HOME AT LAST! Part 4
Love In Exile/ Women of Exile
Exile land women in love with men in exile get less recognition, acknowledgement, and respect than they deserve.
Were I a woman, I would never ever fall in love with an exile man in my land. Exile men are nothing but a load of trouble.
However, my South African mother did fall in love, and eventually got hitched to an exile man from far off Northern Rhodesia. Now, look what we got! Americans got Obama.
Children of men in exile land, we are everywhere; we rule, we get trampled upon, we are everything. Our mothers, well, often the most beautiful of local girls and women, can in many cases live all their lives on the fringes of social acceptance and respect. The jealousy and awe I’ve seen my mother endure everywhere we’ve been as a family boggles my mind to this day. You want to tread the softest spot of a man in exile, question his love and devotion to his mother and siblings.
Our exile fathers, well, they are ever so unpredictable: They can stay, they can be here but not here at the same time, they can return to their homelands, they can just disappear and vanish as if into thin air. They can die: Illness, accident, suicide, witchcraft, or assassination. Men-in-exile-fathers are a load of trouble, they are survivors, each in their own ways given each their own backgrounds where they come from. Many are good fathers; we love and adore them, give and show them life-long admiration and loyalty. But girlfriends, lovers, and wives in exile land can often fight uphill battles all their lives trying to get under the skins of these strange men in exile.
There is a certain irresistible charm about foreign men, though. Everything about them is ever so very different. The mystic about them is ever so enchanting. Mmm, the romance of a South African freedom fighter exile man! Wow! The strength and character of Nelson Mandela serving lifetime imprisonment in Robben Island would, nevertheless, probably have made me want to check out these South African exile men in my country, were I a woman. They must be all strong and tough men, these. What with the atrocities we’ve read about from the South African anti-apartheid movement! The thrill to want to get the feel of what it’s like to get laid by a macho freedom fighter trained by Che Guevara’s men in Cuba would probably have overwhelmed me, I reckon. Rumours had it some of these men in exile had actually been into, and survived, real big wars in Vietnam, Angola, and Afghanistan as trainees of the Russians. Ohhh, I must have them all, I probably would have thought were I a woman in exile land, because locals are ever so boring and predictable. Drunks.
These African guys, do they really have horse-dick-size penises? Is it really true that they go at it all night long? Ouch, heaven! Do their skins really taste chocolate? Do they have curly hair carpets their bodies over? Can they really kiss? You know, like normal people do in my exile host land? Do they really cry, do they really pray to their Gods and ancestors, do they really play drums while at it? Do they really do it like you see them dance on TV and at Cosmopolite concert hall in Oslo? I sure would want to sex them all. But certainly no, no, no talk of long term relationships, romance things, and babies. Absolutely no wife-husband stuff. Just bang, bang; ferdig med det/ over with it. No, don’t bother to call. Never come to my place. Sorry, mate, this wasn’t about love.
Men in exile are nothing but a load of trouble as lovers, husbands, and fathers; especially those who love their stupid lands of origin, and are crazy over their own mothers and siblings.
Exile land woman in love 1: But, darling, you are being very unreasonable, you know. How can you expect me to investin you wholeheartedly when one of the first things you said to me the very first day we met was that you were in Norway only temporarily? You made it clear to me that you were not interested in staying in Norway all your life, and you would return to South Africa at the earliest opportunity. I don’t think it’s wise to say such things to a Norwegian girl you fancy.
Exile man in love 1: Dumbfounded, and thinking to himself – This woman is real crazy. Doesn’t she understand that I’ll take her to South Africa with me? She is my woman, yes? Where I come from men take their women with them wherever they go. That’s what men do! She doesn’t know that my mother will treat her like a Princess.
Exile land woman in love 1: Please, darling, you are here, we are here now. You have established a strong network for yourself here; you are smart, and now you have a good job. Make Norway your permanent home, please. I would like to have many children with you, but my children will be born in Norway. You know very well that Norway is the best country in the world to have children in.
Exile man in love 1: Dumbfounded, and thinking to himself again – No children, in that case. My mother must see her grandchildren being born and delivered in South Africa, land of their ancestors. That’s just the way it is.
Exile man in love 2: Extremely angry. Verbally brutalizing his wonderful exile land wife – Now, let me tell you, you slut of a woman; you are all sluts in this uncultured, Western Civilization Christian capitalist country of yours worshipping money above God (May his name …). To the extent that you don’t want to convert to my religion, you don’t want my children to practice my religion, and your uncultured family does not recognize my religion, you are all dirty bastards. Dirtier than the dirtiest of pigs! Get out of my house! Get out of my sight; you disgust me!
- The thing about Exile man in love 2 is, to begin with, he found his exile land woman in love in the house he is throwing her out of! Secondly, he comes from one of those most tragic regions of the world where people are fighting endless, obnoxiously brutal wars over territories that only exist in their own fantasies. These special territories don’t even appear anywhere on the official world map. So, in practice, this man had no original homeland in the same way you’d talk about my beloved South Africa. But in his head, he did, indeed, have a home to return to when freedom finally comes along. 20 years later, war is still raging on in his fantasy homeland. As things normally go in wars, thousands upon thousands of poor people, women, and children have been mercilessly murdered over the years; and more are still dying on a daily basis. Our Exile man in love 2 got divorced a little over ten years ago. It had to happen. The racial and religious arrogance, as well as abuse of our Exile land woman in love 2 was subjected to regularly over several years used to stupefy me beyond words. The last time I saw the Exile man in love 2, he was unemployed, and had no fixed abode. He was still dreaming of returning to his homeland, since indications were that freedom was not too far way then. But, the reality is that there is hardly any life, anything worth living for there. The whole region is in ruins. There is no form of government, no civil order. It’s all hunger, poverty, and misery. Hell on earth. Literally.
- How do you tell a man in exile to forget the unfinished stories and dreams form the pre-exile days in his original homeland? How do you tell him to make amends, show humility and respect for his new exile homeland? How do you tell him that it’s perhaps best to remain in exile land and enjoy watching his children contributing to the remodelling and continuing modernization of their motherland? Men in exile are nothing but a load of trouble.
Comrade-Brother-in-exile: You know, if I were you, I would marry my exile land woman in love. I would give her many children as you tell me she wants to have them. I would stay in Norway and forget about home. You are a grown up man now, and, by right, you are supposed to live your life away from your home, away from your parents. Even the Bible says a man shall leave his father and mother when grown up. Fortunately you came here on your own, and you don’t owe allegiance to any liberation movement. So, nobody will miss you, actually. You have a free opportunity to start a new and great life for yourself, with your own new family in Norway. You are intelligent, you are strong, you are a leader; having a good life in Norway can never be a problem for you. You must remember that the eventually free South Africa we all hope to return to alive will never be the same one we left so many years ago. Everything, and everybody, will have changed. We are going to be strangers in our own motherland whenever the time comes for us to return there. But you, who are a free man with no binding organizational or institutional ties and obligations, can be wise and stay here. You already have laid a good and solid foundation for yourself. Look, man, think pragmatically like a man. Get emotions out of this!
Exile man in love 1: I hear you, Com. But let me tell you one thing as abundantly clear as I can, if I do ever get to decide to stay in Norway for good, it will be on my own terms; not because of some exile land woman in love and her children of mine. Of course, Norway has been very good to me, and for that I’m ever so very grateful. But there is something constantly dragging me back to South Africa …
I called that something constantly dragging me back to South Africa a deep-felt, painful longing for the motherland. I finally gave in to the dragging, came back home, and found a void. It’s harder to feel a stranger in my own land than living alone in exile. It’s not in his nature, he is far too wise and sophisticated, but I can hear Comrade-Brother-in-exile say, “I don’t want to say I told you so!”
Furious, drunk exile woman colleague at a job teambuilding event out of town: You, Simon, are the most bigheaded, and the most arrogant man I have ever met. For a Black man you have really shocked me for being so hard on us. We may be blue in the eyes, stupid, and naïve; but we are women in the end, you know. Bloody hell man, there is no way you gonna get laid tonight. We can’t stand over-confident foreign men like you. Act a little stupid and ignorant, and you can get all the pussy you want, ma-a-an!
Aspiring woman in love in South Africa, frustrated: It’s hard for me to understand that a fine man like you, Simon, can be 50 plus and never been married, and have no children. Are you sure you are a man? Ok, I know you are. But no wife, no children? How come? You must be a coward, afraid of responsibility, you must be. Or you are just interested in enjoying the good life of overseas alone, not caring about your people back in South Africa, who want to have daughters-in-law and grandchildren. Ah, I know, you are so selfish because you think you are White now, coconut. Iyooo, South African women don’t like men like you, you know. And you say you are not into paying lobolas/ bride prices and all should you get an SA woman who wants to marry you? Then forget it, Bro! Denying your own culture? You are a real coconut now. Go back to overseas! O tla shoa o le lefetoa/ You will die as one not capable of being married.
