The day I discovered I was African

The last six days have been journey of rediscovery through thought about my home.

For a long time I had thought of myself as a Ugandan, not much as an African until one day, I watched Nancy Kacungira’s TED talk about telling African stories. She narrated her experience living in the diaspora. Of how almost all non – Africans thought of her as an African and not just a Ugandan. And that’s when it hit me. I let my mind drift to a land of unanswered questions. What made me African? What is it that I knew about Africa as a continent that is my mother land. How do I relate with other Africans other than fellow Ugandans.

I was born and raised in the capital of Uganda, Kampala. For a long time, up until my teenage life, I had never really travelled out of Kampala except for the few times I had to visit my ancestral home for funerals. And those were the least of times. So, I basically knew very little to do with anywhere but Kampala.

In school, we learnt a lot about the scramble and partition of Africa by the colonisers, the capitals of the 54 African countries, The major atrocities of our land; colonial and post colonial wars, genocides and apartheid and African heroes like Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu, amongst others.

I didn’t really heed to these things but I didn’t have much of a choice because cramming them was the only way to get promoted to the next level. To me, these things felt like a movie because of the way they were taught. Even the teachers didn’t seem to relate to any of them. To me, they were just statements to be copied from the blackboard and on to the exam paper.

In my heart of hearts however, I had the yearning to know what the Africa out there felt like.

Mid way high school, I acquired a smart phone and just like any other teen, facebook didn’t survive me. Out of sheer curiosity, I searched for my name, “Pius Miti” and I was blown away. There was one other guy with that exact name from Lusaka, Zambia. Same spelling and punctuation. Was this a sign from the gods for a lost brother?

How could two sets of parents on entirely different corners of the planet, different backgrounds, culture and lineage think about the same names for their baby boys?

Now don’t get me wrong a lot of people across the world have similar names and that’s a usual thing. But my name is “Miti” which if precisely translated to Luganda, my local language literary means trees. Not woods, trees. It’s everyday that parents name their sons after trees. Even more unusual for it to happen twice with the second name. This couldn’t be a coincidence.

So as expected, with the hungry dog seen born excitement, I immediately got to the keyboard and direct messaged this “brother” from Zambia.

Me: Hi! How do we have the same names? Do you know my father from Uganda? He drives a small white corolla.

Miti: Hey. This is weird. Lol. 😏 Is he famous?

Me: Yeah, but only at home. Our neighbors hardly know his name. Can I send you his pic?

(Sends pic immediately lest he says no)

Miti: Oh you didn’t wait for my reply, Your that punctual… HuhπŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

Me: Please tell me how you know my father or how you got my name. I’m freaking out. πŸ™πŸ˜΅

Miti: Wait, is that his head? Looks too big to be real.

Me:

Miti: Bruh, calm down. I’m not in any way affiliated to you. I don’t know who you are or who your dad is…

Me: Then why did you call me bruh? Huh?

Miti: Forget it, that was a mistake. Shouldn’t have said it.

Me: Which clan are you from?

Miti: Good night, man. You need to rest.

Me: Wait

Miti: *Offline*

I sent Miti quite a number of texts for a month, everyday until he decided he had had enough and he blocked me. Too bad I will never know why this guy has my exact names.

Later in my late teens when I started listening to a lot of African Christian music, I discovered a Zambian artist called Pompi. The dialect and accent he pronounced words with sounded exactly like the Baganda of Kampala. It hit me again.

All Africans are in a way related to each other. We share a lot of cultural diversity in space and over time. The creation of countries that stems from colonial territories is all a hoax. We are not really different. We all are one Africa. The traits of the outsider that we adopt (and this is inevitable) make us think we are different but it’s upon us to rediscover our history and live an Africa that we envision.

Our minds are locked up into thinking we are different because of the African diversity. But in this very diversity we can find unity if only we choose to celebrate it.

I will end this with a quote from Bob Marley, “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery. Non but ourselves can free our minds.”

Thanks for being part of the #UgBlogWeek. I love you all.

Photo: Google

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Wakanda Africa I envision

Sixth day of the #UgBlogWeek

“Wakanda Africa do you envision?”

Rising from the dusty plain

With hope in every burst of rain

This land of everlasting strife

This Africa, our source of life

Breaking out of rusty chains

With wildness flowing in her veins

This land where all creation roam

This Africa, our common home

Reaching out across the years

With echoed genes and veils of tears

This land of skulls and mystery

This Africa, our history

Forever feral, never tamed

With restless destiny unnamed

This land of the eternal child

Africa, stretching far and wide

Herds migrate with season’s tide

Hippos snort, crocs lie in wait

Most survive, some meet their fate

Africa, living wild and free

Monkeys swing from tree to tree

Warthogs squeal and lions roar

Dolphins leap and eagles soar

Africa, teeming great and small

Lank giraffes and bugs that crawl

Zebras mix with wildebeast

Hyenas laugh while vultures feast

Africa, joining earth and sky

Gorillas nest and springboks fly

Elephants rumble, wise as sages

Life joins life across the ages

– Wayne Visser

Photo: Google

A hug from Alice and yogurt from Nalongo

Hey you! It’s me. Fifth day of the #UgBlogweek and here is another weekendish thing for you.

