Security of persons…
.… and property
If money was no object, what would you be doing with your life? If you did not have to worry about how your hypothetical future children would eat, or what your Aunty would say, or how you were going to pay the rent, what would be your reason to get up in the morning? If failure was not a possibility, how would you expend your passion? If there were no limits, what would you do with your life?
When my little sister was a kid, she wanted to be a marine biologist, hairdresser and makeup artist, all AT THE SAME TIME. Today she is about to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and we are all very proud of her. At the same time I kind of miss the naïveté and optimism that would allow a little African girl, living in a landlocked country to want to be a marine biologist. When you are a kid, anything is possible. Never mind that you hate science, never mind that you have only ever seen dolphins in books and on TV, the world is your fucking oyster!
My very first ambition in life was to be a dancer for Madonna. We had a little blue tape, a pirated copy of her album “Like a Virgin” that Dad would play in the car and I knew all the words, (though not what “virgin” meant). Now I look back and I am like damn, I could have done that! Madonna is 50-something years old but she is still dancing! Instead of touring the world and popping Cristal in the club, I sit in my little office typing proposals and reports like a trained monkey.
What happens as you grow up? I ask, but I know, I know because it happened to me. You tell someone on the playground you want to be Madonna’s dancer and they laugh in your face. You ask your mom for chocolate at the supermarket and she tells you “do you know how hard I work for this money? It doesn’t grow on trees you know.”
You tell your parents you want to study art as one of your A levels, instead of biology, which you are failing anyway and are told “you’re not going to spend my school fees finger painting with your hippy drug addict teacher, you will study Biology, and you will do it well!”
You decide you’re going to break free, live your dreams and study photography and they hold an intervention on your behalf. (On TV interventions the nice mzungu family sit you down and read you letters of how much they love you, in Africa they lock you in a room and beat you until you come to your senses).
How many of us ended up studying law, accounting, business, engineering RATHER than our passion? How many of us get a little buzz in our down-belows when we read torts or write proposals?
As a working man, you finally get fed up kissing your boss’ ass and hoping to get in a car accident every weekday morning. You decide that you’re going to do it now, quit your job, go into business and selling sand to the Arabs. You write an award-winning business plan, make an appointment with the bank for a loan, and hit up all your benevolent relatives for support. Then your girlfriend misses her period and your dream flies out the window.
I have heard it suggested that imagination and creativity a privilege; that when you are worrying about your next meal you don’t have time to create the next Mona Lisa.
I say, screw that.
A Lonely Planet slogan says “Do something great for your country: Leave”. Is it a clichéd idea, to talk about the importance of getting to know cultures other than one’s own, breaking bread with a family in the Andes, learning at the feet of a tribe of monks in the Himalayas…? What was I talking about? I think I got carried away on my around-the-world-in-50 stereotypes trip.
Clichés, they exist because they are true, and there is something to be said about the narrow-minded nature of a society whose inhabitants “defend” their own religion by burning others’ holy books and protesting their prayer rooms. Small-mindedness doesn’t apply only to American religious fundamentalists, I would say the same to Ugandan girls who think that dating a whiteboy is somehow the key to wealth, health and future happiness.
Small-minded behaviour does not have to be a big-ticket, shit-on-my-rainbow-parade item. It can be as simple as the American waitress who corrected me after she finally understood my drink order; “Oh! You mean Waaahder”, or asking the new international student what the African National Anthem is (if you see nothing wrong with that statement please stop reading immediately and go back to licking windows).
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After making accessories of Asian women during her Harajuku phase, Gwen Stefani has moved on to using African wax print as the main theme in her latest collection for L.A.M.B.
hat tip: Africa didn’t ask you
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.