Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Our History, Our Heritage: Embracing our Origin for a Prosperous Future


“Knock,............knock,................................knock………………….. knock!”

Before we could even respond to the robust knock on the door, it gave way. As the door slowly curved in, a huge chisel-shaped human figure that almost scared the life out of us was appearing. For a   minute I held tightly on my grandmother’s left leg. I’m sure she might have been shaken by my cowardly act than by the monster of a figure at our kitchen door. 

photo courtesy of ancestral voices 
This was not an everyday occurrence that someone would appear from nowhere, unannounced just when my grandmother’s tales had taken the life out of our playful nights. However, this time it was not only a surprise but also one of those moments that stuck with you for half a century of your life. Mambo Jogu, had travelled miles on foot as he made his way to Katongu village after years of isolation in the far hills of Kiambogo. One of my late grandfather’s kinsmen, he was sentenced to years of tumultuous exile, despite the generous sacrifices and pleadings of my grandfather concerning his innocence.

Mambo Jogu, or simply MJ had years ago defied his forefathers deeply held traditions by ignoring the summons of the Njamba Noru (council of elders) after his heinous acts of impunity. To the ridicule of many, MJ was sentenced to exile for 40 harvest seasons (translated to 20 years) and was required never to be seen in the vicinity of Katongu until the years had elapsed. As a consequence of defying this order, his head would be presented to as a sacrifice to appease the ancestors. MJ had no choice than to honor his day in court rather than face his ancestors.  Nonetheless the village was not devoid of such acts. What was not clear is why the kinsmen of Katongu had seen it fit to send one of its brave men into wilderness.

“Ariririririririiii riiii riiii” my grandmother’s joy was beyond belief. I have never seen her being overwhelmed like this before.

We all jumped on our feet and stampeded to the door almost crushing my grandmother’s cherished gourd that stored last night’s brew.

“CHILDREN, CHILDREN…. Watch your steps or I will send you to sleep” (This sent a chill down our spine knowing how true she was to her words.)

Though it sounded a bit harsh at the moment as most of us were acting out of our own will as everyone was caught by surprise, obedience was called for without second thoughts. In a short while MJ was settled and clutching a mug of Granma’s porridge unperturbed, his face betraying the emotions we all had amassed since he stepped in.

The unfolding events in the last couple of minutes imbibed into my thoughts as if the concentration substrate had conspired to cause a PH imbalance. As I sat still, my palms sunk in my cheeks as if to deflate the last traces of air from within. It had never occurred to me before how the face of cruelty could turn its wrath on its son till this moment. They had come to witness one of its sons, go through the wrath of this deeply held traditions. For once, I was lost for words as to where did such repulsive customs originate from. However, it must never go unsaid that this same culture had made heroes celebrated worldwide as well as labeled the bravest of men’s as cowards.

No matter how inquisitive I was no woman or man in the village of Katongo had acquired the
photo courtesy of www.intrepidtravel.com
courage to satisfy my thirst for answers. They all seemed surprised of my braveness to question these beliefs of their claimed gods. Since then I came to understand the origin of my clan’s cautiousness. Everyone seemed not to exercise some criticism to the traditions, taboos, and all the tribe’s does and don’ts. However, I appreciated their continued perceptions of those that dared to break away from this culture in pursuit of their beliefs. It might have been a taboo to break away from what seemed to have become a norm. How fortunate were my kinsmen that they had lived in tandem with all the mysteries surrounding them without having to question their origin.

In view of the world order today, I see my kinsmen spread far and wide; they have mastered the art of all nations, both in language and cultures. Their interactions with the nations are evidenced by their intermarriages and multilingual skills. Nothing has come close to what MJ epitomized. We have become accustomed to the adventures of our thinking not the mere dictations of our kin. We endeavor to make our lives and those of our children better than our forefathers. We embody the human spirit that depicts struggles and success alike without the deceitfulness of our toils. In as much as the world has washed our history in a bid to blacken the mystery that surrounds our origin, nothing seems to defeat the fact that we have deep roots in our conservative myths and traditions.

Let it be told that our forefathers struggled to defend their origin; they sacrificed their toils for the sake of our future. Midst the race struggles they defeated the devil. They stood aloof of the fact that theirs was a fight in vain. Today we can never be wished away just because they sought to gain a true identity. They unmasked and risked to face a bitter backlash from the rest of the world, who thought they never mattered.
c/o www.nanaimoafricanheritagesociety.com

Although we may not be in agreement with some of their atrocious deeds, we seem confident theirs was a worthy course. One that has made us who we are and has continued to raise more mystery than history can behold. We are because they were, we shine because they persevered, and we progress because they digressed from the norm. Our forefathers lived according to what was their source of heritage, whether we term it archaic or backward. Their customs, taboos, and traditions were a testimony of their existence. Recognition that they were present before us, their existence is an attestation of our origin.

Therefore, as we celebrate the BLACK HISTORY MONTH let us be humbled by our forefathers’ acts of courage to stand put against the currents of the world. Let us embrace the culture that unites us, and preserve that which identifies us. We should remember that we are a race that should embrace each other in DEEDS and in SPIRIT. Our unity should not be a coincidence but that which was intended by our forefathers. We should not be quick to condemn those among us who stand robust of their culture in mind. However, our conscience should befit that of a hero in times of war, to stand and defend our common identity. We are yet to achieve that which we are, as we work twice as hard to access our endowments.

Let us embrace each other and live knowing that our entitlement is not a silver platter but a conscious will to overcome the hurdles that our forefathers fought to standby. Just as Mambo J. understood the heinous acts of his kinsmen and obeyed without an atom of bereavement despite a life devoid of tranquility. I urge you all to learn the art of embrace and forge forward with humility to claim that which you are entitled. The Kingship is ours, where, OUR HISTORY IS OUR HERITAGE. 

William Murithi, © 2014



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