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Monkey In My Bathroom Mirror

seis Photo credit: Anzaa Makena (vervet monkeys)

My Gogo (grandmother) often says to me that unless I leave my mother’s house, I will grow up believing she cooks the best food in the world. I once looked at my mirror and saw a monkey staring back. Unsure of whether I was awake or in a trance, I blinked once and then once more. When I opened my eyes, there was not only the monkey but a meerkat had joined the peep show. They say mirrors are a reflection of the heart just like water in a stream; they show you things that the ordinary eye cannot see. I was anxious to know what these images meant, but I was in a fix. If I went to my elders, they would say I am deranged. If I went to my friends, they would jokingly say I need to stop smoking that herb and if I went to the preacher man, he would try an exorcism on my innocent soul. So I decided to visit a Sangoma to help me demystify my vision.

A Sangoma is a diviner; a prophet of some sort; a healer; a visionary who can see things that ordinary people cannot see. A Sangoma is more often a woman, a very old one, with a dreadful appearance and mystical voice that will frighten your spirit to death. My Gogo told me that a Sangoma can smell death from a mile away; she can also see evil spirits just like a cat. According to tradition, evil spirits like to inhabit the bodies of rats. Rats move around stealthily and freely; they cause diseases and chew down your most valued possessions. In our Afrikan culture, if you have rats in your house, you are deemed poor or cursed or both. That is why most households will have a cat which they believe will chase away the evil spirits of death, disease and poverty. I have two cats, each presently nursing three kittens. I think I am well protected; but I am also a graduate with a degree in a scientific field. I am your enigmatic highly educated African with a heightened belief in indigenous spirituality. The westerner just calls it uninformed superstition.

The white Man has somehow managed to convince our people that everything we believe in is sheer savage superstition; spirituality is an abode of the civilized. That is why that Man has made it clear to us that God and His angels are indeed light like Snow while the Devil is dark like Coal. It does not need any guesswork to conclude who are the children of the crucifix and who are the bastards of lucifer. This god-look-alike Man has made it his mission to turn our dark savage souls into spiritual sanctuaries by any means necessary. That is why he has thoroughly enslaved and colonized our people. Now our people have become more fanatical than the colonial missionaries when it comes converting the dark souls of their brothers.

I am a mystery even to my own self. I am at the front seat during the Sunday sermon, I am awed at the science behind the work of Surgeons and I acknowledge the power of a Sangoma.

The Sangoma I visited had a battalion of cats patrolling her frazzled yard. When I recited to her my ordeal, she laughed mockingly just like the monkey in the mirror. “Young man, why do you want to crack the tired ribs of an old woman?” Her breathing sounded like a distant echo. My imaginary mind imagined how her rib cage must be ruggedly held together by bushy cobwebs and her lungs coated with layers of dark dust and grey ash. My Gogo says a Sangoma cannot be arrested by death. Anytime death comes knocking at her tiny congested hut, she welcomes him with a concoction of hot water spiced with mint and tangawizi. The concoction has an effect similar to that of Cannabis. Upon gulping down the drink, Death slowly turns drowsy and the Sangoma seduces him to her mahogany warped bed. After two half-moons, Death heads back to hell with his face all lit up but no soul in his hand; nothing to prove he has done any work while visiting earth. Sangomas are the custodians of the earth. They are as old as time itself: Inkulu nkulu. Not even the insatiable tummy of death has a grip on them.

“Only a fisherman knows where a fish lays its eggs. Now go!”

That was all the Sangoma said to me. She is the typical elder speaking in parables and sayings that don’t make any sense to a young educated graduate. If she only knew the kind of nonsense they teach us in school these days, she would have given me a chemical equation to balance or an algebra question to solve. They don’t teach us to solve parables in college. They don’t show us how to unravel sayings in secondary school. Yet, a Sangoma and a Gogo are the finest teachers you can find anywhere; they show you where to look but not what to see. They leave the seeing to you.

