I met God at the Manzini Markets one December morning.
She was black and beautiful.
Sitting cross legged in the scalding dirt, she was almost invisible under the blanket of white noise and beaded sweat that smothered the open market place.
A thousand Squawking chickens, both human and avian, bustled around her. Above her, the sounds of fervent bartering rose in intertwined dischordant harmonies towards the yellow african sun.
But there in the midst of this stampede of life, she sat, serene and seemingly unflustered by the dust that was continually kicked in her face by unthinking passers by.
On her left, a pile of old drinking straws was neatly placed. Where she had found them, i will never know. Perhaps on the street, perhaps in the rubbish. Perhaps she'd bought them with what little money she had. But there they were, thirsting for something which was yet to be.
And to her right was a little pile of loose coloured papers. A two colour pallette of emerald green and deep pink.
Looking closer I saw that these little craft papers were not papers at all. They were in fact... bubble gum wrappers. The words "Chappies berry" or "Chappies spearmint" emblazened on each little coloured square.
I watched in wonder as she took a bubble gum wrapper, a straw and piece of old twine and with those frail, love worn hands began to weave. What she was weaving i did not know. But she was so engrossed in her work, so at peace and so exquisitely beautiful in her tattered, dirty, brown dress, that i couldnt help but be caught up in her magic.
So i sat down next to her and said "CiCi (which means sister) let me buy one of what you are making."
She looked at me and wiped the dust from her face. And then without a word she picked up a rolled up, completed work and gave it to me. I gave her 10 emalangeni which is about 3 dollars ,and all she had asked for. I put it in my backpack immediately, without even glancing at it first. You see there was simply so much going on in that market place, that to stay in one place for more than even a few seconds meant risking being trampled. When you're caught in a stampede, its best to keep moving.
I dont remember what happened during the rest of that December day except that by the time I arrived home, I had forgotten about my brief encounter with this gentle artist, as i'd expect is sadly an all too common occurence when humans come face to face with the divine.
It was only when I unzipped my backpack that I truly realised whose presence i had been in that morning. You see there before me, unrolled on my bed, was the most beautiful work of art I have ever seen.
Made from the humblest materials on this earth..things which anyone else would consider rubbish.... And yet a tapestry fit for the parlour of God himself.
Radiant with beauty, glowing with soft love.
Perfect in its detail, its textures and its arrangement of colours.
And there in the centre of the piece - was a message for the world, for all people, for all times, composed by an old homeless Swazi woman who supposedly knew no English.
Three words - woven by the time wrinkled hands of God herself out of bubble gum wrapping and drinking straws.
I met God at the Manzini markets one December morning.
She was black and beautiful.