Caroline MairaMorais, born of a Nigerian father and Brazilian mother is a Historian Master in African History and CEO of The African Pride Company. She is a mother and lover of travel. Explore Travel Magazine had an interesting chat with her recently.
ETM: Tell us about yourself
Caroline:Carolina is the name given by my mother, Maíra by my father, Omidele by HIM Ooni ofIfé, and Mama by my daughter, Oyinkansola. I am an intersection of worlds and I like to belong to all of them simultaneously. I enjoy asking questions, thinking, writing, reading and travelling.
ETM: What makes travelling important to you?
Caroline: Travelling offers me the chance to get out of my comfort zone and dive into the unknown. Travelling is a way of eating the world; in an anthropophagic sense, it is a way of retaining experiences in myself, and this is not limited to international travel. I live in a very large country, Brazil, and travelling between states already exposes me to the diversities of daily lives.
ETM: What similar cultures does Brazil and Nigeria have?
Caroline:I always say this, and I repeat it: Brazil and Nigeria are two giant brothers, full of potentials, common past and future possibilities. But unfortunately, even today, these two brothers have not found each other again and have not connected. I’m talking about a common history marked by the horror scenes of the slave trade that separated mothers from their children,and brothers from sisters, and destroyed lives, families and futures.
But between them, they have built an unshakable bridge across the Atlantic that today allows a Brazilian to step, for example, in the city of IlêIfé, and follow a song to Osun, without ever having studied Yoruba, because this legacy has remained alive in the memory and has been passed from mouth to mouth in Brazil. We can also talk of the food, the dances, the music, the clothes, and most especially, the language: Simple, abstract and constant. Every time someone in Rio de Janeiro stops on a street corner and asks for an akarajé, this bridge is strengthened. There are many Yoruba words to express Brazilian daily life. If this is not living memory, I don’t know what to call it.
ETM: How has Covid-19 affected your travels recently?
Caroline:Covid has made life very difficult. How do you live in a society where embracing each other is synonymous with fear? Travelling during this period has become a huge challenge. Fortunately, now with the vaccine, we have a greater freedom. Yet,we have to think about pre and post flight tests, possibility of flight cancellations, and everything else. It’s a moment that requires patience
ETM: Can you share an unforgettable travel experience with us?
Caroline: That would be in Abeokuta in July 2018. I had one of the most amazing days of my life. It was unforgettable, not just for the journey, but for the company and for the whole context. Early morningthat fateful day, we left Lagos bound for the City under the Rock (Abeokuta) with so many beautiful sceneries along the way. By the time we entered Abeokuta, a guide was already waiting to lead us to Olumo Rock. When it was time to ascend the rock, I decided to do the ancestral trail and not take the lift even though I was wearing a dress and sandals. It was the best decision that I took that day. The way to the top of the rock passes unravels incredible records of the places where the Egbas hid and from where they sighted the enemies and prepared their strategies. In a certain passage under the rock, you spot the majestic and giant Baobab retiring from the terrain. A sacred tree among many African peoples, the Baobab has a special meaning for me, a deep meaning of resilience. Seeing a majestic Baobab in an unlikely place, a rock, seemed like fiction to me, or the best that reality could offer us.
Continuing on my journey on a narrow passage between rocks and cliffs, I spotted the second most natural beauty of Abeokuta- the river meandering between the harmattan-cast houses(by the way, the first is Professor Wole Soyinka). It was a breathtaking view from the top of Olumo rock. It is a landscape so cinematic that I have it in my living memory as if it were film.
Olumo Rock was a visit from the inside out. As if my eyes were contemplating what I had already dreamt of. Even before the visit, I already dreamt and conceived through my eyes the most beautiful landscape. That day, my love for Abeokuta came to life, born there at the top of the mountain. The experience might have ended with the Ogun River, but that was only the beginning.
We eventually descended the rock and honoured a special invitation to lunch at the home of the master of masters, the keyholder of Olokun, Prof Wole Soyinka. Lunch at Prof’s house was another great experience for me. I still don’t know, which of the sensations is the most profound: the food, which I loved so much by the way, or being in the house of a man whose name evokes courage and whom people call Prof Genuine. It is not possible to enter his house without feeling apprehension. The signs at the entrance warn: “If you don’t have an appointment, you will be shot”. I wonder if he ever received his letters; the postman wouldn’t dare. Not even friends dare to enter without an invitation. Lucky for us, we had an invitation. Our guide took us on his okada from the Alake’s Palace, where we earlier made a stop, to the entrance of the forest where the orisha- Soyinka lives.
Orisa, yes! Human being, no! He is not of this world. It was a surreal experience to share the rest of the day with him. When he does not have a wide smile, he has attentive eyes and ears, with a generous heart to share his knowledge. I lost track of whether it was day or night; the time we spent with Prof. was too short to learn and too long to feel comfortable in his presence. I think Baobá whispered in the ear of the wind, which rushed to the Ogun River and told my dreams of a curious little girl. The mother waters of the Ogun River led me to the sacred forest of Wole Soyinka and I was blessed with the most unbelievable experience of travel and life that I could ever imagine. Words cannot capture all the dimensions. I have a great affection for Abeokuta, I hope to be able to hide under those rocks one day.
ETM: What’s your best mode of travelling? Land, road or water? Why?
Caroline: A combination of all is always welcome. There is no preferred mode. What I prefer is travelling. Everything else is experience.
ETM: What food would you not eat on a journey?
Caroline:Good…. I’m curious myself. I told you, it may take me some time to get used to the idea of tasting something out of ordinary. For example, I like to taste snails in Nigeria, but I’ll make an effort to try everything available. Whether I will repeat it or not is another story. Taste is habit. But breaking habits is what makes a trip so desirable.
ETM: What won’t you travel without?
Caroline: I don’t travel without my coffee. In fact, I can’t live without it! The first time I came to Nigeria and forgot to bring my coffee, I had to go looking for options, and it was pretty devastating. There are so many coffee brands in Nigeria that are not coffee. Respect the Brazilian palate! In the country where I was born, coffee is the morning opener that unlocks possibilities and energy. It’s so vital that we call our breakfast “café da manhã”, which means “coffee of the morning”. Coffee is a must in my suitcase. However, that also depends on the country. You don’t have to take it to Colombia, for example because it is a land of coffee. Ethiopia is land of coffee origins. But when in doubt, it’s better to hold on to the packet of coffee powder, pack your suitcase and go be happy around the world, with coffee! I used to say that there is no happiness without coffee.