves to be consumed by the distractions and frivolities of our times? This world is coded, and to understand and critically analyze the ephemeral cosmos, we are bound to decode the systems and start moving from point A and B.
Over the past weeks and months, I have been musing over the jolly days of my early foray into the realm of journalism where the young were inducted, polished and sharpened to shine. Once upon a time, it was not the briefcase-trotting journalist of Hagan Street; this time around, it was the journalism trainer turned disciplinarian, NGJ, so eager to cut and implant his own brand of journalism into the hearts of rookies.
‘Look, around you, visualize your surroundings, look carefully and never forget yourselves in a world that is systematically moving faster than the wind’, the old man would rave and rant. The younger generation is not so keen to ferret out the intricacies or the complexities of society; therefore, it does not matter if the code is not largely misunderstood. Who cares? As the English axiom goes; time and tide waits for no one, how apt, this proverb is; for me, it will take years before the moment of reflection would descend on me to change tack.
On a hot afternoon class, from Daniel Goddard Street, I ran into a half-empty room where a tall figure of a lecturer was giving out hot paracetamol pills to a condensed class. The topic of discussion was verbal and non-verbal communication, the lecturer was NGJ, it was a rare encounter, but it will not be the last time we’ll ever cross paths.
As journalists, NGJ insisted that we have to take an introspective look at our immediate surroundings, in the absence of this etiquette; we are just wasting our time, because, in his words, journalists are supposed to know everything about society. One day, NGJ told us in class, I saw a man holding the steering wheel of his car with one hand. He then asked us: what do you know about that man, why did he do that?
I was not alone in thinking aloud about the weird lessons we were being taught; verbal and non-verbal communication, was truly testing our imaginative minds. And at the other end, NGJ was there to prod us to improve our game.
In our socio-cultural settings, certain people mourn their loved ones by donning black clothes, to this, NGJ will ask us; why is the color black used as an object of expression of grief? In other words, society tries to do the same things every time, but to the detached or absent-minded, we are often swayed by things that do not matter. When you see a young man running along a very busy highway at night, we might think, the poor man is running away from trouble, but it all depends on the way and manner the runner is running.
Sign boards displayed in major streets obviously tell a story, however, due to the ever-increasing demand for words and meanings, people are often left bewildered by what they sometimes see and imagine. Why are kankurangs decked in red color? Why do some people decide that salt should not be called its name at night? Why is that at night especially for those of us from the village do not call people by their real names? Let’s analyze the latter; elders believe that once you call someone by his or her name at night, evil spirits will use the opportunity to attack the individual and try to put a spell on the person.
Within the white establishment, the number 13 is so special, yet in certain quarters it is a dangerous omen. Therefore, people tend to avoid the number whenever they can, whether it is true or not, it remains largely unexplained.
Little children are supposed to remain seated, when people return from a funeral procession, because in the words of the elders, it is not good for the children to run after someone who’s fresh from attending a funeral.
Where words matter people tend to complicate issues, where sign languages are used, attention is shifted, thus the issues are subject to different interpretations. A case in point is in Sateba few years back, a dog was killed and buried like the way humans rest the dead. What happened afterwards is still fresh in my mind; a group of naked women ran in the streets broad daylight in an attempt to diffuse the ‘bomb’ where the queer incident took place.
The case of the women fighting to save the soul of the town was commended, but it left in its wake a trail of stories that will take years or decades to decode as the complexities of verbal and non-verbal communication is largely misunderstood.
Growing up in a traditional village, I observed that the first thing an elderly in a household will do as soon as he wakes up in a new day is to pour a cupful of water at the entrance of his house. Why? I still don’t know, despite the many lectures given by Nana Grey Johnson on the topic. Why is that when it comes to knowledge sharing and learning, black people are more likely to put a secret (never to be clarified), code on what they know. In some cases, the knowledgeable will die and go away with the skills that he or she was supposed to share with the people left behind.
In verbal communication, we understand each other better when we speak; however, the most important things are sometimes left unspoken and unexplained. When an elderly man walks from Brikama to Banjul, there are few things to look at, why and how?
Why should a man at the first place abandon modern-day transport and decide to walk kilometers? Is he insane? Or observing a wonderful pastime?
In verbal communication, we are supposed to talk, or listen to the doer of the action, in non-verbal communication, we are only left with imaginations, conjecture and interpretations.
Even mere silence is a form of communication, because, in the silent mind or imaginations, it is very difficult to understand what the doer of the action is having in mind. Therefore, the V&NV is as philosophical as the famous essay entitled: Who are you and what are you doing here?
BY EBRIMA BALDEH