Ungubani

4 min read
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Something to chew on as heirs of the dark continent.

A few weeks back, I watched "Black Panther" for the first time in 5 years. (No, this isn't written to give you a mild crisis because it has been five years since Black Panther and we have still yet not understood why we yawn. No. But that's what you get for being mortal, I guess). Anyways, I couldn't help but get teary out of the awe from every scene of consuming melanated greatness accompanied with all the thud and majestic soundtrack... and most of all because of the question a character uttered a few minutes in "Ungubani?"


"Ungubani?", roughly translated to "Who are you?", is a Xhosan phrase that is used to allow the subject to display pride in their heritage; a question that demands you to declare yourself and say that you belong to a specific something. Makes you think, doesn't it?


From the moment I begin my day with a fair bit amount of staring at my ceiling and trying to remember who the fuck I am, to the second I drift back to sleep processing thoughts... I encounter lots of different people that tell stories about the community/ideology they belong to.


Oki Sato, a Japanese architect, once said, "When you repeat things, you'll start to notice the slightest differences in everyday life." And it made me realize how routines, how meaning, and labels were so essential for humans to thrive as nations. And though it is arguable that all of it inherently doesn't matter in the great & grand, we are undeniably living in a cubicle that needs our attention if we are going to embrace the absurd (and not submit to it).


I am fully aware that inconsistency is a flaw I have, and it isn't limited to habit formation. It is manifested in my essays, too. With that out of the way... not to burden your rather awful zombified brain, but imagine this.


Imagine learning about what the celestial bodies tell long before the invention of the telescope. Imagine carving stunning monolithic shrines before the invention of today's big construction machinery. Imagine having a queen that threatened alexander the great to the point of retreating. Imagine being the country that was referred to, by Muhammed (PBUH), as a place of comfort while being a Christian state and a potential threat. Imagine winning a war against Europeans when it was so common to lose. Pretty insane, right? Well, that's the bloodline we, as Ethiopians, belong to.


Yes, "was" really isn't something to brag about when one pays attention to the hideous "is" our country has been encountering for a while now. However, when everything ahead looks dark and unremediable, a glimpse at the bright history we possess is a good way to refocus. Christians look back at their savior crucified on the cross to rekindle the fire hope that helps them go through whatever is awaiting them ahead. Like so, I would like to kindly nudge you to look back at the greatness of your ancestors and face the future with the purpose of their sacrifice. They risked it all, literally. They chose to preach wisdom with every research, love and unity loudly with every tread to the battlefield.


Okay, so... let me ask you. I am not referring to a group of random readers whatsoever by "you" there. I mean specifically, YOU. Ungubani?







Cover picture by @Harerta.t on Instagram.

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