Credo Vusamazulu Mutwa is not a man you will ever forget once you have met him. Larger than life in every way, he is by far the most unforgettable person I have met. Credo is a true Renaissance man; he is a Zulu lore master, High Priest, a prophet, a poet, a painter and sculptor, and the best story teller I have come across. You can sit and listen to him open mouthed, without ever tiring. I feel like a child in his presence, wanting to ask for more. You can ask him any question you can think of and he will come up with an amazing answer. I have been extremely fortunate to be able to sit around the camp-fire listening to his stories.
Credo had very little formal education, but experts often call on him to provide another perspective. He is a man of natural wisdom. On one occasion I was at Credo’s house on a Sunday morning, after a whole night of initiation ceremony. The drumming had quieten down and most of the attendees were trying to get a nap. a Gospel band named The Arch Bishops arrives and proceeded to march through the house in full swing, announcing their arrival. While they were waiting to speak to Credo I had a chance to speak to them. I was very curious as to why a Christian group would want to see Credo a known Pagan. Their answer surprised me, “we have come to learn more about God.”
In a world that is so specialized, with experts advising in every field, there is still no equal in insight compared to that of organic wisdom; knowledge that have grown through the tasting of life. In the experience of life we taste and absorb experience as nourishment of the soul. Its sweetness or bitterness both alike enrich our being and create depth to our insights. The mere accumulation of knowledge has no value unless it has been tried and tested.
I often mourn the loss of apprenticeships; generations of knowledge acquired through practice of the craft, lost, unless it is passed on. There are seemingly insignificant details that books do not mention as it is taken for granted. Yet, those little details make all the difference in the mastership of skill. Life is an apprenticeship to the craft of living. In learning the craft it is most often the mistakes, accidents and crisis experienced in the practice that refines the skill and brings new insights that thoughts alone could not achieve.
“It sometimes takes a crisis for parts to appreciate the value of the whole.”
The following article and the tale told exemplify for me organic wisdom. It contains timeless truth within the words of a simple man. It contains the kind of wisdom that we so sorely need in our times. We live in a time of crisis, a time where we have the opportunity to experience the value of the whole. All we have to do is reach out to one another with genuine caring. There was a time when we listened to the wisdom of the elders. Wisdom organically grown and harvested from experience is what we need most in these times.
Teller of tale
By Simao Kikamba
My father had two ways of teaching me: one by putting me through a test and one by telling me a story and drawing the relevant lesson from it. He never went to school and could not read or write but he was a gifted teacher
When I was young, he once let me touch fire. I remember burning my finger and crying from pain, thinking how cruel of him to let his son go through such an experience, wondering why he hadn’t kept me from the fire. Nevertheless, I never played with fire again.
“Why did you once let me touch fire?” I asked him once as I was growing up. I had never forgotten the experience.
“So you could learn to never play with fire,” he said.
This is how he taught me the virtue of patience…
One evening, as Mama was serving supper, just as I had finished washing my hands, impatiently waiting to be served my share, my father decided to send me out to collect the kola nuts he’d left at his friend’s place at the other end of the village.
“Can I please eat first, father?”
“Your meal can wait.”
“I am hungry.”
“Patience is a virtue.”
Reluctantly, I got to my feet and ran, tripped halfway there, fell and stood up again. When I finally reached the place, my father’s friend made me wait till he finished doing whatever he was doing what he was doing. When he finally handed me the kola nuts in a bowl, it was night.
I ran back and tripped and fell down, scattering the kola nuts all over the ground. I wasted more time trying to find the kola nuts. By the time I reached home, my father, my mother and my sisters had finished eating supper. Father thankfully took his bowl of kola nuts and made me sit down and wait.
My stomach was churning with hunger and I could have eaten my father if he were food. I waited and waited till he got to his feet, stepped inside the house and brought out double my normal share of supper. From that day on, I always waited whenever my father asked to do so. One evening, as we sat round a fire, he told me this story…
On a clay mound once inhabited by termites by the roadside on the fringe of the equatorial forest, lay a twinkling pair of eyes. The eyes were joined by the upper bone of the nose and resembled a pair of glasses. The eyelids were brownish, the eyelashes dark, the iris of sapphire blue and the cornea of diamond white colour.
As they shone with the vermilion rays of the rising sun, they glinted with flashes of green sprinkling from the surrounding foliage. None of the inhabitants of the forest t-moths, butterflies, bees, rats, antelopes and so on, could resist such beauty and would each stop to admire such alluring creatures.
“Shame!” they would exclaim. “What adorable little eyes!”
“How strange!” thought the eyes, basking in their admiration and wishing they, too, possessed feet to walk and arms to hug each of their admirers. “How strange that although they all have feet to walk and hands to touch, a mouth to speak, they will covet two lovely eyes stuck on a mound!”
As the sun gradually rose towards the zenith, the eyes rolled, blinked, winked and even dozed off from heat. A large grey cloud soon appeared up in the sky, and the sky growled and thunderbolt after thunderbolt crackled, and a storm fell, washing the eyes off their resting place all the way down to the foot of the mound.
Covered in mud, the eyes could no longer see and they cried and cried and swelled up from crying. Night fell and morning dawned and the early morning dew drizzled over the eyes and washed them clean so they could see again. It was a bright morning, with swallows skipping from tree to tree. Then came, bouncing along and tumbling a pair of legs. Near the mound they stopped and as if they could see with invisible eyes, they thought to themselves:
“What beautiful eyes!”
“What pretty legs!” thought the eyes. Neither of them had a mouth to speak to the other.
The legs, bruised from tumbling along a thorny path without seeing, leaned against the mound to gather strength before they could resume their long journey. As the legs walked around the mound after resting, the eyes were struck at the harmony of the legs, one never walking without the other.
For a while, the eyes and the legs shared the comfort of the mound, next to each other, without a word passing between them, each confined to their own thoughts, until came the mouth to serve as their interpreter.
“How do you do?” asked the eyes through the mouth.
“How do you do?” replied the legs through the interpreter.
“Do you always walk like this?” asked the eyes.
“Always,” replied the legs quite proudly. “I throw one step, then another, left and right, right and left.”
“Why?” asked the eyes, rolling with admiration.
“For balance,” said the legs, a little irritated.
“For balance?” echoed the eyes. “You have been tumbling along like a loose barrel.”
“As you can see, I can’t see,” said the legs with a choking voice. “It takes eyes to see.”
“It takes legs to walk,” said the eyes.
“You could see for us,” said the legs.
“And you could walk for us,” appended the eyes.
The eyes rolled and twinkled with joy, while the legs leapt about the foot of the mound with excitement. The eyes seeing, the mouth speaking and the legs walking, they set in search of other parts of the body.
However, a dispute broke out. The mouth had eaten too much and the stomach complained of pain, the legs of tiredness and the eyes of dizziness. The body disintegrated with each part going its own way.
“But because no part could function properly without the rest of the body, they decided to reintegrate the body, each deciding to never leave the body ever again.
“It sometimes takes a crisis for parts to appreciate the value of the whole,” my father concluded.
- Simao Kikamba grew up in Zaire. His début novel, Going Home, is being published by Kwela Books