Mad Mariam (contains mild nudity!)

Went to visit Amani’s dad today (see ‘And Dad Came Too’) to check how his shirt business was going. His plot today was down by the lake at a fishing port, near his home in Igombe and he was selling really well down there.

As we talked to him, I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful but very naked young woman walking along the water’s edge and then turning to call out to the vast lake in front of her. Not sure if we were encountering some mythical siren, calling to the hapless fishermen in their little boats on the water or had just wandered in to a ‘clothes optional’ area.

“Ah no”, Justin explained, “she’s mad.”

“Ah” nodded Hassan and Anna, my co-workers, and carried on walking.

I’m not sure how I feel about this….

On the one hand, she is a vulnerable adult and, in the UK, would be taken in for a psychiatric assessment and probably put on  a drug and social support programme. On the other hand, here in Tanzania the assessment would be a policeman dropping her at the Psych Ward at Bugando (see ‘Carry On Doctor’)   and telling them she’s mad and her being tied to a bed and/or sedated up to her eyeballs. And on the other hand, because  I’ve come to realise there are always at least three hands here, she is just Mad Mariam to the locals here. No-one bats an eye – they just carry on with their own business.  They keep an eye on her, no-one berates her for being naked, kids aren’t mocking her and, if she’s still out there when it starts to get dark, a woman will probably go and try to persuade her to go home for her own safety. And there is something very freeing in standing naked in the waves shouting poetry to the skies! Maybe we should all give it a go!




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