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Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Dr Owl

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owl

By Ebrima Baldeh

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Dr Owl has been stingingly appearing and issuing witty statements almost on a daily basis on the Kibaro newspaper; I must say he did it with gusto and adumbration of power. I was flabbergasted, but not completely outlandish, to imagine that one day words and deeds have the potential to haunt us. A banner headline ran: ‘IT WILL KILL’, but Dr Owl did not budge, instead, he decided to swallow his cough, to let go, this time preferring not to pull any punches. ‘It will happen when the time comes’, screamed one of his artistic portraits, yet to be released to the public. It was during a turbulent political and economic period of the nation, when everyone was trying to look for ways of ending things and restarting a fresh chapter. Artists, the world over, believe they have the poetic licence to do whatever they want; and to some extent I have come to the realisation that some things do not usually appear the way they are. Which is why, writers and philosophers have a proclivity for painting the world through different lenses; some are mundane and obscurantist. Novalis, the 18th century German writer, said: “When we dream that we are dreaming, the moment of awakening is at hand.” And in the silence of the night, the owl will choose to hoot the raven-inspired poem that talks about what has happened and what is about to come. The poet and critic, Edgar Allan Poe, tells us in his highly acclaimed poem The Raven:
“Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore-
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
‘Tis some visitor, ‘I muttered, ‘tapping at my chamber door-
Only this and nothing more’
The mystical writer, Evelyn Underhill, says: ‘What the world, which truly knows nothing, calls, ‘mysticism’ is the science of ultimates… the science of self-evident Reality, which cannot be ‘reckoned about’, because it is the object of pure reason or perception. The Babe sucking its mother’s breast, and the Lover returning, after twenty years’ separation, to his home and food in the same bosom, are the types and princes of mystics.” The nocturnal owls in the bush are no different from the Dr Owl of Kibaroo, only that in the case of Dr Owl, he speaks to us through an interpreter. A defining moment of his monotones was diametrically released on the eve of the eventual day JJ booted out DKJ.

In that edition, Dr Owl spoke about the prospects of gun-toting soldiers and officers taking over the country and leading a united front to wipe away anything Jawara. Only few literary-minded readers and detached observers discerned the colours of the rainbow. Like Novalis puts it, ‘“To romanticise the world is to make us aware of the magic, mystery and wonder of the world; it is to educate the senses to see the ordinary as extraordinary, the familiar as strange, the mundane as sacred, the finite as infinite.” Whereas, in our estimation, the nocturnal owls are devilish, since they portend the inner workings of the other world where people are killed and their bodies eaten, where people die days, weeks or even months before they actually die, is a fantasy. How can we be afraid of the created when we know that one day the Creator will actually cease its life?

Underhill went further to allude to a point out: “Each of us, as we grow and change works incessantly and involuntarily at the re-making of our sensual universe. We behold at any specific moment not “that which is,” but “that which we are”, and personality undergoes many readjustments in the course of its passage from birth through maturity to death. The mind which seeks the Real, then, in this shifting and subjective “natural” world is of necessity thrown back on itself: on images and concepts which owe more to the “seer” than to the “seen”. In several African societies, such as The Gambia, we are often mired into this archaic belief that people can kill people, oblivious to the fact that it is a trance. How can we submit ourselves to the belief that it is only the Almighty God Who has the power to create life and take life, yet, we continue to fall flat to a cliché deeply ingrained in our souls? At night, we may be subjected to all types of imaginations about this and that. The sayings of the elders at night can only be interpreted by the wise even during the day night. The poet, Goethe says in his piece, Night song:
Oh, on your soft pillow
Dreaming now, half-hear!
In my music’s echo
Sleep! What would you more?
In my music’s echo
The starry host appear,
Eternal feelings, bless, now:
Sleep! What would you more?
Eternal feelings, bless, now,
Lift me higher and higher,
From all earthly beings: oh,
Sleep! What would you more?
From all earthly beings, oh,
You carry me, now, so far,
Enchanted by the cool flow:
Sleep! What would you more?
Enchanted by the cool flow,
Dreaming now, you hear.
Ah, on your soft pillow,
Sleep! What would you more?
When I was much younger, children in our native village used to say that whenever an owl hoots at night, someone was going to kick the bucket. It came to a point, whenever, we visited the bush in pursuit of guinea fowls or rabbits with our dogs, no sooner we saw an owl, we discontinue our hunt. There was an old woman from Ireland who was always eager to clarify to us that owls were like any other birds in the bush; they would like to come to the village to drink and eat. No one in the village would like to listen to the woman, because as a toubab, she was not accustomed to the indigenous African culture. When I initially began my journalism career, Dr Owl of the Daily Observer scared me. Later, I realised that journalism is not mundane. Who is going to prove me wrong?
Ebrima Baldeh, the author, is the managing editor of GRTS-TV.

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