I REPEAT; I am an African through and through!
Born in Africa and raised in Africa’s means and ways.
I was born on poverty island, in a sea of plenty.
Famine, great soils and great climate live cheek by jowl.
African muscle daily crushes mineral rich rocks for Europe’s prosperity in London, Antwerp and other centres. Nhamo chaiyo.
In true African tradition I have been so named, Munhamu.
Whereas the term Africa may have entered my vocabulary much later at school, where we endeavoured and struggled to draw the continent’s outline during Nature Study, mother had already tendered and cared for me the African way.
From early age she chewed and I swallowed survival portions the African way.
This is familiar memory on the continent.
The Africanness is real. It has a colour. It has a culture and a shared purpose.
Its history and struggles are the same.
That is the Africaness that over five decades ago brought our modern founders together to found an organisation that would eschew African values and principles, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). An organisation to reclaim Africa and all it represents.
This week we celebrate Africa Day. Never mind our modern African ways, our love for non-African hairs, our obsession with foreign cuisine, attire and spirituality, our hate for black complexion – we are still Africans bound by Africa’s geography, history and traditions.
So when my friend asked what I would be doing on Africa Day, the reply came without hesitation; I am hosting a mbuzi choma lunch for the family.
Am just back from Arusha where almost every evening of the week I spent there I had mbuzi choma ribs — fire grilled goat ribs.
I could not have enough of it. For all the years of eating goat, roasted or stewed, I had not noticed the ribs!
My obsession has always been with zvinyeze.
Now, in Arusha they prepare mbuzi ribs so well that ribs are synonymous with goat, unlike here where ribs invariably refer to pork.
Their goat is not only tasty; it does not have the usual goat dung smell.
My host told me it’s the way they slaughter them, ensuring all blood drains out.
In Arusha I always had my goat with roast bananas, matoke.
I found them very tasty and hopefully they are very healthy too!
Each morning as I went for my jog, I could not help feeling that in this land between Meru County and Kilimanjaro Mountain is one of my Guruuswa.
Like all Bantu, we drifted southerly from the Great Lakes region through east Africa until our final destination in the southern parts of the continent about 2 000 years ago.
Part of us stayed behind at our various stations.
Those we left behind hold true to our history and traditions unlike those of us who lost some old traits and picked up new ones along the trek. Goat (mbuzi), cattle (ngombe) and chicken (kuku) come from our Guruuswa.
Their appearance in the southern African archaeological record coincides with arrival of the Bantu in this region.
As we enjoy our mbuzi choma ribs on Africa Day, the goat’s historical and cultural significance shall not be lost to us.
Goats are among the earliest animals domesticated by humans.
The first farmers, before the Iron Age, began to herd wild goats primarily for easy access to milk and meat, as well as to their dung, which was used as fuel.
The earliest remnants of domesticated goats, dating 10 000 years ago, are found in Iran. Little wonder Iran is a goat market for our few goat farmers.
In southern Africa, goats appear in later Khoisan rock paintings and their remains have also been excavated at early Iron Age/Bantu sites.
Goats are mentioned many times in the Bible.
A goat is considered a ‘clean’ animal by Jewish dietary laws and was slaughtered for an honoured guest.
It was also acceptable for some kinds of sacrifices.
Goat-hair curtains were used in the tent that contained the tabernacle (Exodus 25:4).
During the festival of the Day of Atonement, two goats were chosen and lots were drawn for them.
One was sacrificed and the other allowed to escape into the wilderness, symbolically carrying with it the sins of the community.
From this comes the word ‘scapegoat’. A leader or king was sometimes compared to a male goat leading the flock. In the New Testament, Jesus told a parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Gospel of Matthew 25).
In Karanga tradition, a goat was slaughtered for a special guest. It was also used in sacrificial rituals associated with marriage, funeral, kurova guva and spiritual appeasement.
We speak of mbudzi yengozi, mbudzi yemasungiro, mbudzi yekupira and mbudzi yemachinda in reference to some of these uses.
Goat was also the common currency in the traditional penal system. Goat is also associated with virility. Some of the uses are still current.
Whereas in Arusha I had mbuzi (Swahili for mbudzi) ribs with matoke, itself ancient African food; bananas (mahobo) having been domesticated a long time ago, on Africa Day it will be with sadza remupunga.
My friend is running a thriving business grinding small grains like zviyo, mupunga and mhunga.
Rice, mupunga (same in Swahili), in its red and white varieties is another ancient African domesticate.
It was already a staple in our original Guruuswa thousands of years ago.
Mupunga was grown and eaten extensively in this country before colonisation.
It predates maize by over 1 500 years.
But today, maize has become the principal source of sadza, beer and maheu.
On this year’s Africa Day, I will enjoy my goat ribs reflecting on mother Africa’s untapped potential.
I shall be imagining the Africa Union flag, humming Nkosi sikelela iAfrika.
I shall be wondering and prodding Mwari about when the sleeping giant shall wake up.
I will shed tears for Africa’s famine, poverty, diseases and wars.
I shall pray for Africa’s unity so cherished by our forbears 54 years ago.
I REPEAT; I am an African through and through!