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MY CHILDHOOD OPINION OF BEING AFRICAN.

By Simbarashe Mhaka

Growing up in an African based society kept me clinging onto the glimmering memories of the day I was born, although I was too young to witness it. The miscellaneous societal expectations which resemble and emphasize on the „signs of the time‟ were hard for me to cope with. I had grown up engulfed in my own myth in which childhood was supposed to be carefree, playing in the sun until witnessing the sunset, getting involved in some minor misdemeanour, making new friends play toys with and having adventurous experiences every day. This had been my own dimension of life. Every member of the society who knew or thought they knew me believed that my arrogance was congenital.

I still remember vividly on the 12th of May in 2008 when my mother, who had been carrying her third pregnancy, finally gave birth to my little sister. A swarming crowd of relatives, neighbours and society members was diffused in the yard. Some of the people had actually filled the outside cooking house but the huge numbers were packed in the house where my mother sat on the chair holding my little sister. A lot of singing and ululating from young and elderly women who looked perfect in their African attires was accompanied by penetrating whistling from men. Children of my age were taking turns to dance in the core of the circle created by the clapping and cheering crowd. People who had brought gifts to express their unprecedented joy all headed inside the house where the gift basket was laid on the table. I was the only one in a mish-mash of thoughts only wishing every day would be like this. Everyone was highly spirited and filled with nude exhilaration.

Eager enough to have a look at the gifts I walked into the house and stood right next to my mother. I gazed at her as she swayed the baby gently from side to side fluttering her with kisses while boils of joyful tears were forming in her eyes. Trying to proceed with my mission of gazing at the motley gifts, I was startled as l found my mother drawing my right ear close enough towards her lips. She politely whimpered, “Simba this is the same thrill that overflowed our hearts the day you were born, all the celebration and gifts once belonged to you.” Her words profoundly filled my body and soul. From this moment I appreciated having to know the memories of the day I was born which I had not witnessed since I was just like my baby sister.

Right after celebrating my fifth birthday and my sister‟s birth in the same week, my parents had to introduce me to kindergarten. There I was taught societal values which included showing respect to elderly members and honouring their presence by putting them first in any possible way, greeting people older than me either by kneeling down, bowing my head or doing the rhythmic African clapping of hands. I was told to relate and share with neighbours, help the needy and apologize after having done something wrong. Each time I got home my grandfather told me folktales. They aimed at passing on the life survival skills which include hunting, herding cattle, fetching firewood, fishing, tilling the land in preparation of the rains and playing the fatherly figure during my father‟s absence. On the other hand, my parents promoted responsibility and teamwork. Mother usually ordered me to offer a hand in the kitchen and father always needed help to water the garden.

The state of being consumed in my own dimension of life hindered me from accepting the entire norms and core values. The resonating memories of the day I was born kept me contemplating to the extent that I wanted to live the same day, free of duties and the cumulating orthodox. I thought that being African, especially being black, marked you strong enough to be eligible for labour and be harnessed like donkeys. I hated the dark black pigment on my body each time I bathed because it resembled a sign of being born to work as a tool for the benefit of the society. I struggled to execute the norms and values and become responsible. There was this one time when I got home very late far beyond my child curfew time. I had gone to play with my neighbourhood friends. We had our own common custom made a ball of plastics and papers. I was enjoying the match on the dusty road when I heard my mother shouting out my name. I knew it was time up for me. I refused to comply with my conscience and decided to ignore her regardless of my friends who opted I rushed home. When the sun had completely set and everyone was heading home, I walked home covered in a mist of dust. My mother flogged me and I was very angry to the extent that l omitted supper. At that moment I felt I wanted to be alone especially being extremely inspired by the popular western movie “Home Alone”.

As I grew up I later matured in my opinions of being African up to the present life in which I still appreciate the African culture. I strongly believe that the mandate of our culture is to place a good background foundation, uplift one another regardless of our differences in sex, change our lives through embracing and showing love to our native country‟s beliefs, practices and mode of contact and lastly, to take pride in our skin colour. I can testify because I have been able to make good conduct with people at school, church and society despite the time it took me to accept the morals. Currently, I view the African culture as the syllabus of life transition where the societal values portrayed by an individual are the marking points and by failing to follow its failure is inevitable.