Memory of a morning

•January 4, 2017 • Leave a Comment

​He woke up to the sound of a memory. It was that time between twilight and dawn, when the night creatures were still awake but the morning ones had already begun to stir. 

That fleeting moment of time when the world was completely still and mute and only the earth creatures spoke. 

He had unknowingly lost the memories of those mornings and was startled to have stumbled awake into one by chance. 

Puzzled to have experienced the memory of the morning he had long forgotten existed. 

For a long time now, his mornings were filled with a cacophony of noise that drowned out the last murmur of the night and the first whisper of dawn… The drilling of building machines, the cries of irritated babies, the shouts of men over the wall, the roar of motor vehicles speeding down the road. 

Everyone was always rushing. Forcing earth moments out of sync and distorting the sequence of how a morning should be experienced. 

The sensation of waking up to the sound of a memory lingered with him even as he went about rushing the day-catalysing the hours with his activity. 

But the difference today was, the calming effect of the sound of the memory of morning stayed with him, he didn’t forget it the moment he lifted his head from the pillow and started his own noise. 

It remained like a pulsing energy in his conscious, fighting the dimming effects of time and urging it to stay awake to the sound. 

But the rapid effect of fading by time was not easily grasped even by the most sharpest of minds and soon even he no longer recognised that the lingering memory was no longer in sight.

To whom it MOST concerns

•July 9, 2016 • Leave a Comment

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Today leadership has shown us that, instead of counting our years of good democratic fortune we will be counting bodies.
Instead of counting on peace and stability, Zambians will be counting on brutality.
Instead of counting on integrity we will be counting on political expediency.

How can you count on Zambia to vote for your leadership when Zambia CAN’T count on you to provide it?

#TakeZambiaBack #ZambiaDecides

Do we need to un-silence the Narrative?

•June 6, 2016 • Leave a Comment
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Mulenga Kapwepwe showing our Swedish partners how to greet the Chief, image courtesy of PR Girl

“Narratives of Silenced Voices” is a project that endeavours to re-discover alternate historical biographies of women whose life work has contributed to certain pivotal eras in the history of Zambia but has been passed out of secular knowledge.

The research focuses on various cultural, social and political systems that were practiced in the past and contributed to a way of life and systems of knowledge for the people of Zambia.

I read the speech below, in part, at a small gathering of Zambia’s cultural and creative fraternity when we were introducing the idea of Narratives of Silenced Voices #NoSV and why it was important subject matter for understanding the idea of how society is constructed in 21st century Zambia.

This was nearly eight months ago and since then each piece of research or uncovered history has provided a link to how it has affected our contemporary history and makes this quest that much more important.

With scholars and cultural actors such as Mulenga Kapwepwe and Charity Salasini providing a rich resource of content that is evidence-based and traceable we can attempt to restore a side of history that could unlock the key to creating a stronger and more nuanced approach towards social and cultural interactions that inevitably affects our economic and political constructs.

I am interested to hear if they are others who have this underlying sense of absence. Not necessarily with women but anything else. Do we think restoring an understanding of our history makes a difference to how we act in our present and future? More importantly, is there a history that we need to restore? Can a case be made for why it is important to grasp the knowledge and understanding of the past in order to plan a better future? Let me know what you think… See a few lines below of why I think it is a viable quest.

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At the Swedish Embassy introducing NoSV, image courtesy of PR Girl

“I have come across many histories of Zambia. A peaceful history, a benevolent history, a history of struggle, a patriotic history, a patriarchal history, a sometimes passive history and the unavoidable happy history.

In between these encounters I have also come across what I can describe as an obscured history. Layers upon layers, hidden and distorted. A history that has silenced and muted a lot of our culture and identity.

The idea of Narratives of Silenced Voices is to open up spaces of cultural communication that will allow us to examine these obscured histories and how they have affected our contemporary lifestyles.

