It’s a long way from “I-and-my-soil” to “We-and-our-land”

It’s a long way from “I-and-my-soil” to “We-and-our-land”
It’s a long way from “I-and-my-soil” to “We-and-our-land”

Africa-Press – Rwanda. Have I lost my identity? Because whatever identity I lay claim to, I owe it to my soil. From birth, I’ve been rural new-born, toddler, teen, grown-up to now urban-dwelling but always rustic old-hand, son of the volcanic soil. So, what am I going to be without that volcanic soil?

The other day I was in Northern Rwanda, to be exact in Musanze, centre of said volcanic soil, only to see no soil! I made a few rounds of the city, got lost looking for my relative’s abode that I always frequent, went westward to Nyakinama and then up north to Kinigi and – no soil!

Finally, to locate my relative’s backstreet address, I had to make a phone call despite my confidence that I knew it. When I was told the street and house numbers (streets and houses numbered, my foot!), I realised I’d been passing it by, several times!

The complex task of navigating the sharp-pointed volcanic rocks and sticky soil to reach the house has become a thing of the past. Yet that past was only 2016, when I last visited. Today, the main street that was the only one tarmacked may still be wide but width is all it boasts! Almost every side street is equally palm-smooth.

What’s with the old foggy and his infatuation with this volcanic soil? What’s he on about, yammering this way, you may ask. Well, this yammering used to be shared by all those who live under the protective shadows of our mountains to the north. So, for my last visit, I sigh. Because note: “….this yammering used to be….”, which means I alone am stuck in the past of “yammering”. Others have moved on.

The memory I am stuck on revelling in is of my toddler years of the late 1950s when young and old, we all wore that fertile volcanic soil under the soles of our feet like second skin. For that, it gave us cracks in the soles that attracted jiggers like bees to pollen but we were happy, all the same, because we were well fed.

The sharp volcanic rocks, apart from serving to scratch our itching jigger-infested soles, were construction material for perimeter fence-walls around our grass-thatched houses. It sufficed to put one stone on top of another and, after some time, wild plants would grow out of and through each rock to thus bind the stones together.

Majestic mountains were there to see to our comfort and the comfort of some human-looking animals called “gorillas” that they harboured, which we cared little about.

Those ‘good old days’ were made even worse with the close of the 1950s as the whole of Rwanda was plunged into the disembowelment of her life that culminated in the Genocide against the Tutsi. Meanwhile, colonialism had given way to self-rule and post-independence rule given way to another, with nary a change to show.

Because as the sticky volcanic soil caked the cracked jigger-infested feet of the people in 1959, so did it in 1995 when next I visited, a year after the liberation of this country.

When the liberation of this land manifested properly after that, it brought about a whole paradigm change in attitude to all Rwandans. Everywhere became home and everyone became one with the other. So, ditch the “I and my soil” infatuation.

Before, every one of us had a soil they were attached to and no other counted as their “Nyarugunga home” (to quote a friend on this page last Tuesday). Wherever else they lived was never considered to be “a home”. It was an “Upper Matasia house” (in the sense of the quote again).

But today, all that is now decidedly discarded history. “Nyarugunga” or “Upper Matasia”, everywhere is home. Rural or urban area, your choice is your home.

Soil-caked jigger-infested feet are gone for good. Apart from the feet being protected in shoes, wherever they used to tread is fast becoming tarmac. Elsewhere, soil is covered in crops or forest, in spite of this prolonged drought.

Those sharp stones, volcanic or otherwise, wherever they are, have become treasured gems. Some are shaped into beautiful construction designs, others into marbles. Grass-thatch has been bid bye.

The gorillas we used to hear about without giving a fig, poached to near-extinction during the immediate post-independence regimes, plus all other animals, have become cash cows and are sought out by tourists from all corners of this earth.

Volcanoes, mountains, valleys, gorges and caves, lakes, rivers and swamps, they have all become major magnets that pull tourists to Rwanda like bees to pollen. With the tourists’ accompanying lucre, they add a chip in the pool of Rwandans’ work to empower government in the provision of comfort to all.

Numbering and all the trappings of modernity are here in place of the barbarity of yore. That “I” has become “We” and whatever identity we lay claim to, we owe it to our unity. We are sons and daughters of diverse soils that have coalesced into this land.

All thanks to a leadership that saw the logic in dismantling those isolationist ‘“I-and-my-soil”s’ to build a common and joint “We-and-our-land” identity.

For More News And Analysis About Rwanda Follow Africa-Press


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here