Books I read as a kid – a journey to appreciating Literature

For some reason today I found myself reminiscing about the books I read as a kid. And I am not talking about Books like Jelita and Mulenga, Beauty and the Beast, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, or even Cinderella. I am talking about books that I picked up from the library out of my own volition – not because school or my mother wanted me to read them.

IMG_1052I am looking back at how innocent I looked at things then. Back then it was always about the good and the bad guys from the book or if there was a happy ending. It was such great fun seeing a plot unfold right in front of your eyes…or should I say through the imagination? It didn’t matter then the complexities of characters, the plot devices employed by authors or how an author’s life might have impacted his/her written works. I didn’t know what symbolism meant or such things as style, diction, themes, motifs, and point of view yet somehow the stories still managed to make a lot of sense!

But now, reading has become a little more complicated because of so many things I have come to be aware of. At some point in high school during a ‘Literature’ class, I remember thinking…I think from now on am going to hate reading novels. Why was the teacher trying to make everything so complicated? Fortunately, that was never the case. As it turned out, I became even more absorbed in reading books it was insane!

Before my mind became corrupted by the hideous plots from most Mills and Boon stories, I think I read quite a number of impressive books that are somehow still embedded in my schema. Here’s me looking back to those old beautiful days when literature was simply….what’s that word again…? Anyway, I have decided to revisit all the novels I read as a child…simply because I am curious and I think it would be fun! Here’s a list of the most notable ones whose titles are still stuck in my head:

Anne of Green Gables – by Lucy Maud Montgomery 

Dear Lord! This was my very first novel and I will never forget this title. I had picked this particular one because of the name, obviously! However, one look at the synopsis and I was completely taken in! I was drawn in by how so similar and yet how not so similar the character Anne Shirley was from me. Unlike her, I was not talkative as a kid yet I found myself celebrating every time that kid opened her mouth and spoke her mind. I was strangely inspired without knowing exactly why.  I can’t remember much of the details of the story but there are scenes that are still play out in my head…images of a little red-haired girl overcoming life’s challenges in her young life until she gets her happy ending. Suddenly, I am curious about Anne’s character, how did she manage to set her two worlds apart – one her imagination and the other her reality. I want to revisit every scene and look at it with these very eyes…after so many years.

Little House on the Prairie – by Laura Ingalls Wilder  

Although this one came from the Little House Series, I only got to read this particular one. I can’t remember what attracted me to it but back then if it was not about a namesake, it was mostly about the picture on the front cover if the synopsis was not as captivating as I expected. I remember having a little trouble with this book because there was so much history involved. Looking back, I think I enjoyed reading dialogues the most and not additional information from authors that sought to give more meat to the plot. I only got to the end of the book because I was never one to give up half-way through. I wanted to see events unfold all through the end! But since I will be reading it again, I look forward to gaining an in-depth understanding and possibly delve a little more into the mind of Wilder.

Oliver Twist – by Charles Dickens

Now here’s a reason I fell in love with Charles Dickens! I remember for the first time back then wanting to know more about an author because I was impressed by the things that went on in his head. I was totally hooked! Oh, I remember hating Fagin and how scared I would be every time Oliver was caught up in one of his criminal activities. I had never despised a character like this before. Even Cinderella’s evil step-mother and sisters had nothing on this nefarious nitwit and growing up, those three (Cinderella) were the epitome of evil itself in my very young mind. I think it was after reading this book that I slowly began to appreciate literature in a deeper sense. After this one, I went straight ahead to read Great Expectations. And I don’t know why I am smiling right now. I am sooo looking forward to reading this again!

Sherlock Holmes – by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I honestly think that this collection of Doyle’s works really robbed me of my childhood! Seriously! I found his stories intriguing, captivating, and extremely funny. Once I started, there was no stopping me. I hated being anywhere else but in the bedroom reading my life away. If before I had been anti-social, after this book I became a “high-functioning sociopath…” but without the violent aspect of the definition of course! I started reading this collection of stories in my search for effective ways of dealing with a father who had psychopathic tendencies. Of course I didn’t know much about Google then…and we thank God for that! Here is where I fell in love for the first time with a character – Sherlock Holmes. To this day, these stories still hold the same place in my heart and because I have read them over and over again over the years…it wouldn’t hurt to read them again, right?

Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe

…my very first African authored novel. Oooh, such a good read and very informative too! I started reading this one because I had heard my older siblings talk a lot about it. I hated not being in the ‘know’ when others were talking about literary works. I was very young then but my curiosity was bigger than both my older brothers put together. I wanted to find out what all the fuss was about this Okonkwo. I read this book with as much innocence as can be expected. I loved and hated Okonkwo at the same time. There were some aspects of him that hit close to home and for the first time I started to understand a bit about the role of tradition in societies outside Zambia. At that time I didn’t care much about the themes Achebe was trying to drive home. It was only after studying the book in high school as well as at varsity as a literature text that I got to really appreciate exactly what was trying to communicate through his works. After this one, I went straight to reading his other novel – No Longer at Ease, another great read I still hold dear!

Right now I am wondering, to what extend did my choice in novels I read as a kid influence my character or personality? Would I want my kids to read these books too? I have a strong feeling I already know the answers to these questions! Do you remember the books you read as a kid? How did they influence your childhood or rather, your life in general? Would you read them again to read them to your kids?


That Withering Sweet-Scented Bundle of Nature

For most people, there is that glowing moment in your heart when you receive roses especially on Valentine’s Day. Sadly…for me that moment is always short-lived; from an instantaneous feeling of gratitude towards the sender’s thoughtfulness to an extremely dreadful feeling of loss. Of course this feeling is heightened by the fact that for the next few days or weeks I will have to watch the beautiful bundle of flowers lose their battle against the forces of nature as if not so long ago they had not been a glorious part of it. IMG_1046

Unlike most people, my thoughts operate on a whole level of their own. Where most will see a flourishing love in that bright bunch of red roses sitting there…taking in the pleasure from its sweet scented nature…I mostly see death, loss…something I do not wish to associate with my love. The wilting and withering nature of roses really scares me. The hardest part is throwing away the fossils of that symbolic show of love. Even though the idea of them turning into mature and giving rise to new life should be enough to warm my heart…it doesn’t!

For a while, I have entertained the idea of receiving fake flowers for my graduation, anniversaries, and all other such celebrations. I actually think that I would love that more than I would a fresh bunch of roses! Indeed, I have on many occasions certified as an absolute strange species.

I think I need a few more reasons to start appreciating flowers a little more. Don’t you think so? 🙂

Love Don’t Live Here No More

Is it love that changes…or it is the person that changes?

broken heart

I encountered this question when I was watching a certain drama recently. I had pressed pause and pondered the question for a little while. I had never really thought much about it before until I heard someone ask the question out loud.

It has been said that the only constant thing in life is change. Unfortunately, it is not always that when change occurs, we are prepared for it or willing to adjust to it. Thus, when we look back into our past…when we look back at all the failed relationships and all the broken marriages we wonder – what or who had really changed? Does love remain constant? Can love change? If so, what causes it to change? Do people change? What causes people to change? Is it something that can be prevented or it’s simply nature running its course?

How many times have you felt like you were so in love you would lay down your life if it meant protecting your love? Those moments…when our eyes see no one else but the one…when we feel nothing in the world can pull us apart…when we love without a reason except for our feelings…when together-forever is not just a promise but fact and part of our reality. Do you think you would be asking too much if you wanted things to remain like that, if not better than that forever?

The first time I fell in love, I did not picture myself having those feelings for any other person but that one. Loving another person at that time was not even a possibility! Yet today in my life, I am so in love with one man believing for a fact that I have never felt like this for any other person before. I look at how this man loves me and I cannot imagine him loving another like he loves me. This is my present reality…a reality I do not ever want to see change, ever. But the question is, is that even possible? Can you spend a lifetime loving the same person with your feelings intact to the very end? I want to believe so!

But the question still remains, what causes relationships to end; is it their love that changed or it is the people that changed? Firstly, I want to admit that it is very possible for love to change and by this I am referring to the many stages that psychologists have argued intimate relationships have to go through in their journey of love. That first time feeling you have…all those emotions you wish you could bottle up and take a sip from for the rest of your life. Unfortunately, because we are human beings packed with red blood cells, hormones and senses, we cannot help undergoing emotional changes in our relationships.

At the start of every relationship, there is excitement and expectation. There are things we want and things we expect. As time goes by, we get to discover all of this…the ideas we had in our minds start turning into reality or lack thereof. Sometimes we are disappointed and sometimes we are surprised when our loved ones deliver beyond our expectations. And sometimes we simply choose to be content with the life we have despite it not being up to standard. As always…time is forever moving and we are forever learning, discovering and going through numerous experiences. These too can change us as individuals and also change our feelings towards each other either for the better or worst.

The problem that most people make is never to expect change or refusing to adjust to it when it occurs. Using a very practical example – when a man starts sleeping around after his wife has given birth because he believes her body has changed or that she has been distant since giving birth. A little patience with her and support as she adjusts to her physiological and emotional changes is all it takes to make their love flourish. Any deviation from this is what will lead to a failed relationship. In this case, it would be the husbands inability to adjust to change, to live up to his spouse’s expectation to be there for her in her most trying times and to be understanding…it is these things that would make her believe he has changed and this will ultimately have an effect on her feelings for him. Likewise, if the man strongly believes that she is being unfair to him by not fulfilling her marital duties in bed (not taking into account any possibility of posttraumatic stress), from his point of view, it would be the woman who has changed. This too, if not properly communicated can result in a failed relationship.

