RESEARCH NOTES REGARDING MY ANCESTOR OWONGO
When it comes to ancestors, Owongo was one of the best. Once I’d found him (a thread of DNA here, the odd cave drawing there, a huge dollop of luck everywhere) I felt I might have known him forever. But as I teased out the most apparently insignificant evidence from scraps of bone and wretchedly withered tendrils combined with faded remnants on old slivers of flint I began to see the reality behind the obsession. Did I say obsession? I meant research.
It didn’t take me long to construct a mental image of him because he’d daubed a self-portrait in a high cave where he lived in central Africa. You will recall from an earlier missive of mine (if you read it) that he had made what could only have been the precursor to the biro pen, and he used it for leaving evidence of his life on cave walls. He was a skilled artist with a cunning attitude to perspective, and I am quite convinced that there is an uncanny accuracy in his artwork.
He drew himself as he saw himself, a handsome, bearded little fellow with a scar on his cheek and muscles to be proud of, so that’s what he drew. There was an almost oriental slant to his eyes, which were deep set and seemed to follow me round the cave where he was drawn. His nose was, perhaps, on the large side, but then, I reasoned, he probably needed a large hooter in order to detect his prey as it scurried through the undergrowth.
He was, for his times, quite tall, though we would call him a bit of a shortie and small children would snigger at him were he to walk past them in the street nowadays. But, I reason, any greater stature would mean he needed more food to sustain him and from the picture he had left all those millennia ago the only prey he could find were tiny shrew-like creatures nibbling his feet. There go conclusions that scientists and archaeologists have made from a life-time of research! Owongo and his people ate rodents!
But what would draw attention to him more than anything were he to take his chance down a modern street would be his preference for going about naked.
Going about naked is probably all right if you fit in and can merge with everyone else if they happen to be naked as well, say on a naturist ramble where you are surrounded by fat and wobbly buttocks, but being a lone and diminutive naked man in the High Street outside Tesco might draw unwanted attention to you. But Owongo was particularly short and everyone else in the present is a great deal taller, and a naked small man will most certainly stand out.
Especially if he has disproportionately huge genitalia. And in that department Owongo had never been found wanting. It is the one feature that initially started me questioning my own hitherto undoubted genetic relationship to him!
His self portrait showed the excessive dimensions of his male equipment admirably. It showed him making his way through thick undergrowth, and from the perspective of his drawing he might have had three legs. There was a magnificence about his appearance, one that I couldn’t help admiring.
But less of that. This was never meant to be so personal and point sniggeringly at the soft cluster of oversized objects that denoted his gender. It was meant to be the sort of write-up that the man himself would have been happy to read. If he could read, that is.
He portrayed himself in well-faded ink as a hunter. He carried a blow-pipe with him, and hanging from one shoulder was a crudely shaped stone axe. At least I think it must have been stone, but being drawn on stone in wibbly lines it could, I suppose, have been just about anything.
Behind him came his woman, Mirumda. Her mouth was open and her naked breasts were swinging in a frighteningly pendulous way. He was glancing at her out of the corner of one eye, and I couldn’t help wondering what their conversation was about. Was she admiring the shape of his bottom? Or was she warning him to look out because a particularly vicious field mouse was approaching him? We will never know. Such details have been lost to time, I’m afraid. If only he could have left a message with that wonderful portrait!
But I doubt, being primitive, he could do anything of the sort, though there is evidence (on that wall in ball-point pen) that he could manage to write the odd little thing, nervously, experimentally, a glorious incantation to the future.
You see, underneath the image of him, and in faded black ink, the sort he stuffed into his blow-pipe and wrote with, were the words, clear as the font on this computer, was the legend:
OWONGO WOZ HERE.
Â© Peter Rogerson 19.03.12