Bafumbira in the Diaspora

I would like to start this article on bafumbira in the Diaspora by declaring myself ineligible to write it on two accounts. Firstly, having recently returned to Uganda, I am no longer a Mufumbira in the Diaspora, though I will share my experiences of living first in Zambia and the U.S. over the past two decades.

My second and most important point is that I do not think I am necessarily more qualified to be writing about life in the Diaspora than anyone who may be reading this article. In this globalised world (I am getting very tired of reading this expression in print, but it is also very difficult to write anything these days without using it) we all experience a physical or mental disconnection from our traditional home. The forces of modernity; colonialism and capitalism have changed the landscape of our daily lives into something that our ancestors would find difficult to recognize. Even for those of us who still live under the same breathtaking horizon of Kisoro’s hills that our great-great grandparents looked up to, life continues to change at an immeasurable rate.

When I was asked to write this article, my first reaction was to be worried. How was I going to write about being Mufumbira without revealing my insecurities about not being Kifumbira enough? Having grown up outside of Uganda, Dad was the only Mufumbira I really knew. I always felt insecure about my disconnection from my father’s culture. On visits I would sit listening to the  lyricism of the language as my uncles joked and knew that my tongue would never trip so fluently around those syllables which sounded so exotic to me. When I was writing for the university paper in the U.S., I received an email from a Rwandan guy who had seen my name at the bottom of a column and wrote to ask if I was Kinyarwanda. I was amused but also wondered if it was only my name that connected me to my broader community.

In the end, my father has proved the perfect person to emulate. I am constantly amazed by his grasp of so many languages, and the way that he is equally comfortable at my kaaka’s feet and at a seminar in North Carolina. In our confusing, modern world we all struggle (consciously or unconsciously) with what of our culture to keep and what we must let go of in order to make room for new knowledge and experiences. I have learnt to place my own insecurities in this perspective.


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