The Chronicle Gambia

Ancestral Helpline, Africa Unit

Five ancestors sitting on a cloud. One is short and stocky, one is tall and skinny, and one is rolling on the sky floor, unnecessarily. The fourth is tickling the insides of his ears with a feather he snatched from an unsuspecting dove who was just hovering around minding her business. The fifth is trying to pull-off a tongue twister, which you had to say while standing on one leg. Just your everyday ancestors passing off another day trying to keep sane in the Ancestral Helpline, Africa Unit, under the supervision of the More Archaic Ancestors who don’t truly do any supervising. They only sit around the many “voos” and “bantabas” strewn across the “Ancestral Plain”, chewing nuts, playing board games and intermittently getting startled out of their chairs and hammocks by alerts from the Ancestral Helpline, Africa Unit.

What is this Ancestral Helpline Call Center, you ask. Well, you may not know this, and I know it sounds pretty um… unlikely, but it is as true as your third toe. Everytime a person of African descent calls upon their ancestors or merely mentions them (which they do a lot), an alert goes off somewhere on the “ancestral plain”, which is not so much a plain as it is a hub. Yeah, it’s more like the “ancestral hub”, bustling with movement and chatter and unceasing background grumble. Yhep, grumble.

So, this is what happens, right. Whenever you say, for example “thanking my ancestors for the concept of seasoning”, you call the ancestral helpline. An alert goes off and one of the ancestors on helpline duty checks it out. They see it’s from you, and the thing is, they don’t care about the context in which you mention your ancestors. They are usually salty about being stuck in the call center all day while the More Archaic Ancestors are chilling, playing “dam” (a popular ancestral board game) and whatnot. So they take immense pleasure in sending Zap Signals to all the More Archaic Ancestors in your ancestral line. They love to kill ancestral vibe!

     Papis @ subliminal_9

Zap Signals, as the term may connote, are notifications sent to the More Archaic Ancestors in the form of ehn… how to describe… well, in the form of a very brief electric shock. It doesn’t hurt them, it just startles them and that is kinda annoying, especially if they’re in the middle of a snooze or on the verge of making their game-winning move. I know, I felt the same way too; is it really necessary to shock your ancestors? The thing is though, the Ancestral Plain (Ancestral Hub, in the case of African ancestors) is a very cosy and um, entrancing place. The longer you live there, the lazier and the more chronic a procrastinator you become. So your ancestors, unfortunately, have to be shocked into action and well, (coughs guiltily) shocked at short intervals until they get up and see wassup.

Take these (which actually happened, no matter what you may think) for example:

You: “Relax and give space for your ancestors to move”

The helpline duty ancestor who was rolling on the floor of the sky unnecessarily: “Say no more” *Zap!*

Your ancestor: “Dammit Jalamang, what now?!

Jalamang (helpline ancestor): Ask your descendant.

 Your ancestor: *Groans but puts away his pipe and gets up.* “How is this dummy even my descendant. Must have been all the intermarriage.”

      Bits Photography @bitzphotography

You:  “My ancestors speak to me”

Helpline ancestor who was tickling his ear with a stolen dove feather: *chuckles* “Child, they sure as hell didn’t speak to you but it’s none of my business”


Your ancestor: *On the brink of putting a spoon of ancestral yogurt in her mouth is startled by the shock and shovels it into her nose instead*

“Ey y subohum haleh yii”. “I cannot even snack in peace. If I knew this is what ancestorhood is about I’d have requested to be turned into mist, sim!

You: “My ancestors are watching over me”

Helpline ancestor who was standing on one leg doing a tongue twister: “Doubt it sis, but anyway…”

*Zap!* “Bakayokho, your umpteenth granddaughter finds the need to affirm that you and the rest of family are watching over her.”

Your ancestor Bakayokho: Heck, all I’m trying to watch is this game and my ancestral weight. What she needs to watch is the stupid choices she’s been making, ain’t nobody got time. And Korka, zap me one more time today and see what I’ll do to you.

You: *Gets into it with the bouncer at the club, he’s about to punch your jaw off* “Oh ancestors, give me strength and courage”

Stocky helpline ancestor: *Zap!* “Morr! Someone you know is about to be made into pulp”

Your ancestor: For goodness sake, Sidat! It’s above me now. Let there be puree”

You:  “You have invoked my ancestors to your door and they are not knocking”.

Lanky helpline ancestor: “Gather around folks, descendent clownery unfolds” *Zap!*

*All the ancestors in the call center gather around to look at your attempts to terrify the people who are dragging you on twitter by threatening to unleash the wrath of your ancestors upon them.*

Your first ancestor: “Soo shall we join the fight or just let him tough this one out?”

Ancestor 2: Personally, I wanna enjoy the… ehm I mean, I want him to experience this and grow.

Ancestor 3: Yeah, a little dragging never killed anyone. Except you, Njork, you were dragged to death but yunno, that was physical, not cyber dragging.

Ancestor 4 (Njork): “I hate you, Jimba. That was uncalled for, especially given the embarrassing circumstances of your death. Shall I tell the youngins?”

Ancestor 5: “Guys, guys, cut it out. You’re missing the show. Oh snap, he got told! I’m willing to bet 2 foot massages that he’s going to block her…

      Bitz Photography @bitzphotography

Well folks, as they say in… as they say literally everywhere, if you didn’t know, now you know. And how do I know all this, you ask? Because, child, I’ve been to places and I’ve seen things. It is all much shrouded in mystery, you see. You won’t understand. But I’ll tell you more about life in the ancestral hub and some of the characters who live there in subsequent episodes. Next week perhaps, or the one after. Until then…


You can find more of the author’s work on her blog, Of Womanness And Wild Dreams.

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