In response to a delightful request from a reader of this blog in Malaysia, I set about trying to send a postcard from Chad. From experience I know there is only one place in the city to buy postcards – Meridian Hotel. There I found the most dismal collection imaginable – three out of four designs featured cave paintings that could have been anywhere.
So inevitably I chose the picture of Toumai, reputedly the oldest pre-historic skull discovered in Chad a few years back. Annoyingly for Ethiopia this re-opened the debate about where exactly the cradle of humanity is (Berceau d’Humanite in French – quite a different thing). Nonetheless fun to compare both nations’ claim to be the ancestor of all humanity on arrival at Bole and Hassan Djamous airports.
But Toumai is a somewhat dark figure. Found in hundreds of tiny fragments, even for a skull it has a particularly gloomy, haunted aura. But what really made this postcard stand out (amongst admittedly strong competition from cave paintings) was the eerie juxtaposition of the half-complete Toumai, resplendent with furrowed Neanderthal brow, floating menacingly above an innocuous view of the Chadian countryside. Battered, fractured; mysteriously suspended above a barren wasteland - as if primitive man had met the grim reaper to remind people of the eternal precariousness of their Saharan existence.
Anyway I thought it rather fitting and flounced off to the post office. Imagine my amusement when I find that the only stamp available also featured the pieced-together fragments of Toumai’s skull, hovering above the price of the stamp.