|Racial memories of lived experience|
|Wednesday, 16 May 2012 00:00|
research on why Africans are so poor.
They also say the villages are peaceful, the golden sunset is very beautiful and the people are friendly and welcoming. We talk, drink, laugh, dance, eat and even pray with our white friends.
There was a time before independence, when most of us in this village had never seen a white person. Miss Rwodzi, our Grade Two teacher at St Columbus School, once asked who among us had seen white people.
Only three out of about 40 students raised their hands. The three students said they had been on the village bus to Salisbury (Harare) and spotted white people walking outside their big homes.
She said the whole purpose of coming to school was to prepare us to leave the village and eventually move to Salisbury where we were going to go from office to another office begging the white man for a job.
She showed us pictures of Jesus with long hair and blue eyes and a beard, pictures of Joseph, Mary and all the white disciples.
At the bottom of the photo were the words, “Let the children come unto me.”
Miss Kirkman’s portrait was in black and white. Her long smooth hair fell loosely on the shoulders and she stared at us with half a smile.
But Miss Rwodzi said Mrs Kirkman would never visit us because our villages were too remote and too far away, hidden as we were behind the Hwedza mountains in a valley where no buses or cars came.
We expected to see Mr Hancock’s little car coming down the potholed village roads any day.
Looking through a stampede of cattle being forced to go into the dipping pool, I saw a white man for the first time. He sat on top of a grey truck, dangling his heavy boots. The herdboy said the white man was our cattle inspector. He came to inspect the cattle for rinderpest and other animal diseases.
We watched Mudhibhisi nervously handing over cattle registration books to the inspector.
But people like Sekuru Dickson and Mbuya VaMandirowesa were among the stubborn people who kept more than 15 cattle, despite Mudhibisi’s threats to get them arrested.
Because I saw the white cattle inspector from a distance and my view was blocked by cattle and cowdung dust, I could not describe him well to Miss Rwodzi and the others back at school.
A year or more later, the headmaster called everyone to school one evening. He said a white man had arrived in a big van accompanied by several African men.
We sat in the dust in front and all the elders sat at the back, including the village headmen and kraal heads.
Tickey was a very naughty young man who went to Salisbury and played funny tricks, cheating people and each time he did that, a white man chased after him.
We all laughed at Tickey’s silly tricks and called him a fool. After Tickey, came a scary film about murder in a jungle. We saw a very dark-skinned, ugly African man with wild hair walking with another smaller man in a lonely bush. Suddenly, for no apparent reason, the dark man murdered his companion with a knobkerrie and buried him in a thick bush.
He stood on the burial spot and said that nobody would ever find the victim. “Wafa, warova!” he shouted and disappeared. In no time at all, we saw a white policeman and a couple of black watchers, mabhurakwacha, coming along with a big dog.
The dog led the way, sniffing through the bush. Suddenly the dog stopped on the exact spot where the body was buried and we all put our hands on the mouths and shouted, “Haa!”
From the bush, the dog led the team straight to a village where some people were gathered at a ceremony drinking beer.
The white policeman slapped the murderer very hard on the face, said something and we jeered at the murderer. Then the white man and his dog got into the front seat of the car while mabhurakwacha and the murderer sat in the open truck at the back.
There was some music and scenes of white people walking in the city and words saying, “The End.”
Years later, white people now visit the villages more than ever before. But most people still do not know much about them because there is a big racial and cultural gap between us.
We continue to gloss over and keep hidden the bad memories of our past. Why cause discomfort and spoil the good intentions of the donor, the preacher and the business partner by bringing up the past?
After all these years of mixing and working together, we cannot always ignore the past as if it does not matter because that past has a bearing on how we relate to each other in the present.
Although most of the white visitors to the village were not here when our troubled racial history started, they must go beyond admiring the golden sunset and African smiles and ask what happened.
Some angry feelings, unsure smiles and silences in the present have a lot to do with our less than equal encounter with white people and on-going unresolved racial experiences.