Thursday, December 21, 2006

Zanzibari Batman

From a recent e-mail sent by our friend Andrew Ehrenkranz, who's been meandering through the more obscure corners of Africa in search of prophets and poseurs:

... On another note, I went to a place called Tombatu Island this week , just off the north eastern tip of Zanzibar. Tombatu is the spiritual home of voodoo in East Africa, and of its population of 750, more than half are witch doctors. It is the only part of Zanzibar that is populated solely by Africans indigenous to Zanzibar, meaning those who are unmixed and still retain their ancestral beliefs. People with big money and big grudges from Stone Town and the mainland apparently pay up the nose for curses, protection, and potions from the most feared of doctors. Anyways, I learned quite few, at the very least, strange things on the way.

One is the legend of Popo Bawa. Popo Bawa means "flying bat" in kiSwahili, and the story goes that Popo Bawa visits someone in their dream,in the form of a large, ferocious man, and rapes men. Once awake, and whomever has been visited is reeling from the nightmare, the man seen in the dream is there in your room and enacts the same punishment in reality, only to disappear when one calls for help or screams in agony.

Honestly, hard to keep a straight face hearing this ... was thinking, jesus, its the african boogieman. But starting to see how much fear popo bawa evokes in people. It is widely known- this how Popo Bawa spread and gained infamy- about former TZ president Benjamin Mkapa's supposed Popo Bawa experience, on first and only visit to island of Pemba, Zanzibar's sister island and also a notoriously haunted place. Mkapa had just before dispatched some riot police to go clean up the streets and rough up some of the rowdier members of the anti-government opposition party, the CUF. Mkapa was deeply disliked on Pemba, and had a history of hostility with the people there. Well the story goes that Mkapa was coming to make nice, and had planned to stay for three days. During his first night called his security deeply distressed while he was sleeping , and demanded to leave immediately. They were back in Dar es Salaam for before dawn. Popo Bawa came for him, they say, Mkapa got punished and he deserved it. Now they say Popo Bawa has left Pemba for Zanzibar. And there's only one way to stop him: money. Go figure...

Alas, no pictures of Popo Bawa.

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