Spear-wielding grandfathers haunting me
I have been unable to escape the "umZulu" tag all my life. That universal belief by all and sundry, that no matter how educated and sophisticated one may become, there is always that comical part about being a Zulu person that keeps you pinned in Shaka's kraal. I have of course refuted any suggestion that I am naturally disposed to violence.
I command respect, I say, and it has nothing to do with my ancestral grouping. Then I see how I handle instances of emotional stress, where all my Jeppe Girls' grooming and "graduate" English vacates my vocal cords - and my Hhayi boh! is a full sentence encompassing an expression of utter shock that you dare challenge me in this manner, a subtle warning to refrain, withdraw and retreat, and the gift of a three-minutes grace period for the other party to formulate an apology.
I still insist that this has nothing to do with spear-wielding great-grandfathers.
"It runs in your blood!" That is the narrative that has always been the narrative. Blood. We think everything is in our blood; from charm to intuition up to ancestral bondage and sexual prowess. And of course, we cannot prove the validity of any of these, save for knowing for a fact that blood is thicker than water.
So you can imagine the psychological comedy that occupied my mind in the past few days when I had to take in a few pints of donor blood in order to save my life. I had so many questions about the effects of a transfusion that I realised most of my perceptions and beliefs about blood have been nothing short of silly and childish.
For instance, my heart nearly stopped when that little drop on the drip line would not run. See, when you grew up with the belief that people of noisome personality have "still blood" parked in their veins, you are bound to sweat ice cubes at the thought of their blood being pumped into your veins.
Because there is nothing a Zulu person finds more repulsive than a person onegazi elimile! I admit I do not quite know how to explain this in a sensible way, but it is a thing. And for a while there, it did not help that the blood temperature that was being transfused into me was cold. Okay, I will not even go into the concept of people with cold blood!
Then there was the little fact of racial profiles. If statistics are anything to go by, chances are, the three donors that saved me are not of my race. And a friend suggested that that is perhaps why I woke up craving biltong.
We laughed at the possibility of my Afrikaans improving by next week, because it runs in my blood now. In fact, I will be trying the wors on the next braai I attend, and see if I still have an allergic reaction to beef.
If I am to believe that my blood was Zulu all along, I guess as of this week, I should be the poster girl for the rainbow nation. I would not be surprised to learn that some people would fall into a depression after a transfusion.
Taking into account all the miseducation, religious ill-advice and myths we harbour about our blood and our ignorance on the subject of DNA and physiology altogether, most of us are not prepared to appreciate the wonders of modern medicine.
If I really believed there was nationality and tribal identity in my blood, I would have lost my mind by now! I would have to spend the rest of my life thinking that I am somehow less of a Zulu, and a compromised African because I accepted the gift of life from a generous stranger who just happens to be healthier than I am.
I most definitely will be resorting to strong words like Hhayi boh! and Angizwa? for self-preservation. My cousins are still Gazi and when my son is out of sight and not well, I will still know it from the curdling of my blood. And when I bleed from a paper cut and suck my finger, I will heal the same.
Blood is the one thing that transcends all racial lines and looks the same regardless which part of the world you happen to have been born in. I am grateful to the three souls that gave me a renewed hope in life.
Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments? Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.
Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.