A question that crosses generations
Our hunter/gatherer ancestors did not just gather food and healing herbs, but the principle extended to the gathering of their “seed” which may accidentally germinate far from home.
The reason for this was that they had a strong spirituality and feared to upset their ‘gods.’
Modern man it seems does not attach the same importance to their seed, nor does he fear any god judging by the number of young people who have visited the kgotla to be assisted in connecting with their dads.
In 2012 alone more than 33 youths who visited mykgotla desperately needed to talk to someone who would understand the importance of connecting to a father.
Their ages were between 19 and 25 years and some of them quite well off and great achievers, which means they were not seeking financial support or an opportunity to inherit.
They were simply hungry and curious to see the person who brought them to this world.
A good number of them had been subjected to scorn and ridicule for daring to seek this information from their conservative relatives.
Some were told straight to their face that they were insulting their mothers by seeking to know the identity of their fathers.
In this week’s column I am sharing Omphi’s storyto consider as we march towards 2016 the need to do a bit of soul searching on the impact this social dilemma has on innocent individuals.
Omphi was a young professional who was raised by his maternal uncles after the loss of his mother.
The young man had quizzed his mother about his paternity but she stubbornly took her secret to the grave.
Since then all efforts to obtain information from his uncle Pholo and great grandfather Radikgomohad also hit a brick wall.
Angered by their young relative’s persistence, Uncle Pholo and Rradikgomohad dragged Omphi to the customary court in the hope of intimidating him.
They were adamant that his repeated questioning on the whereabouts of his father was not in accordance with their culture.
Rradikgomo was in his 90’s and although he was visibly frail he carried within him a conviction that things must be corrected.
His mission to the customary court was to put matters right.
After exchanging greetings the elderly man introduced the subject matter by saying in Setswana: “Nnake bona botlhodi kgosi ngwanakeyogareitse gore are re moreyerereng” -meaning that as a family they were shocked by Omphi who was demanding things that were never talked about.
He continued to say “re kopakgalemo le kgakololo” meaning ‘we ask you to provide counselling and guidance for the boy.’
Omphi sat quietly as the elders took turns to castigate and describe him as a ‘good for nothing’ fellow.
Then I turned to the young man whose restlessness and frustration were plain to see.
He askedto discuss the matter in private as he felt that he hadalready been tried and judged by his elders who did not understand how he felt.
Alone Omphi told me that before his mother died she had been working in one of the small towns and there was a man he used to call ‘papa.’
But as he was only four-years-old at the time all he had was a vague idea of what had happened to him.
He said for many years he tried to close his mind to images of the person, but the more he tried the more the thoughts remained alive in his mind.
Now that he had finished school and was financially independent he just needed to heal that part of his fragile emotions especially since his mother was no longer alive.
Although I found myself in full agreement with Omphi I also appreciated where old man Radikgomowas coming from.
I invited the elders for the second round of talks, but struggled to find the right words to put across my endorsement of the young man’s request.
After what seemed like an eternity I courageously said: “Borraetsho kana dinako di fetogile”–meaning ‘gentlemen the times have changed.’
At this Uncle Pholochipped in to say: “ngwaoyarona le yone e fetoga le fashine” expressing his shock that our cherished culture should be subject to being changed by time.
Old man Rradikgomowas less restrained as he exploded into anger with the outburst: “Kangwaoyaronagarepatikeope go latswanamaneebilekebotete gore monnaagodile abo lelelalebele la garraagwe” – meaning ‘according to our culture no man should be forced to embrace his offspring,and it does not make sense for a fully grown up man to be seeking the father’s breast.’
At this the meeting was adjourned to seek the guidance of a psychologist.
When he arrived he shot straight to the heart of the matter by emphasising that Omphi had a right to demand the information concerning his roots.
He insisted that his guardians had an obligation to disclose what they knew in order to help him gain emotional balance.
But Rradikgomo did not let the matter rest there. He irritably asked to question the psychologist.
Question:Go simologa leng gore re batlise marole dipoo eseng bommatso? (What is the essence of taking the calf to the bulls?)
Answer: It is the right thing to do and important for mental development and wellbeing.
Question: Why should a son remind a man that he is a father?
It was a question that took the psychologist by surprise, his answer lost in the mumble: Eeh…….mm…..kana nowadays hey ….ehh.
Radikgomo was satisfied that he had scored a knock out point against the psychologist.
But Uncle Pholo seemed to see the sense of what was being said and relented a bit in contrast to the elderly man.
As a final rant Radikgomo added: “banababatla go itse le fabatsetswekebodithubetsi” – meaning ‘these modern children may demand to know even if their mums were raped.’
WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU WERE THE JUDGE?
The search for daddies has become one of the hottest issues of our times because not all daddies take the call to fatherhood seriously.
Rradikgomo in his wisdom rightly queries this ‘new’ principle and the right to know ‘daddy’ irrespective of any possible consequences.
The elderly man declared that culturally an individual had to be content with adopting the maternal surname and totem.
For his part the psychologist maintained that individuals had the right to know their roots in order to be psychologically and emotionally complete.
But perhaps the most pertinent question came from Uncle Pholo who asked: “What if the father does not even want to know you?”
The conclusion was that Uncle Pholo would find a way of introducing Omphi to his father who had run away when his mother was terminally ill.
Rradikgomo left the customary court disgruntled as he felt that in their time fatherhood was defined by not so much what you planted but rather by nurturing and caring.
He said men had to stand up and be counted as fathers or they should be nothing at all.
There is so much going on in our society that alters the cultural perspective and values that we cherish so much.
As we move towards the Vision of 2016 it is important we get the balance right between the best of the old and what old man Radikgomo might call the shock of the new.
With only three more Father’s Days to go before 2016, the question remains – how do we define fatherhood?