Exile land woman in love 1: Do you have to play all this R&B music all the time in my house?
Exile man in love 1: I am a Black man, Darling. Remember?
Exile land woman in love 1: R&Bmusic is shit. It has no soul.
Exile man in love 1: You have just insulted millions of Black people across the world, Darling!
Exile land woman in love 1: Rubbish!Listen to Lou Reed, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, … Now, that’s music!
Exile land woman in love 1: You have to go now?
Exile man in love 1: Huh? Go? Where to?
Exile land woman in love 1: Your place.
Exile man in love 1: But it’s past midnight. And it’s cold outside (sub zero degrees temperatures, winter).
Exile land woman in love 1: Just go!
Exile man in love 1: But, Darling, we’ve just made love. Have I done something wrong?
Exile land woman in love 1: No, the sex was good as ever. I just want to be alone in my own space. Just go, please!
- She complains that I work too much. She says I’m too obsessed with money. She refuses to understand me when I say I do all this for her. I want us to have a good and financially secure life. She says we don’t need all that in Norway, the State takes care of us when we are in need. Well, I look after my family first; the State can come in after. I am a man.
- She criticised me for getting a Drivers’ Licence, saying it was a waste of money. And, besides, public transport in Norway eliminates the need to drive cars around. According to her, I want to have the Drivers’ Licence because it’s status symbol for us foreigners.
- As for me, I went out and bought myself an old Ford Escort car. She commented, “Such a typical poor immigrant’s car!”
Later on I went out to buy a fancy big Mercedes. Her comment, “How vulgar!”
- Gentlemen, my woman does not want me to study. She says I don’t need education when I have a job, an office-cleaning job. It doesn’t seem to make sense to her that since the Norwegian labour market is not impressed with my university Economics degree, as well as my past corporate work experience from home, getting a Norwegian university qualification will help me get a better job, and improve our family’s disposable income. It will also help me restore my lost dignity since I came to exile. Norwegians make me feel real small when they seem to think I am a stupid, no brains man who is not, and can never be more competent than in cleaning toilets and things. All this does not make sense to her. Gents, I don’t know what to do. It seems the only thing we are good for here is being the ever non-expendable sex machines. Fuck James Brown!
- As for me, my woman argues that my wanting to study is driven by my male ego need to want to compete with her. She insists that foreign men are never comfortable with women who are academically and financially stronger than them.
- I tell my woman that I came to Norway primarily for higher education. I tell her that where I come from, education is power. When you are educated, everyone listens to you. I want to contribute to the liberation of my country with my educated brainpower. With my education I can improve the lives of my people when I go back to my liberated South Africa.
- Guys, I am now totally convinced that our Exile land women in love like us the most when we are weak and vulnerable. That way, they can play their feminist power games on us. I think we, as foreigners, are easier targets because we are not so very familiar with the war of the sexes in Western societies in the beginning.
Business College Rector: I welcome you all to our unique and special school … All of you sitting here are here because you are the strongest and the most intelligent from your poor Third World Countries. After you complete your special Business education at our school here in three years’ time, you must all go back to your countries and serve there. Norway does not need you …
It’s clear the Rector didn’t know anything about Exile land women in love.
Exile man in love 1: Hei, Darling! My mother has just phoned to inform me of my father’s death.
Exile land woman in love 1: Aha!? And now you want to go down there, no? Can’t your mother and your people burry him themselves then? Do you really have to be there?
Exile man in love 1: Speechless!
Exile land woman in love 1: Look, these people have to understand that you have a life and family of your own in Norway. People can’t just decide to die and then expect you to come down running at short notice …
Exile man in love 1 got home in record time. Buried his father with honour befitting a man of the deceased’s stature. As the coffin was lowered into the grave, the love and romance of Exile man in love 1 whooshed beneath it …
TO BE CONTINUED …
March 28, 2014
Tel.: +27 717454115
HOME AT LAST! Part 3
Friends, Families, Comrades in Exile
I guess I, like everyone else, can be bad to people; it is not beyond me to do real bad things to people. There are some who go limping around, thinking that evil doings are prerogative of only certain people by virtue of their names, tribes, races, nationalities, religions, and faiths, as well as their mental and physical dispositions. People are bad; people are good; that’s just the way we are. That’s how we roll. Just cross the lines …
In public, I can be wild and outgoing; having fun, making noise; just having the time of my life being happy, paying little attention as to whether I’m making enemies or not. Just having a groove, ‘cause I’m free. Total madness. Some call it Sirkus Chilembo. There are poor souls out there who can’t stand seeing other people living their happiness out for the world to see. But, that’s how they roll in a free world. Finger up them! Badness in happiness.
In troubled times, in my hours of darkness, when I have to face my trials and tribulations alone, I can be very, very private. I am a lone ranger; I fight my battles alone, quietly. Times like these, I withdraw; I disappear from prying eyes of the world. I’ll party again soon enough. I do. Always.
When I decide I’ll fight a battle, it’s because I know I’ll win, I’ll build my enemy up; make decent men/ women out of them. I’ve never had time for lost causes from the outset. Lost causes can throw stones at me, break my bones, do whatever they like to harm me, but my rage they never will have the pleasure of seeing. I make distances real wide between lost causes and me. Invisibility is my power against lost causes. When I go underground, it’s real deep. Works all the time. Curtis Mayfield said it so very well for me: “To be invisible will be my claim to fame … That way I won’t have to feel the pain …” It’s called self-preservation, for greater things, greater duties in life.
In Oslo, I would spend much of my little free time alone. I worked hard to make money. Worked well. I worked hard to love. Worked not so well; worked when it worked. Whenever I played, I played hard. I dreamt, I wished, I hoped hard that whenever I’m done with my extended exile tour of duty, the energy I would have preserved in my alone quality times would enable me to do one hell of a good job continuing with things where I had left them when at extremely short notice I had to leave the country of my birth, South Africa, the country I love so much. Little did I know then that I was living fantasies and illusions of the mind of a 14½-year-old child.
Exile life is unreal for many. It was unreal for me. It was unreal for me because of its supposedly inherently temporary nature. But when will freedom finally come to one’s land? Tomorrow? Next year? In 10 years’ time? 30? 50? When?
We ran away because we didn’t want to be arrested, or worst, get killed. I used to think about those left behind. Many would indeed eventually get arrested, tortured, killed. I would go with, on the one hand, a guilty feeling of having failed my compatriots, my comrades by leaving them behind. On the other hand, I went round with this feeling of helplessness, uselessness when I understood there was little or nothing I could do directly, and personally, to assist.
To keep some degree of sanity, exile people from same countries, or regions stick together. We speak the same languages, we have common references historically and culturally; we more or less share the same dreams, hopes and aspirations. We all feel and experience the same misunderstandings, and at worst, hostilities from certain quarters in our host countries. Coming from South Africa, and having experienced in our bones the ills of racism and racial discrimination, many South Africans, Black, would be hyper sensitive to even the most minute of racism manifestations. Racism, we know it when we see it. And it’s not about White people only. Black people, everyone else thinks we are their God-given shit ground, wherever we are.
Time goes, years come and go, freedom taking its time coming home. Well, life must go on. Make it as normal as possible. Try! Study. Get a job. If not in the mix already, perhaps it’s okay to fall in love in the meantime. Get hitched. Make children. Take up loans, like everyone else. Buy a home. Buy cars. Rock on, now. You have a new homeland! Go on holidays: Thailand, Florida, Spain; Syden, du vet!/ The South, you know!
Exile, “But I miss my mother, all my family, actually. I miss my country. Why can’t we go holiday in South Africa this time? The country is free now …”
Norsk wife, “Men, du,/ But, you, South Africa is not a traditional holiday destination for Norwegians! Skjønner du?/ Do you understand?” Trouble in exile land! With small variations here and there, we all get on the same boat. The boat will rock all exile days, extended or not. For some, even beyond exile.
Exile people show(-ed) one another enormous solidarity and support. We vented our anger and frustrations at everything together. We ate, we drank; we partied together. Some would even make love together; be lovers, get married, make babies, fight, divorce, and die. They may, or may have not seen and tasted the hard won freedom of their land.
Getting even more scared, feeling even more vulnerable when we now begin to die not from South African apartheid police brutality, but from natural causes in exile, or back home in South Africa just after returning from exile, those still in exile become an even much more close-knit bunch. We would eventually become dear and close friends, many of us. Getting to visit one another’s families when holidaying in the newly free South Africa, we would then upgrade our friendships and become family, relatives. Heavy stuff. We would be more open to one another, revealing each our strengths; revealing each our own truths about what we believe in and stand for in life. Some would even declare that as comrades, as family, they would die for us if they had to. I would say that I don’t think that I’d be of any use to anybody dead. So, I would only kill happily for my comrades and family, if I have to.
