Space at the table

A few years ago I started the journey towards self-publishing. What led me down this route is the realisation that if my children were ever going to embrace who they are; their language and culture in a foreign land, I would have to help them along by allowing them to access images of themselves through the written word. I set out on this journey when my nephew was born, in part because my daughter missed out on accessing high quality literature in our language. Looking back, my only access was the bible and Bemba hymn books and because I believe that we cannot expect white people to write our stories, I decided to serve up books for my family’s children. Traditional publishers were a non starter, so self publishing it was. 7 years down the line, my book is written, and a few months back, I realised that I am still asking for space at the table, in order to serve what I want these babies to consume.

It turns out that Amazon doesn’t allow self-publishing in native African languages but does cater for Afrikaans and Arabic. I don’t know why I didn’t look into this, but we’re back to the drawing board and I have possibly found another outlet but maybe we need to stop asking for space at the table and instead take our children back to our African table and serve them high quality brain food of our choosing. The words of one of my favourites Steve Biko ring true. Maybe it’s time to create the spaces we want, to develop our Africa according to our ways and then invite those who will to join us, on our terms … Not with a sense of racial superiority or as copycats of others but as a people filled with pride in our God given worth. We cannot keep knocking on homes not our own, asking for a place at tables not our own, expecting our children to find worth in borrowed lessons.

Amazon isn’t just the right table to sit at, and I came to the conclusion that maybe if my books are not welcome there, my money isn’t either. Until that changes, I will not be shopping there. Do any of you know of any tables created specifically for us?

The year of promise …

Today, I was meant to be posting a review …

But I find myself musing over a lived life I barely knew

mourning a man who always brought a smile to our faces

He was funny

He was gentle

And until I was about 8 I somehow was lost to his existence

And ohh that booming voice, gentle voice

He made every moment light

In the short moments we spent, I somehow got to love him

In the short spaces of conversations on skype and messenger.

Twenty Twenty came with so much promise and in a space of weeks,

We had celebrated life and before it ended, it had eaten more joy than seemed possible.

His voice no longer to be heard,

His hearty laugh no longer to offer any warmth

Turn back the time … return to us the promise of a year barely started;

Give us a chance to finish listening to stories of the dynamics of life.

You never finished telling us stories of where you grew up

We never even started writing them down.

Letters of the Bemba language

A little background to this, I feel this is more in line with what Blessings on a hill is all about and I decided that I would do a short lesson on the sounds and the letters that represent them. I am Bemba and Nsenga because my my mum is a Bemba woman and my dad is Nsenga but I am more accustomed to my Bemba roots and constantly learning on both fronts.

So the letters present are A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, K, L, M, N, O, P, S T, U, W and Y. We do not have J, Q, R, X and Z. To get the best understanding of what the sounds are like, please view the video below.

A makes the same sound as in Apple

B has a special sound usually mistaken for the V or W sound. Most non-Bemba speakers struggle with this. B is only a hard “b” as in Baby when preceded by the letter “M”

C makes a “ch” sound all the time. It never makes a “k” sound ever! The intonation changes if accompanied by the letter H or not. E.g. iciBemba vs ChiBemba. The pronunciation will be different and the two mean two different things. The first refers the language and the second to the language

D  and G only exist if preceded by N.

G has two possible sounds. If followed by an apostrophe it makes the same sound as in morning. If not, makes a hard “g”. eg. Ng’anda vs Nga

E makes the same sound as it does in egg

F same sound as in Fish

H is only seen accompanying c and changes the intonation of the “ch” sound

I makes the same sound as in India

K makes a ‘k’ sound

L makes the same sound as in Lama

M makes a ‘m’ sound as in Monk

N makes the same sound as Nancy

O makes the same sound as in Orange

P always makes a p sound

S makes the same sound as in snake

T makes the same ‘t’ sound

U  makes the same sound as in Snooze

W makes the same sound as in went

Y makes the same sound as in yellow

J, Q, R, V, X and Z are not present and for hardcore Bemba speakers they will often replace these with the sounds of Y, K, L, B/F, “es” and S.

I do not consider myself an expert so I am happy to year people’s thoughts.

Africa’s gift at ‘Straya’s door

Tuli bantu
The heart and soul of Africa’s roar
Tuli bana
Africa’s gems, the pride of her soul

Born wherever His winds may take us
Created from shades of dusts. Remind us
No matter how hard hammers hit, we rise
Rising like the beauty of her sunrise

Forged in the core of her heat, purified
Bathed by her streams our dreams flourish
We lift those around, in ways sanctified
The women before us, we don’t tarnish

Together we shape and sway; our ways wise
In our strength we unshackle our allies —
Our sisters, we bare up, never treasonous
In our speech, in our deeds, integrous

Tuli bana
hearts forever made on Africa’s floor
Tuli bantu
Africa’s gifts laid at ‘Straya’s door.

