since the time in my formative years that i spent with the rural vhavenda people on the mutale river in the limpopo valley i was intrigued; by their ritual murders (yes, i was a morbid child) as much as by the domba python dances at the sacred lake fundudzi where the white crocodile kept watch; latecomers to the bantu expansion migration to the south of the continent, their language still stems from the niger-congo group and differs quite a lot from the rest of the sub-continent, add to that their royal lesbian marriages and rumoured connections to the lemba people’s semitic lineage and you soon fathom my attraction.
like the vhavenda the igbo people of the niger river delta traditionally believe in a kind of reincarnation, such was the story that if the reincarnated would see the corpse of his ancestor, their mortal bond would oblige him to die on the spot.
i was excited to see it, to walk along those streets which years of books have prepared me for, i’m going at last, after a lifetime of separation, paris;
it took me some time to realise i wasn’t looking for a place.
i can understand how one can yearn for your homeland, your motherland; even if i seldom do, my condition seems something more ancestral, it’s more than where i was born, it’s where i belong.
about such genetic longings; i’ve questioned 4th generation african americans about their yearning for africa, like i’ve been longing for europe forever.
science may bring knowledge of our personal ancestral origins closer and even though a few of my friends have done the test through national geographic, i remain hesitant; what if my results don’t match my identity?
migration of people is not a new thing nor is it uncommon, but neither is masquerading;
i’ve been to several proud ethnographic museums like the quai branly in paris, which celebrates human diversity with collections of artifacts from various parts of civilisations, existing or extinct, reflecing to me the most basic relationships in man’s existance, and proving how different we are and will remain regardless of geographies. post mel gibson’s apocalypto; the prognosis remains the same.
africa still is for the most part a continent of tribes, i might think every continent the same. some more some less. as much as we choose to deny this; whether by drawing national borders on a map, dismissing ritual, or rationalising our common heritage, raw ‘tribality’ is as much in our blood as it ever was, even if you look at modern compound urban environs.
two seminars and countless academic texts further; underestimation of the charm and spiritual power resident in tribal ritual and forefather spirits, as well as the marginalisation of genetic evidence in ancestral communities; the modern thought movement have been quite negligent here; that which is called the developed world have since moved quite far from the different tribes with ridiculous notions of conformity, which doesn’t mean that they won’t come back to visit upon us, in spirit and in the flesh.
western definitions of conformance in belief and behaviour has become only a forced formula limited by the lowest common denominator to describe the acceptable. it obviously, purposefully and sometimes violently excludes the diversity beyond to create a seemingly homogeneous and manageable social unit. this invention of control and its likenesses is for the most part inherited from power structures like religion, governmental unions, economic interest groups and media consortiums who manipulate their audiences, or perhaps i’ll use the word ‘followers’ to show its more recent incarnation in information technology.
the uncontacted peoples, now confined to more inaccessible equatorial jungle or island communities, may be a hope of survivalist confidence in indigenous identities or a rejection based in a ‘rather the devil i know’ attitude; however it still proves to me that the vote on progress for the ‘common good’ is not unanimous, the best for everyone may end up not being it at all.
in igbo tradition an ancestor’s name is given to a child as a concept rather than the transferal of personality although it is said that these children often display signs of similarity. i chose with my own children to name them after relatives as a traditional honour: first daughter mother’s mother, first son father’s father, second daughter father’s mother etc. for their second names however i chose names of people i’d known (relative or not) who had attractive attributes which i wished upon my own child, i suppose that’s what any parent would do. through circumstance or divinity they have since come to display some of those attributes and as much as it pleases me, i remain suspicious of it.
meanwhile between the bigger picture of the human genome project and migrations from the ‘out of africa’ theory based in mitochondrial dna, and the rijksmuseum’s good hope exhibit i have a lot to consider in respect of the issues raised with the latest migration crisis;
never did it really occur to me that the genetic diversity of the khoisan in africa might have something to do with my restless sense of belonging; somewhere in my genetic being might still lie a profound need for the quiet of the desert sunset, the thorn bushes and little watery tubers hidden under the sand.