A Distant Homecoming – myAncestralyne
April 15 2014, 9.30 am. Your I-phone alerts you that you have mail. You tap the screen and log in to your g-mail. And even before you open up you can glean some of the inner details of your new mail. Great! One from myAncestralyne.com. You can log in and get the results of your DNA swabs.
You click, but while the blue bubble circles, your eye catches a spam mail from some electronic news website. In spite of your tight security filters, this happens from time to time.
About some kidnapped school girls in a place called Chibok, Nigeria. Where is that? But just as you are gleaning the first words showing in your inbox lineup, your screen goes white for a mini-second and myAncestralyne opens up.
You’ll get back to Chibok – you used to be a teacher – anything about students still draws your eye.
Your results page shows two columns, two profiles. Medical, you’ll visit later. But your heart is thrumming as you click on the element that really made you send for the genealogy kit, your ancestral profile.
When you click, you see to the left, a list of colour coded percentages, and to the right, a world map.
The list strung down the side of the page has a tally at the top – 100%. And beneath you read:
Central & South African
Nonspecific Sub-Saharan African
The list also gives your percentages for European, Asian, Native American, and Oceanian. It even has a Neanderthal percentage. Yours is 1.5%.
But a little addition tells you that the figures for the first two categories account for 88.8%. All the rest add up to 11.2%, and in that figure, most of the breakdown numbers are less than .5%. So although you know that small figures can be just as big factors or sometimes bigger factors in how things play out in life, for the time being, you are focused on the large figures.
As you pass your cursor over each of your percentages, the world map lights up. Your DNA percentages have been colour coded to show the regions of your major ancestral line. You linger over these largest percentages, and what these are coded to, is just a large swathe of land from the middle of a heel of yam down to the coastline.
You keep rolling your cursor over the colours, right-clicking, left-clicking, to see if a hand will appear to open up the large land mass.
But nothing happens, just this large swathe of land. Is there anything here that you don’t already know? Your ancestors might have travelled through here, but you could not have been born in all these places. Or could you?
All you know about Africa is what you’ve read in books. You once were invited to a two-week IBBY conference in South Africa and were so ‘too-tool–bay’ at the mere thought of touching the motherland, that except for the tour to Mandela’s prison and Soweto’s rust-red tin-covered roofs and the looming Table Mountain, all you really have remained with are periodical memory gasps.
You sign out. You were expecting something more precise.
One by one you close the open pages of your browser, and then as you are about to shut down, you remember the spam about the school children of Chibok, kidnapped.
You know that Oprah has a school for girls in Africa, and that Angelina who had a double mastectomy (and probably got the information she acted upon from a database with features similar to the one you got your genealogy kit from) has African kids and lives somewhere in Africa … sometimes.
Where is Chibok? In Nigeria, North-East, the article says. Are you originally from there?
You sign back into myAncestralyne and let your cursor walk around what you know to be Nigeria, following your largest percentiles, gazing at the huge borderless regions of the map.
Where are you in this mass of land? Days have passed. Where are you? How far is the Cameroon? Why is no one coming? You started off in a coffle of 300, but when you passed out and woke up with a crusted blood-scale caked down your leg, there were less of you. You are disoriented. Is anyone looking for you? In the first place do they know where to look?
The politics are different these days 500 years on.
Still, The People Who Came, The Arrivants, Notebook of a Return to the Native Land – remembered staples of your youth and independence, texts that arose from questions similar to your questions, raise more questions. Your fault if you looked to those narratives based on life and lived experience, born of a need to know similar to your own, for answers. Segu, The Book of Negroes – put them all together and it is either that this is happening again, or it has been going on in different waves all the time.
© Cynthia James, May 2014
I am looking forward to reading more of your journey. I had been resisting Book of Negroes, but I guess i will have to dive in now.
Yes, The Book of Negroes is a great read. Every little bit helps to develop the picture.