Well, this journey had been in the making for more than a year. It started with the idea of being thankful for achieving the golden milestone. A bosom friend of mine made a commitment that he wouldn’t miss the event for anything. It ended up that he spoke sooner than the folks in the Department of Home Affairs who thought otherwise. In any case almost a year after the event, here arrived my friend, in down under.
Our tour around the Golden State took us on the Triangular route from Perth to Albany and then to Walpole, Margaret River and Yallingup from where we were about to turn northwards to Bunbury and thereafter to Perth. The distances were huge and for this small piece of the South-West it was more than 1,000kms. Imagine such a trip around Europe!
Arriving at the Ngilgi (pronounced with the first g silent) Caves in Yallingup, we were welcome by a light drizzle, something we were grateful for. Where I came from, that was an indication that God has blessed our trip. So far, our sightseeing at Albany, Walpole and Margaret River had all been in the open, the rain would have been an hindrance if it had fallen earlier. Today, we were entering the belly of the earth, so the weather was not concerning.
The beauty of Western Australia is better appreciated through experience than read about, words are inadequate to express them. The thundering of the waves of the Southern Ocean, ferociously smashing against the defenceless rocks in Albany created the gap and the natural bridge. Lace that with being transported several meters high, above the ground, to the treetops at the valley of the giants with its lush forest full of giant trees that encapsulate history. And there are more, many more.
We alighted from our vehicle and had walked through the open clearing reserved for parking surrounded by thick bush to arrive at the souvenir shop where a lady was waiting gleefully to take our payments for the cave tour. We had missed the one scheduled for the hour and would have to wait for thirty minutes for the next tour.
A ha, I said. Noting a picture on the wall showing electricity poles bringing light to the cave. It was dated the late 1800. With pun intended, I called the attention of the amiable lady to the picture insisting that the details below it was wrong. She was so engrossed in convincing me otherwise that if she had looked at my face she would have noted the mischievous grin on my face. As the King of the dramatic, I feigned not to understand.
Our guide showed up timely, a not too tall lady with a cheerful demeanour, and we were soon on our way to the belly of the earth. She narrated to us the history of the cave as we walked. Then she stopped us just a little before the entrance. and pointed to a plaque, we would all have easily missed it if she had not done so. I shudder as I read the words inscribed in permanent cast, my whole body vibrated, for there it was – the Abomination!
This one that had been trailing us all around from birth but not many are aware of its existence. It was always hiding in the shadows. We all got introduced to this abomination gently and it builds up to a crescendo in certain folks that ll of a sudden it no more hides, it becomes visible in public. In my case, the introduction started with the nursery rhymes and was then built upon by my history tutors, all of them full blooded Africans. The crescendo was reached, in my case, when I was taught that the explorer, Mungo Park discovered river Niger. How could this be, I had asked myself, that a very long and wide river as the Niger was hidden from the plain sight of the people that for centuries lived on its bank and it has to take an European to come over to Africa to discover it?
As I grew up, I became sensitive to the mischievous use of the word “discovered” and all its forms by historians. This is the Abomination, a falsehood deliberately twisting the life stories and achievements of a people to be that of another. You simply cannot rightfully say you’ve discovered something if it has already been discovered by others. For instance, it would have been ridiculously insane for me to claim I discovered Ngilgi though I am probably the first Elekuro native to have visited the site.
At that point of the tour, I was lost to the conversations going on. I couldn’t hold myself from speaking out, this was in keeping with my “hippocratic” oath not to tolerate this type of nonsense again. Guilty as alleged, the Nigerian blood in me would not succumb to Diplomacy by silence as many others would, after all these are not my ancestral lands – I am no Aborigine. But, of course, injustice to one is injustice to all. Hence, I couldn’t afford to keep quiet. So I pointed out this abominable plaque for what it was and why this was just a wrong spin on history. “This isn’t true”, I said. Are you saying that the Aborigines, the traditional custodians of these lands never knew this cave existed previously?
Our guide was unsettled, it baffled me that probably no one had pointed the error in the inscription on the plaque to her previously. I further pointed out that this Abomination can easily be made to disappear by someone replacing the word “discovered” with “came”. She made a good attempt to point out the obvious, she was in no position to do such and only the department could. I acknowledge her position but advised that she should note this concern in her tour discussion with future visitors, not sure she would though..
The Abomination was still standing tall by the time we departed the cave, after an interesting one hour excursion that took us deep into all the publicly accessible spaces within the awesome geographic formation. The stalactite and stalagmites, something that was an examination topic in my WAEC days were just within my hands reach. I was tempted to touch them but having been told not to touch them, I didn’t. At a stop within the cave, we were opportune to hold some broken pieces in our hands and it was only then that we appreciated their density, weight, crystalline composition and the fragile and enduring nature of these formations. These were not created within days but decades and centuries.
Well, back to the abomination, I chose not to leave this un-confronted. I scrubbed through literature that existed in the public domain and soon came across the entry in Wikipedia. As a content editor, I made the needed changes to the narrative there. The next action would be a carefully worded letter to the department requesting for a change in the text of the plaque. Who says we don’t have the power to change the world when the simplest change begins with not being silent in the face of attacks at rewriting the history of humanity.
Change begins with me, this abomination will not stand.