I’m at my usual stall in Owino market dusting my stock for the day. It is second hand shoes from America. Which makes them first class. Yes, first class – second hand shoes. I used to purchase the ones from China, but not only are they too small, they also look extremely old, thread bare to be exact. Won’t anybody tell these Chinese people to at least send there small shoes to fellow small people? I’m sure they can make a great deal of money if they send them to the Congolese pygmies.

And much as many Ugandans are not well off enough to afford new shoes, they are not blind. They don’t need spectacles to see a torn shoe. What is it with these Chinese who import rubbish to our country? Can’t they see the NRM is enough rubbish for one country?

Oh God! The dust on these shoes! I hope the buyers won’t fail to notice this Americanness. They are very good shoes but the dust! Ever since Museveni’s goons burnt down Park yard market, it has been a hustle to keep my stock clean. That thief of a rich man who bought the burnt space has been building a shopping mall for ages. And it’s us the poor people to suffer the consequences of the dust that comes from the construction sites.

Madam! Madam! I have American shoes here. Exactly your size, madam. Fair price madam. First come and check. Seeing is for free madam… Don’t just go like that, madam…

People hardly buy any shoes nowadays. Even the women from the new taxi park who used to buy say they want shoes on credit. They think I’m a fool. If you don’t have the money now, how sure am I that you will have it later. I might be desperate but I’m not stupid.

Today, if God gives me customers enough to buy only five pairs, I will close for the day. But with this stomach ache rumbling like this, I might as well just sell three pairs and call it a day.

Ohhhh my God!!! The rumbling keeps increasing. Could it be the boiled eggs and yoghurt I ate from from Nalongo’s stall? That must be it. There’s too much gas in my stomach. I knew it was a bad idea buying edibles from Nalongo’s stall. My stomach feels like an over blown balloon by an over excited toddler on Christmas Eve.

I need to let this gas out. There’s an isolated corner on the left hand side at the entrance of the market. I’ll go there and let out this gas.

Oh – my – God. This gas stinks! Thank God there’s no one close enough to smell this. Oh myyyyy… It would be so embarrassing. I can’t believe this stench is coming out of me! What kind of rubbish does Nalongo use to make her yoghurt?

I want to run away from this stench but then I remember it’s coming from with in me. Too bad I had to cause my own suffering. Phew! I must admit releasing this gas is relieving. Well, that was the first round, one more round and my stomach will be better. Second round, here we go.

Wait, isn’t that Alice from the neighborhood supermarket? Oh shit! It’s Alice! I’ve always had a crush on Alice but never had the balls to talk to her, let alone saying hi. Last week, like a possessed wizard, I gathered the strength to jokingly ask her to give me a hug. She blushed and said she’d come to visit me at my stall in Owino. And she’d hug me. I thought she was joking as usual. Is this it? No, this can’t be it. This is not it. Oh no! She’s getting closer.

Oh God not nowwww… Not when the second round is fresh out. This is clearly not the right time for a hug.

Please God, make her go way. Please! No, not her. Make me disappear. No, not me. Make the stench go away… Please, God please! Oh no! She’s getting closer.

Please don’t see me! Please don’t see me! Please don’t see me!

Alice: Hi

Oh shit!

Photo: Google

Questions from my son

How are y’all doing? It is the fourth day of the #UgBlogWeek.Telling stories of Wakanda Africa I envision. Thank God it’s Friday because today, I get to switch things up a bit. It’s the beginning of the weekend and ideally, the writing on this blog should feel weekendish so I will do a poem.

Yesterday, I wrote a article about the place of Christianity and other religions in Africa titled: The delicate tale of strings and beads. I got some thought provoking feedback here and in my inbox. Is contemporary Christianity an African religion? Do you think that one’s religion should be informed by one’s culture? I will ask y’all to head over to that article and give me your thoughts about the matter. I would like to hear from you. But first, enjoy this poem.

Today, my son walked up me in tears

He said his teacher gave him an F on a test

Mum, are you the head of this home?

Because the teacher says I cannot answer mother when asked who the head of the home is

That father is the right answer

Mum, why did you lie to me?

Mum, is our language bad?

Because the teacher spanked me for speaking it

That I should speak English if I ever want to be successful

Mum, why don’t you speak to me in English?

Don’t you want me to be successful?

