having gobbled the diet
the diet of befuddling religions
having swallowed hook, line and sinker
the gospel of apostasy
now with their warped minds
they denigrate themselves unwittingly
enveloped by the darkness of foolishness
the essence of our ways is warped
labelling our ways ancestral worship
conveniently forgetting they are our intercessors
hacking at the roots of our confidence
defiling all our sacrosanct shrines
but the resilience is plain to see
Thanks first for being a reggae lover. Bob Marley aside, I don’t think anyone does it better than the old guard: Burning Spear, Israel Vibrations, Wailing Souls, and of course Joseph Hill of Culture. Hill was the first to let me into the thought that there are often three sides to a story. Mutabaruka continues to hold it good, and I was going with Buju Banton until they jailed him for buying drugs, so for now I’m staying with Jah Cure. On the continental African scene, no one has been able to climb the heights, since Lucky Dube fell to some of the things he sang about.
Thanks too, for your poem, and for raising that thorny issue about what we left behind and by implication, what we took with us. There is a popularly held belief that however hard you try to suppress something, it returns, often in other ways, and here we might think of the African roots of blues and of course reggae’s musician’s have always sung about this, as Culture puts it:
Dirty Babylon in my way
Just like a rolling stone
We would never bow, no never.
But there is another side to this, especially when we look at it from an African perspective. For my money I have always preferred to ask the question: what was it made our people abandon those old ways? I think the answer, to put it bluntly, was that those practices were suddenly of no use in their daily lives. Like others, Africans are rational too, and they made choices they thought then, would help them and their children. Since it is difficult to for us to obtain access to historical records, I think we may look at this from the novels set around the time of the encounter between Africans and Europeans. They deliberated whether to send their children to the new missionary run schools that were then being set up. See Achebe’s trilogy from Things Fall Apart, through No Longer At Ease and to Arrow of God. I believe the same may be said of Ngugi’s Weep Not Child. Even when we move on to near/almost/real biographical accounts like Francis Selormey’s The Narrow Path, Wole Soyinka’s Ake or Camara Laye’s The African Child, the authors paint different pictures of childhood, and what it means for the children who have been placed into the new educational system; Laye more dewy-eyed than the often cynical Soyinka, and there’s nothing easy about Selormey’s book. The reason is more complicated than whether the writer is Anglophone or Francophone.
If I have to pick a key word around which your poem revolves, I would pick the resilence you speak of in the last line, and the first answer. Like you said the real test comes when the individual is faced with whatever crisis which forces him/her to return to the old ways, call it ancestor worship, call it ancestor veneration. The point is that whatever remains does so, because people find some use for it, and they would only throw it off or forget it when it becomes irrelevant to their daily existence. That's what all the wonderful reggae artists sing about,as Muta puts its: we never get weary.
If you are new to Zimbabwean poetry, Mzinyathi's verse does not only introduce you to its linguistic beauty, but by virtue of thematic strength, it woos you further to patronise.
Welldone Jabulani! Reading your work has always been a pleasure.
ls and darko antwi all i can say is your comments can only motivate me to scale the dizzy heights of poetry. i am most humbled by your comments.thanks to all of you and rob taylor who continues to indefatigably provide this platform.
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