Celebrating East African Writing!

Of Old Beliefs… For Keeps

Written By Emmy Achi

There is this land that I’ll live to tell; where tranquility reined to the core, if I could call it that.  The essence of the common belief they had was intertwined. I’d say simplicity profound it. Nudity was a normal thing to them. Children would joyfully play on the dusty fields naked. Teenage girls with their firm pointed breasts would move along gentle slopes with pots on their heads bare-chested. Sanity was never questioned. The older ones on both genders wore a piece of cloth on their waist. They would start their day at the crack of dawn with girls making frequent trips to the nearby stream. Boys took the initiative to learn skills like blacksmithing, farming just to mention a few.

A child born in such a social sphere had no idea whatsoever of anything beyond the obvious daily happenings. Mambo is one of those; but he chose to take a different path. He chose to hold back and come out of his in-born cocoon. All everyone knew was; wakeup, watch sunrise, eat, watch sunset beside fire, converse and discourse.

After all, their “god”, their only hope brought home the bacon. They expressed due authority to it. Not a soul knew where the drum came from in the first place. However, we all know how word spreads like bushfire on similar instances. One elder dished the dirt that it fell from heaven. But who knows? The moment one started to exercise some doubt, he would lash out, “HOW OLD ARE YOU? WERE YOU EVEN BORN BEFORE MY TIME?” with that kind of tone just designed to annoy one and attract attention from others. Perhaps, that is among the many reasons why no one dared touch the subject and bring up anything negative. If at all negativity was brought in, one had to be clever enough to be on the “safer” ground by saying it through diplomatic channels.

Many anticipated that the drum never wore out; rather the drum beater. If that is not enough, at no point was anyone to make another drum. I must admit that such an act was equated to idolatry. The drum beater, Mateso, would beat the drum with all his might to transmit some message.  The women made sure he had enough to eat owing to the fact that he was accorded that kind of worth lest god’s anger turned to them. Oops!  The god‘s anger, not the drum’s.

He took the added advantage by scaring young children. They would make intermittent moans and yells. Whenever they saw him, they would run to their mothers, cling to them then hide behind them. They would be caught dead coming even come close to him. Just a handful number were outgoing when he was around.

Everything came to a stand-still one evening when a male-voice shouting broke the air. It was rare to hear a man cry out loud. In fact, many never saw a many shed tears in their life time. It is this eerie evening that Mateso’s tears were seen by even Kiara’s son, who is barely a year old. Ever seen a man cry with emotions? If yes, you know exactly what I mean. If you have never seen it, it should never appear on your wish list. It is real terrible.

“IT IS GONE…. IT IS GONE…IT IS GO … (Gasps of breath)… N…E…

“What?” (Some said in unison)


“I AM INNOCENT”…  He was quick to add that.

That was an anecdote of a mistake. How can their only source of hope and refuge be nowhere?  Gross! Oh, no “god” for the people. For the world had spun upside down and tapped them. What does that mean? No source of rain? No source of food? No source of life?  “They are totally nothing without the drum,” they believed. What of the dancing that accompanied its beating during initiation? They were bombarded with many thoughtful questions to answer. They initially lacked direction; but at that point, even that direction itself was none existence.

The elders in the village were the types that stick to what they say. They never moved backward. The only drum in the village is lost. Come to think of it, they had this mild idea at the back of their minds they were the only creatures on planet. Should I say the only drum in the world? What the heck! The “planet” is in trouble. A life without a supernatural power….

Guess what happened next! If no “god”, no life, the whole land is null and void. The village announcer had an uphill task. He had to go through every village corner and inform the people to await their death. This scared them more than ever. The first day passed….nothing. They could not let their eyelids drop lest they die in their sleep. That is one point in their life when even sacrifices do not count. All one had to do was wait for that last breath. What amuses most is that Mapengo, the eldest in the village feared death like nothing. He got “strength from heaven knows where.” His usual short slow strides miraculously changed to quick short ones though when the villager announcer called upon them; maybe death would have caught up with him while he is still lagging behind. Indeed, every man for himself and God…. Wait, no “god” here. I’ll leave it that way.

Then came the unexpected grand moment when everyone had stayed up day in day out waiting for that last breath. Children were an exception; they soundly slept; oblivious of “what awaited them”.

S-h-h-h… Something is approaching! What could this be? An animal? No, it has bright light in front, but it resembles one. Wonders shall never cease. Everyone’s mouth was left agape. Here is a case where the drum is nowhere to be seen and some strange being stops right at the centre of their village! “Could it be that the drum transformed into this,” thoughts criss-crossed their minds.  “Some people are inside?” they wondered.

Someone stepped out. But…but…but…how can this be possible? There is he… Mambo! The village rebel! What could be covered all over his body?  Confusion covered them…. The level of shock they encountered could not be explained by mere words.

Another person stepped out of that “animal-like” thing. What? But he looks very different! The color of the skin was not same as Mambo’s or ours. What on earth? Strange things indeed! Pin-drop silence took over as curiosity grew gradually. But Mambo seemed to be involved in the animal-like thing. He seemed to be removing something.

Right on his hands…


The elders were the first to react. We all know how judgmental they can be. They shook their heads uncontrollably. What of Mateso? The drum beater? He grew more furious than ever.

Mambo cleared his throat to draw attention from the already reacting ones.  He started,” I took the drum not because of hate for you all but love.

(Carrying a book up on air, he muttered) “Truth lies herein. This book is called the Bible!”

(Some started oohing and aahing but he ignored them.)  He continued, “I ran away from the village because I could not put up with the ways. I had to find a clever way of getting back and taking the drum away in an effort to put a stop to all these.  Alongside is Reverent John who introduced me to Christianity. I changed my heart and ways. That is why I came back to let you open your eyes wider. Do not be rigid to the past ways, change your hearts like I changed mine and follow Christ.

(Mixed reactions followed.  After some minutes, not a soul fidgeted. Everyone was waiting for that person who will make the first move. Surprising enough, the first person to step forward was… MATESO! He readily accepted everything told. Then others stepped forward too. “If Mateso himself, the drum beater is on Mambo’s side, why not me?” they reasoned so. Though their aching hearts wanted what they had left, they had no choice.

©Emmy Achi 2013


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