The whites told us about the Bantu expansion. They told us about a time when they began the biggest migration from the western part of Cameroon to the Eastern and southern parts of Africa. But even with all the knowledge and wisdom these white men have, they could never answer the bigger question. They could never answer the question of why. But guess what? My mother did. She told me a story that her grandmother told her was passed to her by her older grandmother. This story dates back to the time of that great migration, the story behind the movement, the young child who saved her tribe, and the Tree of Life. Once there was a great drought that befell Africa. The skies had turned its face from his brother, the earth, and everything on earth paid the price for their quarrel. The grounds became as hard as bricks so nothing could grow, the water holes streams, and rivers were dried up like the grounds were licked dry. The chief priests had tried all they could. They had sacrificed all they had but not even a single cloud was seen on the skies. As the days moved to weeks and weeks to months, it was more dangerous to stay in the land. My ancestral mother was thirteen years of age at the time. Her name was Zuri, and her mother was Amahle. Her father had died earlier before the drought, so when it came, the hunger took a much greater toll on them, but Amahle was unlike most women at that time. Just like her husband, she was a hunter, and after the death of the head of her household, she became its new head. One night every head from the whole tribe was summoned to the market square to deliberate on the decisions to be taken. Amahle was invited since she was now the head of her family. But her loss didn’t change how weird the situation was. The Night was a stary one, with a breeze that rippled through her clothes. It had been a long time since she walked in the night, and if not for the situation to which the meeting was called, she was supposed to enjoy the night. Amahle strowed through the narrow lane to the market square with her lamp and her husband’s stool. As she walked, she came in contact with other men who left their houses for the market square. Amahle got to the meeting just in time but was met with a sad realization. She was the only female in the meeting, but despite the limitations, it did not stop her from fully participating.”men of this tribe I greet you”. Jibe was the first to speak. “it is no surprise to us that the gods have abandoned us, in our time of need. We had seen this coming, hadn’t we? we have fought our neighboring tribes and we’ve even enslaved some of them. This is retribution for our sins…” “If that is the case Jibe, why are those tribes we fought and enslaved also dying of thirst?” Chifundo cut in. “look we know we are suffering but our reasons for this meeting are not to uncover why we are suffering, but to look for a solution to our suffering”. “definitely, that is what we want, but how can we appeal to the Gods for forgiveness when we don’t know what we did wrong?” Hiwot spoke out. Finally the oldest of the village Eshe spoke up. He was over a hundred years old, and could hardly walk. “I have been here since long before. I have seen six droughts and many famine, but I tell you that I have not seen any like this. We’ve made sacrifices just like our ancestors did on this land but still nothing. I am but an old man, but I think it is high time we leave this land in search of another. When I was a child, in the very first drought I saw, some of us left to go east. They met a new land there, and they occasionally sent birds to us in the land, until they stopped. I never imagined that I would say this, but the best thing for us will be to leave before things get worse and it becomes too late.A lot of family heads gave their thoughts on the matter. Many were against the idea of leaving their homes into a world they knew nothing about. But in the end, Eshe was right. They cannot wait until they run completely out of water before starting the journey. That would be too late. Each family head gave his vote, and it was finally settled. The tribe would have to travel to the east. Each head went home and prepared their family for the migration ahead. The next morning, Zuri began the journey with her mom. A journey to a new world. The journey took them months, and through wildernesses, they could never walk alone. As they traveled, they met other tribes on the way moving east, but for the first time, no one was aggressive to the other. They all had a common goal. Getting to the east alive. But that wasn’t easy. As they continued the trek, many fell as they walked and died of taste. Many became desperate for water and tried to aggressively take from those who had some. But Jibe and the rest of the warriors of the tribe kept watch to make sure each family stuck to each ration they had. The trek took them through villages, and as they passed through, they met people who had died of thirst. The one’s alive from every village they passed joined them. As many fell, many joined and continued until they became a mighty caravan of Bantu travelers in a quest to find water. But as they got closer to the east, the land became even more dried up. Animals were found dead on the field, the grasses and trees were all dried up, and the ground more hotter to walk on.Jibe signaled the group to rest when it was night. The caravan was beyond tired, and could hardly move. Their lips were parched and their eyes had begun to see things not there. Jibe called for the heads of each household to meet under a tree while the rest rested. Zuri watched her mother as she left with the men. Even when though she was very tired. After the meeting, Amahle was back, and she had a lot to say. They had long entered east, but still, they had not seen any trace of water. In their land, they still had green grasses but here in this land, everything is dried up. Amahle told her that since the whole Caravan could not move forward, a few men and women with enough strength would journey in search of water. They will look for water holes if there are any, and if there aren’t, they will come back to die with their people.The next morning when Zuri woke up, she was under a very long and bucket-like tree, with fresh green leaves on the top. The tree happens to be all around, and the rest of the caravan has found shelter under the tree. Amahle her mom was strapped with water sacks all over her clothes. She was staring at her. “Mama…” Zuri managed but her mom shushed her gently with her fingers. “don’t talk. Conserve your energy. I’ve lost your father Zuri. I won’t lose the only good thing he left me with”. Amahle spoke gently her eyes glittering with tears. Zuri watched around. The men were weak and so were the women. Out of the whole tribe, only seven embarked on this journey to find water, and