Thursday, March 31, 2011

Qui-ana, Head of the Jabulani Tribe

The Jabulani are ruled over by five women, called the Becca. Today, I will be talking about their leader, History Teller Qui-ana. Yes, all of the five Becca have titles for the jobs that they have in the tribe. Qui-ana is the most important, because she is the person who records the history and is able to recite it. In a tribe where no one reads and writes, it is a very important position. There were many tribes in Africa where the language was not written down, and special people were appointed to keep the tribe's history in their heads.

When a History Teller gets old enough to start forgetting the history, she retires and a new one replaces her. Even though Qui-ana is the leader of the tribe right now, there is an older woman who used to have her job, and there are several young girls who are learning. Once Qui-ana gets too old or forgetful for her job, the tribe holds a contest, with the young women History Teller apprentices competing for the job. The Becca and the adults in the tribe listen to the history, as each apprentice recites it individually. They also look for someone with leadership qualities, because the History Teller is also the leader of the tribe.

Qui-ana's mother was not a History Teller, but as a girl, Qui-ana showed responsibility and levelheadedness at such an early age, that the Becca noticed her. She is a strong and caring leader, and takes it personally when the "Creator-Creature" came and trashed Jabulan on several occasions while she was the head of the tribe. If she has a weakness, it is Cat-ara. Somehow, Qui-ana never found a man that suited her to marry, and she regretted not having a child. When Cat-ara's mother disappeared and Cat-ara was left an orphan, Qui-ana was happy to take her in. The problem is that Qui-ana has a soft heart when it comes to children, and she let Cat-ara have her way, which made the girl become an annoying bully in the process.

Qui-ana is close to her younger sister, Artist Teacher Fayola. Their mother got ill and died when they were 12 and 10. Their father did the best he could for them, aided by women in the tribe, until he died from a heart attack when his daughters were barely in their 20's. The two sisters were always close and are usually found in each other's company.

Besides being the History Teller and the leader of the tribe, Qui-ana has her own garden which she tends, and she goes fishing in the river when she wants to add fish to her diet. As their leader, she is expected to work harder than anyone else in the tribe, which means providing her own food. The Jabulani eat vegetables,peas and beans, fruit, nuts, and various kinds of fish and shellfish. They harvest salt from the ocean and use it to cure some of the fish that they catch. In addition, they like to grow their own spices and herbs. Hot peppers are a favorite additon to many of their dishes. The Jabulani butcher a sheep for special occasions, and the meat is roasted before it is shared by the tribe.

Qui-ana helps to beat the flax fiber and process it until it becomes linen, and then she weaves it and makes her own clothing. Usually the husband does this, but since she is not married, she is expected to do it herself. At sixteen, Cat-ara is old enough to make clothing for them both, but she only makes items for herself, and Qui-ana does not scold her for her selfishness.

Qui-ana and the rest of the Jabulani tribe have a fluctuating relationship with the Bridges family. At first, they were suspicious of Raymond and the children, because the tribe thought that the Bridges were in league with the Creator-Creature. After Raymond changed the soil back to fertile ground and Joel and Celestine created the ducks, the tribe realized how the Bridges were trying to help. They also liked Valerie, whom they recognised as a fellow creative person. Of course, all that goes down the tubes when the Creators befriend the "Creator-Creature" and try to change the Jabulani's minds about him.

No matter what happens, Qui-ana will lead them through.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Harun of Fahdamin-Ra

The third original tribe of Fahdamin-Ra is the Harun. They were formed from the rock in the mountains and they have some rock-like traits; they do not change easily, they are not emotional people, and not very imaginative. The tribe is named Harun, the city is named Harun, and the mountains that the city is carved from are called the Harun Mountains. The Harun are loyal subjects,keeping the Creator's apartment ready and writing down their history as if they were expecting the Creators to show up unexpectedly.

The tribe is ruled over by a king. He has two advisors, the City Director and the Tribe Historian, who help him rule. The City Director keeps track of the Harun bartering system. Each Harun from age 16 and up has a job, which the City Director assigns after reviewing that person's talents. The city clerks keep track of the amount each person works (one pebble a day, for example) against how many goods that worker takes from the market (pebbles charged against that person's account.)Like the other Fahdamin tribes, the Harun do not use money, or know about the concept.