Yes, we all want perfect relationships but the truth is that they don’t exist. The only thing we can do all throughout our relationships is to strive for perfection in what we do but never to expect it. We love abundantly, we give abundantly, we forgive abundantly, that we be understanding and all the while expecting the same from our partners. It is foolishness to expect things to remain constant. Of course this does not mean that we should love less or expect less. It simply means that we should keep in mind that how we felt about each other when we were strangers can no longer be the same once we become friends and family.

As time goes by, we will become too familiar with each other, never pretending and ever showing our true colours. However, although a familiar feeling is something that happens naturally, having a boring or less exciting life as a result of it is a decision we make consciously. Yes, it is very boring when every aspect of your life becomes routine and predictable – knowing that today when I go home she will welcome me by the door, take my bag, ask me how my day was, serve me dinner, go to bed, make love the missionary way, sleep, and when morning comes repeat steps 1-2-3, etc. As long as one does not strive to keep things exciting despite being familiar with each other, do not expect a happily-ever-after. The tendency to believe that just because a piece of paper was signed and the deal’s done then we no longer have to work hard is what leads our loved ones to walk away from us.

Personally, I refuse an ordinary love. I rebuke it in the name of Jesus! I want an extraordinary love and nothing less! I do not expect a happily ever after, I am neither a Cinderella nor he a prince in shining armor. But I expect my life to be filled with happiness MOST of the times. I want to be extremely in love even in old age. Therefore, I should…no, we should both work hard to have that because it doesn’t come easy. I should be aware that change is inevitable and change in itself has the potential to alter my feelings. I should be aware that one day my spouse will not be as energetic as he is today no matter how many times he hits the gym, that his head full of black hair will not always be like that, that he also makes mistakes, and that we will not always share the same views.

How will you feel if the man you love suddenly stopped buying you flowers or taking you to fancy restaurants because he either lost his job or because you both made a bad investment and lost out financially? Does it mean that he has changed as a person or that he doesn’t love you anymore? Or perhaps, does that mean you should change the way you feel towards him? I should prepare myself for the unexpected, to not always expect perfection and to be understanding when my spouse falls short of my expectations. And if I am not pleased, I should communicate this in the most respectable manner. It is a learning process, one I am willing to undertake for the rest of my life. Right now I believe I am falling short.

If ever love should change, it should be for the better – from stranger to infatuation, from hate to love, from mere love to a meaningful love. I want to love like that. I expect to be loved like that. So far, I am loved like that. And in the future, I hope to love more and be loved more, not less. Is that possible?

Have you ever loved like that?


You have spent your life searching and hoping that this time
…that this time he is the one
You have had your heart broken,
Been trampled and cheated on,
You have been dumped so many times you’ve lost count
You have cried yourself to sleep
You have given up a million times
Told yourself you are done hurting
You have approached potential mates with suspicion
Always leaving that little space for disappointment
You have vowed never to be hurt again
You shun promises so much that even trusting yourself has become a battle
Will love ever be your friend?

Twenty years…thirty years…forty years…fi…
Stop….! Please freeze time for her
For how long will she wait for Mr Right?
Many have loved her but many have left
Many have called her beautiful
When she smiles, flowers bloom
What man has never blushed in her presence?
A sight to behold, beauty inside-out
They come into her life with roses and diamonds
And to cover the cost, she pays with little pieces of her broken heart
Will she ever find the kind of love she yearns?

She came like a storm
And swept you off your feet
She awakened in you feelings you never imagined existed
Every single day she rode with you on the wave of love
For once it was your turn to discover the meaning of life
There would be no you without her
You are convinced she is the air you breathe
Her sights have been set on you
Never to be swayed by another
A lifetime of happiness is no longer a dream for you
It is the reality you have been living all these years
Have you ever been loved like that?

He said he would love you forever
He made a promise before God and the world
He would love no other but you
And you believed every single word he uttered
His eyes…that look in his eyes that’s always whispering
“I see no one else but you my angel….”
Without saying a word, he made you feel like the most loved woman in the world
The constant phone calls
The constant I Love You’s
The fancy restaurants
The dozen roses every weekend
Yes…you have been loved like that before

It comes like a thief in the night
It creeps on you when you least expect it
A feeling so severe you dare not imagine it
It starts with a little suspicion
Others call it intuition
Before the smoke appears, the smell will
Even when your hands keep burning
You tell yourself it is only a dream
The only time they call is only to announce a funeral or birth
All the roses withered and died
The candles by the dinner table have all burned out
The only restaurant you know is that little room next to your kitchen
When did you discover that love does not live here anymore?