her mom was one of them. “Mom…please promise me you will die here with me if you don’t see water…promise me this is not the last time I see you”. Zuri held on to Amahle her mother, her eyes speaking directly to her mother’s soul. “please don’t let me face death alone…” “You will not die. Amahle cut in. “I promise that, and I promise you will see me again my child…now please don’t leave this tree, conserve your energy. Please Zuri… I love you my coconut”. Amahle said and placed a kiss on her daughter. Zuri watched as her mom joined in the trek until her eyes could not see them anymore.The days went from one to two, and as Zuri lay under that big tree, she began to lose track of time. When she woke up again, the whole tribe lay on different parts of different trees. Many breathing sounded hazardous while some were not breathing at all. According to Zuri’s estimation, it had been five days and she wasn’t sure how long she could last when she began hearing the screams from behind. Zuri managed to turn her body the other way. It was her mother. Amahle looked dirty, and she staggered as she walked. She carried Jibe as he leaned on her and they both staggered to the tree where Zuri sat under. Amahle fell a few feet to the tree. She looked worn out. Her clothes were dirty and dusty, and for the first time, Zuri saw fear in her mother’s eyes. Amahle crawled to where her daughter was and deeply held her. “I am sorry my daughter…I… I failed you…” “shwwww” It was Zuri’s turn to shush her mother gently. “conserve your energy mama… And thank you for keeping to your promise… I won’t face death alone”.Zuri blacked out again and as she slept, she saw herself there where she slept, but this time she was alone. A blackbird sat on top of the long tree and called for her to come. She managed to climb the tree, to the top, and there at the top was food. A lot of food and water. It was so much more food in one place than she had ever seen in her life. She turned around to the blackbird and he spoke again. “why don’t you wake up and eat? Zuri wake up! Zuri! Zuri wake up!!! Zuri’s eyes flung open and met the anxious eyes of her mother. She had been calling out for her and could have sworn that her daughter had died. Amahle managed to hug her daughter before falling on her back. Zuri lay on her back watching the long thin tree she laid under, and the green shade covering her from the sun when suddenly, she saw a black bird. It flew to the tree. Just exactly where she saw it in her dream. It did not speak, but it looked at her intently like it wanted to tell her something, and then it flew to the top of the tree like it did in her dream. Zuri sat up. She was tired but she knew what she must do. She must climb this tree to the top. Food is waiting on the top of the tree. She could bearly stand and as she got on her feet, she immediately felt her eyes spinning but Zuri refused to give up. There is food and water on the tree. She could save her mother and her tribe. Zuri began to climb the tree, as slowly as she could, each movement taking a toll on her energy. Amahle woke up to find her daughter halfway to the top of the tree, and she screamed her daughter’s name. “there is food and water on the tree” Zuri replied. But Amahle knew her daughter was hallucinating from lack of food and taste. But she had used all her strength to scream Zuri’s name. All she could do was stretch her hand as she watched her daughter climb to the top of the tree.Zuri got to the top of the tree, and a lot of blackbirds were there. They flew away immediately as she climbed on board. The top was beer not even a sight of food or water. Zuri crashed to her knees and began to cry. Her dreams had deceived her. She looked down from the tree, and it was certain she could not go back down. From above she saw her mom’s stretched hand, and her heart ripped apart. Zuri began to weep bitterly, and as she did, she began to punch aggressively at the tree she sat on she punched until her knuckles bled cause she knew her fate was sealed, she would die here alone away from her mother. She continued crying each punch more aggressive than the one before and each pain tearing into her soul, until she punched and her hands went through but she felt something, and as she took out her hand, it was water, gushing out of the hole she had made. Zuri was so shocked that she ran back. But the water kept pouring aggressively. Zuri moved forward and took a little sip, then a gulp, a second, and she drank well from the water, and it was unlike anything she had tasted. Immediately, she was invigorated. She screamed “Water” but no one answered. Zuri looked down, her mother’s hands were on the floor and were no longer stretched. She just lay there even as Zuri screamed for her.Zuri looked around for a jar or anything, but there was nothing. She took full water in her palm and sprayed, but that did nothing. Her mother was dying. Finally, she thought about something. She took her sheepskin skirt and soaked it in the water. After that, she took the clothing and skillfully tossed it down, and it fell on her mother’s face. And then she began to call for her mother at the top of her lungs. Finally, her mother moved her hands, and slowly grabbed, and squeezed the cloth into her mouth. And immediately, she was invigorated. Amahle was weak and tired but as she stood up and stared at her tribe her people dying, she knew she had only one shot at saving them and must use all her energy. With a speed Zuri had never seen before, her mother grabbed her water sack and began to climb the tree, and in no time she was on top of the tree. She quickly drank as much as she could from the water source and it was unlike anything she had ever tasted. After that, the rest was history both Zuri and her mother Amahle saved the whole tribes of Bantu speakers. As each of them finally left to form other civilizations, their knowledge about their green friend increased. They came to understand that although the top of the tree where easier to break, they could break any part of the stem, not just the top, and they could have an unlimited source of water. They also found out that the inside of the fruit the tree provided was food, and was like the bread of today. Also, the tender leaves on the top of the tree were palatable and were added to soups, while the harder ones were used to build roofs for their houses. The milk in the fruit was also palatable and was good for curing illnesses and was also found to be an anti-inflammatory, while the seeds of the fruit generated oil that was used for cooking. As they dispersed from each other to the East, the South, and even back to the West, their love for their neighboring tribes grew, and they all told a new story, about a young girl, her brave mother, and the Baobab tree, the tree of life. Author: Micheal Asubiojo 

 

Leave a Reply