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In the good old days when African culture was…

In the good old days there were no unemployed graduates, and poetry was a sacred office. No one painted a leader in a loinskin with his member dangling, although technically you could assassinate the king with a rock. As for culture…

The older generation of African leaders is fond of speaking of culture and how lack of it causes what. All the culture talk led to one lad deciding to paint Jacob Zuma in a loin skin with his member dangling like Stallone in Cliff Hanger. I am not going to talk about the meaning of ‘democracy’ or ‘art’ and the liberties we are allowed, but I would like to see the guy with the balls to draw Mugabe’s genitals.

The first time I saw Jacob Zuma was in 2009 at Rhema Church. I was still pretending to be a Christian and let a cousin drag me to her Sunday service. After Pastor Ray was done lo and behold: JZ in flesh on the mike, rapping about how the Church and ANC have historic ties and in the not-so-subtle language of politicians on podiums asked us to vote for him. A few people walked out but I was entranced by the pothole on his head, besides, I was a foreigner and couldn’t be swayed in any direction. A couple of days later he was on the news in the loin-skin like the one Ayanda Mabulu drew him in, raising dust and ghosts of Zululand. Then he was with those ZCC guys, you know the guys who travel to Moriah every Easter, and dancing like he was trying to invoke the Holy Ghost to melt some weight in his rear-end.

At Israel Israel’s recent sculpture exhibition I learnt something about the French culture. Apparently when you go back on an agreement they say you have ‘changed your jacket’. I suppose the English equivalent of that is ‘being a turncoat’. That’s an apt as most insults to define politicians. Take our Dear Leader Robert, when I was a boy everyone knew he was Catholic. Last year, right before his magnum-opus as far as elections go, I walk past a newspaper stall and lo and behold, there is Gabriel, in the angelic-white garb of the Apostolic faith with a red sash about his waste. I mean waist. The blood-memory of slavery awakened in me, conjuring images of the Ku Klux Klan coming to lynch a brother. I suppose I could stretch the image and say Tsvangirai got lynched, metaphorically, so badly Microsoft Word 2013 Spellcheck has no blooming idea who he is. But the statistics always reveal the truth, the apostolic sect is the largest religious/cultural group in Zimbabwe, if I needed votes, I would seriously consider seducing them.

It seems despite the whole hullabaloo about ‘culture’ we are picky and choosy when it comes the whole thing. Apparently culture lends us identity, post-colonial society suffers a lot from lack of that. Apparently. So in order to know who we are we need to go back and establish who we were for who knows the past understands the present and he who understands the present controls the future.

Allow me thus, to journey into the netherworld and exhume the bones of our forefathers and lament the wounds of Africa.

In the good old days women wore short skirts, in the Ndebele kingdom they were called ‘Imsisi’ or ‘umsisi’ in singular. If there is one demographic group that should feel a deep nostalgia for these times it’s the midgets, or vertically-challenged bipeds, I am not up to speed with the ‘politically-correct’ term (what a paradox: politically-correct!). And they wore nothing on top like the women in this image:

Old photo - women in skirts

A moment of silence for those bosoms now buried behind fabrics and constrained from the bounding freedom of boundless Africa in brassieres. I am not too fond of the nose rings(?) though!

In the good old days of Africa we were all equal, the king’s kraal was large, yes, but he loaned his beasts to his subjects (ukusisa) who would milk them, till the earth with them, and get to keep the offspring and thus begin amassing independent wealth. Land was abundant and not for sale, when a man came of age, his father would find him a piece of earth to build his home on, ‘ukutshayelwa ihlahla’ in the Ndebele, and he would survive, live or thrive, in the words of Hector Barbosa, ‘by the sweat of his brow and the strength of his back’. There were no unemployed graduates and poetry was a sacred office, wars were decided with spoken-word slams even in Zululand before and during the days of great kings like Dingiswayo of the Mthethwa. Even when wars were fought, there were ethics governing martial conduct.

In the good old days everyone including the king lived in grass huts, the king would not hide behind stone palaces and rule from an ivory (or Nkandla) tower, he walked among his people, and as the head-of-state, religion and etcetera, he would be seen often, even at festivals like Inxwala, the festival-of-first-fruits that welcomed the turning of Spring, dancing with his subjects, his sweat bonding with theirs in the dance of shared ecstasy because they were one, subject and king. Technically, you could assassinate him with fire, or a rock. I wonder how many of our leaders today would survive a society like that.

Christians hold sacred the rule of doing to others what you would want them to do unto you. In traditional African belief, beyond the rituals, customs and traditions, we have Ubuntu which underlines them all. Reciprocation, I am because you are, thus in order to be I must ensure that you are. In a nutshell, let’s all be genuinely nicer to each other, we might find what we truly seek.

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