But then again, now I know, life in exile is not only unreal for some; it’s also ever so false. We often say things we all want to hear, things we believe, or know people want or like, to hear. In South Africa, we love family so much that if you want to easily rip off somebody real good, start by saying you are family, and do with them things that are normal for families to do together: Dinners, birthdays, Christmases, attend special events together, the works. And, f-u-n-e-r-a-l-s!
What many of us in exile become with one another is, indeed, now I know, Comrades, and not family. In a perfect world, families rise and fall together. Very strong bonds of not only love but also trust hold them together as well. Hardly so with comrades. In reality, what brings and holds comrades together is the struggle and fight against a common enemy. When it’s all over, as is the case in the new South Africa today, it’s dog eat dog; God for us all, everyone for himself. Trust? What’s that?
Because I am my father-man-of-the-people’s son, I have many families everywhere. Private, detached, and seemingly arrogant as I can be in a spur of a moment, I actually love people, and people love me. At least I thought my fellow exiles loved me, until I understood the attitudinal and philosophical differences between family and comrade(-s).
When we had both decided each our personal extended exiles were over, I was looking forward to continuing our exile-found and developed family relationship with one comrade. Much like in the same way that I fantasized and believed there were incomplete pre-exile stories to finish, I believed there were, indeed, exile stories we could only finish here at home, in our beloved motherland, South Africa.
I suppose there are, in fact, incomplete exile stories to finish off when back home now. How then can I explain, how then can I relate to a comrade with whom I have shared food and drinks in each other’s homes, both in exile and at home in South Africa, when he goes round believing, and complaining to other former exiles in our circle that I have a sexual relationship with his own wife? I’ve met his mother and his siblings, and he’s met mine. On each their own occasion, the Queens said what South African mothers say when their children, their eldest, sons, present brothers from other mothers, Comrades, to them, “Welcome home, son!” We are family, I believed.
For reasons known to him alone, the man hasn’t asked me to confirm whether or not I have slept with his wife. If this man is scheming ways to kill me for having, as he sees it in his exile screwed up head, betrayed his trust, then I’ll die in vain. Jealous men do bad things to people everywhere: “Ya-a-a, Comrade Sy! Wena jy dink gore o tl-leva. ‘Baka gore ga o trouwe is because o jella ma-authi a mangoe basadi ba bone, neh? KABOOM, KABOOM, PHAWWW …!!! Eshwa, satane, barri ya vrystata! / Ye-a-ah, Comrade, Sy! You think you are smart. Reason for your not marrying is because you screw other guys’ wives, no? KABOOM, KABOOM, PHAWWW …!!! Die, bastard, stupid fool from vrystata (Free State Province)!” Sheer waste of fucking life. When the common enemy is gone, comrades eat up their own in South Africa. Law of the jungle rules. Lost causes. Losers at home and abroad. Big time. Shame, tog/ stakkars/ poor souls.
So, I withdraw, I keep to myself, I pray, I meditate, I cry. I think. I write, I sing poetry. When I party again, I’ll laugh like thunder as I usually do when I feel happy and free. Come shoot me, comrade, my Nirvana is calling. Give me the reason to do exile second time around. But then again, what lost causes don’t know about me is that in my disappearing acts during all the years in exile, I wasn’t only chasing privacy, money, love, and power. I died and rose from the dead several times. If they talk to my mother about things and me, she might, in her eagerness, reveal to them that A I GOBEKI LE NTSIMBI!/ It is non-bendable this metal! She made me, she knows; I am man of steel. Stainless steel.
So, if I grew up and thrived, became a man, and made it in exile, I can make it anywhere. Home is where my success is. Goodbye, comrades! Goodbye, lost causes!
Norman: Du kommer tilbake, du Simon! Jeg veit det./ You are coming back, you, Simon! I know it.
Exile: Hvordan vet du det, da?/ How do you know, then?
Norman: Norge elsker deg, du elsker Norge. Alle veit det./ Norway loves you, you love Norway. Everyone knows it!
Exile: Fffææn!!!/ Ssshhit!!!
- EASTER, 1996
Mr ELW Chilembo: Buti*, it’s two years now since exile ended. When are you coming back home, Son?
Exile: Soon, Pappa!
Mr ELW Chilembo: Ok. But, do hurry up. Please!
- EXILE SUMMERTIME, 1998
Mrs LM Chilembo on phone: Buti, Pappa is dead!
- LATE SUMMER, HOME, MZANSI FO SHO, 2014
I am so alone. Just like in exile years, I still do everything, all-important things, alone. It’s time I visited Pappa. Fast!!!
TO BE CONTINUED …
*My family nickname. Means Big Brother. Many South African families will call the eldest boy-children Buti (Ou boet: Afrikaans). There are many, though, who have Buti as an ordinary, formal name.
March 12, 2014
Tel.: +27 717454115
HOME AT LAST! Part 2
Life After Death, Incomplete Stories …
I want to equate exile to death. Whether or not planned, when it’s time to go, it’s time to go. If there is life after death, from what I know of life in exile, life in after death must be a living nightmare for the dead. I, therefore, am not keen to die just yet. And I don’t ever want to experience living in exile again.
Some people do get the chance, and make time to plan their deaths. Write suicide note. Set up video cameras. Go online. Press Record. Say/ read your message to the soon to be bereaved, to the world. Point gun to the head. Pull trigger. KABOOM!!! Head explodes to pieces. Blood, bone, brain indistinguishable. Goorish fans across the globe applaud: Another one bites the dust! Video goes viral. A star is born. Dead for show. Yet, life after death is life after death, no matter how you die.
Children, we have to go. NOW!!! Forget about your toys, your grandmother, everything. MOVE!!! Yes, take your shoes. WHAT? We go where we go. You find out when we get there. COMING BACK? WHEN? Forget that too. No, no, NOT back to Lesotho. We are done with that place. We come back when our country is free some day. I’m sorry I didn’t prepare you for a day like this. L-E-T-S go! The car is waiting, and the neighbours must not start asking questions. MOVE! M-O-O-VE!!!
It happened so fast, exactly 40 years ago, I still see it all happening in a flash. It’s so fast, I see it, I see the words to describe it, but I cannot grasp them. They just slip through my fingers, like an eel. What stood still are the things, material and non-material, the subjective things. All left behind incomplete …
Now I know that the timing of our fleeing was not accidental. At the Mothusi railway station in our old township, Thabong, Welkom, that Sunday early evening, there were hundreds, perhaps thousands, of migrant mine workers who were returning to their homes after a 3 year tour of duty in the then highly productive, and at least as lucrative, gold mines in Welkom. These would provide a superb camouflage and protection for my parents, my three siblings, and I, all the way up to Park Station, in Jo’burg. London has Heathrow Airport. Jo’burg has Park (Railway) Station.
Getting to, and being at Park Station for about two days reminded me of a beehive. There were so many people concentrated in one place. There was such a hive of activity, people moving fast and purposeful in all directions. There were many other families with many children, and lots and lots of luggage. Some of these families had been lodging in the waiting rooms at the station for more than one week. The common thread here was that there were no train services to take these people to “… communist and terrorist countries like Mozambique and Zambia”. Terrorists were killing White people in the then Rhodesia. So, you can’t have South African trains taking Black people there on a regular basis. Although Malawians were alright Blacks because Kamuzu Banda was friends with the then South African apartheid regime, they had to travel through Rhodesia to get to back home. So, they also got stuck at Park Station.
All who were stuck and waiting at Park Station were ever so edgy, and on constant security and safety alert. There were tsotsis everywhere. Heavily armed policemen never stopped beaming their torches onto our faces, especially at night, asking questions, and making stupid comments. It became most fascinating to hear how each family’s story changed from one policeman to the next.
Before he’d disappear for many hours on the second day of our waiting at Park Station, my father instructed us to tell anybody who asks that we were a family travelling from Cape Town. My father was a school principal, and my mother was a nurse. We were travelling to Malawi because my parents were going to work at a Catholic Church mission station in a village somewhere there. One policeman, White, was so impressed by our story that, while my father was still away, he bought us Fish & Chips and Fanta Orange. Towards the end of the day, the policeman came back because, he said, “I really wanted to see this good man of God going to teach civilization to the primitive people of Malawi. And because you are very Black like they Malawian people, I’m sure God will guide you properly” When I look back with an adult man’s eye, I get the feeling that the policeman had actually taken a fancy on my mother. My mother is a very beautiful woman. She was even more strikingly beautiful as a younger woman in her early thirties then. That evening, my father suddenly ordered us to pack our things. FAST!!! The train is leaving in 10 minutes.
My father: We are going to Malawi now. No, train not going to Malawi. No trains to Malawi, no! But, we will get there. And, no one, absolutely no one, mentions the word Zambia. Don’t even dream the word Zambia. You mention Zambia we are dead, you hear, my children? You hear, Mamma? Now, let’s go!