It is like a whirlwind
Sometimes it smiles at you
Sometimes it just walks by
How many times have you asked yourself;
Why is it happening to me?
Why does it keep happening to me?
Why is it not happening for me?
Is something wrong with me?
When will it be my turn?

When your ego has been bruised
When your pride’s been shuttered
When your love has been thrown back into your face
When you can trust nobody
When everything isn’t working in your favour
When the world has turned its back on you
When all you know to do is give up
When he does not love you anymore
When she has fallen for someone else
When you are no longer his priority
When she would rather be anywhere else but with you
When you cannot turn back the hand of time
When memories are all you have
When you know it will never be
Has love ever done that to you?

They say love is blind….
That moment when your heart stands at odds with your brain
Sometimes it happens whether you like it or not
But with love…comes reciprocity
A one-sided love – though fun can be tiring
A two-way love – it is what you should always seek
But it does not always end the way we wish it to
But still, we never give up

And then there is happiness…
It is a decision you make without seeking anyone’s validation
You can cry but still be happy
You can get disappointed but still be happy
They can try to bring you down but you will still choose happiness
Before you love another you will first love you
And if they ever leave, you will still have someone loving you
If they delay in coming, there will always be someone keeping you happy
Where the sun shines, there is always light
Have you ever loved yourself like that?

If you ever need to choose;
To stay or to leave…
To trust or to investigate…
To seek a profound love or to be content…
To rediscover your feelings or go for plan B
To give up or to settle for less…

I hope you choose happiness.

Marriage: In the Eyes of a Sister and Daughter In-law

They say blood is thicker than water. What do they mean by that?

Even in marriage…does it still apply?

African women

When I told one of my friends that I would write about in-laws in my next blog, you should have seen the reaction on her face, epic! Her question to me was; what if your husband sees it?

I had not mentioned to her yet in what context my blog would be yet she assumed that I was going to be writing something very bad. But since when did the word in-law become synonymous with negativity? Is it possible for one to have a good relationship with his or her in-laws? And most importantly, why are women the ones that are mostly entangled in the in-law wars more than men? Why is it common that most people will treat their in-laws – whether daughter, brother or sister in-law as rivals? Who exactly gets to win in these competitions and what price do they actually get? What role does money play in all of this?

To convince myself to finally write about this topic that has baffled me for a while, I reasoned that despite it being a touchy topic, I would do my best to not bring my own wonderful in-laws into the picture. Even as I said this in my head, I couldn’t help laughing. It’s gonna be hard to talk about this subject without drawing from my own experiences. However, today I just want to talk about a sister or daughter in-law in general…but mostly in Zambia if am being specific.

I don’t know about men but for most women, when we start to consider a man as a potential marriage mate, we look at the following things; our love for him, his love for us, personality, for some – relationship with God, his career, ambitions, his family background (and this mostly involves evaluating our potential in-law – rich, poor, or breadwinner of the family?), and another important factor that most women won’t admit – a consideration of his salary!

Some people believe that when you love someone then it shouldn’t matter how much money he has. Well, that’s very true but if you are considering one for a potential marriage mate, it should matter how much money they have or how much the both of you have or will have in future because with marriage comes more responsibilities that will require you to actually spend money irrespective of how much love you have for each other. But of course, there is always the option – to choose to die together in poverty – sometimes love can be tragic too.

Because I am a woman, I tend to have a bias towards women in some of my topics but that is because I am one myself and I share first hand most of the experiences that women in general go through. With this in mind, I believe that the in-law relationship is mostly complex for women than it is for men. I could be wrong!

Let me start with the basics first.

Why are women prone so much to the in-law drama?

It is generally believed that men are the breadwinners of the family and women are the caregivers and keepers of the home. The man will provide the finances and the woman will administer those finances and at the same time take care of the family relations to ensure peace and stability in the home. This situation puts the woman in more contact with the family members than the man who is mostly out of the house trying to make a living. Although both of them have responsibilities towards keeping the family together, the fact is that the woman will have more to do with it than he ever will because within her lies the potential to either break or build a home.

In Zambia, when the parent in-laws come to visit the home of a married couple, the man will greet them without needing to get down to the floor while the woman will first need to get down to the floor before she can address either of them. It does not matter which side of the family they are coming from, this welcome ceremony applies to both sets of parents. Already, the footing between the man and woman is on different levels so guess who’s at a disadvantage?

