Monday, 30 July 2018

The upside-down saucepan

I met a Kenyan Englishman here in Kenya. That is, he's a third generation Kenyan, with all English descending ancestors. Very interesting fellow.

In the evening, we were looking at the stars and satellites above. It was a lovely, clear night for stargazing, as are most nights in that place, he assured me.

I told him about the stellar constellation that in Sweden we call something like "Charles' wagon" or "Charles' stroller", which in English is often called "the saucepan". It had just risen over the horizon, upside-down as always in this part of the world. I told him how in old Sweden, people used to use it as a rough measure of time, since it is always visible in the sky, so long as it's dark enough. It never sets, it just rolls like a baby stroller around the northern star, much like the hands of a clock. Though a counterclockwise clock. I added:
"And it never looks upside-down like this! That's one of the weirdest things about coming to Africa for the first time, the Charles' stroller being upside-down!!... Baby Charles will fall out!! It's one of those constants of the world suddenly no longer being constant!...
No, you see, in Sweden it's always up there", I pointed towards the zenith of the sky, right above us, "so you can choose to see it whatever way you like. So we always choose to see it as a stroller."
Suddenly my friend exclaimed:
"Oh that makes so much SENSE to me now!!....... You see, I always used to wonder: 'Why do they CALL it the saucepan when it's always upside-down?'. Now I get it!!
...I'm gonna make up a new name for it now!"

Oh how subtle, the long tentacles of colonialism... Calling a stellar constellation something in Africa, that only makes sense near the northern pole... Where the African would never have been, nor will ever go.

Ok, so the picture is from Chile and not from Kenya… You can tell, because it's pointing towards a Northern Star significantly below the horizon. Not ON the horizon, as it would be here on the equator… It was surprisingly hard finding a picture of the upside-down saucepan from Africa!

No comments:

Post a Comment