Thursday, 10 November 2011

A Long Walk to Divorce

In a peculiar set of circumstances I found myself on a bus on June 14 2011 headed towards Durban to meet a person I knew very little about. I knew his name was Miyere ole Miyandazi. I knew he had walked from Nairobi to Cape Town in 2004. I knew the spark was the violent response to protests by the Maasai around a lapsed colonial agreement regarding land; one that saw the Maasai restricted from accessing hundreds of thousands of acres of seasonal grazing. Instead they were pushed into unsuitable reserves that have damaged their whole way of life. I knew that he had been walking ever since. My understanding was that he was doing this to raise awareness about the situation of minority peoples, that this had something to do with some of his heritage coming from the nomadic Maasai. His message resonated with me. Instinct told me I should meet him. 

A handful of papers from his website were my only company on the 7 hour trip. They told me that he was speaking about access to land, freedom of movement and association, that his message was one of tolerance and peace. 

I would later learn that he was walking to break down the barriers dividing us as humanity. His was a journey into the self. Walking was his individual tool for coming to better know himself, a pilgrimage towards walking the path he is meant, to make his unique contribution to this earth. 

Return of the Mandelas

The air is thick, dry with heat, making it the parched companion to this arid environment. Thousands of aloes stand like stony sentries dotted along ridges, hills and plateaus, their headdresses a fiery red against the earth coloured surrounds. There is a deafening silence broken only by a gentle breeze that whistles in the ears.

Inside a nearby boma (traditional hut) sits the inkosi (chief). Traditional beadwork adorns his head, arms and ankles with a more elaborate piece covering his neck and torso, the lion skin that some moments ago hung from a shoulder now rest under him. To his left and right sit his headmen and advisors, they are locked in deliberation, he is only here for a few hours and so must deal with all matters requiring his attention. He sits silently, listening, before saying anything.

He is the embodiment of mediation, justice and leadership as is his duty through birth and custom, a heritage traced through a line of kings that go back twenty generations. History is alive in him today as he carries on his broad shoulders a responsibility to his people, both living and the dead. He is Inkosi Zwelivelile Mandlasizwe Dalibhunga Mandela.