The year was 1992, maybe June or July,
and I was about 15 years or so. Vacation classes was the ‘in’ thing to do
during vacation. Firstly, the fact that my father had agreed for me to attend a
vacation class was a surprise in itself. He did not believe in any after school
activity. And so every vacation for the past three years, he had refused to sanction
or pay for vacation class believing that what I learnt in school during normal
school time was enough. Now, I agree with him. I should have used y vacations
to learn something vocational, like baking.
Secondly, as a science student, I had
no business in a literature class, but my Headmistress had decreed literature
as a compulsory subject for everyone in the school under the impression that it
made our English better. Now, I truly agree that my incursion into literature,
however cursory, did indeed make my English better.
So I found myself sitting in a literature
vacation class. The classroom was a shack, poorly lit and filled with the
bodies (and smells) of adolescents on a hot dry day. The poem under discussion
was ‘The Vultures’ by David Diop.
‘In those days when civilisation kicked us in the face,
when holy water slapped our cringing brows,
The vultures built in the shadows of their claws,
The bloodstained momunents of tutelage…’
And for the first time, I was taught
about the woes of colonialism. Who were the vultures? And why did David Diop
say that civilisation ‘kicked’ us in the face? Wasn’t civilisation supposed to
be a good thing? My teacher spoke about how the colonialists had come with the
bible ‘…the monotonous rhythm of the paternoster’ and used it as a ploy to
bleed our land ‘…drowned the howling on the plantations’. He spoke about what
the white man had done to our women ‘…sour memories of extorted kisses’, and
destroyed our lands and cities with war ‘…promises mutilated by machine gun
As he went on and on, I felt as if I
was the only one in the room. Every word he spoke felt so personal to me. I felt
as I have never felt before. It was as if I was a reliving the age of slavery
and colonisation all that my ancestors had gone through. I felt violated and
used as an African.
Then the end of the poem leaves us
with ‘…hope living in us as a citadel and ‘…spring will put on flesh under our
steps of light’.
At the end of the class, I had
become an Africanist. I didn’t know what to call it then, I had no one to speak
to about it, but I felt deep in me , a change, an awakening and a realisation
that I had to do something in my lifetime to ensure that the prophecy in the
poem is fulfilled and my continent liberated.
What struck me most was that, at
that point in my life, I had no one to speak to about what I was feeling. No one
understood that a poem titled ‘the vultures’ had changed my life forever. This is
poignant for all the youth who have strayed into the wrong ideologies.
Several years ago, as an adult, I attended
a workshop where are the participants were complaining that the African youth
do not have an ideology. There is nothing that holds them to Africa and therefore
they are in a hurry to migrate, lighten their skins, straighten their hair and
listen to American movies. Our education has forgotten our history, our African-ness
and the future we hope for ourselves. Education only constantly bombards us
with the history of the Assyrians and the Egyptians and maybe, once in a while,
on Independence day, depending on which party is in power, we learn about Kwame
Even the story of the 24th
February shooting is missing from our history books. What about the role of Nii
Kwabena Bonne and the setting up of the Watson Commission? What about Patrice
Lumumba, Empress Taitu and her role in the battle of Adwa or Dedan Kimathi and the Mau Mau revolution? I had to find my ideology myself and this
really happened in University. This ideology is afrocentric. Believing in the
power of the African to manage her own affairs and to liberate herself from the
shackles of the past and to write our own story.
The vacuum of lack of ideologies for
African youth to latch on to alternative ideologies such as Boko Haram and ISIS.
In the eventual analysis, these are all ideologies of liberation and profess
the truth but their methodologies and means are seriously unorthodox.
In these recent times, the African union
is doing a lot to make pan Africanism more real to African youth with their ‘I am
African’ message and the Agenda 2063. There is a lot more to be done and I wish
them all the best.
Welcome to my pan African blog! I am optimistic about Africa and what we can achieve together. My blog speaks about my love for Africa, our history, our future and our prospects. Join me as I explore this great continent in my own crazy yet interesting way!!