Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Weekly Sneak: A History That Lives

So, this is a big week in terms of submissions. How does a columnist come up with something reasonable to say on the occasion of the 50th Independence Day celebrations? I tried to find a way to talk about nationalism, though I think that in the end the execution was a little clumsy. Then the Men In Nairobi dropped me a little email last night- past deadline- to inquire if I would like to pop out a last-minute piece with a higher word count. That's when I knew that all my past blown deadlines and experience with racing the clock were preparation for moments such as these: the eleventh hour essay 0n demand.

I actually have no idea if the article is good enough to be printed or not, the Powers That Be don't divulge that kind of information but I am hopeful. With more legroom to work around a topic, I decided to try and bring the past-present-future perspective of Tanzania to life through some light personal history:

"... having spent as much time as I could this year talking to my elders from Generation Independence I have come to embrace the notion that nationalism is a very personal experience. A sense of nationalism is often inseparable from a person's history. With a surname that regularly encourages complete strangers and immigration officers to ask me if I come from Nigeria or Japan or if perhaps I am Jewish, this has been an issue that I have thought about. The answer to all of the above is a resounding No. Anyways, in order to answer the question of why it is important to celebrate fifty years of independence, sometimes it is necessary to start by answering the 'who are you' question."

I was a very poor student of history in school because I couldn't be bothered with anything non-African or that wasn't about ancient civilizations. Memorizing wars, dates and murdered European monarchs was particularly painful. It wasn't until I discovered biographies that history became interesting: it was alive, tangible, real and relatable. I don't doubt that The East African's special on Tanganyika's 50th will be full of sober, expert commentary and perhaps a little Tanzanian machismo, so I thought I'd bring things down to the grassroots. Since I don't believe in marching in lockstep or getting too corporate about what nationalism or Tanzania or even Independence means for Tanzanians, I offered a subjective piece. I hope it works.

And seriously, that joke about the Yakuza? Spare. Me. I haven't found it funny since 1995.

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