Happy women’s day to all women. Together we can do so much. This was a poem I did tonight at the gala organised by the Organisation of Africans in WA. The lines “Tuli bantu” and “Tuli Bana” translated from my native Bemba mean “we are people” and “we are children,” respectively.

I am my own worst critique and today, I would have loved to share a video of the poem but I messed it up, so I won’t be doing that … It was so bad, I even apologised for the errors … something I have never done , when reciting a poem … it’s all good though, we will do better next time.💕

Remembering one of our greats

This past week, saw a post about the passing of one of Africa’s greatest. I didn’t even recognise the photo that was shared and had to ask who it was. Oliver Mutukudzi or Tuku as some refered to him had a characterist rich voice that captivated even those of us who didnt understand the words. I remember him in the movie Neria. I had very romantic views of that movie until I watched it again about 2 years ago and realised the song I had long loved actually was about pain and suffering … I still do love it and want to watch the movie again.

This great artist put out a brand of music that helped me fall in love with being African. He sung in His Shona with such ease and comfort in who he was, and it drew you to His music; using his music for advocacy whilst also entertaining. Its a sad time for the continent but even sadder time for his family and we pray that God in his infinite grace and wonder can bring comfort.

Rest in peace Sekuru, may all you did for our great continent ring out throughout the ages.

My Food Trek met Zambia

Hehehe … so I came across a video circulating on the Zambian web that left me needing to punch something before I even finished watching it. It was one of those things that leave you feeling like someone has come into your home, urinated on everything, and walked away without taking anything but your dignity.

Okay maybe not so serious, but you get the point. I went on youtube looking for this video, where a young American man did little research about the country Zambia, our home and claimed to be cooking our food and called whatever mess he cooked Nshima and Ndiwo … then he went on to make very disrespectful and ignorant comments. I found no videos on the My food trek channel and after googling, understood why … 😂He had met Zed Twitter. Even after he had posted an apology and taken down all related videos, Zambians were still commenting and sharing the video so other Zambians could see … and oh my ribs at the comments. Reminded me of the #lintonlies Twitter war that was sparked by Louise Linton when she more than embellished her experiences during a 1999 Gap year she spent in Zambia.

On a serious note, though, Americans need to learn that you do not invite yourself into someone’s home and insult them like the my food trek video guy; or get welcomed into someone’s home, like Ms Linton, and then insult them and that is why we as Zambians felt so passionate about making it known that this was not okay

Samora Machel; Freedom fighter or terrorist?

I wonder what people think when the hear the name Samora Machel. For many, the Machel part is easy to link with the late President Mandela’s wife, Gracia Machel. For the greater number, I assume, the name doesn’t evoke any thoughts. There are some however, who might link the name with Mozambique and specifically a turbulent time in Mozambique’s history. Samora Machel was Gracia Machel’s first husband and Mozambique’s first president. This is an attempt at discovering and celebrating who Samora Machel was and answer the question, was he a freedom fighter or nothing more than a terrorist?

Samora Moises Machel, was born in 1933 in a Southern African country called Mozambique, at a time when it was under Portuguese colonial rule. The natives of Mozambique, suffered under colonial rule, pretty much as they did in other parts of Africa and some parts of the world, in some regards worse than even the natives of its neighbour, Zambia. They were treated like commodities, and not like humans, subjected to humiliation, violence and exploitation, some forced to work for peanuts, their land taken from them, some experiencing life in concentration camps and some dying purely because they were black. Mr Machel himself, was not immune to the inhumanity and injustice of colonialism; his own people, forced off their lands by the Portuguese. His great-grandfather, a part of the army that, as part of the Gaza empire, fiercely resisted Portuguese occupation, President Machel was very probably influenced by the stories that were told to him.

Not only were people denied the rights of a citizen, things like religion were also imposed on the people, to an extent that Mr Machel converted to Catholicism in order to write his grade four exams. The Portuguese, provided very few education facilities for the African population and at the end of it all, only three career paths were available to them; you could chose to be a nurse, to become a priest or be a labourer. Mr Machel, chose to be a nurse.

He became involved in politics when he attended a meeting and heard Eduado Mondlane address the group in 1961. A meeting that sparked interest, in him, from the Portuguese Secret Police (PIDE). They interrogated him that year, and in 1963, he was forced to flee via Swaziland to Botswana, after being tipped off to PIDE’s intention to  arrest him. He travelled to Tanzania with ANC militants and joined Frente de Libertação de Moçambique, aka The Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO). In 1970, he was elected the President of FRELIMO, the year after Mondlane was assassinated by a letter bomb, possibly due to internal divisions, or as an attempt by the government at destabilising the movement, the former, stated as being more likely. President Machel believed the latter to be true.

In 1964, FRELIMO launched major military action against the ruling Portuguese and gained popularity among the people as they attempted to instil a sense of worth and a different identity than the one that they held due to colonialism. After the Portuguese Coup of 1974 , Portugal had no choice but to grant independence to Mozambique in 1975, as FRELIMO had no interest in any solutions that meant anything but independence, and was relentless in their pursuit of that cause. FRELIMO, being the major political movement at the time of independence, formed government and Samora Machel became president, a position he would hold for close to eleven years.

