|Of villagers and Old Virginia|
|Wednesday, 20 June 2012 22:49|
On all days, I saw so many villagers — some holding papers, running, shouting, panicking, looking forlorn and dejected. I also saw enterprising villagers doing brisk business. When do villagers in the land of milk, honey and dust or Guruve ever work their land? Maybe they are the biblical villagers who got manna and everything they wanted in the desert from heaven without them ever working because they needed rest after toiling for Pharaoh for more than 400 years?
I overheard a vendor telling someone who had not managed to get whatever it is that he wanted saying, “This is Harare, havarari (if you snooze, you lose). You have to be here by four or five o’clock in the morning to make it.”
Isdore Guvamombe, you’d better tell the soothsayer and the village elders to re-strategise because wisdom tells me that in order to get milk and honey from dusty Guruve, you have to work, and not stand in countless queues. Villagers cannot be at Makombe every day; otherwise the village will one fine day be extinct. However, just being there made me realise how much of a villager I really am, and also that it is not just Guruve, which is a land of milk, honey and dust, but Zimbabwe as a whole.
It has dust which is so full of riches, but villagers have to figure out how to get them out and add value to them so that every village will have its little Makombe building, where people will not have to queue up. Like Okonkwo in the memorable wrestling matches Chinua Achebe recorded, I might not beat Guvamombe and his village, but here are the musings about my village:
My home is old Virginia
Among the lovely hills
Some miles beyond the country
So far away from home!
This is no laughing matter. Some of you also sang “My home is old Virginia” at school assemblies. I did this in rural Bikita district — the land of lithium and now diamonds. And, we sang our hearts out. In loco parentis is how the education system works. So, the school was responsible for fashioning our young minds and it was supposed to make us love our home Foroma, a home situated in a hilly and mountainous enclave, and, endowed with breath-taking natural beauties: rivers and streams (Chivaka, Chinyamatope and Makurumidze); hills; the outstretching Chivave mountain; valleys and the Savannah grasslands.
Behind the school was a snaking valley with its galleys and craters, leading to Silveira Mission (kwaFata), as it is popularly called. Further up was the mountainous area of Norumedzo (Mujiri), the land of mazhanje and harurwa. And, it was as if the Mutare-Masvingo highway was meant to give this small school, which only had Grades 1 to 5, an imposing character.
Looking back, I see the ironies, misnomers, and all the strange but unsaid stuff. “My home is old Virginia”! Strange, isn’t? Not once was I ever made to sing that “My home is Foroma”. I also didn’t understand why a home I went to everyday after school was said to be “old”. It was about six kilometres from the school, but I was being told that it was “beyond the country” and that I was so far away from it, when in fact I went there everyday after school.
What a clever technique — make you sing innocently, but in the process inculcate belief systems in your sub-conscious, belief systems that cannot easily be erased. When people talk about brainwashing, I say, they should have been at my school and many others. Do I feel cheated into believing that I made another place home? Had the teachers deliberately duped me into believing that what they made me glorify as home was nowhere nearer to Foroma, and that I needed more than just singing every morning at assembly, to enter Old Virginia?
The puzzle was unlocked many moons later when I went to Old Virginia. Thus last week was not the first time to be at Makombe Building. I realised that the first thing that I needed to do before I could go to Old Virginia was to go to Makombe Building and other countless offices — so much paperwork to enable my exit from this village and entry into Old Virginia.
But, teacher, I thought that you said that this was home? Why should I go through all this? They never asked for so much from me in Foroma, despite the fact that I never sang praises in its honour! Finally, when I touched down in Old Virginia, I couldn’t even kiss the ground, and say, “Finally, it’s good to be home . . . ”
I was greeted with the harsh realities of the laws of acceptance. I saw many villagers lying about their status, in order to stay in Old Virginia. And, Old Virginia is a home, which makes a big deal about one’s upbringing and adults are held responsible for messing up children’s psyches. Let me also tell Old Virginia that it is the same everywhere, including my village. The formative years of our lives, when minds are very impressionable and can believe anything that the teacher says and take it as gospel truth.
How much psychological damage did the song have on us? A lot, for I realise that many a time, I think that what is done and said in Old Virginia is better and more important than what is done and said in my village. I always have to make comparisons, and in some cases, when Old Virginia has spoken, then it cannot be disputed. Many souls aspire to live in Old Virginia, and not this village. And most often, there is a tendency to look down on what our village produces, its natural and human resources, blindly believing that what Old Virginia has is more superior. Who can help us from this affliction, and from the gobbled mindsets? Who will make us understand that our village is equally good if we respect it, work very hard and give back to it a hundred-fold of what it gave us?
Who will rescue our mindsets, which are so skewed, thinking that the best comes from Old Virginia, including money and good governance? Is it possible to install a new programme in villagers’ minds, and delete the other ones currently operating? I mean, a programme that will also sing praises to our village, its rivers, streams, hills, mountains, valleys and pathways? A programme that will celebrate us products of this village, for it is in this village that our umbilical cords lie — whether incinerated or hidden at some anthill.
This stream of consciousness was triggered by the Makombe Building visits, but as I looked at villagers coming and going during those few days, this made me recall “My home is old Virginia”, and I said, “only connect, the prose and the passion”. I also had questions for Old Virginia — why some villagers in its midst are facing such tragic ends. What is Old Virginia doing to them which makes them do these things that you can’t decipher? In line with its dream consciousness, some of the villagers that came from Africa more than four centuries ago are riding on the crest of unbelievable success.
Like the Oprah Winfreys, they are monied; they wield immense political power at national and global levels like the Barack Obamas; they are talented actors like the Denzel Washingtons. But just like some villagers in this part of the world who think that non-villagers from yonder place have the answers to all their problems, the villagers in Old Virginia continue to watch as their future generations are decimated.
They watched as Michael Jackson, a villager of immense talent who made and unmade money just lose it and become so weird and die — endorsing his message, “I’m bad!” Then came Whitney Houston — with that angelic voice, bountiful talent, but when she began to blossom, she was already being eaten up. The end result — a death hard to understand. This week, another icon — Rodney King — who alerted the world that Old Virginia has serious issues in its backyard, which it has to tackle before it preaches to others. The problem — racism — was alive and kicking in Old Virginia.
Now, I hear that the oracle and elders from “the village, in the land of milk, honey and dust or Guruve” are asking why the village elders and oracles in Old Virginia are not taking action.
They are surprised that villagers in Old Virginia constitute the majority of the prison population, drug addicts and the unemployed. They ask why villagers in Old Virginia are more worried about bedroom issues instead of cleaning up their act first.
They also ask why the son they put in charge of all issues is not taking decisive action and helping his younger and older villagers, so that they give him 100 percent support in the month of the goat when they vote.