So here I was trailing and watching monkeys and meerkats from can’t see in the morning to can’t see at night, trying to figure out why they appeared as my reflection. I was as observant as an owl yet saw nothing to report about, until one day I sighted something unbelievable. I saw a meerkat, as harmless as it is, jolting a sleeping rattle snake. Anytime the rattle snake would rattle its tale, the meerkat would just sit back and watch keenly. When the snake went silent, the meerkat would disturb it again just to hear the rattling. I too was fascinated by the rattle snake’s rattling tail. It sounds exactly like a shekere or Kanyamba. If you have ever put beads or hard seeds inside a calabash and then shaken it, then you know what a rattle snake tails sound like. Monkeys are even more fascinating. I had come to observe that wherever monkeys were, other animals would parade around. The monkey is indeed the maestro of the wild; it knows where to find the sweetest leaves and fruits, the purest water and the most succulent roots. If you are around a monkey, you will probably never grow hungry or become angry. Just watching monkeys and meerkats will make your ribs crack and lungs cough.

When I think about it, my Gogo has compared me to a monkey on several occasions, saying that I like jumping from tree to tree; always curios to know something about everything. My professor says it’s quite a task for me to keep a single trail of thought; I diverge more than a chameleon’s camouflage. My friends always smile when I walk into the room or open my mouth to speak; they are sure I will say something cheeky. I am learning to take life a little more serious while still holding on to the belief that comedy is a funny way of being serious. Nonetheless, until such a time as then, anytime I see these two fascinating animals staring back in my mirror every morning, I’m just gonna continue looking, seeing and learning about the many things that I don’t know I don’t know. I also hope one of these days you too will find some strange creature staring back at you in your bathroom mirror; my Sangoma is in need of more clients and more laughter to clear her dusty lungs…..

__uThandDiLe©2015

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Posted by on January 26, 2015 in Culture, random thoughts

 

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~Hand of a Star~

Empress_I

I went to the Sun to request for the
hand of one of her stars
the bright shy one
the one who had crossed the paths
of my clan lands about
five months back

“My son, will the shadows of your love
that are cast on the brightest parts of your
hearts still grow more after
dusk comes?” the Sun asked…..

This girl….this shy star
she had the beauty of an entire galaxy
I could feel the rays of her beautiful
eyes warming my chest as I sat down anxiously
on a silver-lined cirrus cloud unsure
whether I would impress her Mama & make
her proud.

Truth is that I was confused
with love sometimes comes hurt
I couldn’t contemplate turning a
bright star dark
receiving her hand only to break
the glimmering glare in her heart….

As if sensing my uneasiness
her soft breath of breeze slowly cooled my racing
heart beat….
I fell into a trance imagining
a day without the Sun
a clear night with no constellation of
Stars
“I’m I man enough to walk this unknown path?”

“My Son!”
My eyes opened
glancing drowsily at the Sun
then gradually turning my neck to her
magnificent first born Star.

Mama
your daughter is the brightest living thing my
eyes have ever seen
You are concerned whether her destiny
is to be tied to that of a mere man like me
Her rays have been glaring hot on my skin since
I came in yet the compassion of her cool
breath has kept me cool within….

Mama
I am no Son of a Moon or relative to any Star
I sprout from the meekest of clans
the one made of dung and mud
Not an iota of burning gas burns
in my blood
I am as meek as they come
Yet what I bring is but what no other man has
the burning love for your brightest Star
one that will keep her brighter that the
light of the entire earth…..

Oh Mama
Our shadows will swim eternally through the
ground and through the grass
for a million dawns and a billion dusks
with our souls illuminating the entire
universe
The brightest Star producing the coolest
breeze
The darkest mud generating the hottest
heat….

Little shadows mixed of
mud & gas will swim on the
dusty ground and silver-lined
cumulus clouds
You’ll see them jumping around even
after Sun down….

Rainbows begun to form
raindrops snowflakes sun-rays
I felt the blood in my left palm
instantly turn warm
I knew her hand had been placed on
mine….

__uThanDiLe©2014

 
 

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