The Tribe Historian supervises the Historical Scribes, who copy down the Harun history so that each person in the tribe has a copy. The more junior scribes make the paper and carve writing sticks of graphite for their senior scribes. Historical Scribes are the teachers of the tribe and each scribe has a few students. They also keep track of family history and geneology, so when the City Director offers several bride choices to eligible Harun men, both the Tribe Historian and the City Director have combed the family trees and found the three best choices to offer each bachelor.

The King is the judge, law maker, and the head of the tribe. All disputes are brought before him and he presides over all ceremonies. When the prince has a son that reaches 16 years old, he becomes the king and his father is called "Father King." The Father King helps his son by going around and seeing how everyone in the tribe is getting along, and then brings his concerns to his son. The king usually heeds his father's advice.

The Harun tribe is very structured, and it is reflected by their clothing. Children wear solid colored clothing until they are 16 and assigned a profession. Once they start a job, they wear clothing with two colored, wide stripes. As people are promoted in their jobs, they are allowed to wear clothing with more stripes of color. The King has clothing with 8 colors of stripes, and is the only one allowed to have so many colors. The fabric that he wears has varying widths, as does the garments for senior people in high positions in Harun. Just by looking at what a Harun is wearing tells you their job and how senior they are in their profession.

All Harun adults wear hats, which vary from simple, folded hats to tri-cornered, tall hats worn by senior officials. All hats have to have three corners, which is tradional in Harun, because their favorite number is three. Men wear a sash over one shoulder; over the left shoulder for married men and over the right for single men. Men wear more jewelry and decorate their hats and clothing with more feathers and jewels than the women do.

Unlike the other tribes, Harun are vegetarians and their food supply relies solely on their crops. They are excellent farmers. They also grow herbs, plants used for dyes and medicines, and cotton. The Harun mountains are surrounded by level, fertile plains, where they have their gardens. Guards are posted high up in towers in order to watch over the crops by day, and to patrol by night when the Creators are not visiting.

After the Creators returned to Fahdamin-Ra, the Harun were the ones who faced the most changes. The Bridges family thinks that the changes were for the good of everyone, but do the Harun agree?

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Masamba of Fahdamin-Ra

It is funny how my daughter, son, and husband each have a favorite tribe of Fahdamin-Ra. My son's favorite is the Jabulani, though he assures me that he does NOT want to wear a skirt like the Jabulani men. My daughter's favorite is the Masamba.

When Obasi created the Masamba, he took wood from the trees of the jungle and carved it into people, who he brought to life. The Masamba live in the trees, bury their dead at the roots of trees, and like to leave as secretly as possible in the midst of the jungle. They learn how to read and write as children, mostly so they can learn their history. They do not have very much use for names, so they have very short names themselves, with two or three letters.

The Masamba believe that men and women balance each other out, so they traditionally have a man and a woman who are married serve as chiefs of the tribe. There are hunters and gatherers who balance each other out to provide the tribe with food. In the second book, Across the Savannah the group is led by a female hunter who is the best tracker in the tribe. All hunters and some gatherers carry "spirit pouches" which are drawstring bags attached to their belts. The bags have little items that mean something to the person who carries them. Hunters sometimes go out in groups, but many times they go out alone, and they feel that if those items are with them, no harm will befall them. Gatherers typically go out in groups and do not get lost from each other, and there is safety in numbers.

Fahdamin-Ra did not originally have leopards. They were created and given to the Masamba by one of the first Creators, to assist them with hunting. The leopards are not considered pets, and are not given names. Joel named Harriet, but she was referred to by the tribe as "Tor's leopard." The Masamba do not call them cats. When a boy or girl is around 17 years of age and wants to be a hunter, they are allowed to select a cub. It is important that a male hunter is given a female cat, and vice versa for a female hunter, in order to keep the balance. Chi is approaching the right age to have a leopard cub, which he will need to train.

