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Simao Kikamba

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

MY HOME IN EXILE

My Home in Exile is not to be confounded with “Home and Exile”, Chinua Achebe’s masterly account of cultural imperialism and dispossession Africa has always suffered, a mischaracterization spearheaded through works such as Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”.

My Home in Exile is merely a reflection on my tireless attempts to find a home, away from home in light of the recent xenophobic violence that has forced many foreigners from their homes, leaving 62 people dead. When Africans tell other Africans to go home, I ask myself, “What’s home?” “Is home where I was born?” “Is it where I grew up?” Is it where I live now?” “Is home not where I choose to live my life?” “Is home defined by borders imposed upon us by outsiders, in some instances splitting villages, towns and nations?”
This reflection is as much an attempt to understand myself, for I write in order to understand myself, where I come from, who I am, as it is to denounce this cancer called xenophobia whose recent violent narrative has tainted South Africa’s image here and abroad. In 2005, I tried to engage the public on this issue, when I published “Going Home”, my debut novel based on my experience as a black immigrant in this country, a novel that received acclaim and an award. By then I had been living in South Africa for nearly 11 years as a political refugee from Angola.

“We feared the heartlessness of human beings, all of whom are born blind, few of whom ever learn to see”? says Ben Okri in his Booker-prize-winning novel The Famished Road. Indeed the signs were there even then, signs we refused to see, for few of us ever learn to see. South Africa was sitting on a time bomb. I remember the day three foreigners were thrown from a moving train in Pretoria for the crime of being foreigners. I remember the shocking video of police using a Mozambican as bait for training a dog. How many Somalis have been killed in the Cape in the last year alone? Were those not signs of things to come? Signs we chose not to see. I remember in 1998, when a coloured man terrorized foreigners living in and around Yeoville for stealing South Africa jobs. I remember the night he murdered one Jose from DR Congo at the corner of Rocky Street and Cavendish Road. When his friends reported the senseless killing to the local police, they were made to write down a long statement, and yet the police never bothered to investigate, as though the victim was unworthy of justice. There were many incidents that reminded us that we did not belong. And the government has always been conspicuous in its apathy vis-à-vis the plight of African refugees and asylum-seekers. What has happened today is the result of a rising anti-foreigner sentiment long left unchecked.

I have a history of living in exile so I don’t know which place to call home. My own father was born Angolan from immigrants from Congo (Kinshasa), who had fled to escape a curse in their native village that had killed their seven children. In Angola my father was born and survived and so did his younger sister. My maternal grandfather had been held captive by the Portuguese in Sao Tome & Principe for months, and my his wife, despairing of his return, decided to call her son, born in her husband’s absence, “Bakuisako Ba Sao Tome”, meaning in Kikongo, they won’t return those who’d gone to Sao Tome. I was only two, riding on my mother’s back, when we immigrated to Congo, where I grew up and went to school. In 1991 the Angolan Government and UNITA signed os acordos da paz, the Bicesse Peace protocol and a year later, I decided to leave my adopted home for my country of birth. For some time I had had this longing to return. I had been missing my country of birth even if I had no souvenir of it, except the longing to return. Little did I know that returning home to Angola was in fact leaving for exile. After going into exile into my own country, where I was rejected as a returnee and was abducted and interrogated for my political affiliations, I went into exile to South Africa. With the anti-immigrant sentiment having turned violent recently, I ask myself if this is not the beginning of another journey into exile.

 
 

Recent comments:

  • Karyn
    Karyn
    June 9th, 2008 @11:00 #
     
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    Kikamba is well qualified to write on such a topic. I would have far greater difficulty than he to adapt to such life uncertainties. Imagine returning to the country of your birth and being treated like a foreigner; imagine wandering from place to place, not finding permanence? Where do you feel at rest, where do you belong? Perhaps it's not the country you're in , but rather knowing that 'home is where the heart is'.

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  • <a href="http://simaokikamba.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Simao</a>
    Simao
    June 9th, 2008 @11:18 #
     
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    Thanks Karyn for your insights.

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  • <a href="http://simaokikamba.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Simao</a>
    Simao
    June 9th, 2008 @14:55 #
     
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    Wow, Simao,

    That writing went straight to my heart, as I too am a refugee, we came here in 1981 after Mugabe massacred 25,000 Matabele in Kezi/Antelope Mine.

    I have M’dala’s Grand-son in Jhb he is a draughtsman from Bulawayo, I think you will get on very well. He has pioneered coming to S.A. to assist his family in Bulawayo, and I think very much alone.

    You book and my talk seemed synchronized.

    Blessings to you and your family and ‘safe passage’,

    ADRIENNE VERNEY

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  • <a href="http://simaokikamba.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Simao</a>
    Simao
    June 10th, 2008 @13:47 #
     
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    Hi Simao
    I have just read the introduction.I really appreciate the picture you want to paint.It is indeed a moving and flowing piece of African literature that brings awareness to the world at large.
    ' the final battle between the colonised and the coloniser is a fight of the colonised with each other".
    This statement bears testimony to me looking at the recent attacks on foreigners.
    I am still young and vibrant but such human behaviour and violence here and back home in Zimbabwe tends to boggle my mind because I find it irrational and barbaric.Moreso it defies both logic and morality.

    I am a good soccer player and had a vision of utilising this in-born talent but due to circumstances beyond my control, here I am in a foreign country trying to make ends meet.

    calvin.

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