Mum, the children laughed when I spoke bad English

They say I’m an embarrassment

Mum, please teach me good English

Mum, will I also go to heaven?

Because the teacher said if you were not baptized a Christian name, you will not go to heaven

Why don’t I have a Christian name?

Don’t you want me to go to heaven?

Mum, was I born with sin?

Because the teacher said i need to be baptized so that the sin can go away

Don’t you want my sin to go away?

Mum, whom are you married to?

Because the teacher said a woman has to be married before giving birth

Mum, what does being promiscuous mean?

Because the teacher said women without husbands are promiscuous

Mum, please give me the right answers

Please mum, I cannot fail the test again.

Thanks for passing by. See y’all tomorrow!

Photo: Google

The delicate tale of strings & beads

It is the third day of the #UgBlogWeek and the talk is Africa. Fortunately for me, I’ve always desired to have conversations around African culture and how it should be preserved and celebrated. I guess the dictionary would call me a Pan Africanist.

It’s funny though, the idea of Pan Africanism. To say that some African people are Pan Africanist is to create factions between and amongst the African people. That’s one of many reasons why I no longer define myself by that term. It is in a way separatist.

See the whole idea of Pan Africanism is to unite Africans yet the result of it is the undesirable direct opposite. The irony!

So, some of the Pan Africanists imagine themselves in the upper strata of Africans. Way above the rest. That’s when the divide is dug. And in the end the coiner of the term still wins.

That being said, today I come to your screens not to talk about the delicate interpretation of Pan Africanism. May be in a future post.

All I’m trying to point out is the absurdity of the matter. Religion is the string that runs through the beads of culture.

Today, we talk about why the beads of African jewellery should never lose their strings. And the answer is simple; because the beads will fall to the ground and scatter. And we might never find some of them. Ever! And the jewellery might never be as beautiful again.

Now I know I’m starting to lose some of you. But hear me out. Let me explain.

Recently when the Kabaka was celebrating his 63rd birthday, the party was massive. Baganda and non Baganda came from all corners of the world to celebrate the aging life of their ruler. Jubilations and praises. Dance and song. Food and drink.

My best part was when the alcoholics used that fateful day as an excuse to drink silly to the point that they were identical twins with a bottle of brew. I couldn’t miss the news that evening for anything. The drama I witnessed in my own usual Kafunda fueled the FOMO.

It was all fun and games until it hit me, one of the guests of honor at the ceremony was a Christian priest who led Christian prayers. Christian prayers at a party of the supreme ruler of Buganda!!!

At what point did African religion fade into the white man’s religion?

Imagine how absurd it would look if a Muganda traditional priest led prayers at the English queen’s birthday celebration.

Now for some of you who are following, I know what you’re thinking. That religion and culture are two different things. That one can truly honour the Kabaka and at the same time be a staunch Christian. And I’m not here saying you’re wrong or right. I do not have that right for such high level judgement.

All I’m trying to point out is the absurdity of the matter. Religion is the string that runs through the beads of culture.

Without the string, the beads fall. And the whole piece of jewellery is lost in thin air.

However much people try, any attempt to separate religion from culture will always be futile. You either have both or non. Period.

Without a cultural backdrop, no religion has ever existed. Through out the ages, across all corners of the earth, since time immemorial, religion has and will always be embedded in the material and non material culture of the people in a given location.

The acknowledgement of the supernatural, the sacred objects, the rituals, the symbols and even the magnitude of emotion attached to a deity is always born of the beliefs, values, language, and norms; that is culture. And this forms the entirety of the way of life of its people.

That’s why the Christians speak English while the Muslims speak Arabic and the list can go on and on.

I could go on and explain how culture and religion intertwine as seen in the ways of life of the people but for fear of religious extremists, I guess I’ve made my point. And with your own observation, I hope that you will open the eyes of your mind. Christianity and whatever religion you know is born of culture.

So, by now I hope you know why a Christian priest leading prayers at the Kabaka’s birthday celebration is total absurdity.

So, Wakanda Africa do I envision?

Having been raised on values of a fusion of Afro Christian kind. This is my take.

Any African who espouses Christianity on due reflection may have to admit frankly, and with stated reasons, that s/he rejects the religion indigenous to his or her culture. There is nothing wrong with this in principle. What is wrong is the apparent attempt on the part of some African Christians to have it both ways. The same can be said about other non African religions. See y’all tomorrow!

Photos: Instagram

Citizens of outside countries

Mum said that when I get done with my university studies, she will tell one of Dad’s friends in outside countries to get me a job. That’s only if I doubled my efforts in mathematics, because no one gets a doctor’s course in Makerere when they cannot score at least seventy percent in mathematics.

I asked her where outside countries are and she sent me for my atlas, she opened it up to the page that had the map of the world and pointed at a place. “This is it,” she said, with the same smile she always wore every time I asked her why dad wasn’t living with us.

