Africa: Until the lion learns to speak, tales of hunting will be weak

As I reflect on how the African story has been told – mostly by non-Africans through a largely negative lens riddled with bias – I wonder whether we would view our history and ourselves differently if our continent’s stories had been told by others, by our own.
And so I thought, imagine a tale of hunting told by a lion… then by the hunted gazelle… then by the zebra that looked on… then by the trampled grass… and last by a gun-toting, thrill-seeking photojournalist. Imagine.

Our stories have been told largely through a colonial gaze – so we are viewed as a continent divided, of different people. Yes, society is variegated. Yes, we are different peoples. Yet, we are one people. United in ways not clearly enunciated in history books, but that can be seen in our culture(s), our traditions, our beliefs, our looks… Today, a Tswana from South Africa will argue (with the greatest conviction) that his are not the Motswana of Botswana. How unfortunate. You will hear Tanzanians say that theirs is *the* Swahili, that the people of Kenya and especially Uganda speak it all wrong.

Today, we forget that our present societies were carved out for us – built on DIFFERENCES, on seeking to isolate rather than unite, to “divide and conquer.” So, today, we tend to focus on that which divides us, not the many that unites. We have become they.

Our stories have been told through the eyes of “explorers” who write of “discovering” Victoria Falls, as if Mosi oa Tunya did not thunder and splash millennia before David Livingstone heard it then saw it.

Our tales are told by journeying financiers who speak of “civilisation” based on the price of commodities they place value on. What we once shared, we now buy, borrow, beg or steal from our neighbours.

Our tales are told by warmongers who see our children through the barrel of an AK-47. Faces reflecting on the blades of machetes. Who view victory through conquests, not (necessarily) as peace.

Yet we know our stories, we know what lies beneath the facade of misinformation. We could tell these stories, but do we?

Know your story. Know your history. Only then can you begin to understand your present & what your future needs.

Know that the original Shona dictionary was written by a Dutchman & an Englishman. “Are you Shona or Ndebele?” I am always asked immediately after saying I am from Zimbabwe. “I am neither,” I always reply. For I am a combination of many cultures, but owing to patrilineage I identify as Karanga, child of the roaring Lion (Shumba Charumbira). I am not a caricature created by some to simplify the intricacies of my people… Yet, I am one with the other peoples in what is now my country. What is my continent. I am, as from the day I was ushered into this world, until the day the earth will swallow me: African.

For those who do not know, Africa is a beautiful place filled with amazing people with intriguing and complex tales. Explore it (through literature, travel, engagement). Africa is more than a quickly hashed up article on the BBC “Africa” website.

Africa is Africa.

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