An Africa-centred critique of Walking Still: Part Six


AS I pointed out in the previous instalment, Mungoshi’s short stories are snippets reflective of stitches of time. ‘Homecoming’ is a powerful representation of the incisions cut on African consciousness by the corrosive way of life brought about by colonialism. Colonialism brings with it not just the political gagging of African governance systems; it also brings with it software institutions which rupture the African psyche towards self-destruction. The condition of the colonised African is such that the African has become an exile to his own values. The title is thus a didactic statement of hope that the degree of alienation experienced by the African is not altogether irredeemable. Something can still be done to reconnect the lost generation to its original values. ‘Homecoming’ is the story of Old Mandisa and her errant grandson, Musa, the son of her late 11th (and last) daughter, Muchaneta. The drama played out between these two is meant to project what contemporaries erroneously call ‘generation gap’, a term which masks what should be effectively understood as ‘sensibility gap’. Africans do not see age difference as a separating/alienating variable. It is simply a game of numbers which can easily be over-ruled by social functions. Let me further unpack this observation. Kin-titles such as mbuya, amai, sekuru, mukoma, tete, baba, mukwasha, muroora etc reflect ageless and social role/function more in African philosophy. Where the two are pitted against each other social function takes precedence over age. That is why your father’s younger brother even by his father’s 10th wife rules over you as your ‘proxy father’ (babamunini) in spite of the fact that he is younger than you. However, where age is on the side of social function, the two form a holy alliance; one whose travesty constitutes a violation of taboo. That is why your father and mother are holy to you. They are sacred. And in that order your grandfather and grandmother are holier and likewise their fore-departed parents are several degrees holier. In African philosophy, age is revered for the simple reason that as you grow older you gravitate towards your ancestors who have themselves gravitated towards the world of spirits which realm is occupied by Mwari. This spiritual value chain is key to understanding the spiritual hierarchy of African divinity. Those who have come before you owe you nothing; you owe everything to them and their proxies in the kinship ladder. The above philosophical explanation of kinship linkages is important in understanding the metaphor of ‘homecoming’. It means returning to the way, the African way. But returning is a reverse operation which implies that you must have departed from the way. This departure from the way cannot be loosely described as ‘generation gap’. Age is not a determinant of shift in consciousness; socialisation is. The point I am making is that if 10 generations are subjected to the same value system, they maintain a uniformity of consciousness; which consciousness gives them the same worldview. A people’s shared identity is a result of value-consensus. You see. But even if you belong to the same generation, you can have different world views if you are subjected to a variety of competing ideologies as is the case now. You are now mothered less by your mothers or communities, but more by education (colonial education for that matter), by Western media, by Western religions, by Western political ideologies (such as democracy, children’s rights and women’s rights, just to mention a few) and a host of other non-African agendas driven by non-African interests. All these are centres of competing values and when you differ from your mother it is not because you are younger (or that you belong to a different generation) but because are a child of many competing mothers. You simply belong to a different sensibility. That is why homecoming is all about vomiting the influence of all the bogus and predatory ‘mothers’ to return to your authentic mother. Those who think diversity is a virtue are celebrating alienation. You just need to study the royal family of Europe to understand that you are being cheated into self-destructive disunity which serves not you, but those predators. The royal family of Europe and the rest of the world’s secret societies which control world governments are not constituted by democracy or human rights discourse. They are constituted by bonds of tradition. They answer to a value system that has been a constant for centuries. That is why they are powerful and why they will control fools forever. Our own Mungoshi is no such fool. In this short story he shows how parental absence (obviously as a result of conditions created by the predator), the wrong education curriculum as well as wrong peer pressure combine to create a dissident sensibility, not generation gap. He is no longer the ideal African orphan who cares for the grandmother who carries the burden of his parentage. You do not need to read the whole story to understand that Musa has lost his locus – just listen to a fraction of his conversation with his grandmother: “Where do you go to every day, son?” / “Where I want.”/ “And what do you eat there?” / “I eat dung” / “You don’t have to answer me like that. You still have a home”/ “Where is my home?” / “ Here.” Please don’t sulk as if it’s my fault.” / “So, it’s not your fault? Then tell me whose fault is it? What are you, an old woman, doing still hanging about on this earth? “Where are your children? How could they all die? You must know something about it. “I know you watch every cent you spend on me. I am going to pay it all back. “Some people in this village even think I sleep with you.” After saying this, Musa disappears. Anyone with an African sensibility will agree with Old Mandisa’s post-mortem of the ‘hard talk’: “She didn’t think those were his own words.” They were words belonging to an alien sensibility, one which is a product of those who ‘eat dung’. Mungoshi is at pains to insist that this African madness cannot stay forever. The return of Musa marks the process of recovery from stranger-induced dementia, but this recovery is not automatic. It comes back after a shock realisation that Old Mandisa could be in her death throes and that he would be worse off without this only surviving relative. Africans better learn from this story what it means to lose what you treasure most. Both Musa and Old Mandisa are archetypes. Old Mandisa represents Africa and its ‘dying’ values while Musa represents the deceived generation who mistake their alienation for generation gap. The moral of the story is simple: real homecoming is about restoration of long lost African sensibility. By carrying Old Mandisa responsibly, caringly, in his arms is spite of faecal stench from her; Musa finally accepts, embraces and carries his history which is his only torch into the future. Yes the stench reminds us that no culture is perfect, but there is no foreign culture which can substitute your own.


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