If you missed the news on BBC Radio or TV last Sunday 22, and on subsequent newswires thereafter, it is with a heavy heart that I report the death of Jade Goody (May she rest in peace!).
You may remember Jade as the subject of my musings, a couple of Sundays ago, following her glamorous wedding that was attended by the ‘Who’s-Who’ of London.
You may also recall her meteoric rise from humble beginnings to the most coveted celebrity in the U.K. literally in weeks. She was the raw girl who thought that “Easter Angular” (for ‘East Anglia’) was a foreign country, Portugal was in Spain, Rio de Janeiro was a person and who complained that she was being made “an escape goat.”
Twenty-seven-year-old Jade Goody succumbed to terminal cervical cancer in her sleep in the wee hours of last Sunday morning.
For giving her short star life to the cause of awakening England to the need for early cancer tests, Jade has become for England “a saint from Upshire…..an exemplar of biblical proportions,” in the words of Rev Jonathan Blake.
Jade’s rags-to-riches story reminds me of a not-so-dissimilar fairy-tale that played itself out in the confines of the slopes of Mount Muhabura, beginning 1901.
That year saw the trifling birth of a baby on the Rwandan side of the slopes that would make crooning history on the Congolese side of the slopes, leaving an organised and happy people in the midst of chaos.
Ndeze was born to parents whose names never made it into any Rwandan folk tales and as a baby boy, grew up to earn himself credentials that may not excite a scintilla of admiration from today’s employer.
Back then, however, being a domestic cook to a colonial master was not exactly small business. As a cook to a colonial ruler, Ndeze was able to observe, from close quarters, all the intricacies that went with the weighty job of exercising ‘colonial rule over natives’.
At an early age, for instance, he could command the natives in a Kiswahili that was ‘more broken’ than any muzungu’s, which impressed his boss immensely.
For your information, the only language of communication between the colonialists and the natives was Kiswahili, at the time.
However, Ndeze was capable of more. Whenever native chiefs answered the official summons by coming to the muzungu’s house, Ndeze knew when the muzungu was busy at table.
He therefore shouted “Gojeya hapo, bilalifakini!” (“Wait there, you good-for-nothings!”) and went on to enforce the order with the boss’s whip if the natives hesitated in planting their bottoms immediately on the wet lawn outside.
When the boss was good and ready and settled in his reception area, Ndeze would politely ask him if his appetite had been appreciative.
And when the boss expressed his compliments for a breakfast well prepared, Ndeze went and cowed the natives even more, shouting at them and threatening them with ‘kiboko’ (whip) if they didn’t genuflect before the muzungu.
Those were the days when ‘Ruanda’ (as it was then known) had been chopped up into pieces that were distributed to different countries, at the Berlin Conference of 1885.
After World War I, with the defeat of Germans, when ‘Ruanda-Urundi’ and Congo became mandates of Belgium, the Banyarwanda in Congo continued to be ruled as if they were still in ‘Ruanda’.
Unfortunately, as chunks of ‘Ruandan’ land had been distributed to the neighbouring countries of Uganda, ‘Tanganyika’ and Congo, the remaining core part of ‘Ruanda’ was overpopulated.
The Belgians in ‘Ruanda’ solved this problem by donating the ‘excess baggage of Banyarwanda’ to their fellow Belgians in sparsely populated Congo.
And that is how ‘Cook Ndeze’ metamorphosed into ‘Mwami (king) Ndeze’! To be continued…..