First Letter to my unborn son
THE year is 2016, Thursday 30 June. You are not yet born but you exist; you exist because African spirituality and community says so. Your mother is still unknown but your father is writing this letter. Africans in general and the Bantu people in particular always understood the community as consisting of – (1) the living, (2) the dead and (3) those yet to come (the unborn). These three relates to each other in obvious and complex ways. The living relates to the dead through African spirituality – the sacred cultural and traditional norms, practices and systems that underpins our way of life. It is said, in African spirituality, that while they are with our god in the community of the dead (the ancestry and aakwampungu in Oshindonga), the dead exist in our community protecting and watching over us together with the most high. Although the unborn, like you, are not yet physically present, their presence is understood from the context of the future metaphysical. This is to mean that in the understanding of the reality and what constitutes nature, the living are concerned, lead and live their lives cognizant of and in preparation of those yet to come. This practice, under normal state of affairs, leads to a situation where those yet to come essentially becomes part of the normal day to day society although not physically present. Their future existence guides decisions and practical action. So son, it is against this context that I write you this letter.
Your naming is deliberate; both in content and outlook. White people, from colonialism and as part of colonial legacy, made it their mission to reconstruct black identity in their image. Everything had to be reconstructed in white images. It is for this reason that generation after generation Africans are Job, John, Simon, Ester, Maria etc. ‘White is right’, Africans were told and made to believe. Your naming outlook seeks to end the continuation of white imagery. All your names, Sankara and Shipululo, are African names. My paternal grandmother, the late Kuku Namene yaShankungu shaNkandi, told me that she was heavily pregnant with my uncle (Job Shipululo) when they travelled to Ondjondjo with the late Kuku David, towards the 1970s, to go buy a plough. My uncle, whom I am named after, was then born in this journey to go buy this plough (‘oshipululo’ in Oshindonga). Kuku Namene further explained the metaphorical importance of ‘oshipululo’ as follows; before the arrival of tractors in Owambo, the people used two tools for cultivating land; a plough and a hoe (a method the Aandonga called ‘okupapula’). The oshipululo is, therefore, an important tool for production. My maternal grandmother, Kuku Teopolina Vanyenga yaAdolf yeElia, summarises it well: “oshipululo oha shi pulula omapya, yo aantu taya longo omahangu yalye”. Simply stated, the oshipululo works for and on behalf of people. It is, therefore, to be understood by you and others carrying this name that you have to work for the masses of our people. It is for this reason that all your brothers and sisters carry this name as their middle name.
The name Sankara is equally important, probably more important. You are named after one of Africa’s most brilliant revolutionaries; Thomas Isidore Noel Sankara. In 1983, in an African country then called Upper Volta, a 33-year-old military captain took over its governance and leadership; his name was Thomas Sankara. Straightaway, he changed the name of his country from colonial name ‘Upper Volta’ to ‘Burkina Faso’ – the land of the Upright Men. Sankara was a Marxist revolutionary, a Pan-Africanist and a strong charismatic iconic figure of the true black revolution. His message of African self-reliance was not just cheap rhetoric. When he said, “he who feeds you controls you” he meant every word. He sent the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund packing and did not leave land in white hands but nationalised it together with other mineral resources of Burkina Faso. He distributed land evenly leading to the production of wheat increasing from 1 700 kg per hectare to 3 800 kg per hectare, in three years. He vaccinated 2.5 million children against meningitis, measles and yellow fever – and planted more than 10 million trees in Burkina Faso. He did not believe in luxury for politicians. In fact, he is said to have refused air-condition in his office because such luxury was not available to all. Sankara the great sold the government fleet of Mercedes Benz and made Renault 5, the then cheapest car, to be the official car for ministers. Unlike our ‘King’, Sankara did not constantly increase salaries of politicians; he reduced his salary, as President, to only US$450.
What happened to Sankara, you may wonder! Andile Mngxitama, my South African friend, answered this question for you in 2010. Listen to him: “On October 15 1987 in Burkina Faso, the enemies of Africa opened fire and killed one of the most brilliant of our African leaders. The media, academy and even the arts world have not raised the name of Sankara, precisely because his example threatens the interests of those who are against the genuine development of Africa. Sankara had to be killed because if they didn’t, the African masses would have known that change can happen in their interests and they would have demanded that all their countries be run like Burkina Faso.”
But you must hear Sankara in his own words son, listen to him: “While revolutionaries as individuals can be murdered, you cannot kill ideas … it took the madmen of yesterday for us to be able to act with extreme clarity today. I want to be one of those madmen. We must dare to invent the future”. He was clear in terms of what society we should be. Son, at the time of writing this letter our country had one of the highest levels of inequality in the world. Your namesake said: “Inequality can be done away with only by establishing a new society, where men and women will enjoy equal rights, resulting from the upheaval in the means of production in all social relations”. Sankara had a deep sense of justice guided by revolutionary morality.
Africa in general and Namibian in particular needs new Sankaras. I and other activists are working hard to ensure that the Sankara dream comes true. As you will come to learn, we are fighting against injustice brought about not by colonialists but by our own people. We are using the Sankara dual methods of practical actions and ideological (awakening) works. As Sankara told us as “… soon as ignorance is destroyed, spirit shine forth, like the sun when released from clouds”. In case we do not succeed in terms of physical and practical struggles, we would have succeeded in ideological work and foundation for you and your friends to work from. Like seeds, they can bury us but we will germinate and resurface into new plants – new plants like you. You are to continue the Sankara dream. You are to work hard, like oshipululo, for the masses of our people. You are Sankara son, Sankara lives on, in you and others!
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015