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Nkima Speaks

The Revelations of a Certain Lord

(Latter day musings upon a strange life.)

David A. Adams


Although others have told my tale, they have only told it as far as they could imagine. Sitting in their comforts of civilization. My journey has been a long one, longer indeed than even my biographers have imagined, and the story is filled with pain as well as glory. From the very first I was aware; a bright awareness of myself and my surroundings was always with me. It is the thing by which I always survived.

It is the reason I still live.

Kala, by David Adams

When I first opened my eyes and saw my true mother I became a living denizen of the forest; it was Kalaís dear face that awakened me.

Most people in the world are asleep compared with the awareness that came upon me at an early age. I have often wondered at this gift; yet I still do not know from whence it came.

I just opened my eyes and the darkness was gone.

All the bright forest leaves were etched upon my eyes, each one as singular as you have seen in paintings. I could see them and taste them in the seeing. I ate the entire forest as we passed through the skyways, the leaf-ways of my jungle home. I was always as agile as an ape. Indeed, if you had seen me in those days you would have taken me for one of those hairy creatures who hung from the limbs without a care.

My skin was white; it is true. The apes even called me white-skin, but in reality I was tanned and bronzed to such a dark shade that I could have passed for my cousins in the shadows.

How can I show you my life when you are so blind? If I had been captured by humans in my youth, I believe I would have been thrown into a darkness from which I may never have awakened.

To understand my life, my thought, my being, you must see at least a little in the way that I saw things in those days. The very trees were my brothers and sisters as much as the family of apes who raised me. The touch and smell of the bark, the leaves, the vines were to me a book that gradually opened, perhaps in the same way that you first learned the way that letters make words, the way words make sentences with meaning.

I believe we all have hidden within us the keys to open nature like a book. We can read the forest like any animal. Fortunately for me, this ability happened in a single moment. I looked at Kala, and I was her child. Everything in nature was alive to me, yet from the very first, it was the trees that breathed. A scientist might even say that my relationship with the forest was symbiotic--branches reached out to my hand even as I stretched my hand to them.

One moment you might catch the glimpse of an animal moving across the limb of a forest giant. In the next moment, I have become a part of that same tree, and you will see me no more. The trees held me in their arms all night long; they cradled me like a mother, they fed me; they were my guardian angels.

In the great forests I am a part of a whole. I am the dreams the leaves dream. I am the breath of a gentle tropic breeze at noonday. I am the leopard amid the shadows at night.

This sounds like poetry to you, but your senses have been dulled. Civilization has tamed your ears to the sound of an insect crawling across the ground.

Living within four walls has closed your eyes to the opening in the spaces between two worlds.

This, then was my childhood. I was a child awake and ever awakening to the world around me, and this world was the tropical jungle of Africa where I lived one as the tribe of anthropoid apes.


You all know the story of how I grew up amid the creatures of the wild. I was an ape in the midst of apes, and so my socialization was the normal one for an ape. I ate the tender leaves and poked my little twig into the termiteís nest for the succulent feast. I was slower than my cousins when it came to climbing and swinging through the branches, but when I gained my strength, it was of such a power that none of them could keep up to my daring leaps.

And I was always inventing things. I was the one with the games that terrified the young ones and angered the alphas into a frenzy.

We were all curious, but it was I who first dared the door of the cabin by the shore. And it was I who learned how to decipher the little bugs that ran across the leaves to make sounds and meanings that no one else could have ever imagined.

Pictures that led to the words, but even this does not explain my fascination with languages. Had I not this gift, I imagine I would have lived my life happily as an ape, leading my tribe further and further away from the haunts of men. That would have made quite another story. But the gift was there, and it does not end. Today I speak and write in over 50 languages, some of them, I will reveal guardedly, are not human in origin.

The thing is: the apes spoke to me and I to them and so I found words a useful second language to that of my senses. Yet first and last I still smell you coming across the room, my friends. I canít help being an ape.


When I lost my dear Kala a certain light went out of the world; yet, it was the touch of man that was necessary to make me a man. I exchanged my childhood and a motherís love for the tools of killing, and so I killed.

My fatherís hunting knife was the first, it is true - - the keen blade of division between my humanity and the apes, but it was the bow and spear that extended my arm; and it was the rope that extended the arm of the forest. I lived with the weapons of death like a powerful god. They delighted me without end, and I bound them to my body like added limbs.

The bow was a small one, so I could carry it easily through the trees, and the arrows were just twigs steeped in the deadliest of poisons. My rope was thin but strong enough to hold a lion for a moment or two, but I had to replace it and the haft of my spear so often, that I depended upon my fatherís knife and my own strength in most of my deadly encounters.

The great enemy of my tribe was always man and so I have never really trusted them. We lived in daily danger of predators of many kind, but for most of them we held a fascination and a respect that we never had for the more treacherous human tribes. A lion may always be a lion, yet he is a lion, unlike man who is as uncertain as a shifting wind.

I had a great fondness for the members of my tribe. You could not say that I loved them, for I had no conception of romance or romantic behaviors practiced by human beings. Yet, beasts can sometimes be loyal companions.

My people responded to danger largely by fleeing, however great loyalties were demonstrated by mothers to their own children.

When I finally became an alpha male in my tribe, it was mainly out of the necessities of the moment. I had no desire to be their king, and their endless searching for food had already become a great tediousness to me.

If it could be said that I loved anyone among them, it was Kala that I loved, for she was my mother. The others were playmates to me and no more. Even though I reached manhood at an early age, many of the habits of the tribe were not my own. The only creature I ever loved was my human mate, and she I learned to love from the moment I first saw her.

The only son of our love was a companion to me and a friend. I have had few friendships in my life, but they have been fierce and loyal ones, and I am saddened that many of them have passed away.

Many people would find me a cold and heartless man because I do not give my friendship quickly or easily. Many would find me repulsive because I can still kill other humans without compunction, yet humans are to me still the strangest of beasts.

I travel best alone without the hindrance of any other. I am still driven by an overwhelming curiosity about the many ways of the human creature, yet in the end I will never be one of them or join with them in their endless revels, for all societies seem to me a poor substitute for the wild.

Lion, David Adams

I move best with those beasts who ask nothing of me, and I ask nothing of them in return. I am fond of lions for they are the most affectionate of the great cats, and I have a certain monkey as a companion, even though I find him to be for the most part, a foolishness.

I move alone and discover all the lost worlds there are to yet to discover, and it is surprising how many of them remain in this tiny world.

I have been to the poles and under the earth, and everywhere men are the same -- dangerous and hungry for power and riches. And yet, from time to time I come across a noble character who is willing to explore a new vastness with me, and I am satisfied with this small favor of fate.

Perhaps the time will come when my name will be heard no more upon the lips of men. This too is a great indifference to me, for I will be far away in some beloved jungle or perhaps by then upon some distant planet in this amazing universe having adventures of my own, free, unburdened by time or the careless wranglings of men.

Nkima, 11/7/98