…and according to physio-biological studies on load carrying, African women can carry up to 70% of their body weight because they are able to increase the amount of energy that is cancelled, reducing the muscular energy required to maintain the walking gait and compensating for any increase in muscular energy required to support the additional load. Since this is done at a surprisingly higher rate than their European counter parts can do with backpacks, the studies contend that seemingly they are able to ‘defy the laws of thermodynamics’ and ‘get something for nothing’.
I’ve neither studied the African woman farmer nor her gait. But I, like the WOMAN in this photo can understand what it is to set out with loaded arks to fill and to empty. And on my most recent journey, I was taught by an ancestor how to carry back portions of pain and anguish to the water.
“Stand upright” she said, placing my portion on my head to hold up with one arm… “and don’t let anyone touch it. ‘Tis is yourn to carry”. My load wobbled as she fastened the crease of the other arm around the belly of the second basket, only half full. “This is what’s left of your great grandmother’s portion”, she said. She dumped some into a river but stopped pouring mid-stream to clean another woman’s house. She never got back to it. Finally, she fastened my finger around the rim of my grandmother’s vessel. “There is ripping in the lip that will serve as a handle of sorts when you grow weary, stick a few fingers in it, keep walking… and don’t stop until you get to the water.”
I made it to the water. And what a joy it was to unload each basket into the cleansing salt streams. As I return home, I am weary. The brush grows wild about me and my back is not so strong. My concern is for the journey and what I shall whisper into the ears of my children to pass on for generations to come…Right now, I don’t think I care much for thermodynamics. But what a blessing of being this must be – for it all to appear as if I’m getting something for nothing.