“As a response to challenges insisted on by the harsh environment, the
brutal physical abuse by their captors and the psychological disintegration
produced by the chaos of the unfamiliar, Africans reached deep within
themselves where the roots of culture abide. This protracted struggle and
accompanying cultural resolve has allowed them to maintain the deep
structure of their cultural distinctiveness. Moreover, dynamic cultural
processes allowed enslaved Africans to establish familiar and intelligible
patterns through maintaining and preserving their identities and renewing
spiritual and ancestral forces. Many of the Africanisms were codified
in the folkways of African people, especially the expression of spirituality.
The intense need for the expression of spirituality reflected the continuity
of beliefs transported from Africa. This spiritual aspiration was encoded
in the folklore.” – K. Zauditu Selassie
“Add appropriate Zulu proverb” – The Zulu language is something remarkably marvelous. Take the title of this essay. Abakhanyiselwa is directly translated as Those Who Have Been Enlightened or Those Upon Whom Light Has Been Revealed or Shone. The same word can also mean They Have Not Been Enlightened, or They Are Not Receiving The Light. But where is the logic in having such a paradoxical word? This phenomenon of ambiguity and of hidden meanings is not exclusive to the Bantu language family, there are various other languages that when examined carefully, carry similar linguistic paradoxes. Yet, perhaps these are not contradictions at all, but simply part of the divine or magical power of words.
The very human acts of prayer, incantation, invocation, and verbalized meditations or affirmations are part of human traditions spanning all continents and dating back millennia. The art of placing the right words, tones, and notes in exactly the right or intended places is part of the joys of being a languaged being. We also tend to gravitate or be more articulate in the languages of our origins. There is something deeply satisfying as well as positively challenging to me whenever I read the language of IsiZulu. Even though I mostly write and speak isiNgisi or the language of the colonizers of our region, I would like to even think that I dream in BaNtu languages, it is the language of my Soul …I aspire to deepen my personal aptitude towards it.
Back to the actual reason why I chose to title this article, Abakhanyiselwa. There is often a lot of ego and self-interest involved in the formulation of organizations, interest groups, societies, and even nations. It may be shared values and traditions finding expression or extension in the formulation of rules, characteristics, and systems to live by, but it may also be the sole vision of a visionary or heroic figure that captivates or motivates followers or adherents to abide. The formation of organizations is just as complex as the molding of families and keeping the legacy intact …