We made the strange train. Just in time. Family booked in Second Class coach. Rhodesian Railways. Wow, good-bye apartheid! Sort of, didn’t know any better then. Like this is going to be fun after all.
Despite delays here and there, slow was the norm in those days, our travel had been hassle-free and safe, although the mood was ever so tense and anticipatory. My mind was racing fast in circles, back and forth in random patterns as I was trying to make sense of things.
Trouble started at the South African-Botswana border post, Ramatlabama. It seemed there was something not quite right with the travel documents my father had gotten fixed in Jo’burg the day before. The immigration officers and the police were not happy at all. Eventually, my father being my-father-the-ever-gentle-and-humble-diplomat, convinced the officials to let us go. We were warned, though, that the strange foreigners further up north might not be as kind and considerate as our South African and Batswana relatives. However, if there is trouble ahead, one of the officers told my parents, we could always come back; the people in Cape Town sure miss their beloved school Principal and Sister (nurse) already. The Restaurant Manager and his Shebeen Queen wife chuckled and thanked the officer, bidding him farewell with a R10,- note, a lot of money in 1975. On hindsight, my parents should have taken heed of the officer’s words. As for me, I am both fascinated and now a bit worried by this turn of events. I had already experienced more than enough trouble during my earlier adventures in Lesotho. And the latter was only a few hours away by car from home in Welkom. Now that we had been on the road, or more precisely, on the rail for almost a week, I was beginning to get the feeling that we may be getting into something much more complex than anything else we had experienced so far. My fears would be proven right. And my life would change forever. Moving on and on all the time. Growing up, becoming a man in foreign lands. Had I known better, I would have there and then gotten rid of the static images of the memories of how things were, how things would be back home in Welkom. Freedom should have come much earlier to my country …
The overnight train ride through Botswana into Rhodesia was ever so cool and uneventful. My man-of-the-people father soon found his element after befriending all personnel in the dining coach. We had dinner together with White people! Wow, this is life, I thought. My father said, “White people in South Africa do not want to share anything with us. They just like to have us as slaves, and abuse us. In Botswana, just like in Lesotho, and to some extent Rhodesia too, they are different. They don’t have apartheid as we know it in Rhodesia, even if White people there can also be stupid. Where we are going, it’s even better. You children are going to be more educated than many South African Whites. That way, you can fight better for South Africa’s freedom” And the static images of the memories of how things were, how things would be back home in Welkom became even larger, the colours becoming even more vivid. At school we used to do free drawings of objects of our subjects. I could with high precision draw the map of my province, (then Orange) Free State with my eyes closed. In this state of mind, excited by my father’s political education talk, I saw in my mind the map of the Free State filling up that of the country South Africa. Then, like molten lava, I saw the South African map spreading itself out to slowly fill up that of the entire African continent.
Had I known any better then, I would have cried, STOP!!! But then again, how do you stop a dream? By waking up to reality. But how do you wake up to reality you don’t know? So, I simply had to heed the call of freedom fighting for my land, “Keep moving on ahead, son!” When we eventually got to our final destination, I would hear the sermon in my sleep, “Comrade, inkululeko i se duzi/ freedom is near. When you and your other young comrades have so many years of life ahead of you, we old veterans look at you as the vanguards of the struggle now. You are going to be the custodians of our hard-won freedom. You are going to rule South Africa. But, especially for you, Comrade Si, first things first: Go to school, sharpen your intellect and analytical skills. AKs and bazookas will wait for you …”
Indeed, I went to school to lands beyond the deepest, widest seas, and the highest mountains. Education lasted 38 years. I watched freedom befall the land of my birth from high above 20 years ago. My schooling was not over yet, then. So, I watched with amazement the new gravy train criss-crossing the land, picking up the fattest cats, dogs, and pigs. Yeah, I’ve heard it before, “I didn’t struggle for freedom to be poor!” It seems I went to the wrong schools, studied too long. Perhaps I should have opted for the AK 47, or, even better, Robben Island. If only I could have foreseen the series of events that would unfold as we reach Bulawayo, Rhodesia, by non-gravy-train Rhodesia Railways, exactly seven days since we left Welkom.
As we are about to board the train that would take us on to Salisbury, a policeman, White, comes to do a final check of our documents. It turns out that “…these are not valid travel documents to travel on in Rhodesia. You people must have real passports, not some papers with names, stories, and stamps. These can work in stupid countries like Botswana and Malawi. But you cannot travel any further through Rhodesia. Back to Ramatlabama (SA-Botswana border post), and travel to Malawi from there! The train travelling back to South Africa is leaving in 30 minutes. Not necessary with return tickets. Just go. Now!!!” I had never before seen my father so speechless, and sheepish. And we were now getting into the routine of getting into trains Fast!!! The return ride southwards was one 3rd Class open coach travel nightmare. Slowly my mind switched off, and I must have gotten into some real deep sleep all the way.
I wake up the following morning to find out that the train had arrived and stopped at Gaborone train station. The train waited long enough for us to eat breakfast of food sold by people at the station. When whistles were blown to warn people to either clear off the station platform, or board the train, as it was nearing departure time, we suddenly were ordered by my father to disembark the train, once again Fast!!! “There is no way we can go back into South Africa!”, he howled.
The diesel engine train bellowed, and slowly started to pull off and away. Those remaining behind were also clearing away. Trades people gathering and sorting out their goods in readiness for the next train upwards a few hours later. My father and his family remained alone on the station platform, looking, and feeling very lost and dejected. In the background, perhaps from what looked like the Station Master’s office, was playing a radio. When I first took notice of it just after the train had departed, one of the hit songs of the day in South Africa at the time, Timmy Thomas’ Why Can’t We Live Together, was playing. Nostalgia rocked my world so I could die. But The Three Degrees’ When Will I See You Again?, which played immediately after, gave the most decisive blow. There and then I knew, I understood, that it would be a very long time before, if ever, I return to South Africa. At the same time, I felt struck by a bolt of deep longing for my country. This deep longing for South Africa would prick my heart everyday for the next 38 years.
There is something this country has done, or does to me, that is so strong I love this country beyond words. There is a Mind, Body, and Soul connection I get and feel only when I’m in South Africa. I’ve lived 25 years in the best and relatively safest country in the world, Norway, the country that made a man out of me. From Norway I was given a platform from which to explore other parts of the world. I’ve seen the very best, I’ve seen the worst of the worst. I have lived, I have loved, and I have done it all. But, no other place in the world does what South Africa does to me. Therefore, this deep-felt longing for my beloved country would permeate absolutely all aspects of my life during all the 38 years I have lived in exile. Stationary, incomplete things; images of visions of my life in my land would haunt me day in, and day out. I knew what I wanted, I knew how to go about it. If only freedom came soon enough. In the meantime, I’d do what I had to do, give what I have to give, take only what I have to take. Do all this very selectively, don’t give all I got in all this. Save the rest for the best, South Africa, when freedom has come.
Freedom came in 1994. And I concluded I won’t die before I bring to life all the incomplete things I left standing still in South Africa upon my going to exile early 1975. Freedom came, and opened my eyes to another reality: There are also incomplete things which have been standing still next to me all my years in exile, haunting me day and night, everywhere I go also. I refuse to die before I fix it all, I have to clean my tracks wherever I have been in my life’s journey, at home and abroad.
Now I know I am going to have a great life after death. Freedom has opened my eyes to yet another reality: Life is exactly what it is, a never ending journey without beginnings, without ends. Living life on earth, or after death is not about destinations, but stopping stations and sidings thereto, if ever I get there. It’s about the choices I make at these stopping places, the latter planned or happening “…for reasons I can’t explain!” Who comes aboard with me? Who is disembarking? Reasons? Who has the right to be on board? Their duties, obligations, and responsibilities? Any goods to load, or offload? Any maintenance, or any repair work to do? Am I on schedule? Can I, do I really want to undertake this journey? Do I have what it takes to endure the thrills and challenges of the entire journey going round in circles all my lives?
When I reach the station to get off the journey in my life after death, I know I’ll be entering paradise. All this because in my soul I am free after returning from exile. Now I know, there were no incomplete things here all these years. I fantasized, I believed. Now I’m here, nobody seems to notice, nobody seems to care; nothing seems to matter anymore. Life moves on. Life in South Africa has always moved on, with or without my longing for her, with or without my caring for my people here. Black Diamonds are here. Tenderpreneurs are here. Sharks from everywhere are here; it is the map of the African continent slowly taking up every available space in South Africa now. Fear, suspicion everywhere. Reality.
