African child, show the way for the rest of humanity
In Zulu, there is a saying that goes, "Indlela ibuzwa kwaba phambili", which can be loosely translated into, "Direction is asked for from those who've walked the path".
According to the illustrious Credo Mutwa, in his seminal masterpiece, Indaba my Children, "These are the stories that old men and old women tell to boys and girls seated with open mouths around the spark-wreathed fires in the centres of the villages in the dark forests and on the aloe-scented plains of Africa.
"Under the gaze of the laughing stars the Old One sits, his kaross wrapped around his age-blasted shoulders, staring with rheumy eyes at the semi-circle of eager expectant faces before him - faces of those who have taken, but a few steps along the dark and uncertain footpath called life; faces of the ones yet oblivious to the pain of life's bitter scourges; faces yet unmarked by furrows of bitterness, ill-health and anger ; the fresh, pure, open faces of. children.
"The fire dances in the middle of the round clay fireplace like a virgin revelling in the simple joy of being alive. It devours the dry twigs and logs that a little girl is constantly feeding it, leaving nothing but glowing ashes. It mocks the silent sky with a redly luminous column of smoke against its starry face and by sending up short-lived stars of its own."
As the birthplace of humankind, the motherland, homeland, and ancestral origin of everyone on the planet, Africa is a blessed, special, and beautiful continent. It is an expansive abode of rich diversity, striking complexities and ornate nuances and peculiarities, both in its people and in its biomes.
With approximately 2,100 languages spoken by more than 3,000 ethnic groups in our population of just over 1,3 billion individuals spread across 55 countries, Africa is culturally, philosophically, and linguistically a very wealthy land.
Our shared, priceless heritage is littered with shining examples of the excellence, resilience, ingenuity, fortitude of character, strength, spirit, and love of our people.
We have adapted to desertification, unshackled ourselves from slavery, replenished ourselves from years of famine, battled deadly viral diseases, nursed ourselves out of internecine conflicts, liberated ourselves from colonial oppression, and together, through it all, held fast the inherited role we collectively hold as custodians of humanity.
As Enock Maregesi states: "We are the children of Nelson Mandela; we are the children of Kwame Nkrumah; we are the children of Haile Selassie; we are the children of Samora Machel; we are the children of Robert Mugabe; we are the children of Patrice Lumumba; we are the children of Julius Kambarage Nyerere. We know who we are!"
And in this reverent knowledge of who we are, where we come from and what we have experienced to bring us to this present day where we celebrate our languages, our customs, our traditions, our ethnicities, our similarities and differences, our uniqueness, our Africa, and by virtue of that, our Africanness, we not only remember but resonate with the heart-stirring words of Nkrumah, "I am not African because I was born in Africa, but because Africa was born in me!"
The historic events that have marked the first half of 2020 have highlighted to the world the inescapable importance of the cardinal African values of Ubuntu.
Let us construct for the world a new model of being, a model of old, a model of nature, a model of our African nature. On this Africa Day, go forth African child, and remember your sacred duty. Live your glorious destiny.
*Dr Madiope is the principal of the south campus, University of the Free State