How they influence our action and non-action, how they shape how we see ourselves and therefore who we are and how in effect these experiences are not in a vacuum but in fact parallel many societies.

This project is also about learning how shared experiences provide an opportunity for building a new way to communicate and understand who we are in the context of humanity and ultimately what valuable contributions we can provide that can effect meaningful change”.

Look forward to hearing from you and sharing more.

How do you describe an oceanic storm? 

•May 27, 2016 • Leave a Comment
Some musings from my recent travel to Zanzibar
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How do you describe and oceanic storm?
Do you start with how it darkens the sky, slowly stretching its inky curls far into the horizon, masking any hint of the sun’s brilliance across the vast sea of water? Do you describe how the waves thrash about as they try to resist the unforgiving winds that relentlessly up turn the waters? Forcing them to  pay attention as the heavens open up releasing innumerable jets of rain that clash on the surface and disappear into the ocean; swallowed into the dancing swirls of turquoise liquid.
Do you describe how percieving its strength should frighten you with its thundering and crashing; cautioning you to seek shelter and protect yourself, and yet somehow it soothes you, draws you in, hypnotises you?
Do you describe how you get caught in it, despite shielding yourself? How the rivulets first threaten to cut off your breathing but then slowly trace their way around your membranes allowing inhalation long enough to fill your lungs, even as it consumes you?
How do you run from a storm that at once will kill you and simultaneously allow you life? How do you tell the difference between when it wants to immerse you deep or leave you floating?
How do you predict the inevitability of a storm when it never really announces itself, not really, not in a way you can recognise it in order to do something about it?
One minute it’s flitting across the horizon; the next it has erupted.
How does one predict a storm’s nature?
How does one predict YOU?

When parenting has nothing to do with biology

•May 13, 2016 • 4 Comments

21st century parenting, the emerging DNA of a Zambian family

By Samba Yonga

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I have three sons – a 23 – year old, an 11 year old and a 7 year old.

They have been in my life since the day each of them was born, even though I became a mother to them at varying intervals in their lives.

I didn’t biologically give birth to any of my children but they are my children. When I inevitably have to use that line to explain the seeming impossibility of me having a 23 year old son to people who happen to meet him, I am often met with interesting reactions. They range from dismissive disillusion “Oh, so he’s not really your son” to shock and awe “Wow, that is so great, you are amazing!!”. I am often amused by both reactions and all the varying versions in between.

This has led me to ponder the single idea of parenting that seems to be an inherent notion for most people and whether there is room to provide an alternative way of thinking about parenthood.

It’s strange to think how narrow the concept of parenting is still perceived in an age where the meaning of parenting has been expanded beyond just the biological confines of providing DNA to another human being.

It’s also odd to raise an eyebrow at the idea of surrogate parenting in a society that is steeped in a history of “shared community” that includes standing in and becoming parents for those who have no parents. The much flogged and overused “Ubuntu” comes to mind.

My sons are very aware of the parentage dynamics that they exist in, there is no confusion about the role each of us plays. If you ask the seven year old who his mother is, his answer will be “Mommy big Mahongo, Mommy Smoz (small) Mahongo and Mommy Samba”. He mentions all three of us- his biological mother, my sister, my other young sister and myself. People might find that confusing but actually for him it is an extended safety net that is unique to him and sees no conflict. To the point that if I go and pick him up from school when he spots me he turns to his friend to say “I’m going, my mum is here”.  Its seamless, we are all the same to him and emotionally and physically available to attend to his needs as a child and he knows we are there to provide the care, guidance and discipline, unconditionally.

With the 11 year old it gets even more interesting, besides us, he has a second family, his biological mother’s family, – they are present in his life even though his mother passed on years ago. He has an anchor with us but also knows he is safe and secure with his mother’s family who embrace him and provide a family structure for him to retreat to.

