In August this year, we buried my father, Baba Christopher Chakanyuka Gwata in our rural village in Nenguwo, Chihota, in Zimbabwe.
Patriarchs do not come any softer, he lived a life of charity, reading, writing, organic foods and laughter. Oral history lived here. The village boy who walked to school bare foot, became a teacher and later married a Mbare girl, together they raised more children than they birthed.
Baba’s funeral was spiritual and ritualistic in Shona cultural practises, his coffin lay in our mother’s sacred thatched kitchen, his youthful picture perched above, he stood tall in that picture, the father that he was, the father I wanted to remember, not the frail man riddled in poor health as he was in his last few weeks.
Women play a significant and incredibly valued role in our Shona traditions, many important decisions pass through their matriarchal veins, varoora’s (in laws) danced and cooked the night away, when your grief becomes too heavy, they come along and comfort and tickle you, they sweep the grave yard, and cater for the rolling numbers, when the dust settles they politely line up and claim for their efforts. They warmed my grieving heart.
Grief is the air in between, there are many dark moments, you can lose yourself in search of meaning, you find comfort in unexpected places and people, every loss is valid, the footsteps of grief are individual, each observed at their pace and time. I am still observing
In African cultures, a grief is embodied by crying out loud, whaling, screaming, rolling on the ground, arms in the air as people come along and say ‘nematambudziko’ (sorry for your loss) it’s a healthy expression of grief, it brings closure.
Dizzy in jet lag and sorrow, surrounded by tribes closest to my heart, I mingled with the mass, many had travelled a long way to come to Baba’s funeral, many spoke of his selfless heart, his love of education and his tenderness and his failing health.
I wanted it to be a dream, I wanted to hold his hand again and have that last conversation, but God had called his man. As they lowered him into the ground, next to his kindred, among the Shumba Nyamuziwa clan, I heard the sound of birds fly away in a distance.
In it all, I am reminded of the value of family and masahwira (friends) who stick around, even when laughter is not the order of the day.
I love spending time kumusha (our village) I love the simplicity, I am home here. Thank you to all who have supported us in this difficult journey.
In our Shona culture we say ‘pasi papfuma’ the ground is richer with you in it.
Tribal Sands 2018
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