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Footsteps in the Dust: An Essay by Seotsa ‘Soh’ Manyeli

He called it footsteps in the dust. He made me realize that there are no heroes and no villains – only small tentative footsteps towards a future we don’t know anything about. He was answering a question I had asked millennia ago.

I had been on the opinion that an African Man is one who is black; with a broad nose and seemingly proud of his heritage and obviously one with an identity that says black ‘origin’. I was on the opinion that only an African Man is one whose descendants walked this place for about three hundred years before the birth of light as we identify with it today. He answered my question and pierced into my mind other questions still about the accuracy whether we are who we say we are. It is a baggage true that has been passed from one generation to the next; it is a baggage that has been accepted by one tribe to the next. It is a history that is told from many lenses though talking about one event that changed the shape of this land. The land is far and wide seemingly belonging to one tribe of people who are black whom we call Africans.

I remember the words of one man who claimed that he is an African owing to the ‘migrants who left Europe to find a new home on his native land. Whatever their own actions, they remain still, a part of him.’ He was according to me every right and he saw it as evidently as I saw within the triviality of a sense of identity that an African is made by his colour and his heritage that is prepared from Xhosa, Zulu or Sotho [to mention only but a few.] I guess I should thank the ground that I walk on for providing me with multiple questions that compel me to go on looking for my identity more and more. It is an ego still that forces me to look deep in those clean waters of my time that have been changed and shaped by events in the past and prospects of the future. I still pay homage to it and kiss it thus. I guess it is true that every person’s identity is made by the ground he walks on. Whatever stories that are held by the dust as we walk on it and leave prints the truth that are augmentedly prepared; the ground is legally responsible to pass them on and on to future generations.

Perhaps there are no heroes and no villains in the world. Perhaps we are heroes of our past and villains of our future. Measuring upon the rocks of reality; the day that is still frozen by fear is still an illusion and a foolish view that can change for the better. Those rocks that have stood the ground before we came here still narrate similar tales of conflicts and forgiveness that still shape the present. We are still afraid of talking in fine points about what really happened because of the baggage of guilt and insolence to those we deem terrible. We still walk the very ground that carries one story of love and clemency and take note of unlike faces that this ground present to us. Who is a native and who is not? Will we ever find a moment of peace and harmony with those we deem exotic if we define ourselves indigenous? What is the measuring stick that we use to say this is a proper African and the other is not?

The spectacular characters of our mountains that stand proud today did the same yesterday. They knew then that there are no heroes and villains; one should assume whatever identity he feels drawn to. I am still kissing this ground today because it has shone bright with shines of rain from the clouds that sing the same song of reconciliation. I am still dancing in the rain; kissing the ground and leaving them prints of my knees for my children to see. They probably would seek and cross streams in search of the same thing I am looking for today; they probably will find it, but I just hope they get to bridge that gap between all races and all tribes to form one link that defines one reality. They will probably listen more and observe more from the ground and the surrounding so that whatever the ground has to say, will be ushered deep into their lives. I pray from the ground that they swim together and cleanse themselves from this fear that is driving us apart. It is all about history and trying to get a common ground.

I don’t know how much of this will come of age and who will have a moment of read from this memoir of my thoughts. But I am grateful to the ground that is furnishing me with answers and questions still. It is about a life that is progressing into something solid that will be pleasant for all when the time arrives. By taking these small tentative steps towards the future; and by crossing that divide that has made us prisoners of our own thoughts is a clear indication that the future is indeed bright. I am my own hero. I am my own villain. Perhaps there are no villains because everything we do should be taken into consideration that we are acting on the expediency of the moment; and whatever data we have is limited. This is a ‘thank you’ note to all those who questioned their beliefs and norms and crossed into another realm of hatred and skepticism so that they may learn the truth. This is to those who have left their footsteps in the dust.

Africa is my home. I was born and raised in Africa by an African Woman. She is beautiful and strong; and also did her history that informed her that a White Man left Europe and shattered peace that was prevailing in Africa. She raised me with that knowledge that we are all equal in the eyes of The Lord; but the reality of the world is different. It is a reality still that they left Europe to Africa and robbed land from the ‘natives’. But they are long dead now and we should not keep on blaming those who are still here because they were not there at the time. Those footprints that were left by our forefathers should teach us to be humane. We are one children and we should learn to live together as one nation; one people. We should learn one history that talks of love; and courage. I am walking the same ground where my heroes walked; probably thinking the same thoughts my heroes thought. But I am lucky for I have more data and seemingly more awareness. It is a footstep in the dust that I intend to leave for my children – as I march into a future that is flowing into a river I cannot sketch. It is a future still and I cannot run away from it. I also need more courage to dust from my feet the dirt that has made me a slave and a marginal to the future. But I do hope what I am asserting today is a footstep in the sand. It may be covered by dust after a day, a month, a year, a decade, a century, or millennia. But it is a footstep still in the dust, and for some time; it will stay there.

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3 Comments

  • As I read, I connect with the mountains and listen to the stories they have to tell of heroes and villians who stood in awe of them. Albeit sooner than later the cares of my world take possession of me, and back I fall with a thud in the abysmal dungeons of ignorance….. bravo Soh, keep tapping onto the infinite knowledge and tell in order for us to remember that we are not here because we are not of here. We think we are, because by God, its so convincing…….