Happy Birthday to a Funny, Talented Man

Today (well, actually Friday but I’m only getting this up on Sunday) my beautiful, talented, number one son Abraham Donald King becomes a man. Here he is in a picture from a few years back ready to go play his violin

ADK violin 2

Kadija sent me a picture from his birthday party last night but I couldn’t get it downloaded and onto this format. His hair is a lot longer today. He was born March 4th, 1998, in the birthing center of the Tualatin Hospital. It seems like yesterday. We had an old Saturn at that time, with cloth seats, and on the way back from Starbucks with Kadija’s rice milk mocha the morning after the birth I managed to spill a whole bunch of coffee on the passenger seat. The car smelled of coffee until we sold it a year and a half later to a friend and I imgine she smelled that coffee for years afterwards. Abraham was always very social; even before he could speak he was chatting people up. He’s a great guy today, very talented and artistic both in music and theater.

You could call Friday’s post in his honor since it was about musicians but today I had another artistic experience that he might have enjoyed. So this one’s for you, kid.

This morning I went out with my friend from USAID, Mathieu Béré, to see a sculpture garden and then visit the former home of President Compaoré in the nearby city of Ziniaré. The sculptures are carved out of large granite boulders that are lying about the country widely in that region. Somebody from Germany got the idea to get a piece of land with a lot of boulders and invite sculptors from around the world to come and carve things. Every two years they have a “symposium” for a month and people come and carve new works.  Here is the main entrance to the sculpture garden, with some nice bronze panels illustrating traditional and modern life in Burkina

Loanga entrance 640

They have about 20 hectares of rocks, so there is no shortage of material. In the interim between the symposia, the sculptor himself keeps on working. This one was apparently a work in progress; I call it “Madonna With Paint Can”

Madonna with paint can 640

There were some pointed commentaries on human nature. This sculpture has two sides. This side is called “new relationship”

Relationship begins 640

And this side is called “old relationship”. The faces have changed considerably over time. Up to you to decide what that means.

Relationship later 640

This sculpture of a face with a nail coming out of its mouth was described by the guide as a critique of bad criticism (presumably by art critics), but Mathieu whispered to me “it’s about witchcraft”. Even though about 80 or 90 percent of Burkinabè identify with one of the monotheistic world religions and therefore officially don’t believe in witches, that doesn’t stop there from being a lot of talk about witchcraft.

Sharp tongue 640

This one, entitled “Vertias”, was pretty clearly a commentary on the world religions.

Religion 640

On the other hand, this one was interpreted by Mathieu as an allegory about the search for truth (the figures get smaller and less regal as they approach the door at the top of the stairs; thus, only a child can enter, good Biblical text), while for the guide it was a reference to Burkinabè kicked out of Ivory Coast during the two civil wars there in the 2000s, who give up everything in order to return to their homeland.

Ascent to truth 640

I have a feeling our guide was pretty political. She particularly liked this one, which she described as depicting the two claimants to the throne, excuse me, presidency of Ivory Coast in 2010, Laurent Gbagbo and Alhassane Ouattara, fighting for the chair

Gbagbo Ouattara fight over chair 640


And this piece, outside the sculptor’s studio was said to uphold the rights of the wife in marriage. Something is being upheld, anyway.

Couple 640

And I thought of my dear mother as soon as I saw this one

Owl 640

I believe she had a hand in the owl being declared the symbol of Prince George’s Community College. When I was a kid, there were little stuffed or sculpted owls all over her office.

And, speaking of kids and parents, this sculpture was described as an old man thinking about his children, and getting a headache

Headache thinking about his kids 640

The fissure is natural, an example of the way the sculptors in stone, anyway, are working with rocks they find in place.

After the sculpture garden, we went off to President Compaoré’s home in the town. He was born in Ziniaré and always maintained a home there, as well as directing a good deal of development their way (including the sculpture garden, no doubt). The home had an extensive animal park associated with it, and he gave the park and buildings to the city government after he fled the country during the 2014 uprising. The animal park is now limping along on admission tickets paid by the public plus maybe a little support from the local government. Presumably, the national government finds it somewhat of an embarrassment. The animals are taken care of as best as the folks there can manage, but as zoos go it was pretty sad.

There was a tiger in a rather too-small enclosure

Tiger 640

behind merely chain-link fence. I figure she can get out any time she likes but connects the keepers, at least, with a steady supply of chickens. There were lions next door but they wouldn’t come out of their nice dark cool room where it was too dark to take pictures (it was about 40 = 104 F by then). There were some spectacularly well-fed Elands in a nice big enclosure, probably several acres

Eland 1 640

I liked the birds perching on their backs. There were two hyenas, who looked interestedly at us as if we were going to provide chickens

Hyena 1 640

And then there were some very large chickens…well, sort of

ostritch 2 640

These guys were wandering around loose and yes, she did get right up in my face like that. The guide threw her a chunk of manioc and made shooing gestures at her but she continued to follow us hopefully for much of the rest of the tour. She had a clutch of eggs in her nest, which she did not object to us looking at, but once again it was a little dark and cramped for a good photo. Ostrich eggs are enormous!

Hippo 640

And on the way out, we passed an extremely dirty pond with a bunch of hippos basking in it. Hippos are notoriously bad-tempered and this guy was giving us the stink eye. The keeper bravely climbed into the enclosure and tried to lure them out of the pond with bunches of grass but they weren’t having any. I didn’t want to watch the keeper get trampled, though presumably he does this a lot, so I figured this photo was good enough.

They also have two small elephants, but their enclosure was too sad for me to document.

So this is what passes for the Burkina Zoo. There is a space marked “parc zoologique” in the city park of Bangr-Weogo, down the street from my house. One time, the gate was open and I went in there, to find a huge untended space. I did see a pair of antelope in there, the same species as I saw briefly on another park path a few months before (big, grey, twisty horns). I think they are volunteers, wandered in from outside. And they do have a few crocodiles in the river. But this collection of wildlife is, as I have suggested before, probably the only way most Burkinabè are going to see the charismatic large fauna of their country. Some of the neighborhood kids are going to see this place next week. I wish them the best of it.





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