The most difficult thing about living in exile is not that you cannot go back to your country as you wish, or you are treated like a piece of shit by your hosts, or you simply cannot adapt to living away from you beloved country. From my personal experience, the most difficult thing about living in exile was the heavy load I carried in my emotional and sentimental baggage. In the end, these things don’t matter any more: The girl I thought I loved as a14 year old went on and got married by another. Family, relatives, and friends have dumped me because I don’t give priority to throwing money around any more these days. Good riddance, actually. Never felt greater peace in my life, now that I know what I know about people. The piece of land I chose as a 13 year old, and thought when grown up and are a Doctor, I’d buy and build my Medical Clinic and Health & Wellness Centre, has been bought another who has built himself a shop on it. My old school is still as dead looking as I last saw it 40 years ago. What difference would it make if I went ahead and offered to donate a library there now? How come nobody seems to have cared all these years?
More out of a strong personal sense of duty, loyalty, and obligation, as well as responsibility, than anything else, I have spent fortunes on people I believed I could help them live better, more resourceful, and more uplifting lives. All in vain. I came home for them, they don’t give a shit. Only bad vibes, lies, awe, jealousy, bitterness, anger, and hate; all “…for reasons I can’t explain!” My naïve idealist’s world came crushing on me, hard and fast. I have become totally disillusioned with my coming home to stay. I feel exile calling again. I wonder if it feels the same for one considering suicide? When somebody can plan, document, and execute the perfect suicide, can they also plan their reincarnation? Given what I know now, I could never have ended my exile. It truly breaks my heart to watch Africa burning so close to home. But then again, people ride and drive their own trains in each their own life’s journeys, designing and implementing their own routes, and corresponding stations and sidings. If ever I do exile second time around, it’ll be with more class and style, with no unfinished stories and pictures this time. Only closed chapters. I’ll embrace new exile with the whole of me this time around, and live happily ever after. Reincarnation to Nirvana. My train, my journey, my stations. Death? It can wait.
TO BE CONTINUED …
March 10, 2014
Tel.: +27 717454115
HOME AT LAST! Part 1
Mutterings of Ngamla* Kid from eKassie Thabong
The ignorance of opulent society people regarding the real condition of poor people all over the world can be very appalling sometimes. This, in spite of the fact that “Jo, kjære/ Dear Simon, Norway was also a poor, Third World level country until as late as just under 50 years ago”
The real condition of poor people, whatever the causes of their poverty, goes beyond just the lack of life’s essential material goods such as food and clean drinking water. It isn’t just about “We Are the World”. Christmas? What is that? Christmas comes and goes in circles. Poverty is a point-to-point straight line for the poorest of the poor of the world. Born in poverty. Raised in poverty. Live poor. Die poor. Corpse rots in open space. No strength, no grave. No fire, no ash. There is a vulture waiting.
Poor people are vulnerable not only to the devastating effects of natural forces when necessary protective measures such as solid and safe housing, general infrastructure, and health services are neither available nor accessible to. When the Superstructure, either by intention or through sheer ignorance and/ or incompetent incompetency, fails to protect and defend poor people against natural calamities, corrupt and ineffective national leadership, as well as national enemies, then hell becomes a place on earth for the poor. Only that the fire in hell on earth is of a very slow combustion nature.
You cannot see the flames, for the fire burns extremely slowly inside the personal worlds of the poor, slowly eating up and mutating the fibre of their hearts, minds, bodies, and souls. Very dehumanizing, indeed. Opulent society people have no relation, and can never relate to this. Believe me, once you’ve tasted the life of opulence, whether through personal hard work and effort to create and sustain own personal wealth, or by fate, you don’t want to be poor (again). Never. “But, kjææære/ deaaar Simon, there isn’t much I can do about my having been born in Norway. I cannot go round feeling sorry that I was born a Norwegian!” an opulent society person will defend themselves, implicitly saying that because I, Simon Chilembo, am from some supposedly poor and backward African jungle, I don’t have a real appreciation of what opulence and its implications are; it’s best for me to continue living simply, and close to nature like my other African people do back home. “It’s bad, and unnatural for you to allow yourself to get caught up in the trappings of our own lifestyle and culture, Simon. Western civilization is an extremely destructive force for a beautiful man like you …!”. Okay, owkey, ok!!!
As a grown up youthful man, I have chosen to live the way I have lived my life so far because it is the only lifestyle I know. From the time I became aware of, and began to make sense of my surroundings and reality, I found my father driving the finest of the few cars in the neighbourhood; my mother had the finest home by standards going for the rising Black middle class of the then Apartheid South Africa in the 1960s. I knew I had more clothes than many of the other children in the neighbourhood. My clothes were, of course, the finest. I had lots of toys. There was always excess food at my home. My parents used to be the most dashing couple at the social parties immigrant workers from Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Mozambique would hold from time to time, more often than not, at my home. When the time for me to go to school came, “cheap” apartheid Bantu Education schools my father didn’t want to hear anything of. So, I was sent to an exclusive Catholic mission school abroad in neighbouring Lesotho, thereby starting what would be an exciting international travel and career in later years. It was important for my parents that my siblings and I got the best education they could afford. Education would secure safe and lasting entry into the safe, attractive world of opulent living for us. We didn’t know of any poor Doctor then. As such, it was only natural that I would be a Doctor when I grow up.
Although I wouldn’t say I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth like many I know in the 21st Century opulent society, I was not born in poverty and misery either. My parents’ own stories are completely different, though. These two awesome people were born and raised in different poverty and misery settings, but very poor all the same. Nevertheless, somehow, at different points, and under as different circumstances, they each independently managed to break themselves away from the shackles of poverty, ever aspiring to be strong and healthy everyday, so that they could have the power to work hard everyday to make money, and, that way, buy themselves passports into the good life of health, safety, protection, and fun characteristic of the opulent society. They did very well indeed, within the limitations and constraints of the then Apartheid South Africa, which, much like colonialism before it, thrived on creating conditions that would mean that Black people would be subjected to perpetual poverty and misery.
My parents taught me to appreciate, and therefore continually aspire for, the good life from a very early age. But there was only so much Black people could do to be materially and spiritually successful, free, and happy those days. Every basic and essential social service was by design and intention to be small, inadequate, and substandard. Slow combustion implies limited and constricted supply of oxygen. Total Apartheid strategy: Mercilessly brutalize the Blacks outside on the streets and places of work. If they refuse to die then, it’s okay. Let them go to their substandard homes, and die slowly from overcrowding, asbestos, carbon monoxide, lead paint, alcohol, drugs, violence, and sexual abuse. (There are some who may argue that not much has changed in the post-Apartheid South Africa, celebrating this year, 20 years of supposedly genuine Democracy since the official fall of Apartheid in 1994. But, another place, another time)
My mother always talked, therefore, about how, when things change one day, we’d build a bigger house, like the White people did. As a little girl, my mother had, together with her own mother, worked as a house girl for several White families consecutively. So, she had a clear vision of what she wanted, and aspired for, regarding living a more fulfilling life of opulence and well-being.
About 40 years later, I am somebody in opulent society. Many people out here do not really know who I am as an individual, private person. They do not know where I come from, they do not know my history; they do not know my values, my beliefs, my faith, what I stand for, and what the things are which for me define the man and the person I am when confronted as the individual, free, and independent-thinking Simon Chilembo. They have no idea as to what my aspirations, my hopes, my concerns, my worries, and my fears are. What are my sources of joy, my sources of sorrow?
Whatever little they think they know about me is as a part of a collective, as described in literature and through other cultural media. For example, hear an opulent society highly cultured intellectual who has backpacked all over the world over many years, “But, du, kjææære/Deaaar, Simon, I know everything about you. I have read every book ever written by Wilbur Smith, you know! Moreover, I have read at least twice Alex Hailey’s Roots book, and I have seen the Roots TV series over and over several times. Kunta Kinte var flink, ikke sant/ was good, not so? ”. Ohhh, help me, God!
So, when I do things the only way I know them from before, given my unique personal background; the latter having shaped my aspirations, my dreams, my hopes, my longings, I seem to break the rules of everything opulent society people know, and expect of and about me:
- “But, kjææære, Simon, you have bought another, even bigger Mercedes? Whyyy? How vulgar!”
- “I see you are wearing a gold Rolex watch these days, kjære deg/ you, my Dear Simon. What’s the meaning of this now?”
What the opulent society person did not know is that I have been wearing classy wrist watches since my parents bought me, as a 12th birthday present, an expensive watch typically worn by grown up, working men. Therefore, when I am finally grown up myself, making my own good opulent society money, I go for the best there is. Naturally.
- “You are full of surprises, kjære deg/ you, my Dear Simon. Do you have to build such a big house for your mother, then? Whyyy???” opulent society person is relentless.
Simon, “Well, it’s normal to build big in South Africa. There’s lots of land”.
- Opulent society person, “Tjaaa, but is it really necessary?”
