Magic Feet

by Lindsay Nimmon

"Mama always said there's an awful lot you can tell about a person by their shoes. Where they're going, where they've been. I've worn lots of shoes. I bet if I think about it real hard, I could remember my first pair of shoes. Mama said they'd take me anywhere. She said they was my magic shoes." Forest Gump shared this little insight with a lady while sitting on a bench, waiting for a bus in the movie by the same name released in 1994. Mama may have said something slightly different if she had lived in Burundi. Here, you can tell an awful lot about a person by their feet -- where they've been, perhaps their occupation, the economic constraints on their lives.

In Kibuye, most of the time, there are no magic shoes taking people places. There are just the bare feet of our neighbors. These feet are covered in red dirt from the dusty paths they tread on each day, from the fields they hoe and cultivate. These feet are covered in soot from standing and raking in piles of charcoal. These feet are calloused and cracked from years of walking many hours to their places of work.

People’s feet are their primary mode of transportation most of the time. Children walk for water or chase their family’s goats through the countryside. Teenagers play soccer in a field by the church. Men herd cattle and push bikes loaded with merchandise.

When feet don’t work well, life in Kibuye is particularly challenging. That long walk to work and the physical labor that follows is slow and even painful. It means falls when the paths become slippery mud in the rainy season. 

Some feet get covered in shoes only for church on Sunday or a special event. These shoes are scrubbed and dried in the sun - sometimes after each use. They are prized and cared for as such.

The bare feet of villagers here may not take them anywhere as Mama said, but their feet do take them everywhere they need to go. The places they’ve been are embedded in the lines on their soles. Feet in Kibuye tell a story - a story of poverty and need, of hard work and tenacity, of strength and long-suffering.

1 comment:

Rebekah said...

Beautiful storytelling.