Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Send me a postcard

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.


  1. That sounds ace. Brian is now asking if we can have one, to go with the one from Timbuktu.

    Reminds me of Zardoz, actually.

  2. OK I will send you one, if you agree to come to the wedding :)

  3. OK, sorry, here I come with my pedantry again... But, isn't Toumai's brow precisely NOT neanderthal? That's the point of him, isn't it?

    Don't tell me to get a life, because then I'll stop reading your blog...