The first time I came to Rwanda in 1996, I stayed with an uncle whose wife used the word ‘muturage’ one too many times. She always referred to certain people as ‘baturage’ and not wanting to remind her that my Kinyarwanda needed serious pimping, I never asked what the word meant.
Later, my curiosity won and I asked a cousin who told me that it meant ‘local’. Now, at the time, in my mind, local meant not up to standard –uncool! In school, every time someone did something uncool like put the letter L where an R should be, we called them local.
Sounds mean, I know, bet hey, we were kids, okay? Moving on, I found myself seriously enjoying the word, as a matter of fact, ‘muturage’ became the in word, gloating in the fact that my peeps back in Uganda didn’t know what I was saying.
Sometime back, my coolness was threatened when some dude called me a ‘muturage’ and I can tell you now that the fork I was holding suddenly twitched in my hand, begging me to poke his offensive eye out!
I was determined to defend my coolness, and even accused him of being uncool because game recognise game and if he can’t see that I’m cool, then clearly he wasn’t. I brought out all the ‘shizos’ and ‘manizos’ and about as much slang youngsters use these days as I could gather just to prove that I still had game!
All my attempts to look cool were saluted with laughter so vigorous; I damn near broke down in tears thinking coolness had in fact abandoned me. After this guy poised himself well enough to speak, he assured me that ‘muturaje’ did not mean I was not cool. I was neither convinced nor amused!
It was bad enough that he called me local, now he was lying to my face? That was it! I decided I was going to ‘beef’ till the turn of the century. He did not deserve my coolness’ acquaintance! On realizing I was taking things way too personal, he explained that ‘baturage’ are citizens. ‘Muturage’ was nothing like the one I prided myself in using in school.
It doesn’t matter if you came from the most remote village and haven’t seen a flushing toilet before; it doesn’t matter if you ask for a kilogram of ‘lice’ instead of ‘rice’ at a supermarket, and it really doesn’t matter if you are fresh off a plane from London or New York.
I am a ‘muturage’ and to be honest, both in the literal sense and of late, the shallow interpretation too!