The government embarked on ambitious health and social reforms; bringing in a socialist style government (a style they would eventually start to abandon). They had  nationalist policy, that might have been milder than Zambia’s, in that they did not nationalise businesses. However, the remaining settlers, understandably so, left the country, and with no qualified personnel to run the different businesses and industries, and with Mozambique experiencing natural disasters, the country plunged into economic crisis.

Civil unrest soon followed with The Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO) being formed, most likely from waring factions within FRELIMO and possibly with the help of the Portuguese and Rhodesia. FRELIMO’s hostility towards local traditions and religion, as well as its agricultural policy did not help matters, as it caused the build up of resistance in rural areas and momentarily, measures similar to those used in colonial Mozambique were employed, only inflaming the situation further. Despite his view of African traditions, you see themes central to most African societies flowing through his speeches; those of oneness, and putting the community before oneself, and sharing.

During FRELIMO’s fight against Colonialism,  Mr Machel made it clear that colonialism was race-less, and talked of the need to differentiate between friend and foe, regardless of their cover, and saw racism, tribalism and false loyalty, among others as part of the enemy that needed to be fought. The government he led managed to incorporate the different races and tribes that made up Mozambique’s population in their government as well as civil service. He is said to have believed in the use of persuasion and not making administrative decisions, as this was the recipe for dictatorship,  and tried to instil a sense of initiate, believing Colonialism, traditions, and superstitions to be crippling to peoples sense of initiate and hence leading to a lack of responsibility.

FRELIMO, not only advocated the right to self govern, but was also very loud in advocating for women’s rights and stated that the fight against colonialism was a fight against exploitation and that the fight would be incomplete if it did not include fighting for women. It is important to note that the government did imprison some of its political opponents, despite Samora Machels’s views on democratic rule, though, it is hard to determine if this was justified by RENAMO’s insurgency or not. Most of those imprisoned were released by 1980

Samora Machel and FRELIMO believed international cooperation was essential to Mozambique’s growth and in line with that, supported the rest of Southern Africa’s struggle for independence and allowed the ANC and ZANU to carry out their operations in Mozambique. They also imposed UN sanctions against the Rhodesian government, to Mozambique’s peril. Destabilisation from RENAMO continued and even got worse after Zimbabwe was granted independence, with increased help from the South African government. In 1984, Mozambique agreed to reduce the number of ANC members who were allowed to operate in the country in exchange for South Africa withdrawing support for RENAMO. It is believed that South Africa’s Aid for RENAMO did not completely stop and the destabilising effects of RENAMO were still present, and would have probably been present without South Africa’s help.

On October 19th, 1986, the plane carrying President Samora Machel from Zambia, back to Mozambique, crushed in South Africa, killing the majority of its passengers, the President, crushed beyond recognition required the use of dental records for identification. The government of South Africa and forces within Mozambique at the time, have been blamed for the accident, with investigations apparently revealing that radar manipulation by South Africa caused the crush. No one has been found responsible for the crush and the then government of South Africa denied any involvement in the incident.

More than being a military commander or head of state, President Samora Machel was  husband, a man who loved his wife dearly, a father who is said to have always had time for his children, regardless of what was going on. As for the question of him being a terrorist or a freedom fighter, it depends on which glass you stand behind when you look at the happenings in Mozambique. Throughout history we see war and fighting, for the cause of freedom. The colonial government in Mozambique made life impossible for the people, concentration camps were present, people’s quality of life was poor. It is important to remember the importance of diplomacy, but that just as the Americans fought for their independence, the situation in Mozambique may have warranted the picking up of arms.

Like any other leader, President Machel made mistakes, some tremendous, but the majority of his views, his relationship with his family, and his role in the fight for Southern Africa’s freedom, leave a celebratory trail. I leave you with this quote as we seek solutions for our continent’s and world’s problems

“Leadership is collective and although each member of the leadership has a specific task, there are no hard and fast compartments. The duty of every member is to be concerned with all the work, see that it is carried out and put forward ideas and criticisms. Leadership is collective and responsibility is collective.”  ~Samora Moises Machel 1933-1986~



Cheers, D. (1989). Jackson confers with new Mozambique Leader After Funeral of Samora Machel. Jet, (Vol. 71 No. 10), 24-27. Retrieved from

Machel, S. (1981). Mozambique (1st ed.). Harare, Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe Pub. House.

Martin, G. (2012). African Political Thought (1st ed.). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Mugubane, V. (1997). Gracia Machel. Ebony, (Vol. 52, No. 7), 118-120, 122, 124, 162. Retrieved from

Poddar, P., Patke, R., & Jensen, L. (2008). A historical companion to postcolonial literatures (1st ed.). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.