The Masamba move three times a year, but their primary home is in the jungle by the stone circle. They have houses there which are built in the trees. At their Dry Season Quarters, they live by a river, on platforms that are high in tall trees. During the Rainy Season, they move into trees that are up against a cliff. The trees look large, but they are actually a bunch of trees that were originally planted in a circle and have grown together.They live there for about two months. At the end of the wettest part of the rainy season, they return to the main quarters, where they live for 6 months, completing the 10 month Fahdamin year.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Meet the Tribes of Fahdamin-Ra: The Jabulani

The Jabulani tribe is one of the three original tribes of Fahdamin-Ra. When the first Creator, Obasi, made the people for the tribe that he brought to life, he shaped them out of clay, so the Jabulani are most comfortable living by the river. They have rounded, pleasant features and are mostly stocky. They find eyebrows distracting so all of the people in the tribe shave or pluck out their eyebrows, which (they think) gives them a smoother look.

The Jabulani love color. That is why they love to make fabric in bright colors and patterns. They commonly have headwraps or hats that are one pattern, a shirt that is another, and a skirt that is a third, unrelated pattern and/or color. I say skirt, because both men and women wear skirts and short sleeved or sleevless tops. Women wear headwraps (the larger the better) and men wear smaller headwraps or hats. Girls and boys are generally bareheaded until they get into their late teens. Men and women alike also dye their lips all sorts of colors, usually their favorite.

The Jabulani are governed by a group of women called the Becca. The leader is the History Teller, who has the important job of remembering the tribal history. It is an important job because the members of the tribe don't read or write, but have amazing memories. The History Teller trains other women and girls to remember and recite the tribal history as well, in case something happens to her.

Another member of the Becca is the Singer Poet. She composes songs, especially to the Mother Creator, and ususally leads the worship at dawn and the second service at sunset. The sun represents their god, who the Jabulani believe created the world and the other creators, including Obasi. The Jabulani have poems and songs for every occasion, from celebrating the harvest, weddings, births, deaths, and every occasion in between.

The Animal Guardian is another Becca that supervises the animals that belong to the tribe. No one person owns an animal. It is a busy job, because the Jabulani have dogs, sheep, and ducks. The Animal Guardian makes sure all of the animals are healthy and fed. She shears the sheep so that the tribe can use the wool to make rugs and blankets, and for wool to weave with linen so they have warmer, water resistant clothing when the weather becomes rainy and cooler. She collects the right amount of eggs from the ducks for the tribe, so that they have them to eat but so there are enough left to hatch. She trains dogs to guard the sheep, and when a dog gets too old to do that, she goes to the savannah and calls the wild Wolofo dog pack, selecting a puppy to take back to the tribe.

The Farming Guardian oversees the plowing of the fields and growing of the crops, which the Jabulani do together. She rotates the crops, deciding what will be planted where, and oversees the fertizing and weeding. She also knows where to gather fruit and other things that grow wild, and when they are ripe and ready to pick.

The last Becca is the Artist Teacher. All the Jabulani weave, dye, and sew their own clothes, makes their own pottery, and weaves their own baskets. She teaches all the tribe how to do those things. She and her apprentices have the job of taking a person's body when they die and encasing it in clay, sculpting the outside to resemble the person. After the clay dries and they fire it and glaze it, the statue is ready to be put in the graveyard, standing where it can face the rising sun.

The Jabulani women tend to be loud, talkative, and outgoing. The men tend to be quiet and easy going. All the Jabulani love children, and children missing a parent are especially pitied and rather spoiled. Orphans are usually adopted by someone who has not had a chold of their own. The older people of the tribe watch over the little children, helped by children that are pre-teens and younger.

The tribe thinks of themselves as a large family, calling each other "aunt", "uncle", "brother", and "sister". The women live in a hut with their little children and their daughters, while their husbands live next door with their sons. The tribe cooks their two meals a day together and generally shares everything. There is very little privacy, and even their huts have openings with no doors. If you are outgoing and like women running everything, this is the tribe for you!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Joel Bridges From the Fahdamin-Ra Series

Joel Bridges, along with his sister Celestine, are the main characters in the Travels to Fahdamin-Ra series. He is an energetic 12-year-old boy who loves animals and always seems to be running headlong into trouble.

