Month: April 2016
What is it that makes us Zambian?
Is it the friendliness and warmth that visitors from abroad always talk about
Or maybe it’s our beautiful smiles
The same smiles we tucked away last week when we raided Rwandan owned shops
What images come to your mind when you think Zambia
Nsima, Victoria Falls , street kids, Mosi Lager, petty politics
Are we Zambian cause we bear names like Mundia, Bwalya, Phiri, Hamooga
Can’t you be a Scott or Patel and just be as Zambian
Do you have to belong to a ‘big tribe’ to really be a Zambian
How about the lesser known Goba, Unga and Mbowe
Aren’t they Zambians too
What distinguishes us from others
Is it the descriptive particles we add before a noun when we speak our version of English
As in: a ka little girl or a chi nice ride
Or is it because every toothpaste is Colgate and cooking oil is Saladi
Is it our ability to emulate the bold eagle meticulously sewn into our flag
Rising above and resolving our problems without talk of blood
Or maybe it’s the realization that we’re a jewel of the Zambezi
Singular and rare, belonging to all
Regardless of stripe or belief
A jewel bigger than any politician, political party or agenda
Hence the maxim One Zambia, One Nation
And so I reiterate my opening statement
What is it that makes us Zambian?
Yeah she got me high but this is way past cloud nine
This is rarified air
We’re fast approaching echelons of ecstasy many lovers will only dream of
Coz this is not for the faint hearted
This is not for the cheaters and players who take the easy route out
This is not that “we complete each other’s sentence” kind of love
This is high octane clumsy loving
Tristan and Isodle got nothing on us
It’s raw unbridled emotion
Romance on steroids
I sometimes cringe in fear
Genuinely scared that the cords that bind our hearts
Might be too strong for the world to bear
Not even a savage asteroid striking Earth at 150 miles per hour
Creating a huge cleft between Lusaka and Copperbelt
Could rip you from my arms
Tale of ages, burning sun
When was it that your journey begun
Some say it is with mother Earth
With whom you share a common birth
Others say you were born with time
As his travels and yours closely rhyme
Beautiful sun, what else do I need?
But the warmth on which my soul feeds
Fading sun, you generously give to my eyes
These fine gifts: the roseate sky
The not-so-towering towers and the swaying trees
The moon has not so many mercies
Golden eye, as you tan this Lusaka sky with your dying flames
Memories of midnight are freshly burnt on my brain
And the day slowly sleeps with each fading sun ray
It is my simple prayer that you stay
Stay with me that there be no night
Stay and all will be alright
I smile whenever I hear someone saying my name for the first time coz each person brigs a new pronunciation with them. Over the years I’ve been called Chifawanti, Chifyanti, Chifwati, Shifwanti, Twanti, Kafwanti so I can help but smile when someone encounters my name for the first time. But I smile mostly coz of the pride that comes with knowing that I’m the only person I know who bears that name.
From childhood to this day, I’ve never met or heard of any other person who goes by the name Chifwanti and I take advantage of it when I can. Last Friday I ended an interview I attended by telling the panel of interviewer’s that I was the guy they were looking for ,unique and interesting and told them they wouldn’t find another Chifwanti even if they were given a year. Of course it was chuckles and amazement after I spoke and when it’s time to hire, they will remember my name.
As a kid I was always interested in knowing what my name meant but every time I asked around, it’s like it was the best kept secret for generations coz no one seemed to know. I’d batter my dad and his brother with questions but still wouldn’t get a noteworthy response. So at age 14 I was pretty excited when my dad and I travelled to Mfuwe to visit his dad coz he had to know right, being the family patriarch and all. After a five day stay I returned home with mixed feelings: Chifwanti had been passed down in the family. As for the meaning, it didn’t have one as far as he knew. I was back at one.
About that same time I had come across my dad’s old diary from the past year. It looked like it had been abandoned halfway into the year coz the first few months were filled with work appointments and absolutely nothing after June, so definitely no revealing entries here. What caught my eye were the quotes at the bottom of every page. There was one by Ralph Waldo Emerson that just blew me away: “Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be”.
It’s what I had been looking for all this time, my name was right there. So it was simple logic or synonym use after the discovery…Chifwanti translated into greatest desire as in chief (greatest) want (desire). And from that point onward I’d embraced that as the meaning of my name.
Happy as I was, I wouldn’t find the time to celebrate this long sought victory coz beyond the ‘literal’ meaning, there was the greater contextual meaning of the whole quote. To truly own the tag of chief want I’d have to be someone who could inspire at least one person in some way. But that’s easier said than done, especially if you’re looking for inspiration yourself. And so being Chifwanti is also a personal journey for me. It’s a daily struggle to realize my potential, to rise above myself and awaken my inner chief want. Yeah it’s a little confusing when you got no name sake.
So before I write I ask myself: what is my chief want or greatest desire as a writer?
To tell my own story. I don’t wanna be a sorry statistic in another damning report on Africa. It’s no secret, Africa is shaped like a question mark because it’s faced with so many ills and challenges but instead of being an arm chair critic, I will be part of the solution and will present myself to the world on my own terms and in my own words.
To give back to the world. We benefit so much from the world, in more ways than we can possibly imagine, the least we could do is give back. As a writer/poet or whatever label I take, I have to share this gift coz all I know I’ve learnt from others. And so my chief want is to go beyond the likes and comments, into the reader’s heart and mind. To inspire that one person if only I can make them read.
To continue doing what I love. I’m certainly not the best writer there is but I sure love writing. I’m more at home when I write than when I speak. So whenever I hear someone say the pen is mightier than the sword, I’m thinking the keyboard/pad is mightier than the mic. A week ago my PC froze for two days and the experience was excruciating to say the least coz I couldn’t do what I’m passionate about. And I wanna do that constantly coz it’s beautiful and therapeutic plus someone out there thinks it’s cool.