Where ever I lay my hat

Sometimes people ask me where I’m from. Kumusha ndekupi? How do I answer that?

I’m from Greystone Park? No, that just sounds wrong, and usually when I say I live in the leafy northern suburbs people Β make a lot of assumptions. Which are almost always wrong. Anyway.

Am I from Mhondoro? I am Chikonamombe, Mbuya, chigumbu chine hunye. Is that where I’m from? Cos I know, for sure, that’s where my parents are from. My grandparents lived there too in their later years, but is that where they are truly from?

The problem I have with many of our so-called “rurals” is simple; they were created by settlers. I don’t know if my grannies were originally from there, or if they were herded into certain places while the colonialists took all the productive land.

Is it my fault that I don’t know the answer to that question? Is it that wherever I’m from is simply a matter of tracing back up my family tree to find out where each of my ancestors came from?

I don’t think so. I grew up in Chegutu, so that’s where I, as an individual, am from. As a family? Mhondoro is where we’re from. Further than that, I don’t know exactly.

But home? With my family spread across oceans, can I call Chegutu my home still? Do any of my childhood friends live there? Can I really identify with that town, no matter how much I love it? I’m not so sure.

See, home is not a place. It’s not an area. Home is people.

If you go back there after the people are gone, then all you can see is what is not there anymore.

All you see are the places you used to play, the people who moved away, who passed on, and who don’t recognise you anymore.

So you can never really go “home”. You can only make a new home for yourself.

Where is my home, you ask?

I’m in Harare, fool.

13 Replies to “Where ever I lay my hat”

  1. good stuff.

    “home” is a transient entity. it is where one is physically and temporally, the persons one is during that period, how one feels, who one is with and what one does with them, the environment and what influences it. it is where one lays their hat.

    remember that that statement comes from a time when folks grew up in a place and then went to work or be married in another. so a person’s life was lived in two places – the home and the next. things have changed somewhat these days. i’m creating my fourth home …

  2. Sorry.

    Ahem … very profound, I agree totally. Migratory patterns may have changed, but the actual system hasn’t.

    Not many of us live in the same place we came from e.g. half of Harare, I bet, ain’t born and bred. But that’s how it has always been, through time, through continents.

    Home is where your Mouse is, really πŸ™‚

  3. To be honest this kind of feels like you want to deny the concept of where you’re from based on some western perception of home. If your white English boss asks where you’re from you know he’s asking where you grew up. If your girlfriend’s sekuru asks where you’re from you should know he is asking where your family traces itself to. Whether or not your ancestors were moved to Mhondoro is something that I’m pretty sure the guy asking you will have a handle on based on the fact that he probably knows your surname, possibly your mutupo and now where you have said you’re from.

    I don’t think that as it pertains to chishona this is a hard concept to crystallize. Kumusha kwako, kumusha kwako whether or not you have been there or not. I live in England and to a certain extent grew up and had kids here and haven’t been kumusha kwangu in decades, but still kumusha kwangu hakuna kuchinja. Therefore we have that word being separate from the word kumba which I think is more of an appropriate word for what you’re describing here. True that most people were moved to certain rural areas they previously had no link to but I’m certain anyone asking you kuti unobva kupi might have an appreciation of your family background based on your surname alone. You’re right that generations may relocate or be forced to move from time to time, however that in itself is part of your history and used to normally be incorporated in your dzindza’s detembo. Detembo rangu rinazvo zvese izvozvo and I’m guessing that at some point in history my answer to unobva kupi might have been followed by detembo rangu.

    In the end I feel that your article is trashing one of the few tools that vanhu can use to trace their genealogical lineage. As someone who has recently tried to put together a family tree I can tell you that if you and I share the same surname and you tell me that kumusha kwaku ku Greystone Park or kuChegutu it’s not going to be as useful for me as if you tell me kuti kuMhondoro. Why you’d want to airbrush that part out is what baffles me. It’s hard enough for us to trace ourselves back more than 4 or 5 generations without us breaking links every other generation. For what it’s worth even West Indians have the same concept and its even more important for them because their surnames don’t normally shed light on their heritage. As you’ll know they were also moved to the islands by white people. Asi ndikokwava kumusha kwavo for ever….. which you can figure out if you have listened to Biggie, Busta, Foxy Brown or Heavy D.

