My Mapungubwe Experience: An exhilarating encounter with restoration.
12 July 2018 KAYA VOICES
By Ncebakazi Manzi
The word that comes to mind when I recall how I felt while standing at the top of Mapungubwe Hill is restoration. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, restoration refers to “a bringing back to a former position or condition” and that deeply spiritual excursion in association with SAN Parks and Soul Travel made me feel as though I had somehow been restored to a former position. While I have previously read about the Mapungubwe kingdom and the incredible advancement of that ancient African community who inhabited the area almost a thousand years ago, nothing could have prepared me for the range of emotions that I would experience.
The question that stayed with me throughout the three-day trip was, “Where would Africans be today had our development not been arrested with the advent of slavery, colonialism, and apartheid?” Walter Rodney’s seminal 1973 book, “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa” is one of the key texts that give a sense of loss that the African continent has suffered over centuries as a result of the West plunging the continent’s resources. The reality is that the magnitude of the loss cannot be quantified, because we lost more than gold and artifacts. Functioning economic systems were destroyed and families were torn apart. We lost languages and indigenous knowledge systems, and some are gone forever.
While this is a tragic state of affairs, there is something about being at Mapungubwe and learning about that history that is uplifting and inspiring. Just seeing some of the technologies that the people of Mapungubwe employed in their day to day lives gave me a sense of hope and renewed my commitment to contributing towards the continent’s development.
It is no wonder that the apartheid government was not enthusiastic about the history of the kingdom is known (https://theconversation.com/meet-the-800-year-old-golden-rhinoceros-that-challenged-apartheid-south-africa-64093) because it challenges racist notions about the so-called advantages of colonialism and the fact that the land was uninhabited when colonialists “discovered” our continent. The apartheid government knew very well that knowledge about the kingdom would most likely have a transformative effect on the minds of Africans and how they see themselves.
Like most people who have gone through the South African education system, I was not exposed to much African history and that left me feeling disconnected without even knowing it. Experiencing Mapungubwe made me feel as though parts of me I did not know that was undone, were being stitched back together. Restoration is a strange word because I do not particularly yearn for a return to the past nor do I have an idyllic view of pre-colonial Africa but I did not know how badly I needed to experience the brilliance of ancient African people until I was standing at the top of that hill.