Many aspects of western culture have crept in to fuse with our own many African cultures, and today on Friday the 13th, I ask myself if as many people here on the continent are preoccupied with the concept of luck on this day as are in America, Australia and Europe. Incidentally, Friday the 13th has always been lucky for me.
What exactly is luck? A rationalist perspective on luck maintains that luck is probability taken personally. Fortune favours the prepared, another saying goes. But there are times when, no matter how hard one tries to prepare, it is as if there is a conspiracy of forces to hold one back. Is this what is conceived to be bad luck? The troubles we had last week with Maria our van were uncanny at the time. One minute she would be working perfectly, the next she would just not work. Every single time that happened, it happened when Maria had got us to a point where we had to be. Every single time. Was that good luck , or was that bad luck, or was it both? And if you had both good luck and bad luck, then did that mean they cancelled each other out and you had no luck at all?
At the time it was happening to us, we saw it as bad luck because we felt we had done the necessary prep and because we needed to get to Bamako by a particular time. But in hindsight – which everyone knows is always 20-20 vision – we realised that the journey would have been arduous if not impossible with Maria. Moreover, the control we lost with the grounding of our vehicle meant that we were then set to truly encounter and explore hidden borders of the type we had no way of even anticipating. That was what we had wanted, right? Be careful what you wish for…
Luck is a thing that many Nigerian Christians do not believe in. Some even claim the word luck comes from the name of Lucifer and such people will revoke it if you wish them luck, vehemently claiming a blessing in its place. I was actually pleasantly surprised to find a young lady at the Music Society of Nigeria wearing a horse-shoe, who upon being asked, said it brought her luck.
I don’t believe in luck myself. Perhaps this is because I do not believe in coincidence. But I believe in Providence, or God, as some of us call it. So I wake up this morning after very little sleep and don the bikini and go for a quick swim with Lucy before breakfast, with the charming Andrew and Guy for company as they have breakfast by the pool. And I think to myself how lucky we are! Thank you Lord.
Then we check out of the hotel and get a taste of Mali traffic – perfect for making images, this is fortuitous. We’re off to visit Malick Sidibe at his atelier. There we get ushered in to have our portrait taken by the master himself. Again we're feeling very fortunate, we hadn't reckoned with this! There’s a lot of arranging of clothes and legs and arms and chins and we freeze for the photo. Trust me to blink just as he clicks.
Anyway after that we check into the most charming Bed and Breakfast (with bread for breakfast) in the Hippodrome area of Bamako. By now we're feeling like we’ve hit the jackpot. Who says Friday the 13th is unlucky?
So as I catalogue all the good stuff life has given me – my children, this trip with nine huge personalities and great individuals, and so many countless things, big and small, mundane and profound - I find myself doing exactly what Uche Okpa Iroha did when presented with the Grand Prix – I find myself thanking God before all else, for everything that is good, everything that is blessed, everything that is lucky in our lives.