October 10, 2020

Rowena Mondiwa

The drawstring has long since been lost but the bookbag is still intact and I keep it folded up among my belongings. I often think about how it’s my oldest possession, the one thing that has accompanied me in my life across the world. Now, as an adult, it makes sense that this would be the one possession I have kept from my childhood.

I’ve had this bag since I was four years old. Back then I’d just started primary school in a small Scottish town where I’d lived since I was a baby. Although I’d grown up in Scotland, my parents spoke to my sister and I in our mother tongue (Chichewa), so it’s only when I started going to school that I learned how to speak English (well, Scottish). Learning the language was easy enough because I was a child and was immersed in the language when outside of the home. My love of reading just made the experience even better and more enjoyable. My bookbag was one of the things that was on my Primary 1 school list; all the students in my class had their own bookbags, as varied in design as the number of students in the class. I was drawn to mine almost immediately; even as a child I was attracted to bold patterns in art. I fell in love with reading and I loved my bookbag and the books it carried, books my teacher Mrs Kayes gave me to read with my parents for homework.

My bookbag means a lot to me because of what it symbolizes: a life of journey and change, and a love of literature. It links me to my Scottish past. It holds a nostalgic place in my heart, as a reminder of the little immigrant child I once was who fell in love with the magic of books. In a way I feel like the tapestry that makes up my bookbag serves as a sort of metaphor of my own culturally diverse upbringing.

As an adult, books and art still hold a special place in my life and I wonder if this bag was at least partially responsible for starting me off on that path.

Virtual Bookbag: Some of my favourite writers are Anais Nin, A. S. Byatt, Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, Yukio Mishima, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Jamaica Kincaid, Bessie Head, Chinua Achebe, Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, Aime Cesaire, and Angela Carter.

Rowena Mondiwa lives in Vancouver, BC, and is passionate about literature, culture, nature, the arts, and travel. She has written for Media Diversified, Schema Magazine, and Fields and Stations, currently blogs at wordlandscapes.wordpress.com, and shares her travel stories and observations on Instagram.