For most parents, it will matter what level the woman will bend down when greeting them and this is very important because it has to do with respect. The man of the house will chit-chat here and there and can even excuse himself to go watch a game in the bedroom while the woman goes to the kitchen to tend to the guests. Depending on the relationship – whether they are her own parents or her in-laws, she needs to approach them strategically.

God forbid she decides to serve them chicken because then she would need to go through every piece in the pot to ensure she doesn’t serve the ‘wrong piece’ to the wrong person! How the woman will deliver her food to these people will tell them more about her upbringing and depending on the kind of in-laws she has, it will inform them whether she is a good wife to their son or not…yes, just a piece of chicken and the level of kneeling can do that! By the way, keep in mind that while all this is going on, the man is somewhere watching a Real Madrid game or cursing at Wenger or Anchelotti for the bad formation of their players.

Earlier, I talked about the things that women look out for in their marriage mates and it was for this reason – the kind of family that a man comes from…and here I mean whether they are rich, middle class, poor…if he is breadwinner or not, his ambitions and his salary, his love for you, etc will have a lot to do with how your relationship with the in-laws will be like. This is what I mean:

If the man is rich, those close to him will question your intentions toward him – are you genuine or looking to rise up the social ladder? There is nothing wrong with this of course because, who wouldn’t want to protect their assets? But, it is the approach and the extent to which they will pursue this line of inquiry that will determine the kind of relationship the in-laws will have towards each other.

If the man is poor…this word somehow doesn’t sit well on my tongue so let’s say if the man isn’t well to do, his parents might expect that he marry someone who might help him become better in life and this would mean someone with a better financial standing. However, I do suspect that it’s easier for people that are ‘poor’ to get along with their in-laws because there are times when lack of money can make families draw closer to each other whereas too much money can cause a lot of divisions. Sometimes, it’s the total opposite.

When the man is the breadwinner: A lot of families have this kind of arrangement in Zambia. For me this is the most challenging kind. When a woman comes into the life of such a man, it is natural for his family to get worried; how will things change once this woman enters their lives? If any change is seen in the man after meeting this woman, she will be held responsible; he doesn’t support us as much as he used to, when you ask him for money he sends the exact amount you asked and doesn’t add anything like he used to before he met her…etc.

They say that money is the root of all evil?? Most of the challenges that couples face in marriage would have a lot to do with money be they communication, infidelity, etc. It used to be so easy for me to make judgements on my own sister in-laws (the women married to my brothers) before I got married but the moment I got into a serious relationship and was ready for marriage, my eyes got opened because then I could see things from both point of views.

Someone once told me that ‘your in-laws are not your friends and you should never treat them as such, especially your mother in-law. Fear your in-laws and hold them at arms-length.’

But I also remember the Reverend who married us say this in church;

“Treat your husband’s family as you would treat your own. This one is not your mother in-law,” she had said, pointing at my husband’s mother. “She is your mother.”

Having lost my own mother just a few months before my wedding day, I was excited to gain a new mother figure in my life but the truth is that I was also very confused! How exactly was I supposed to treat this woman people where telling me to fear and others telling me to treat as I would my own mother? I am afraid I still haven’t found the answer to this question.

I have always struggled to understand the dynamics of the in-law relationships. I believe that the way one treats their own siblings should be how they treat their brother or sister in-laws. But is this even possible? You can be free to shout at your kid brother if he does something wrong. He will get mad at you and not talk to you for a while but eventually you will reconcile and move on as if nothing ever happened. But if you upset an in-law like that, will the ending be the same?

Blood is thicker than water.

Literally, or figuratively??

…I have heard a lot of people say this. But, does it apply in marriage? If the two became ‘one in marriage’, then doesn’t that make them a complete part of each other’s families? Who then is closer to whom and should there be such a comparison in the first place? It is like asking a man who between his wife and mother is more important. I think that anyone who asks such a question deserves a punch in the face.

The idea that women should be held responsible for a man’s change in behaviour after marriage is both true and false. Why do I say this? Firstly, it should be expected that after a man marries, he should, by his own efforts strive to start behaving like a married man. Secondly, once he is married, it should be expected that his family will no longer be dealing with an opinion of one, but of two people who became one. And this takes me back to my point about money. One of the things some men fear about getting married is having to share or report their financial status to someone. When you are single, you have the freedom to spend however you want but once marriage comes into the picture, you have no choice but to learn about budgeting.

If a man used to spend ‘limitlessly’ or within his means before he got married, the moment this changes, the first reaction from his family would be, ‘that awful stingy woman changed him.’ But did anyone ever take the time to find out why things have changed? Like I said earlier, marriage comes with its own responsibilities. Whereas a man only had to deal with one family before, he would now be dealing with two. And even though this fact hurts as hell – whereas his mother’s family used to be his first priority, it now becomes second. This is nature, as designed by God and not man. It is hard for any person who is single to accept this arrangement – as I did too.

