Scripted potpourri

A blend of topnotch writing prowess, significant issues and scintillating stories!

Pa James has a Message from the Maasai

Identity

Identity

It was from Pa James I believe, that I first heard the now cliché joke about describing a person with the most obviously silly depictions. In that episode of the famous Nigerian sitcom “Papa Ajasco”, (I’m a bit foggy on the details now), Pa James describes a man to Papa Ajasco as something like this: “The man tall. E wear shirt and trouser. If him wan sleep, e go close him eye and na mouth e dey use take talk.” I thought it was brilliantly hilarious! I do remember telling everyone about it at every opportunity I got. At that point, when all my appreciation for Pa James’ one-liner was that it was plain smart humour, it never occurred to me that I would “one day” come to realize how much of reality the actor’s words actually mirrored, albeit unwittingly. So here comes “one day”…

One day was sometime last week when I learned about a case of ‘land grabbing’ from an ethnic tribe called the Maasai by the Tanzanian government in order to lease it to a foreign hunting company. It was a much-contested issue because the government denied perpetrating the act. However, this blog post does not concern itself with pointing fingers. What is very striking and of abundant concern rather is that the Maasai people are actually an infinitely threatened people. The modern world has never really been comfortable with them as they have been timelessly harangued by both Kenyan and Tanzanian governments to give up their indigenous cultural ways of life which affords them vast areas of land that these governments would as soon rather convert into lucrative business ventures. The Maasai in response have been resolutely staunch in the preservation of their identity and in the lavish and jealous care of that uniqueness that is Maasai through and through- from their sunset and ocher hued clothing to the brilliant kaleidoscopic bead and craft work that their diligent and meticulous hands can make.

Identity: that’s the word that claws for my attention after my reading contact with the Maasai. It is rare, you must admit, to find any more display of identity in today’s globalized world than that displayed by the Maasai. You see, everybody wears jeans and make-up and hair-extensions and Police bodywear and stilettos and sunshades these days (I am not excluded!). We all use Blackberries and tabs and i-things. We all eat KFC and rice – jollof rice, white rice, Ofada rice, fried rice, coconut rice, Abakaliki rice, Basmati rice, pasta rice! If you ask me, I say we all look alike! But go ahead and ask Pa James to describe you, I bet he’ll say something like this: ‘The man na man. E get jeans for down and police body wear for up.  If e won sleep, na blackberry go tell am and na football e dey use take talk.” Hehehehehe!

Here are my thoughts: we might never be like the Maasai who are physically distinct in their cultural practices but we can definitely find a niche for ourselves in a world that tries to lump us into an indistinct entity, void of variety and verve. Letting that happen to us is as intellectually and unacceptably vague as Pa James’ laughable descriptions. I mean, the last thing you want is to only be known for the obvious and the material: by your celebrity-style hair-do, or your to-die-for abs or those fashionable clothes. You wanna look into the world sometime in the future and find yourself, you know, locate a footprint or milestone that nobody else can lay claim to except you. The French call it “je ne sais quoi” and I love that word like oh-la-la! Loving that word means being willing to give yourself some more credit than to just be a follower of the crowd without letting yourself be the billboard of, and executor of your purpose. It is obvious: this is a matter that goes beyond wearing jeans or eating rice. On the contrary, it is about making a conscious effort to stand out, not necessarily by just being different but by not betraying the “you” that you are on the inside. You see, only you and God know that “you” on the inside.

maasai So pay only scant attention to “Pa James”- just enough for the comical to mutate into  the rational. Remember that he is after all only the bearer of the message of the Maasai. Listen closely rather to the message of the Maasai, which, in the final analysis, is what should stoke the embers of our suppressed identity and purpose. On this note, it’s from the Maasai… with love!

Later!

PS: you can follow this blog by mail so that you don’t miss as much as a letter of my fascinating (I must add, rare) scripted potpourri.

Disclaimer: The above post, in its wording and intention does nothing to endorse any culture or regard any one culture as better than the other. It neither lays the blame for the erosion of any culture at the feet of any other culture or authority.

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