Revisiting colonialism

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COLONIALISM is a tragedy branded in the core of our very existence.

Since it affects the psyche, like a disease (neurosis), it is incurable, because, to the oppressed, it is a permanent condition or state that is “…lived, and relived; generation after generation, thus becoming an intricate social system” (Ziwira 2015, Lacan, 1973:45)

The colonised (natives) are so traumatised that their thinking is shaped by the experiences of the coloniser (master). Thus, in the end, the entire nation is neurotically affected as highlighted  in Spivak’s “…retrospective hallucination….” (Spivak, 1967:275)

We ignore our land because of colonialism.

De Waal (1990:10) contends that: “In both the war of the 1890s and that of the 1970s, land was the issue,” a fact that both Stanlake Samkange and Lawrence Vambe agree with and depict in their historical novels On Trial for My Country (1966) and An ill-Fated People (1972), respectively. 

Zhuwarara (2001) also alludes to the significance of the land to the physical and metaphysical being of the African peoples. 

He writes: “In a sense, a whole way of life was at stake here: the land functioned as a geographical and metaphysical world at whose centre was entrenched the roots of African belief systems, systems which denied a stark division between the sacred and the secular, man and his environment.” (Zhuwarara, 2001:13)

Consequently, problems associated with the land led to strife, violence, economic malaise and the rise of mercantile deaths; while religion, supposedly providing respite to the compelling paralysis and neurosis, falls short at the level of agency, for the spiritual journey into the past or source of the African root is obstructed by Christianity and Western education. 

This rationale finds takers in Chirere (2006), Chitando (2006) and Nyota (2006) cited in Chirere and Vambe (eds) (2006); and Zhuwarara (2001).

From being shuffled from one place to the other or exposed to the mercy of foreign gods through religion, black people in colonial Rhodesia carried the burden of colour on their shoulders as opportunities eluded them. 

The situation does not seem to change with political independence either. 

The journey to the unknown destination; physically and metaphysically, for exile starts from within (Forbes), which started after the Second World War in 1945 (Krishnaswamy, 2008), takes new dimensions, instead of ending.

While Waiting for the Rain could be understood in the framework of historical literature, it is Dr Charles Mungoshi’s skillful handling of the subtle nature of colonialism that is of interest.

Unlike Wilson Katiyo, who is hard-hitting on colonialism in A Son of the Soil (1976), because he is writing from the comfort of exile, Mungoshi has to be covert in his protest. 

He is not blind, however, to the dispossession of his people; an issue that he explores through the journey motif — physically, psychologically, emotionally and spiritually. 

He describes the Hampshire Estates as “…rolling ranches… with their tall dry grass and the fertile soil under that grass…,” while the neighbouring Manyene Tribal Trust Land is described as, “…scorched nothing-between-here-and-the-horizon white lands.” (Mungoshi, 1975:39) 

The tribal trust lands, a colonial creation of the Tribal Trust Land Act of 1961, and stemming from the Land Apportionment Act of 1930, created fixed boundaries for white-owned land and ‘reserves’. 

These reserves, as Mungoshi aptly captures through the journey motif, were marked by infertile and rocky soil, largely unsuitable for any form of agriculture. (Ranger, 1985, Martin and Johnson: 1981) 

De Villiers (2003:6) observes that the Land Tenure Act allocated 15,5 million hectares to 6 000, mainly white commercial farmers, as opposed to 16,4 million hectares which went to 700 000 black families.

Let us jealously guard our land and always remember how colonialism affected us.

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