Simon, “Actually, had my family been bigger, the house would have been much bigger. We are only four adults, with each one of us a designated own bedroom when we all come together at home …”
- Opulent society person, “Neeei/ nnnooo, it’s still too much. Do you reaaally need that many rooms? So many bathrooms and toilets? You have all slept in one and the same bedroom before, not so? I know that people share huts in African villages. You see my point now, kjære deg/ Dear you?”. Jeeezus!!!
What opulent society person didn’t know was that, when I was about 10 years old, I made a silent vow one night: I would never subject my children to the discomfort and embarrassment of seeing or hearing their mother and I making love, even in the most subdued way. In the same small, substandard municipality house, my mother ran a very popular shebeen business. Booze everywhere, all that goes with alcohol abuse by poor and severely oppressed people happening everywhere around my siblings and I. I swore once again that my children would never have to go through this kind of thing. Somehow, the three of us children survived, and came out of this mess clean. Not that we are not each carrying each our own luggage from this shit life. The three of us are, of course, three very different personalities who each deal in their own unique special ways with their own luggage. Thanks to living in exile, to a large extent, I believe, the three of us will live to well beyond age 50. Many of our childhood friends passed on a long time ago. Of the few still around, it is clear that life has not been very kind to some of them. Our family exile started in Zambia, and I eventually ended up in Norway on my own, making my exile stay longest in the family. Coming back home to stay after 38 years abroad has been a totally different experience than that which my fantasies had envisaged, and I had hoped for. The meaning of a place called home is not the same anymore.
TO BE CONTINUED …
*Wealthy, influential one (man)
March 04, 2014
Tel.: +27 717454115
ONE LOVE, ONE SEX. MAN, WOMAN, SAME DIFFERENCE
Sex is cheap. Sex is so cheap nearly all living things do it. Dogs do sex. Snakes do sex. Bees do sex. Seen solely as a reproductive means, even the wind does sex; Virgin Mary knows, ask God. Celibates do sex. Sex is no big deal.
Essentially, sex is about one thing, and one thing only: 6-20 seconds of the pure delight of orgasm. Some struggle to, or never, experience it at all; some get it too quick, too soon. But that doesn’t change the basic instinct behind the pursuit and, and the ultimate motive for indulging in sex. Cheap stuff.
Sure thing, baby baking is the highest ultimate real outcome of sex. But, certainly baby production is not the driving force behind the need, and the desire, to do sex. It’s orgasm first, then babies, where applicable and intended, or even accidental. There would long have been no more room on earth if babies were conceived every orgasm hit, if doing sex was primarily a baby factory act.
At its rawest, sex is the cheapest thing. And yet it has the power to make people very rich. Sex also makes people very poor everyday, all over the world. Sex is cheap power, and it works all the time. When people pay for sex, they are not paying for the act itself, actually. They are paying for accessories. We call them apps these days.
The subjective aspects of sex, touching emotions of love, preferences and choices, are what complicates this cheap thing called sex. People want, and like, to have sex packaged in certain ways. And, more often than not, sex partner targets are very specific. This is how artificial value adding apps come into the picture. And this is how sex crimes arise as people aspire for sex targets they either can’t match, and/ or can’t afford.
In a perfect world, the specific nature of sex partner targets as influenced by emotions of love and affection will be as random as people are born where they are born. And the people will have the personal all round attributes they will have at, and from, birth. Some people will even prefer, because they are who and what they are, to have themselves as their own sexual partners. They will do sex alone in their private worlds, neither harming nor pleasuring no one but themselves. Cheap and effective; assuming no huge investments in mechanical and such apps. And, of course, there are some who’ll do sex with practically anything, whatever the costs, financial and/ otherwise. Sex is so cheap it can make people even cheaper emotionally, spiritually, and, not in the least, economically.
If we accept the specific nature of sex partners and sex turn-ons choices and preferences; and if we accept that love is a guarantor of satisfactory and uplifting sexual relations, thereby promoting and sustaining peace and harmony in society, ensuring stability and growth in the present and the future, we must also acknowledge, accept, and respect that at times human behaviour will be incongruent to conventional wisdom as propagated by the majority. From a Human Rights perspective as promulgated in the free world, people must be allowed to love who they love, regardless of sex, race, creed, or faith. Archaic laws inhibiting these must be repealed forthwith. And, we know that historically, when people rise against abuse and denial of their right to full self-expression as free citizens of the world, the tide just cannot be stopped until the people have attained their freedom. Who knows it better that African people, the most oppressed people on earth? Africa will always lag behind the rest of the world as long as it does not get its developmental priorities right.
Chasing people around to see who does sex with whom? Arresting men who have sex with men they love, and women who do the same? What a waste of fucking time and resources!
February 16, 2014
Tel.: +27 717454115
FORWARD TO THE ROOTS
To mark my resumption of Karate teaching after a 2 ½ years’ semi-retirement, I take the liberty of reproducing an edited version of an interview I had with what are considered to be, in Karate terms, my Karate grandchildren in Zimbabwe. It is worth noting that my comeback is done in Welkom, the city of my birth in South Africa. This is where the adventure began …(Download public info/ demo, Wednesday, January 29, 2014, here, Pdf-fil: Karate Club demo invite)
BM: We are excited to be interviewing Simon Chilembo, Sensei, as a known pioneer of Seidokan back in the day. We hope to patch in some history that has been hazy, and we are grateful to people like Simon Sensei, who in many ways were responsible for linking Zimbabweans to Stephen Chan, Sensei, and responsible for shaping Jindokai as we know it today
1.BM. Sensei, many thanks for agreeing to this interview. We hope that we can go back with you in time. Please tell us how Sammy Chilembo was drawn to Martial Arts, and when this happened?
SC: I have always fought. First, as a smaller than average, sharp-tongued child protecting myself from others making my life difficult in various ways. Second, defending myself as a mobbing victim, given my sudden growth in body weight and size from near pubescence to early teens. Third, protecting my two siblings and myself against xenophobic and tribal inspired verbal and physical abuse arising from our father’s non-South African origin. There were also some direct responses to racial abuse and attacks in the then Apartheid South Africa.
I first started with Boxing from about age five. Christmas holidays 1971 in a street fight I’m warned that someone was about to throw a stone at me from behind. I turn around to find, a few meters away, the boy raising his right arm to effect the throw. Without thinking of it, I ran perhaps five steps and then flew on to the boy, kicking him with my right leg square in the face before he could throw the stone. Years later I’d understand that I had then performed something similar to a Tobi Yoko Geri. Afterwards, people kept asking me where I trained Judo. I didn’t know what they were talking about; so I kept saying it was secret! It was during my ensuing investigations about Judo that I, a few months later, discovered James Bond. An older guy told me that Bond was a Karate expert, and there and then I knew I wanted to train Karate so as to be cool like Agent 007.
2.BM.Your first formal Karate, was this under Seidokan? When did you meet Chan Sensei?
SC: Although I now know that that the guy hadn’t gone very far in his Karate training then, I like to acknowledge Lefty as having been the first-ever person to give me a formal Karate training session sometime in 1972. Lefty was one of the few older guys really nice to me in our township in Welkom, South Africa. He taught me Heisoku Dachi, Oyoi, Rei, and Hachi Dachi. Other than that I do not recall what exercises we did. But there sure was a lot of pain and sweat. And Lefty said one thing I never forget, “The most important thing in Karate is respect!” When I look back I think he could have meant “humility”.
I first met Chan Sensei in early 1981.
3.BM. How did Sedokan end up being such a force in Zambia, and later on Zimbabwe? Who introduced Seidokan in Zimbabwe?
SC: Regarding Zambia, my view is that at a very critical point in time we find at UNZA a spontaneous student convergence of the best and most promising Karateka in the country in the late 1970s to the mid-1980s. Then, at about the same time enters the scene an unusual Chinese Sensei Chan from New Zealand.
Sensei Chan’s style, approach, and attitude are like nothing we had ever seen before; very generous, very patient and tolerant, open, and inclusive, as well as innovative. Sensei Chan subtly broke all rules of everything we thought we knew about fitness training, and all of the basics, kata, and kumite training. From this we emerged with a new style of fighting, which was more mobile with more circular and spinning techniques, including takedowns. At the same time we were all allowed to maintain and develop further our own individualities, such that it was difficult for opposing teams to find workable strategies against us who stood strong as a team, and yet performed so very differently individually. Respecting and developing further the uniqueness of the individual within the confines of certain specific techniques and methods has been a trait upheld since.
The late Jimmy Mavenge introduced Seidokan in Zimbabwe. Working then against very strong forces in Zambia, I facilitated this. When I heard that Zimbabwean Karate was represented in the World Championships 2012, I celebrated quietly, and thought, “You made it, Jimmy!” This is how it all started (excerpt from earlier correspondence to a friend):
[One Sunday morning early 1983, a BMW 5 series parks outside my home in Lusaka; and out comes the biggest and ugliest man I ever saw. Upon seeing me his face lit up brighter than the happiest baby face I ever saw... Although I had never met or heard of this man before, he spoke to me like we were like the oldest of friends (he had done some good research on me apparently). And, to be honest, Jimmy had enough charisma to kill the biggest elephant.
