Let us put it in context. We say that we have achieved Independence, but habits and practices don’t lie. Let us start with the agents (tools) of colonialism.
First, name change. When the colonists invaded Africa, they first changed African names, globalized African heritage and culturized African formations into Western authentics. Thus, for Zambia, for example, we least hear or write about Chuma who traversed the copious forests and provided guidance to Dr. David Livingstone. We hear more and write more about Livingstone. We dub him the discoverer of Mosi-oa-Tunya Falls, which he conveniently renamed Victoria Falls after an English Queen in the far West in England.
I am called “Charles,” a royalty name in England. Probably as I write this, a majority of Africans reading are named after European. Their own heritage is forgotten. Like in the USA where former slave masters still live in the psyche and mentals of their Black slave progenies, they still are remembered through their names which they had bequeathed through their names. In short, their legacy, which, apparently, was enslaving, degrading, humiliating, abusive and name it all, is preserved through names. It is the same in Africa. We are still called by their names. Surely, our parents wouldn’t have pondered much on this, and naturally named us after former colonial enchanters.
In future, shouldn’t we be thinking of having more of “Chibesa Kundas”, “Mwansa Malamas”, “Mpezeni Ndhlovus”, “Milupi Phiris,” “Chavula Ngoyis,” and etc.? Shouldn’t we be thinking of renaming some of our streets, clubs, animals, forests, and, indeed, national monuments by our own unique African quadrisyllabics? Think about all that, and more.
Names, they submit to whoever calls on them, just don’t forget that.
Second, language. The Bible gives us a clue: “And the LORD said, ‘If they have begun to do this as one people speaking the same language, then nothing they devise will be beyond them. Come, let Us go down and confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech,’” (Gen. 11:6-7). Three things right there: (1) Language unifies; (2) Language breeds success; and (3) Language is a weapon of either enslavement or liberation.
Whose language you speak, that one you will always obey. It is just that simple. We may be proud of articulating foreign accents, but the glory is not, eventually, ours. It goes back to the one who owns it. Those who conquered Africa, did it in four ways: (1) Language; (2) Guns; (3) Bible; and (4) Intrigue – call it machinations or diplomacy, it carries the same venom. They still do – we use their language (we have even gone to the extent of justifying its naturalization and nationalization); they have more in their arsenals (they are still producing weapons of mass destruction such as nuclear heads, but they wouldn’t let us do the same!), we have little to nothing; they are still preaching love, when our resources they milk with a globalized ferocity; and they are still measuring us by our bloating debt, their growing capital, and our cheap labour. It is the same old strategy, and it does not fail.
We still read them, about them, for them and with them. We read their books, quote their Quotables and stock up our libraries with their “superior” acumens. Don’t we? Books are not in our vocabulary, but one can conquer an empire, rob your inheritance and send you to an early grave, simply by a book.
How many of you even know about my book, “Struggles of My People”? But you had ordered Dan Brown’s, “Demons,” even before it was released. You would have post-mailed, with long, passionate reviews in African newspapers the writings of European and American authors. This is while your own brilliant brains die in graves of illiteracy and neglect. We have idolized Shakespeare, memorialized Chaucer, invigorized Van Gore, and internalized Blake. While, at the same time, we have inferiorized our sages, bards, poets, thinkers and emerging writers. We don’t purchase their works and we judge their mental stability and IQ to be base.
A second language, is just so, second. Everything you do with it will be second. Your best effort will remain second. Your greatest theories will continue to be second. Your best minds are second. Your greatest ingenuities, still second. And even your most eloquent orators, will just be second. So, why not capitalize on your first? Why not speak, write and think in Bemba, Nyanja, Lozi, Luvale, Tonga, and etc., and be first?
No European or American power has ever, even remotely, contemplated making an African language first, though Mandarin, Cantonese, Spanish, French, they may. But here we are: We fill our schools with second-baked enchanters learning to think, believe, behave and act, second. Our problem, “We have many of these languages and dialects!” And the next thing we do is we make it politics, and continue to be only second, even in politics itself.
Language conquers everything, just don’t forget that.
By Charles Mwewa