Diaspora, Resiliency, Ancestral Magic

Audio by Charity Maritim

I’m at this soccer game, a final “football” match between team Congo vs team Nigeria to end the Manitoba African Cup of Nations tournament. Summer is slowly giving way to fall, so the weather is at that undecided phase with clouds intermittently covering the sun bringing a bit of chilliness. There’s that subtle reminder that winter is coming. Against the back drop of the green field, the grass recently softened with recent rains after a long summer of drought – there’s so much colour. Team Congo is dressed in their vibrant red, blue, yellow jerseys and Nigerian players are in green and white, all matching their flag colours. The fans are rocking their respective colours – it’s loud, there’s excitement and the crowd is growing. In one corner of the field, there’s a makeshift stage where entertainment before the game proceeds. A live band is performing rhumba lingala complete with instrumentals. People are swaying to the beats of the drum as they make conversation. I feel nostalgic thinking of the outdoor restaurants scene in Kenya – live bands by the pool while having Sunday lunch or a music system, playing Papa Wemba, Franco, Tshala Muana – a variety of rumba and soukous sounds.

In my nostalgia, there’s a couple flies roaming around drawn to the smell of the roasting meat aka nyama choma , but in my present reality, it’s not flies but wasps. The massive drought has caused the wasp population to exponentially multiply becoming such a nuisance. Back to the live band in the soccer field- their sound is bringing good vibes. Someone points out the drummer – we’re all amazed – it’s a little boy around 8 or 9 years old , his hands so fast with his drum sticks and feet so well coordinated. The beats are immaculate – the singer is so hyped and energetic it’s almost like he is yelling in the microphone but we indulge him and feel his excitement. We’re all mesmerized by the young talented drummer- his beats nourishing our core. They are a good tempo – not too fast to have you dancing and breaking a sweat but fast enough to get your head bopping and body to groove slightly.

We strike up a conversation about the talent that Congolese people have when it comes to music and dance. I’m fixated on the young drummer and I think “this is so innate – it seems so natural”. Most importantly it felt magical and I immediately pictured his ancestors drumming through him. For the past little while, I have been reflecting a lot about my African ancestors and their ‘being’. I have thought about my grandparents, great grandparents and our lineage that goes beyond documented history. These thoughts have been influenced by divine guidance where I have continually come across writings, musings, poetry and reflections on the spirit of our ancestors as Africans and the entire African diaspora.

A couple weeks ago I watched Netflix’s docuseries “High on the Hog – how African American cuisine transformed America “. At the beginning of the series, Stephen Satterfield the show’s host is in Benin with Dr. Jessica B Harris who is a culinary historian. The first episode “Our roots”, reinforced for me the whole meaning of “moyo muti unomera pauno” -where roots take hold and never let go. Satterfield while standing on a mass grave near the shores of the Atlantic where thousands of enslaved people who did not make it onto ships were buried, reflects on the resiliency of his African ancestors. Before breaking down in tears he says “finally, I’m so glad to bring them home with me – they get to come home with me.” At that moment, it clicked for me – maybe the intense joy and peace that we feel as diaspora when we go home to the motherland is not only our joy in our present being but also our ancestral spirits feeling at peace in the familiar surrounding, the familiar air and closeness to their ancestral kin!

Stephen Satterfield and Dr. Jessica B. Harris in Benin

Now more than ever, amidst all the chaos, it’s important to sometimes remember that there’s magic in us fuelled by the richness of our identities. If you read stories, triumphs and reflect on our resiliency, you’re left in awe . Sometimes the reminders of our magic comes from listening to the beats of a drum, or watching intricate afro dance steps in a viral tik tok video, sometimes it’s through a food that reminds you of home, a certain spice – that your taste palate knows it’s just right, sometimes you catch a whiff of a certain scent from nowhere and it reminds you of a specific place and time, sometimes the magic comes from a certain flower that you see bloom that you remember from your childhood , sometimes it’s a funny video that only your people understand, sometimes it’s streaming your home radio station and hearing the funny stories of callers, sometimes it’s shared deep laughter with your tribe with the hitting, running and screaming while laughing .

Shout out to the motherland for putting magic in us.

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