Note: The following story has been translated from my Greek book ‘From Cape Town to Alexandria’ narrating an overland trip from side to side of the African Continent.
There was only that one bloke whose trust I managed to win. Akasinga was a toothless, fifty-year-old guy who used to patronize the inn in the evenings. You would never see him mingle with the rest of the mob that frequented the place. He always sat alone in a dark corner of the yard, near the wall. His lit cigarette glowing through the darkness made me aware of his presence when he was there. A few meters in front of him, in the light, he had always a stall placed, where he exhibited his artifacts to prospective buyers.
He was making some very interesting gimmicks. He used cardboard, fabrics, tin cans and a great variety of other materials he found in the trash, which he transformed into something like an automated puppet theatre. With a complex system of made entirely of wire shafts and cranks, hidden in the base of the maquette, he gave life to his figurines. They were working, dancing, and doing various crazy things, like one of them who made love doggy-style to another. “The one standing is Mugabe. The one stooping is the people of Zimbabwe, “Akasinga explained.
I was visiting the man in his corner every evening. And while we were smoking weed, we were engaging in various interesting conversations. He was fearlessly recounting to me several unbelievable incidents of brutality carried out by the country’s terrorist regime; in some of which he personally was the victim. Although I already knew that man, in general, is capable of the most abhorrent acts, I have to admit that I freaked out listening to his stories.
But we were not only talking about macabre topics – life generally does never have a single side. He told me, for example, the story of how an American tourist, a few years ago, had bought one of his puppet theaters for an amount of money that sufficed for the purchase of a brand-new Hyundai i10 car which was now Akasinga’s wheeled house.
One night, he invited me to his home to get out for a short excursion he called “city safari.” It is not considered a particularly safe practice to walk around this town at night, not because of crime, but because of the wild animals that take control of the streets when people and baboons – who are the diurnal inhabitants of the town – are sleeping. We saw an elephant hanging about in a supermarket’s parking lot. We hit a large buffalo herd running through the town’s main street. This town was built amidst an area where “non-intelligent” life still has the upper hand for real.