    For me kumusha is not about your home and of course my answer can depend on the context in which I’m asked that question. But most certainly without any clarification kumusha kwangu is where my extended family can latterly traced to. And I don’t mean just my Dad and his kids by 3 women.

    Joe. (long time lurker)

  4. @Joe. (long time lurker)

    allow me to bust your balls about your labelling beezy’s notions as a western concept (not that i care about beezy’s notions or anything),

    “If your white English boss asks where you’re from you know he’s asking where you grew up.” – erm, not so. i grew up in a mapurazi and migodhi dingy little town, and those bwanas KNOW that darkies who work on their farms and mines have where they live and then where they’re from. the white bosses in africa have a running joke about darkies going back “ekhaya” every long holiday. they know you ‘come from’ mhondoro and guruve or whatever bantu homeland or ttl, because … wait for it … THEY created mhondoro and guruve AND where you live while you work for them.

    Your notion of not belonging to england is not because of your african sensibilities, it is diasporan – in the broad sense. you know u’re not english and that england is not your home, because you are black, england is white and you know you hopped the atlantic to get there. similarly, afrikaners in SA, after 400-odd years, and white zimbos, after 150-odd years STILL regard europe and britain, respectively, as ‘where they are from’. black people in the usa ‘know’ they are from africa … thats why they are still referred to as african-americans 400 years after their sailing trip across the atlantic.
    it is a ‘reserve’ notion. you keep that original home in the backpack because you ‘know’ you’re a foreigner, you know deep down that you don’t belong.

    society is changing, not necessarily for the better, and you do not need geographical markers to trace your lineage. yes, your surname, mutupo, detembo etc can link you with your aunt 4 times removed, but, come on, we’re also in 2012, the fact that you have cousins twice removed who were born and grew up in new zealand, while you have kids who were born and raised in england, does not mean that they shall never know they are kin! while it would be cool and will make you feel warm and fuzzy and unique to have a detembo including new zealand and stuff, do you REALLY need that to get in touch with your kin? a little chat with you and an uncle, and a family tree app and skype and before you can say God Save The Queen, you’re all planning your big family reunion – in guruve πŸ™‚

    and, detembo and mutupo and whatnot are simply tools for identification. do not get caught up in the tools while ignoring the important bit, the function. you can keep doing all that, but remember, our forefathers needed them, we can use them, but we dont need them – except for mushy sentimental reasons.

  5. Joe -the lurker not the original mouse trapper

    I dont know – I can see where you are going with your argument but on the other hand, I also think its ridiculous how we would say I am from mhondoro or whichever TTL/Rural area when for a lot of people there is no connection. A majority of people may have grandparents in rural areas but their parents would move back there permanently if they were paid a million bucks. Is it right to say I am from Mhondoro when as soon as granny and co keel over, I do not go back there. What about my children and great grandchildren – they are unlikely to even know how to get to Mhondoro.

    I give you another example – you are in the UK, there are sixth/seventh generation jamaicans who are born and bred in the UK and have never been to Jamaica – you have african americans who obviously are from africa but nine tenths of them couldnt trace their ancestry – what would you call their home?

  6. If I need a visa to go stateside or even just over the road to Berlin, you damn well bet I’m British. You ever tried crossing borders with a Zimbo passport? Eish!

    If you’re a curious British person wanting to know what exotic parts I’m from, I’m from East London, in my sweetest ‘I DO belong here, and no, I aint no refugee to be pitied or illegal alien to be hated, dang it!’ tone. πŸ™‚ Bless though, they often ask because of my weird unplaceable accent and weird name.

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