Like Celestine, Joel is an unusual character in young adult fantasy books because he is brown. When he and his sister are whisked away to Fahdamin-Ra, he adapts quickly to the situation, and is eager to explore, even if that means following a leopard into the brush. When he creates his dragon, Cheswick, it is another example of Joel's love of animals, but he has not stopped to think of the consequences. While crossing the savannah, he has time to regret creating the mythical creature and bringing it to life.

I based Joel's character on my son, Toliver. It was relatively easy for me to work with the characters of Celestine and Joel, because they are based on my children. Joel and Celestine's relationship with each other was easy to establish after years of observing my kids. I like the way Celestine alternates between being protective of her younger brother and being exasperated with him. I like Joel's energy and enthusiasm, and the way that he mostly complies with his older sister.

I hope that readers pick up on the feeling that he was close to Father King Sudi, and that is why Joel carries a little elephant figure that Sudi gave him in his Spirit Pouch. One of my favorite parts of Across the Savannah (if authors are allowed to have a favorite part in their books) is when Joel looks through his Spirit Pouch, examining each item that makes him think about some of the people he cares about. I think that men would like it if Spirit Pouches caught on - instead of a bulky wallet and keys making unsightly bulges in their pants pockets, they could have a spirit pouch dangling off of their belt.

It was hard at first to have Joel narrate the book, because I wrote it in first person and I did not want him to sound exactly like his sister. It took a little experimenting, but Joel's style is less descriptive, and more action. Once I developed the style and became accustomed to writing that way, it was fun. I always like getting to the action parts, building up the scene. Joel's enthusiasm and energy makes it easy for me to jump into the action.

If you are a reader that likes Joel, you will see much more of him in the upcoming two books. The fourth book in the series will feature Joel telling the story, which I hope to make humorous.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Meet Celestine From the Fahdamin-Ra Series

Celestine Bridges is a fourteen-year-old girl who is one of the main characters in Travels to Fahdamin-Ra series. She narrates the story in the first and third books, and her brother, Joel, narrates in the second and fourth.

Celestine is a little different from most of the major female characters in popular books right now. She is brown because she comes from an interracial family - her dad is black and her mom is white. The Bridges family is closely knit, and when Celestine and Joel travel to the world of Fahdamin-Ra, they go back home and get their father, so he can help. They still have a lot of adventures on their own, but from time to time, they check back with their parents.

Celestine makes friends easily, though when she encountered the Harun tribe, it was difficult at first. The Harun are male oriented, and generally look down on females. Celestine was raised by her parents to believe that females are equal to males. After an embarrassing incident with the Harun's Prince Kayin, the men of Harun gave her the respect that she deserved.

In Across the Savannah, Celestine is seen through Joel's eyes as he narrates the story. She seems capable and calm for the most part. Because she is older, she takes more responsibility for their group as they travel across the savannah, and after they arrive at the abandoned city of Afiba as well as on the island of Yahimba.

Celestine likes to observe people and the places that she visits, and stays busy being the steadying, guiding force for her younger brother Joel while they are visiting Fahdamin-Ra. She is open to new things, but does not particularly like flying because of heights, and when provoked, she is as fierce as a lionness protecting her cubs. She gets along with mostly everyone in Fahdamin-Ra except for Prince Kayin, who she finds obnoxious, Cat-ara, an annoying, abrasive girl from the Jabulani tribe, and Dede, a Harun girl who thinks herself above Celestine's Masamba friends.

Celestine has a strange relationship with Chi, a Masamba boy who is around two years older than she. He is a nice, handsome guy and fun to be around except that he has a crush on her, which is obvious to everyone, including Celestine. She is not planning on having a relationship with Chi because she is a Creator and he is one of her subjects, but Chi does not want to believe that.

Celestine is fourteen, and ready to enter high school in the fall. When the reader first meets her in Travels to Fahdamin-Ra, it is in the summer. The Bridges family soon realizes that time runs around three times as fast in Fahdamin-Ra than it does here, so the first three books take place during that summer.

Celestine is based on my daughter Callista at that age. I hope you like her as much as I liked writing about her.