Unfortunately, this is the point that most people misunderstand. Just because a man’s priorities have changed after marriage does not mean he has to forsake his own family or that his family should curse the new woman in the picture for having changed their son or brother. Only a fool would forsake those that have been an integral part of most of his life, the ones that gave him/her life and the ones that gave him a family.

Would I be wrong to say that most men don’t bother much about the in-law dramas that take place in the homes and the only time they ever get involved is when they have been summoned by the concerned parties to help with resolutions? Someone be dammed should they have to pick a side! It’s even worse when they fail to pick a side! The poor souls.

However, women are always up in these situations trying to make the other feel their weight. Be it at funerals, weddings, gatherings in general, in the homes…women brought together under the term in-law and under the same roof are too much to handle. It is amazing how a woman who is also married will take pleasure in making another woman’s life (an in-law) difficult. Is it really impossible to get along between women? Sometimes my species really amuse me. The things I have seen mostly at weddings and funerals can cause one to question the idea of marriage itself.

I think things might change a little for women if people thought about this old concept which is as effective as God intended it to be; treat others the way you would want to be treated if you were in that situation. Especially women…why all the hate towards each other? Sister in-laws (and this applies to me too, sadly)…if you are single, you will one day get married too! But if that never happens, don’t take it out on others. And if you are already married, have some respect for other people’s wives if you want others to respect you too. Do not abuse tradition by top-dressing it with your own ignorance. There is nothing like tradition empowering you to make the life of another woman hellish. Even in ‘in-lawness’ it is very possible to get along peacefully and when faced with problems, to address them maturely.

Because I am a sister in-law myself, both by own doing and through my own siblings doing, I want to strive to be the kind of relative they can be proud of…that even when problems arise, instead of treating me as an outsider, or treating them as such, I will choose to address the issues without so much as injuring my pride and respect as well as theirs. There are no scales on which love can be weighed, but families ought to love each other through thick and thin. It should never be a matter of blood or water or even oil. After all, before blood was formed, our own parents were strangers too. It takes two strangers to meet, two people that are not related to come together and unite their blood to make it thicker.

Zambian Politics: A Revelation of Tribalist Tendencies

“I Would Rather Die than Vote for a Tonga President,” I heard him say.


I never thought that there would ever come a day when I would feel ashamed just for the mere fact that I am Zambian. However, as the day for the by-elections keeps drawing near and as campaigns intensify, every single day I wake up and leave my house, I keep getting reminded of the truth about Zambians – the sudden realization of how deep certain beliefs lie and how overwhelming the potential for these beliefs to breed division is.

I am not very active when it comes to political issues but I am never one to remain silent when I experience something so profound that it threatens to wreak havoc to the very foundation of my being. I did not know that this is how my people truly are. I did not know the depth and levels of tribalism in Zambia until the campaigns for these elections started. Without meaning to sound like a prophetess of doom…I keep wondering, could we be another Rwanda?

Tribalists: I am not sure if this is an actual word or if it qualifies as an adjective but I will still use it.

Tribalism: The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines tribalism as ‘loyalty to a tribe or other social group especially when combined with strong negative feelings for people outside the group…. Tribal consciousness and loyalty; especially: exaltation of the tribe above other groups.”

I know it is very hard for people to accept that they are tribalists yet it is very easy for them to point the finger at another for being tribalist. But since when did this situation in Zambian become so grave? Since when did I start fearing to express my views when out in public? Since when did it start to matter what tribe my friends are or what tribe the person I am voting for is? The present reality in this country makes me shudder and if people do not evaluate themselves sooner, this could lay the foundation of something on a genocide scale. And I mean it.

Do not get me wrong, I am not Tonga and neither am I married to one but I would not mind being Tonga at all.  I come from the Northern Province of Zambia, Mbala to be a little specific but I was raised in two towns in the Southern Province.  I am married to someone from the East. Through the years, just as I have come to learn more about the many tribes that we have in Zambia, I have come to appreciate the diversity of this beautiful country. Many are the times I have boasted to my foreign friends that despite having such diverse cultures, we are still a nation locked in togetherness. But that feels like it was centuries ago and the truth that is at play now is enough to confuse the devil himself. I am no longer able to boast about that and that is what I find embarrassing because once upon a time, that used to be my pride.

