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The Roots, The Stem and The Branches: In Search of Myself

By the time I was growing up in the late 1990s, it was no longer fashionable for a young person to have creamed his family tree. Seemingly, the tradition was discouraged some decades ago during the climax of liberation movements and informally banned after the shock waves of the 1964 violence.

I remember there were even some Swahili sayings that were used to show little interests on family origins. One of which was in my mother-tongue, Kipemba. When they said “udugu wa mwana wa yani kamvyaani” or in standard Kiswahili “udugu wa mtoto wa nani alimzaa nani”, they were suggesting that ones’ family relationship was not enough to prove they were relatives. In standard Kiswahili, there were – and still are – popular sayings such as “udugu wa nazi kukutana pakachani” (coconuts’ are siblings because they meet in a basket) and or “udugu wa kuunga kwa gundi” (a brotherhood made by sticking glues).

That said, it does not mean that there were no family bonds. Of course, there were and has always been. People knew each other and could notice even a distant relative, but missed a consideration of a chain that connects them to their ancestors. There had been a time in the known history when creaming it was a sign of love, knowledge and wisdom. But then it was gone!

However, there were some cases whereby this tradition was still practiced and insisted. Mine is a matter of question here, which helped me a lot during the challenging years of early adolesce when my mind was such restless in search of myself.

And it had a good reason, I must say, because I was very lucky to have been born in a house which was considered a Nyumba Kuu (the great house). My father was accepted to be mtu mzima wa ukoo (head of the clan). He was not the oldest amongst others but he was, I think, a natural leader. Many relatives of ours – both in Zanzibar and beyond – were frequent visitors to our house because of my father.

Their visits blessed me in so many good ways. Apart from boosting my image among my peers – as there was no scarcity of presents almost every month from the visiting relatives, I also earned good knowledge when it comes to family bonds. By the time my father departed in 1995, I had already mastered the family links to almost each and every relative of ours, which included those who were living abroad and whom I never met.

I could easily tell why I was calling someone ami (uncle), chachi (aunty), brother, sister or whatever, even if they were not immediate siblings in the kinship. This helped me to grow, thanks to my father who, as I said, was like a custodian of the clan bond. Being a curious boy I used to be, there was always a bunch of questions I rose about our family relationships that he had to answer. I would ask him: “why somebody is calling you uncle while you do have only one sister who is not his/her mother and neither their parents are your cousins or nephews!?”

With that, he would start to show me the roots, the stem, the branches and the leaves. Sometimes his explanation was so complex and keeping turning things upside down that I felt confused, but he had always an art to end the talk by connecting all the dots together. After such session, I rose more relieved, more confident and, of course, very proud.

That was why I was among the few in my generation who could mention their fifth grand-grandfather. That I am a son of Khelef, who was a son of Mohammed, who was a son of Said, who was a son of Mana who was a son of Rashid, who was a son of Saleh from the clan of Bani Ghassani, many peers of my age could not trace their family links this much.

For a long time now, the importance of knowing one’s origin is being taken for granted because family roots are no longer a source of comfort. Life has got new demands, where family tree is not one of them.

But is it supposed to be so?

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1 thought on “The Roots, The Stem and The Branches: In Search of Myself”

  1. Dotto bin Daud, bin Sprian bin Rangimoto bin Liloto bin Maganga. Baba yangu hakuzaliwa peke, babu yangu hakuzaliwa peke yake na babu wa baba yangu hakuzaliwa peke yake pia, nawo hao wamezaa na wamejukuu.

    Na wengi hao karibu wote nawajuwa aidha kwa kuwaona au kwa kuwasikia, na wengi wao nimewajuwa baada ya kusimuliwa na baba yangu.

    Mgeni akija utasikiya baba akisema kwa mfano “huyu baba yako mdogo, bibi yangu mimi mtoto wake wa mwisho ndiyo kazaa huyu”

    Ni kweli kabisa kuna misemo ipo ambayo yadunisha utamaduni huu na si misemo tu hata nyimbo, mfano miaka ya mwanzo ya tisini Morogoro kukiwa bado utamaduni wa wali kuwacheza, kulikuwa midunduko(ngoma) nakumbuka mistari ya nyimbo mbili tafauti

    “Nimekula nimeshiba, nipeni maji ninawe,
    udugu wa siku hizi, kila mtu na mwanawe”

    Nyimbo nyingine hii

    “Kakwambiya nani usizae, kitenge changu nampa mama akavae”

    Nyimbo ya kwanza japo kama yakemea utengano lakini yatubainishia kuwa udugu wa sasa si kama wa zamani, ule dugu wa fulani kamzaa fulani, ndiyo mjomba fulani kisha ndiyo kazaa bint huyu haupo tena, udugu wa sasa baba, mama na watoto basi. Katika hali kama hii mtu hawezi kujuwa ukoo na asili yake.

    Nyimbo ya pili yatuambiya kama hukuzaa basi juwa huna mwana na huna usaidizi pindi ukiwa huna hujiwezi aidha kihali au kifedha, lakini zamani mgumba au tasa hakuwa mnyonge midhali kaka zake au dada zake wamezaa(haijalishi wa kuzaliwa pamoja au binamu zake) Alkadhalika mayatima hakuwa mayatima midhali ndugu wa wazazi wao wapo, lakini sasa kama hukuzaa basi huna mwana na kama mtoto kafiwa na mzazi si kwamba anakuwa yatima tu lakini pia anapata na ukiwa kwa kudhulumiwa kama hata kwa kile kidogo alichoachiwa na wazazi.

    Hakika makala hii ituzinduwe wengi, na tuvirejeshe vile vikao vya usiku vya masimulizi hadithi na masimulizi ya ukoo badala ya kukithirisha kutazama TV na kuchezea simu,, si hivyo tu pamoja na kwamba hatutembeleani sana kwasababu ya simu, lakini unapompigia simu ndugu yako usiishie kuongea na ndugu yako tu, pia zungumza na watoto zake, waulize maendeleo ya skuli, waulize hali zao na mambo kuhusu michezo yao, kisha wape watoto zako wawasalimie wenzao, na pia utaratibu wa kutembeleana siku za sikuu zirudi…. nakumbuka tulipokuwa wadogo sikuuu tulitembea karibu nyumba zote za ndugu zetu,,,,

    Ndivyo inavyotakikana udugu kuwa kila mtu na mwanawe?? Hapana, haitakiwi kuwa hivyo kabisa!

    Ahsante

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