By Natasha Museveni Karugire
I walked into a relatively warm restaurant but had to keep my coat on for quite a while to be able to feel my temperature return to where it should be. Outside the icy snow was pelting down through a strong wind. I was meeting a young Danish man in Copenhagen, together with a friend, to see if we could work together in the clothing industry. We discussed all the relevant points and somewhere near the end of our meeting, I asked him what I often ask people I meet overseas.
“Have you been to Africa?”
“No.” He said with a small shake of the head. “I have always wanted to go but never had the opportunity. ”
Then he asked, “What is it like? What’s Africa like?”
I began to think about how I could answer that question. It is such a vast question. So many scenes and scents jumped into my mind, and as I tried to find the words to use in response, this young man interrupted my reverie with another question.
“Why did you do that?”
“Do what?” I asked.
” Every time I ask anyone who is from Africa or who has ever been to Africa what it is like, they always get that exact same far off stare. Like you’re seeing something I can’t see. Why?”
A million thoughts ran through me. I wondered how I could briefly sum up the place that is…Africa.
Africa is heart and spirit . The smell of the rain on the earth, and the sound of the rain on a tin roof. It is the sound of the flute played with love by a nomadic cattle keeper, for his beloved dark skinned cows, with their long white horns that glisten under the moonlight. To me, Africa is all the dreams I dreamed as I lay beneath the shade of a Thorn tree on my father’s land in my girl hood .
It is the thundering sound of feet hitting the red earth in powerful rhythmic unison, as African warriors dance, their feathered headpieces swaying with each movement . Or the melancholic sounds of mourning.
For too long, the world has viewed us and our continent through one lens, with one focus. They called Africa dark. They oppressed and suppressed. They enslaved and sedated. They tried to snuff out the iridescent light of a very passionate people . But, “thank God Almighty”, we are still here! We have overcome.
We are one echoing, heavenly melody, rising ever higher and higher. We are a giant that had been put down. He stirs now, as this new day dawns, he rises. And he will not be contained. We will not be contained. Centuries of songs and dreams, of what could have been, of what is, and of what is to come, bursting forth. This is Africa!
I wish I had had the words to express myself that very cold and snowy day In Copenhagen. The thoughts and emotions were left unveiled. His question, however , remained with me long after.
“Why does everyone I ask about Africa who is from there or has been there, get that far away look in their eyes?”
Maybe because Africa is so much more than the many lakes, rivers, mountains and forests that majestically grace our continent. All in technicolor no less. Maybe because it is richer than our God given mineral laden lands. Africa is even greater than the beauty and vibrancy of its people, and the diversity of its wildlife and cultures. Africa is a promise whispered. A dream realised.