The one thing I have come to realise is how ‘some’ Zambians are unaware of how tribalist they can be. I feel that most people are not yet aware of their tendencies or they choose to take it lightly or ignore it altogether. You see, I was not raised very traditionally. Because of personal family issues, my father believed it was better for us to speak English at all times – a decision he later came to regret, and so have I.  So the first time I attended a wedding in Zambia and the MC said something about the two tribes that were getting united in matrimony, I got to experience for the first time adults openly insulting and humiliating each other in public. I could see some people getting upset yet more of them where laughing…and mostly at the expense of the other tribe. As I sat there cringing from being uncomfortable, my dear mother whispered to me, “they are doing Chimbuya.”

It was then that I learnt that it was okay for certain tribes to insult and humiliate each other like that and to whatever degree and the one that got offended would be the weird one. It was a horrifying discovery. Years after that experience, I convinced myself that I would not get uncomfortable when such things happen but to this day, every time I hear people playing chimbuya, I can’t help feeling extremely offended despite not being part of the circus. Personally, despite its traditional connotations and essence, I feel that it is this charade dressed in chimbuyaness that is slowly breeding tribalism in Zambia. Yes it’s been ‘in existence for many years and no one really means what they are saying’… but is it really necessary to bring another tribe down just so we could get a rise out of them and make those around us laugh?

I have a historical and archaeological background and I will be the first to preach to you about the importance of preserving a culture. But I will also be the first to remind you of how culture, if not approached properly has the potential to retard development. But have you ever wondered what causes genocide? No matter how innocent you think your utterances are, are you sure that the person that is receiving them in all their humanness will not at all feel the sting at some point? And in all your efforts to get a rise and a laugh at their expense, to what degree have you disassociated your personal judgements and feelings from the ‘jokes?’

Now,  I am not saying that Chimbuya is the cause of tribalism in Zambia. I am simply questioning the practice and ‘wondering if at all it would have anything to do with the current state of reality in political realm in Zambia.’

I keep hearing people say that Tongas are tribalists yet every time I ask them to explain that statement, they only manage to convince me of how tribalist they themselves are and not the party in question. It is always Tonga’s this and Tonga’s that. Tonga’s love themselves too much…you can’t work with Tonga’s…they have bad manners in the work place…and so on and so forth. But seriously, can this be the basis for ‘de-campaigning’ a presidential candidate?

Not so long ago I met someone who said this to me, “Have you ever conducted research? Do you know how facts are collected? Researchers come up with facts based on ratios. If you go out to do research and you discover that the majority of people in that area practice certain things, then your report will say that the people in that area…and not ‘some’ people in that area because you are reporting your findings based on what can be considered general.”

Although those where not his actual words, that was the point he was trying to deliver and all this was because I asked him to not make general statements about Tonga’s. He felt he was justified to make this declaration – “I would rather die than vote for a Tonga!” As I watched and listened to him shamelessly run his lips up and down like a heifer on heat, it struck me;  he was just as tribalist as the people he was accusing of the practice.

Was there any research that was done to prove that Tonga’s are tribalists or Zambians simply came to that conclusion based off their unfortunate experiences with that group of people? If so, how many of those experiences where first, second or third experiences? How many where hearsay? How sure are you that those experiences stemmed from those particular individuals being Tonga’s and not their personalities? If you have had mostly bad experiences with Tongas in your life, at what point in the experience did you become aware of their tribe and did it in any way affect your judgement? Do you think the outcome of that experience would have been different if a person of another tribe was in it or if you had not been aware of any tribal inclinations at all? How much of your own beliefs do you think affected the outcome of that experience? Do you think that just because someone has a Tonga name, irrespective of their social upbringing or educational background, by virtue of them having Tonga blood, then they will exhibit ‘Tonga-like’ behaviour? Have you ever taken the time to find out why Tonga’s behave the way you think they do? I have these and many other questions.

I want people to know that even in a well conducted research, there are always limitations. You simply cannot draw conclusions based on what you think is the majority view. Just because one Tonga behaved in a certain way when faced with one problem does not mean that another Tonga would have behaved that exact way when confronted with the same situation. It is especially dangerous to draw conclusions if your mind already has its own preconceived ideas. Before you judge how others are, ask yourself how much of that judgement reveals about yourself.

I once said this to my sister over the phone about someone I had seen on the streets earlier that day, “She was awfully dressed! She was wearing a long dress but with white sneakers and stockings. She was definitely Tonga that one!” The truth is that that was not the first time I had uttered such a derogatory statement about Tonga’s and laughed about it as if I had said nothing wrong. In fact, one of my closest friends is Tonga and although that fact never at any point came into play when I was getting closer to her, there have been times when I have said to her, “iwe chimuTonga, very typical!” Was I being a tribalist?

