Saturday, September 08, 2007

What a gift attending a performance of the Oda Oak Oracle by Ethiopian Poet Laureate Tsegaye Gabre-Medhin, directed by Aika Swai and her cast of talented musicians and actors. The themes of love, ritual sacrifice, ancestor worship, wisdom of the elders are stunningly interwoven in poetry, jazz fusion with African rhythms, and dance.

When I attend performances like these, I always fantasize about a Filipino version of same. When? Where? Who?

In looking up the Poet Tsegaye, I am drawn to these lines written about him:

...he is interested in an African reading of the West and Ethiopian reading of Ethiopia.

In the 1997 Ethiopian Review interview, Poet Laureate Tsegaye was asked what it meant for him to be an Ethiopian and what would he tell an American visitor about it. His response, in part, was:

A simple human being, conscious of African civilization, African culture. Conscious of world civilization, world culture, of equality, of world brotherhood. I think that has been what the ancient history of Africa, the ancient history of Ethiopia has meant and means to us. So, as we go to America to learn, the Americans must also come here to learn. To humble themselves before the ancestors, not to be arrogant, that’s what Ethiopia means.. You don’t begin knowing yourself halfway. You don’t start from Europe, because Europe started from Africa. It started in Ethiopia and Egypt.....I would tell an American friend to go to Washington for the July 4 celebrations, and see Americans worshipping the temple of the sun at the Washington Monument (which is a facsimile of Aksum obelisks)...It is my stone, my temple of the sun...and you are still worshipping my temple of the sun—a mutual heritage.


Oh, how I would love to read this about us Filipinos -- our pride in what is ours and inviting others to worship in our "temple of the sun"...what is this stone? If we see it, would we recognize it? Do we even know how to do a Filipino reading of the West? or a Filipino reading of the Filipino?

All these questions are triggered by recent conversations about education. The latest is a visit from an education and technology consultant from the Philippines who wanted to brainstorm on how he might tap into a Fil Am market for online educational materials. Before answering his questions, I wanted to know what his vision is: what version of Filipino history do you want to market? what do you want the end-user to learn? what do you think he ought to be learning? and what for? forwhom? what do you think of the California curriculum standards? what do you think are the education-related concerns and issues in the Fil Am community and what are they rooted in?

I probably exasperated him with my questions but I find that there is always so much that we take for granted, e.g. that more technology will solve a lot of problems. There is always an assumption that "content" already exists out there and it's only a matter of putting it online and making it accessible. The glut of online information right now does not an education make. Obviously.

I hope he left with some good ideas...if not, at least remember how sweet the pears and tomatoes from my garden are and how sumptuous my cooking. haha! Not to mention that I didn't even charge him for my consulting hours.

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