Children Of The Dark
By Mmakgari Dabutha
We are behind when we visit the village. We are reminded by those that stayed of how things are supposed to be. They say things have changed. Yet you know they remain the same. So you have changed. You admire their lives filled with harmony and rich in spirituality. We come with the big cars and the fancy clothes. Sooner or later they get swallowed into the beauty of our lands. They start to mean nothing, because right then and there you just want to dance with the person you once were. You worked so hard to achieve these things, and then you drive home. Home to the village... and none of these matter.
Your happiness is forever shaped, by the village. The city erodes the shape of your happiness. The village defines it as peace and quiet. The uninterrupted communication. The city is loud, and people don’t have time to sit and talk. The drum beat echoes in the village, and sounds so different in the city.
They struggle to understand what it is that keeps you in the city. They want to know how you think you can become when those that are there to teach you of who you are, of what it means to be a woman, you have left behind in the village. They want to know what will become of us. For it is a fragile thread that binds us. They want to know if I understand that this misplaced identity of the city reduces us to non-existence. They say we have become characters without pride. Yet our bloodline criss-crosses beneath continents and seas. The village never gives up calling.
On a restless night in the city, you can hear the distant melodies from the village in the wind. The hope of happiness echoes in your soul because you remember. You remember of how it’s a must we re-define our place in history. The village calls for us to restore dignity to blackness, to connect with the soulfulness of one another’s hearts. They say we speak different to home in the city, especially to our men. We call them names and proudly identify them to animals. We do not see that wherever He goes He is always with Him. Therefore he fails us all the time because we do not see him as our reflection.
You learn a lot about who you’re not in the city. We look different in the city. Even our hair looks different. They say we have strayed into mystic shamanism. The roots that held such wisdom of age are now limp and weak, straightened to emulate that which rejects us on a daily basis. They said we have changed. We wore crowns representing lifestyles before we came to the city. Now we wear hairstyles. But the village remains the same. Calling…
You find yourself forgotten by the city. The village welcomes your return. There is nothing you can do that is outside the bounds of forgiveness in the village. It’s a place we call home. It’s a place where we remember. Places where kings and queens remain. They say we should never forget that we are a continuum. We are never alone. It makes reason why we are a humble people. We could never be arrogant in the presence of the ancestors. They live with us; they live within us, because we are a chosen people with history wrapped around our tongues. You begin to live when you approach 30.
The village remains a mirror. You need nothing more than to be, to display your glory in the village. Yet we go back to the city to stumble on expectations. They say we wear masks to hide our individuality. To hide the imperfections that are ours alone. They say we are ashamed, yet all we need is to remember. You want to dance to the sounds of distant land. The soul longs for the song you remember. You want to dance. But then you softly hum the hearts of your people.
We meditate around smoking mpepho, to calm the unsettled spirits in the city. Yet they remain unsettled because of our lack of knowledge of them. We ask for their guidance, yet we do not know how to receive them. The village calls for you to remain in contact with them. To remember that it was fate that got you here. They say the spirits can never settle in the city. They say we have received from people who contaminate our bodies with chemicals that leave the body too dependent. Yet we received healing in the village. Where the spirit and the ancestors would guide the chosen one to return to nature and pluck that which was birthed from the earth to aid our bodies to heal
You start to question the very ways of the city. Why it has brought so much change. Why the need of so much change. You even eat different in the city. You know it’s not home because you are never fed in the city. They say we move too quickly in the city. We start to think the village too slow. We eat fast-food to prove a point, and remain thinking that we are ahead. They say we are only ahead of ourselves.
They say the city buried its children in foreign lands. Its concrete slabs stained by the blood of its youth. They say the city is a monster that would never let us go, in fear of loosing its grip of us. We say we make the city. They say for sure we do, they need every one of us converted to the city, so they can concur with the rest of us. They say we are blinded by the city, owned by the city, that’s why we so passionately slave for the city.
We call us the more civilized. They call us the children of the dark. We walk away from the light in search of paths unknown to man. They say we are connected to land, water and sky, but we believe we can own them. Our thirst will never be quenched in the city. We forgot our people see water as the fluid of creation. We forgot of the energy it possesses. That is why we leave the city to kill our water in the name of development. The trees don’t have a place, and the sky is tainted. We believe we are above the spirits that we ignore in feasts that leave us hungry for more. They say we have developed greed.
They say we need to remember the city can never have anything to offer an African child. They say we are wrong for trying to raise our children where we are beaten down for a living. They say we will never rise. They said we must be the ones to sustain the essence of clarity, but the children have no one to look up to. They try to raise themselves when they realize how far gone we are, only to sink themselves deeper. They say generations have come to question our choice of being here. The ones we ex and say are lost. They say Africa was never meant to be here.
It has to be the sand of our people that blessed our feet because they say our footprints are not known anymore. The city will never let us walk. They say it would bring back the sensation of the dance expressions of my people. We would remember that our people return to the soil. We would sing the songs of my people. We would remember why they sang their songs. They sang in hurt and rejoiced in sorrow, wanting to return to where they came from. They say we are lucky to be free. But we are the ones who lie captive the most. You wonder at 30, why home remains the only place of solitude. We say the city has taught us the way of life, but has only schooled us to the ways of the city. You want to know who benefits. Who is it who wants us all to conform to these ideologies? Who prescribed and what do they mean to the African child? You want to know more, but the city does not speak. The city remains the calm storm that dishes out its trash to those that are still believers.
A lot of people have surrendered to the city ways. Some would rather sleep in the back alleys of the city, than return home. You want to know what happened. You want to know what it is that has our little boys sniffing away and landing themselves addicted to substances so new to us. You want to know where these substances come from. Who is the supplier of these to my people? They knew nothing of them before. We heard of them in distant lands, but who has the power to land them on our shores? They say we must leave this place. They say we must return so this place can crash to ruins and we can watch who it is that would lose. You are now aware that there is preciousness about life we’ve lost, and desperately need to recapture.
They say we are rich in spirit, yet succumb to other people whom we celebrate over our own. They say we believe them that come telling stories of today. Yet the memory of yesterday only lies in those that were here before. They say we are children of the dark, who must return to the light. They say it took us, to build those monuments we treasure in the city, for the sake of others. They say we are able, that is why they are here. They couldn’t have it better in any other place. They have no love for us. They say our mothers’ mothers breastfed their children, but grew up thinking they own our people. That is why a part of us they had to forcefully take back with them, to build those new concepts of Europe and America. You wonder what it would take for your people to focus more energy to the call of the village. You want to know why some see home in this city. You want to know if we are ever lost in a place that could never deliver us to our brilliance.
Somehow deep down we know that no matter how sophisticated or technological we think we become in the city, the truth never changes. The greatness we seek is within us, aching to be discovered. They say the greatness we so long to express is our own love of self and our great love of others….of life. You wonder what it is that can be done. You know at this time in our evolution, we are all anxious to ignite our individual lives, but we can all play a part in igniting our institutions with greater love and humanity. Then we can begin to heal on a deeper, more enduring level. Only then will we impact the heart of the world. That’s the feeling at 30, in the city…or the village calling, to elevate us, and join us and heal us in ways our minds can scarcely imagine, much less begin to analyze and rationalize.
* * *mpepho - African incense
© Mmakgari Dabutha 2009
Mmakgari Dabutha says her story is about the many experiences that have questioned her culture, other cultures she has grown to embrace and respect, and what it truly means to an African woman to travel the world and be herself.
Mmakgari Dabutha was born and educated in Botswana, then moved to America. She later returned to Africa, settling finally in South Africa.