Yes there have been times when I have felt like kicking the life out of my friend when we have disagreements but there has never been a time I attributed her judgements, utterances, or behaviour to her tribe. So, could that have been my weakness or her weakness? Another friend of mine (should I mention that she is Bemba?) made this statement;

“I have heard Zambians celebrate every time Mweene the goalkeeper for the Zambian Soccer/Football Team saves a goal…but I have never heard people say anything about his skills having anything to do about him being Tonga or not. In fact, it was only after someone mentioned it to me that I learnt he was Tonga.” And to tell you the truth, I am also not sure if Mweene is actualy Tonga or not. It had never occurred to me to ask.

Personally, I have had many terrible experiences with people yet I cannot remember how many times I attributed their behaviour to their tribe. Looking back, I have had disagreements  with people from almost all the tribes in Zambia! However, I cannot say for sure how many of those where Tonga’s and how many where not. So, do you think I, who was not aware of such a thing has a weakness or the weakness would lie with someone who can count on his/her fingers and more how many times he/she has had bad experiences with Tongas? From when did you start counting and at what point did you discover those people where Tongas? Perhaps, could there be people with such characters from your own tribal group? If there are, would you be comfortable with people ascribing that characteristic to your whole group?

I understand that each tribe has its own tendencies, some very nice and some not so nice. However, before making general statements, how about we put into perspective all variables? Do not just say Tongas love themselves too much or that they are bad to work with. Everyone knows that women are complex creatures of emotion and they tend to be lethal whenever it’s ‘that time of the month’ – this is a biological fact – yet men still marry them and decide to have children with them. The question is why? Because they strive to understand them. Have you ever tried to understand why certain tribes have certain tendencies? If I grew up hearing that my people are backwards, mediocre, with funny accents and so on…will you blame me if I become defensive in the presence of other tribes or if I propel myself to excel to prove the haters wrong? Would you blame me for being proud? How about we both take responsibility for the way society has contributed to my socialization and if the outcome is not likable, can we do anything to change this from reoccurring? Can we do that?

Before you utter anything negative, it is important to think critically about the outcome. Genocides have started for lesser things than playing Chimbuya. It is very easy to practice tribalism and not be aware of it. If you are going to vote for anyone, vote on merit and not tribe. Since when did you start thinking about what tribe your friend or enemy was? Could it be that there is something you yourself is lacking and the only way to discredit others is to attack something of theirs that they had no choice in attaining? Who had a choice in the tribe they are? We can choose our marriage partners yes but our children will have no choice in who their parents are. If you have a problem with that, you can take it to God in prayer. He always answers.

While I was writing this piece, I called most of my friends and asked them this question; what tribe is Hakainde Hichilema and what tribe is Edgar Lungu? You know the answer? It was this answer;

Hakainde is Tonga and Edgar is from Eastern Province.

And no, the answer was NOT HH is from Southern Province and EL is from Eastern Province. People were not clear about what tribe EL really is and it didn’t matter because who doesn’t know the tribes from Eastern Province? By the way, how many tribes are there in Southern Province? My point here is that people are quick to mention Tonga when referring to HH but slow to come up with either Chewa, Nsenga, Ngoni or other tribes from the Eastern. It is the same with all other political candidates, their tribes do not matter but HH’s tribe does.

Why should tribe matter for one and not the other? If we took away HH being Tonga, can we list down the qualities we feel demerit all presidential candidates from taking that position, including the ones we support? Is it possible for us to weigh the pros and cons of each and make an informed decision from that or are we simply supporting candidates based on loyalty? How many of us have taken the time to make such evaluations?

Just because people belong to opposing parties does not mean there is nothing they can learn from each other. I am of the belief that as long as I am not being asked to vote on tribal basis, I can strive to understand different party manifestos, evaluate the candidates, consider the past lessons, and make an informed decision. And once I decide, it is not because I feel that candidate is perfect and the rest are worthless, it is simply because out of all those candidates, I believe that the one I have picked stands for most of the things I would love to promote. If you have personal experiences with HH that have led you to believe he is a tribalist, then don’t support him. However, it would be wrong to ascribe his behaviour to all Tongas. I understand that all cultures have their tendencies but, just as you hate hearing people from outside Africa talk about how poor and Ebola-infested people in Africa are, then stop this Tonga this and Tonga that because what you see is not always a complete picture.

I do not wish for people to see this as a political campaign but instead, an opportunity to think about what they say and what the impact their words can have on the Zambian community at large. If our children grow up hearing the words that I have been hearing lately, can you imagine what the future of Zambia would look like fifty years from now? Even in politics, isn’t it possible to campaign without bashing the tribe of the opponent? Whatever happened to voting based on merit, has it become a foreign concept?

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