She had always said dad had also gone to outside countries to fight in the army. He would come back one day with a suck of money from Museveni and we would be rich like Salim’s dad. That Dad was a brave man who chose to leave his family to go and protect his country. And that when I grew up, I’d be exactly like him. Except that I’d be a doctor.

I didn’t quite understand why dad chose leaving us to fight in the army for money. He had been fighting for too long. Couldn’t Museveni give him at least one day to come home and rest? Salim’s dad didn’t go to the army but his kitchen looked thrice better than our whole house. Why couldn’t he just work normally like Salim’s dad?

“And this is Africa, it’s where we are,” mum added.

Africa seemed so close to outside countries. I asked her if we could walk there the next day so that I could see dad. So, that I could tell him to come and take me back to school like Salim. She smiled quietly. I noticed her eyes becoming teary. I couldn’t understand whether she was happy or sad. She sent me outside to play with my train.

That was about twenty years ago. Nowadays, mum is not as talkative as she used to be. Some days she doesn’t talk at all. One would think she is naturally dumb until the middle of the night when she wakes up to pray.

She started the loud midnight prayers a few months ago, the night she brought her pentecostal friend to pay us a visit. They called me out of bed to join them as they prayed at the top of their voices the whole night while pacing around the house. I wanted to run away from home.

After finishing primary seven, mum told me the truth about Dad. She said I was old enough to handle it. That dad had never been to the army. And that he was a coward who never loved his family enough to protect it. He chose to run and abandon his responsibilities.

That he was a drunkard with no respect for women. And he left me nothing to inherit, unlike my friends whose fathers were responsible. I would have to work tooth and nail not to be like him or this world would swallow me at a young age.

Mum says that the only thing that can change Dad’s ways is the power of Jesus Christ. So, every midnight she wakes up to pray a special prayer for him. I hear her mention Dad’s name several times, almost as many times as she shouts the name of Jesus.

And every midnight while she prays, I can hear the sharp double edged sword of pain cut through her throat. Her shaky hopeless voice bouncing off those bedroom walls in search for the tinniest anchor of hope to hang on. Sometimes I cry. I keep looking through the window in fear that she could wake the neighbors.

This article is dedicated to all the African children that have been brought up in an utterly broken family or by a single parent.

On this second day of the #UgBlogWeek, I envision the Africa whose social institutions are strong enough to hold the social structire Most especially, the basic of all institutions on which our continent thrives – the family.

Photo: Google

Wakanda hair do you have?

I love African hair. I love afro, kinky, twisted, knotted, curly, faded, braided, locked, kaweke, ragged African hair. Be it on a man or a woman, African hair is among other things the best thing that has ever happened to Africans.

Sunsets and rainbows are to other people what African hair is to me. I would never and could never get fed up of the view that is African hair. Other people look at African hair while i, I almost drool at the sight of it. Okay that’s a bit too much. But close to the truth though.

Chimamanda Adichie

Point is African hair is a blessing. And much as blessings come in different shapes and sizes, they cannot be manipulated into what you want them to be. Blessings are just that. And so is African hair.

When you choose to take the Africanness out of the African hair, it just becomes hair. Just hair.

I’m much aware of the freedoms everyone has over their hair, I’m just saying, leaving one’s hair African is one of the best choices a person can ever make. And no one wants to make bad choices.

Yagazie Emezi

On my first day of the #UgBlogWeek, I will talk about the hustle Africans, mostly females go through to straighten their hair.

The chemical sodium hydroxide is put on the hair to break down its protein causing it to become straight. This can be a painful process that sometimes leaves you with a burnt scalp.

Although African hair is versatile, with endless hairstyles to choose from, Africa has been flooded with relaxers to smooth that “stubborn” kink.

Binyavanga Wainaina

But fortunately, people are starting to turn away from relaxers, with gatherings organised to celebrate natural hair in Uganda like the Kinks and Curls expo.

In a recent article by the BBC,
Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie touched on some of the restrictions it brings.

“Relaxing your hair is like being in prison. You’re caged in. Your hair rules you.”

“You’re always battling to make your hair do what it wasn’t meant to do.”

Michael Kiwanuka

Ms. Adichie points out that many people choose to relax their hair because they don’t know how to care for natural hair, which I find to be the reason why most millennials do.

Lupita Nyongo also says that when she decided to stop relaxing her hair and cut it off, what grew back wasn’t bad after all.

But transitioning back to natural hair does not always mean cutting it off.

Here are ten ways to look flawless as you transition from relaxed to natural hair.

Lupita Nyong’o

African women and men who embrace and cherish African hair. That is wakanda Africa I envision. See y’all tomorrow!

Photos: Instagram