After introducing himself: Jimmy Mavenge, Green Belt holder, First Secretary at the Zim High Commission in Lusaka, on a 3 year tour of duty, he went on something like, “Zimbabwe Karate is polarized and racist. I want to change all that when I get back. Black people don’t go above Green Belt there; and I want to take Karate to the poorest of children in my country. You have to help me with this. I’m willing to pay you generously if you can give me a crash-training programme so I can return to Zimbabwe with a Black Belt. I am willing to work and train every day, I’ll do anything you want me to...!” I remember my jaws sagging, my eyes bulging, with me saying a low key “Wowww...ohhhh.... ok, let’s do it!” I told him though that given the magnitude of the ambition, we had to this properly by engaging the then Zambia Seidokan…]
Unfortunately we initially received neither understanding nor support from the others. Only because both Jimmy and I were both mad thickheads, we unilaterally went ahead with the project any way, getting a lot of battering along the way. Rest is history; speaks for itself.
4.BM. Taking you back in the day, who were some of the young men you trained with? You being a champion back in the day, who was your most difficult opponent?
SC: When it came to kumite I was my own toughest opponent because I was just too strong and temperamental. With a history of disqualifications and injuries both inflicted upon my opponents, with me getting my own share, I do not have an impressive competition kumite record. Kata was, and still is my thing. I must mention though that, in my opinion, Lemmy Ngambi (late) was the most formidable fighter we had in Zambia during my time.
5.BM. We know Raymond Mbazima and Wycliffe Mushipe as some of the generation you might have started off with. How good were they back in the day? And, importantly, as Stephen has alluded to Wycliffe being the highest graded Jindokai African student, what was he like back in the day?
SC: Both Raymond and Wycliffe have always been good in their own ways. Raymond as the ever happy and smiling Karateka/ Sensei, but incredibly deep and thoughtful, poetic in talent and movement. Wycliffe ever cool and seemingly unassuming, but what speed, power, and focus when situation demands! Both are excellent teachers with solid academic and professional backgrounds.
Wycliffe and I first trained together (1978-81) at the former Trinity Karate Club, then run by Sensei Bonar Noble. The latter is, in my view, the original father of Zambian Karate. He was the first of the few Zambian Martial Arts experts of European origin who went out with the deliberate intent to teach Karate to indigenous Zambians. Mr Noble was also adept at Judo, and he taught a select group of us senior grades of the time, rudiments of Judo falls, throws, locks, as well as body movement and placement in space. I would think it safe to say that these Judo extra lessons lay the foundation for the subsequent Toide and Ju Jitsu we would learn in Seidokan, and now Jindokai.
6.BM. You have known Stephen Chan most probably longer than most of us. Describe the Man in as many words as you want.
SC: Despite him being a really big man of the world with a lot of power and influence, affecting the lives of many, many people in many different ways all over the globe on a daily basis, Stephen Chan has the unique ability to make me feel like I am the most important thing whenever I communicate with him in any way, on any subject matter. I get the feeling that Stephen Chan is one of the few good men around me who have an idea as to how my madness works. The man has seen me fall; he has helped me rise on my own. He has helped me to, on my own, hold my back straight, and hold my head high in victory.
It may sound strange, but it’s not Karate I have learnt from Stephen Chan. It is Diplomacy, as well as the concept and practice of loyalty I have learnt from the man. Karate training has only been a means to get there. If I couldn’t learn from him in a proper academic setting, I could as well get it on the training floor. Worked for me. Stephen was, therefore, the natural first recipient of my Chilembo Warrior Moves Waloba Award in 2011. The award is in memory of my father, and is awarded to men who, among other things, constantly inspire me to work to be a better person tomorrow than I was today.
7.B.M. The parting of ways between Stephen Chan and Roy Jerry Hobbs (you have also known both men for a long time), why Jindokai and not Dentokan?
SC: When the split came about I had already retired from international Karate for several years. Jindokai brought me back to life.
8.B.M. You have been overseas for a very long time. In which areas do you think African Karate has stayed in one place, improved and overtaken Karate in the 1st World?
SC: The extent to which African Karate has or not stagnated, improved or not improved, is, in my view, in relation to the general African condition. Africa will indeed improve and do well in certain areas, but will never surpass the so-called 1st World. This is more an attitudinal thing than about material endowment.
Africa has yet to learn how to break away from what I call the Dependency Syndrome. What I mean is, for example, learn and understand how things work, relate them to your own circumstances, innovate, create a new and unique better functional expression of the old, move on, win and rule.
I’ll postulate that Americans started doing things to Karate and other Martial Arts forms already in the 1960s, with the Europeans following close on about the same time, certainly from the early 1970s. I, with confidence, hereby state that Japan does not own modern Karate any more. Some of the very best Karate practitioners and brains are found in the Western world today.
Well, Africa is, as always, on the periphery thriving on handouts from often well-meaning 1st World patrons. Somebody in Durban, South Africa, said to me three years ago, “You need a Japanese under your wings to be somebody in Karate!” Load of bull, if you ask me. With my Chilembo Warrior Moves Karate Development, I will show that good Karate can be as African as can be.
There are crucial 1st World success pre-requisites though: Discipline, total commitment, focus, sacrifice, ethics, morals, long-term view, strategic and critical thinking, Health & Wellness, etc. How optimally can a Zimbabwean/ Zambian Karateka sustain Peak Performance capacity if he/ she pays little attention to strict dietary regimes of top competition training requirements established internationally? And, Jeeezus, what about those litres of Castle/ Mosi after training? Sometimes even before training?
9.B.M. Where do you see Jindokai, the International Organisation in 5years? 10years time?
SC: Difficult to put a time perspective. But speaking in general terms, like many other good organizations before it at any level, Jindokai will at its own pace develop to be strong, popular and dominant. Jindokai will produce the finest all-round Martial Artists, Sensei, Coaches, and administrators. When the organization reaches a certain level of maturity in time, it will then outgrow the founder, Stephen Chan in this case.
From personal experience, I know that an organization has reached the level of outgrowing the founder when, at worst, mutinies arise. There is no set pattern of events or members’ behaviour; but, often, the most senior and once most loyal will gang up with relatively newer and less experienced members to question the integrity of the founder/ leader. It’ll be about anything from leadership style/ power to knowledge and understanding of things (i.e. training concepts, history, relevance of current syllabus, adaptability to changing times and circumstances, etc.). I’ve always found this to be a most fascinating dynamic stage because this is where men/ women are made or broken; this is where organizations are rejuvenated or destroyed; this is where dictators mark themselves from progressive democratic players. I read many years ago somewhere that “Pioneers get hanged and burnt!” But then again, Phoenixes will always rise from the ashes.
10.B.M. You have had periods in your life where Karate has had to take a back seat, or sometimes completely not train. Does it get harder to get back to training? And at what point does one not completely think about the way if not training?
SC: There will always necessarily be times when one needs to take a break from Karate. It could be for a myriad of reasons; and it is the specific nature of the reasons that will often influence how hard or not a come back will be. I think health related reasons are ever the most challenging, whereas it is relatively easier to come back after a short/ long break as a result of need to give priority to studies, job, family, and other life’s practical considerations.
December 2011- June 2012 was the longest-ever break I took from any form of physical exercise training since I started to train seriously non-stop and goal-oriented at the age of twelve, 1972. For reasons I won’t go into, I had become extremely tired both mentally, spiritually, and physically much of year 2011. I felt I needed a break from my normal routines for a while so as to clear my head, re-asses my feelings about things, work my body in unfamiliar ways. I thought a personal six months leave of absence in South Africa would do me good; and it did. Working hands-on with the continuing construction of my new family home was a very uplifting and most educational trip. It was a thrill to work so very differently, and relate to people (builders, etc) as differently. Now I know that if I could start all over again I’d study Architecture.
It was very hard to take up training again because I had gained at least 15kg during the six months of inactivity. There were a lot of emotional issues I had to deal with in the process. And when you are 52 years old, the body does not restitute as fast as when you were 22 years old. A very painful ride indeed. This is when I appreciated the strong mental training I got from the formative years of my Karate playing.
11.B.M. Which of your students showed great potential and came through? And one that surprised you completely, and doing very well?
SC: When you are Sensei you learn very early that people come and go all the time. You enjoy them while they are here, you don’t miss them when they are gone. When they are gone, you hope though that they take with them happy memories, and that the people skills they’ll have learnt during their stints with you will help them make decent human beings of themselves out there in the real big world.
When Daniel Sønstevold stopped training after 3-4 great years of superior junior competition results in the Oslo/ Eastern Norway Karate circuit, I missed him dearly, though. There was something unique about his approach to training and competition for one of his age. This in spite of a health condition that would under normal circumstances knock out many a tough player, regardless of age.
