Wasn’t it Chinua Achebe who reminded us, through that 1994 interview with Paris Review, about that Nigerian proverb which says “until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter”? Did Ngugi wa Thiong’o not warn us, in Devil on the Cross, about the folly of covering pits in the yard with grass and telling the children it’s safe to prance about the yard? Did our own Felix Mnthali not urge us, in When Sunset Comes to Sapitwa, to write and tell it like it is before historians invent what was not and efface what was? Did he not plead with us to write though comparisons and contrast would be made and conclusions drawn about what we write?
Did Steve Biko not declare, in his selected writings edited by Aelred Stubbs, that he wrote what he liked? So, what are we waiting for? Let’s just write because one day people will read how we feel and perceive our world today. It’s the aggregate of the stories of our lives, as individuals, communities, societies, and nations in that order that is our history.
Listen and listen carefully. Had the immediate followers of Jesus the Christ not written about their teacher’s exploits in life, JHe would not have been known to the world today and, believe it or not, Christianity would not have been in existence today. So, write and preserve today’s culture, sayings, folktales, fables, proverbs and political dramas of today for they may be used as reference points in future. They will be Malawian history.
Listen and listen carefully. A lot has been said about John Chilembwe’s courage and his fight for Malawi’s liberation. However, not much is mentioned about his links to pastors and revolutionaries of his time, Charles Gudu, a Lomwe, and Elliton Kenani Musokwa Kamwana Chirwa, a Tonga because many want to symbolically annihilate these historically important personalities. Such is the mission of commissioned historians and politicians.
So, write about what you know about Kenani Kamwana, write about Charles Gudu. Write it anywhere, on Facebook, on Twitter, in a conventional book, in the public toilet, on trees, and on the new Reuben Malola stadium walls because one day someone will read what you write and admit that indeed no person can fight and win national battles alone. Never.
Listen and listen carefully. Had Nyavwiyi Nyasaka not told us about how the Tonga of Malawi defeated the Ngoni invaders at Chintheche, Ulwani a Tonga and elsewhere in Utonga, the Ngoni would be dancing around today and about drinking to their fake success. But, their historians can’t lie today because Nyasaka passed on the stories of the wars she had witnessed. Had Msuku, Mtiliriwa and Ulandawiza not told us about what they witnessed at Nkhata Bay on March 3, 1959, the Unsung Song would not have been written and those self-declared historians would be freely trivializing those massacres by the murderous British Government in exchange for three pieces of silver.
Had Kamuzu Banda not told us, again and again, how the Chewa beat off the Ngoni attacks at Ngulu ya Nawambe in Kasungu, the story of Ngoni war successes would have been different. So, write your story. Had the Ngwazi written his own story about his own sacrifices for and contributions to Malawi, stories being told today about his cruelty would have been better contextualised. Insults being peddled today that those who went into exile were the cream of Malawi and the rest of us, who stayed here were cockroaches, gutter rats, automatons, zombies, madeya, gaga or vindele vya kufikapo would be challenged. Claims that everybody who was away from Malawi during Banda’s era was in political exile would have been challenged because, we know, there were people, like Bingu wa Mutharika, who were actually sent abroad by the same maligned Dr Banda to study in preparation for strengthening the civil service.
So, Mama Cecilia Tamanda Kadzamira must write her life story before commissioned historians start inventing what was not. Mama should write right now and tell us the good side of Kamuzu Banda and his dreams about Malawi. Write right now and tell us about his weak and soft side. n