Seldom do we find people who do not revel in their country’s history and its glorious past. Countries which have been split apart in the twentieth century also speak of a nation from the past. The Greek Orthodox Christians in the Middle East remember fondly the Byzantine Empire in all its glory, the Latin Americans remember the grandeur of Chichen Itza, Indians can’t stop talking about the glorious heritage, the heritage varying depending on who you ask.
But there are Nations and People whose history has been lost in the sands of time. The fiercely independent American Indians remember their past only since the pale faces came in; the aboriginals of Australia seem to have lost the memories of their forefathers. Only legends live on in folk tales and traditions and art. Africa, the birthplace of humanity, too lost her history and also her pride along with it. The Zulus were once a martial race that defeated the British Army with just spears in the memorable Opening Battle of The Anglo Zulu Wars in Isandlwana.
I realized after some thought that strangely history is saved by our monuments. If a certain kingdom reigning in the Western parts of India had not decided to pay their respects to their Gods, an Island off the coast of Mumbai would not have the Trinity looking over the city from their hidden caves.
It might have been faith as was the case with many temples in India, it might have been a boost for the ego for most of the rulers once faith had deserted them, it might have been the aliens at the Stonehenge, it might have been technology in case of the Incas or the residents of Mohen-Jo-Daro or even at attempt at afterlife by the rulers of Egypt.
But wherever history has stayed it’s because of the monuments of the Generation. The only other way to safeguard your history is through the stories passed on from father to son, from teacher to pupil, from bard to bard, till someone decided to note them down as in the case of King Arthur or the Epics of the Greeks or the Indian epics.
Most of Africa’s history lives on through her proverbs and little else. It’s tragic to imagine that few would know how the Bubu originated in Nigeria or why the Zulus were able to establish a great kingdom even before King Shaka. This is one continent where I still feel the primal call of the wild in my blood even though I may be sitting in one of the most modern hotels with perhaps one of the best views in Umhlanga in Durban. The drum beats which I never heard seems to echo from the sea, beats that resemble who we are deep inside.
At night, the winds howl and whisper in my ears, the story of a Nation that lost her pride – of a Queen of the Zulus who will come one again to ensure that Pride Rock gets back her former glory.
Perhaps it’s this connection with nature that made Africans from the central and southern parts stay away from the grandeur loving nature of the Egyptian Rulers. Africa strangely has little architecture that has survived the onslaught of time (except perhaps Great Zimbabwe). Somehow it also leads me to hypothesize that the land was so bountiful that beyond saving their tribes from the blood thirsty nature of the early African rulers, there was little that one needed to do in order to survive. They lived as one with nature, not against her and thus while the Masai tribes went for hunting; they never killed to decorate their houses with lion heads.
I love the South African greeting – they are always “Proudly South African”. The bringing back of their pride is what the continent is waiting for; to unlock the chains of corruption that is binding them. The ills here are numerous – AIDS, teenage pregnancy, dependency on grants, huge credit pressures and the list goes on. Hope flickers, dim and rare to find.
But that’s the beauty of hope. Maybe my story is true. One day, perhaps, once again, The Queen of The Zulus will rise to take her rightful throne and lead the Nation to glory. Till then the drum rumbles as the world slowly begins to realize the potential of Africa beyond just her diamonds.