The 23 year old came into my life when I was 21, he was 8 years old, I was fresh out of college and still clubbing every weekend. I had known him since he was the over inquisitive baby who was never afraid to speak his mind. It was never a question of whether I could, it just had to happen. The alternative was not an option. And so the following 15 years has been an education in human development that neither the 23 year old nor myself would have received if we stayed in our respective spaces. It’s the simple things, like a keen understanding of what the word ‘patience’ actually means.  I also have an appreciation of what ‘unconditional love’ requires, it means even when you can stop, or even when you could have another choice – you still choose this one. And it has nothing to do with biology.

I write this as if this is some sort of unique phenomenon, in fact, it is not. It has been happening for generations except these days we put labels on it such as ‘adoption’, ‘dependants’, ‘nephew’, ‘niece’ – all perfectly adequate and accurate except I feel when you stick to the actual meaning of each of these terms there is a subtraction that is not immediately obvious but can be felt.

It is not inaccurate to assert that we live in a deeply fractured society, resultant from all manner of social problems that has left gaping holes in places where there should have been a mother, father, role model, supporter, provider and carer. This has required that certain roles we would execute, for example, as an ‘Auntie’, morphs into much more as the role takes on additional unforeseen duties of mother, father, sister, brother, friend. It is much much more than a dismissive wave of the hand or a pat on the shoulder.

We don’t necessarily share any chromosomes with my children but more often than not, when people close to my circle have interacted with them long enough they often say things like, “Your son listens to the same music you do” or “He reads a lot like you”, or “His facial expression mimics yours” or “ He is reserved like you”.

Recent scientific studies actually suggest that personality traits depend more on social environment rather than genetics. My point being, it is not about bringing up a child in a strict conventional family unit that consists of mother, father and family home that will contribute to their adequate development but it is making sure that you are able to seal the gaps of the fracture and hold on for long enough, using whatever resources are available until they are able to fly the nest.
The kids shuffle between my home and their grandparents, with shared duties of hangouts, school runs, homework and abundant love. I am not saying the pitfalls are non-existent or its ideal, all I am saying is, it works, and for now that’s what matters.

Image courtesy of the Google memes

Legacy of poison – a brief reminder

•February 13, 2016 • 1 Comment

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This is the legacy of a town once ranked as the fourth most polluted city in the world due to high concentrations of lead poisoning from the mines that operated in the area over a decade ago.

Today as we drove through Kabwe town, on a work assignment, corroded roofs such as these were a common feature. These are some of the ‘minor’ effects of the lead poisoning still evident to this day, some of the more severe have been high levels of lead being found in children with all sorts of health complications recorded over the years.

In one report from 2006 it was documented that lead levels should not exceed 15 microgrammes per decilitre in the blood of children but lead concentrations of up to 300 microgrammes per decilitre have been recorded in Kabwe.

In 2015 the World Bank announced that it will be carrying out a lead remediation project that is aimed at mitigating the impact of lead poisoning in Kabwe.

Is it a little too late to remedy the situation for thousands who have suffered the effects?

#pollution #poison #health #life

Fashioning Zambia from the Mediterranean blue

•January 27, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Meet the Zambian re-imagining sub-Saharan architectural landscapes on a Mediterranean island. The fourth blogger to feature on the WordPress Lusaka Fifty-Two Zambian Bloggers Project. A future leader who has already led the way, I introduce to you Mwansa Ndemi Mbewe. He is also responsible for bringing me out of my writing drought. Hahahaha

The Lusaka WordPress Meetup Group

An interview will always allow for a revelation of some sort, a fact, an idea, a thought or state of being. It’s the occupational hazard of any writer. This interview didn’t fall short on any of those scores. For starters, it began with a lesson in geo-politics, then it ventured into a philosophical articulation on architecture and even some unexpected tips on how to deal with ADD.

Instead of getting into detailed prose that will only scratch the surface of the thoughts behind the subject, an extraction of some of his prolific and introspective statements during the interview seemed much more compelling…

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