Several years later, Daniel makes a come back. He is like 10 times bigger than the last time I had seen him, and he has just come back from a successful compulsory national youth military training/ service stint. In my state of positive shock, given what I know of his physical health challenges, I ask him how it was possible for him to do a complete military service training tour. “It’s all in the head, Sensei!” he says. Daniel is a shining Jindokai Super Star in my eyes. He crowned it all by getting a job with the Norwegian Martial Arts Federation. In 2013, Daniel Sønstevold became the third winner of the annual Chilembo Warrior Moves Waloba Award.
12.B.M. Which of your Teachers has had the greatest influence on you? And which of the teachers you trained under was the one you aspired to get to his level of proficiency one day, and why?
SC: All the teachers I’ve had the privilege and honour to work with have each influenced me greatly in different ways. I am a synthesis of all of their respective works with me. Lefty, mentioned above, introduced the concept of humility to me. My first-ever Black Belt Sensei, Tom Banda, emphasized physical and mental power; he used to say, “If you are strong you can do anything!”
After Tom Banda, Sensei Bonar Noble introduced the concept of “… use your head when you train. Do your kata with all of you!”
But the most valuable thing I got from Bonar Noble is the act of devotion to one’s students. The wild two, Sensei Anver Bey and Ajit Mangali, simply took what the others had taught me to even higher levels. Anver and I would eventually become close friends; he emphasised the importance of reading and research in order to know more about Karate and training in general. Sensei Ajit taught me the rawness and brutality of fitness training and kumite, as well Kata execution. Today, Ajit and I are good friends, and I awarded him a Chilembo Warrior Moves Karate Development Go-Dan degree in year 2010.
In between, at our old Trinity Karate Club in Lusaka (Noble, Anver, Ajit), Sensei Eugene Moody would drop by in his then Jim Kelly look. He was the fastest, most powerful big kicker I ever saw. Eugene never taught me directly, but he once led a mean kumite session from which I knew I wanted to be as good a kicker as he was then.
And then came Stephen Chan, who refined the rebel in me, and made a diplomat out of wild I. I’m not sure if he’ll agree with me, but I learnt diplomatic diplomacy, as well as rebellious diplomacy from him. In my world, diplomatic diplomacy wins friends and allies in times of peace; rebellious diplomacy is crude, breaks all the rules, goes against the storm, hurts people, sacrifices and loses friends, only because of the conviction that the cause is good and will benefit all eventually. Thanks to rebellious diplomacy, Seidokan was introduced, developed, and sustained in Zambia initially, and later, in Zimbabwe. Though the resistance was of a more subtle and speculative nature in Norway, I had to apply brute rebellious diplomacy with a smile to win, maintain, and sustain the then Seidokan Norway space that is now proudly and independently occupied by Jindokai Norway.
13.B.M. Who is Simon Chilembo during those Unza years and before? And who is Simon Chilembo today? Are the two separate? Given the rewind button, would Simon Chilembo of today travel the same path?
SC: The Simon Chilembo of today is older, and much wiser after some hard life conditioning alone in Europe. The Simon Chilembo of the UNZA days completes the story of today’s Simon Chilembo. We travel the paths we land upon, and do what we have to do from what we know, or do not know, about life and things there and then. To the extent that I have no regrets about the choices I’ve made, or not made, in my life so far, I would happily travel the same path again. Though I will occasionally complain about lost millions of dollars in business, betrayals, women, children, dogs, cats, etc., life has been good to me; my life is good.
14.B.M. Which Zambian would you pick to be the man who has dedicated his life to Karate, and done so selflessly over the years?
SC: I cannot answer for the years after 1988. But from the mid-1970s, perhaps earlier, to the time I left Zambia in 1988, it is my opinion that Sensei Bonar Noble was the lifeline of Zambian Karate. Always there, never complaining. Asking for nothing in return.
15.B.M How big is Jindokai in Norway and what role did you play in having this established in Norway
SC: As far as I know, Jindokai Norway comprises the two Karate clubs I started and led in Norway over the years. I had no role to play at all in the establishment of Jindokai in Norway. This is because my former students had already outgrown me when the process started. I have taught, and I teach, my students to be strong and independent. This is an example of Universal People Empowerment at work. Africans can also do it for Europeans in Europe, see?
16.B.M. How many languages do you speak fluently and what were those early years in Norway like?
SC: I speak 15 languages fluently, and communicate satisfactorily with another 5 or so.
It’s important to remember that I first came to Norway to study business only. It was never my original intention to stay in the country after my studies. My ultimate goal was further studies in either the UK or USA. After that I’d return to Africa with a mean PhD in Economics, land myself a big transnational job, make serious money, marry 10 wives, make hundred children, and live happily ever after.
For Karate, and later for love, I chose to stay in Norway any way. No Oxford/ Havard Economics PhD, no big job, no serious money, no wife, no children, but lived happily ever after with Karate. I stayed 5 years unemployed, as the authorities couldn’t quite make up their minds as to whether or not allow me to stay in Norway for Karate and love. The latter was a challenging emotional exercise; Karate worked and kept my head above water. Karate produced some of the best Karateka in the land; some of current Norwegian Youth Karate International Super Stars have gone through my hands. Love had to sink and drown eventually, and I swam further with Karate up until June 2012, when Karate outgrew me. I still live happily ever after.
17.B.M. We hear of stories of you and an Italian twin. Tell us about this relationship and who this individual is.
SC: Paolo Piccinini was my first-ever serious mentee. Stephen Chan assigned me to help him, Paolo, attain a Sho Dan in 1983/4 or thereabouts. Paolo and I had earlier trained together at the old Trinity Karate Club in 1979/81 if I’m not mistaken. When I look back, I now understand that it is the work I did with Paolo, which made working with Jimmy Mavenge later on so easy and such fun. Actually the ambition was to get Paolo to beyond Sho Dan as quickly as possible before he’d return to Italy to do his military national service there. Paolo just worked and worked, both at the dojo and privately at his home every day. We’d have these long and hard training sessions at his home on Saturday and Sunday mornings. He learnt and perfected new senior kata faster than any one I know to this day. It goes without saying that a deep and close friendship developed from working this closely together. When he beat me to second place to take gold in the Zambian nationals in 1985, I knew I had done one hell of a good job with this guy. I had been Zambian kata champion 1981-84.
Paolo’s Karate prowess became recognized and acknowledged almost as soon as he began his national service duties in Italy in 1985/86. He has been teaching Karate and self-defence as part of his job since. One of the finest Karateka, and human beings I know.
18.B.M. Teaching and Training overseas, did you ever feel like you had to prove to people that you were as good as any Teacher?
SC: I have a very inflated ego. Such that when I know I’m good at something, I’m good at it. That’s it. Take me or leave me! So, I’m not into proving to people that I can do things that I already know I can do well. I just do what I have to do to the best of my abilities there and then, here and now. If it’s fun, I perform even better. The results of my work will speak for themselves and for me.
But the question is a very important one to the extent that in the eyes of many ignorant people in Europe and elsewhere in the developed world, when we come to their world we are non-resourceful under-dogs. To this day, I from time to time still meet people who do not understand that I was already a university graduate, and a 3rd Dan Black Belt holder when I first came to Norway. No one could teach me anything new in Karate in Norway. That’s how I decided to form my own clubs. So, if I had anything to prove, it was that I was better than many teachers. But then again, let the results of my work speak. I know I’m good at what I do; it’s all that matters to me.
19.B.M. Which Teachers in Okinawa have you trained under? And how many times over the years have you trained there?
SC: I’ve never been to Okinawa. Initially never could afford to travel there. Later, felt no need to after all. There’s so much good Karate out in the wider world these days. If ever I visit Okinawa it will be more for historical and sentimental reasons than anything else. I’ve had the pleasure and honour of meeting Sensei Shian Toma, the former and late head of our earlier Seidokan affiliation in Okinawa, on two occasions in Salamanca, Spain.
20.B.M. Finally, Sensei, tell us what your plans in future are Karate wise. And is the form and sharpness still there? Or is there something that you will be working at to show us in March (2013) in Lusaka?
SC: I will come back to teaching Karate actively again soon. It’ll not be at the same level of engagement as before. I love working with the smallest children; that I’ll continue to do. I’ll, however, want to devote more time and energy to potential instructors. Although competition is fun and good for PR, I’ll let the instructor team I’ll groom to take care of that aspect of training.
When I come to Lusaka in March (2013), you’ll find my form and sharpness still intact for a man my age and size. Those who’ll have seen me in action before will find me much more powerful in my moves. The latter is because of better understanding of body mechanics from Tai Chi, and some Yoga training. This may well be the knowledge I might want to share with all, then.
21.B.M. Thanks, Sensei!
January 19, 2014
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