As a kid, my growing up was definitely one of the most interesting times my parents had. I mean, not to brag or anything, but my parents tell stories of my most hilarious moments and I must say, I am very very proud of the young trouble-maker I was. However, I do envy most of the people whose lives have been on camera and it must be very interesting to see footage of your twelve-year old self playing pranks on the rest of your family. What will be more interesting, however, is if your kids get to see the cheeky side of you. Can you imagine that? Wait, yes I can. In fact, I think I have a much better example…

For as long as history holds, as Africans, we passed down family heritage from generation to generation through stories. I would read in books as a little girl that our grandmothers and grandfathers would usually tell stories over the fire as the grandchildren and great grandchildren always gathered around to hear what it was that happened long long time ago. I never really got to experience that, but this is how I always imagined life was like in the before-fore times…

The young and middle-aged men would go out during the day and hunt for some bush meat while the women and the girls would work around the house cleaning, washing, gathering wood, fetching water and preparing food. The children would play around the compound under the warm tropical sun while the elderly would watch over them from a seat under the huge tree in the compound. They would smile occasionally and murmur a prayer, thanking the gods of our land and the ancestors that came before them for the blessing of their wombs and the harvest of their land. Everybody in the community had a role to play which brought about peace and harmony. Everyone was cordial and polite, hardworking and generous. With the birth of a new child which marked the beginning of a new life and the addition of a new member into the community, everyone would come bearing gifts and good tidings. With the death of a member, they not only grieved together, but also celebrated a life well lived; bearing in mind that death is just but another stage of life because our ancestors would welcome the goner and make them part of them.

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As dusk settled in, the children would be washed and the bush meat prepared. The fire would be started and the seats for the elderly placed just across from it. The children, now cleaned, would sit around the fire and some food, boiled soup and meat served. The men, having been given a proper welcome and seated away from the children, would be served some traditional beer and food as they talked about their own affairs.

I was very curious as to how the elderly told these stories. Did the children ask questions that triggered an aspect of their life that had a story behind them? Did they think during the day as to what story they would tell that night? Did they dream about them? What really inspired them? Whatever the reason, a story was always told. Not all stories were real happenings of the past, some were made up to scare the children, to teach them a particular lesson, or to inform them as to why tradition is tradition.  

As a new era dawned upon the land, intermarriages between communities became a common thing. Time passed and technology became a thing that had to be embraced. People became modern and so did their day to day lives. They moved to the city and stories were no longer passed down by word of mouth as frequently as they were back in the day. We no longer knew our heritage by heart, we could no longer memorize it. Grandchildren and grandmothers did not interact as often as they should have and the joy of storytelling was phased out.

You must then understand why over the top excited I get when my parents tell us a little about us while growing up. That is the new norm, stories no longer revolve around tradition, or a past life; the cord was cut. As a product of two communities, I thought that I would get the best of both worlds, but I am grateful for what I got. My heart goes out to all the people who no longer have their parents to tell them about how cheeky they were as kids. However, as Africans, our stories are forever in our hearts, so let us tell the little that we have because, another will tell, and we will have more than enough to share with our children, our legacies.

Like this one time when I…


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