Blood Feuds by Paul Tiyambe Zeleza
No one who has not felt it can understand the pain of an exile. Living in a country that is not your own, among people who are not your people. Always a foreigner, an outsider, someone who does not belong.
Two families, living in Zimbabwe, but the country they call home is Malawi, a country they have not seen for nearly thirty years, a sad, troubled country…
Of course my father and Uncle Phala had their little disagreements. But they were the usual ones among friends. Then there were all those moments of loneliness, of no hope at all, that everyone in exile feels. But they always survived, because they missed home so much. They never doubted they would return one day.
That was all my father and Uncle Phala dreamed about: the return to their own country. They talked about home all the time. How they grew up. The games they used to play. The schools they went to, the fight for freedom.
‘You young ones have no idea what we had to do to get rid of the British,’ Uncle Phala used to tell us whenever he could. He was proud of the injury to his leg, which he said he got in a street battle against the government in the 1950s. And then my father, of course, felt he had to show us the marks on his back, which he got from beatings in prison.
‘I was in prison for a week,’ he would say proudly, ‘not like others who only got injured in a fight.’ Over the years his time in prison became a month, six weeks, then a year.
‘Don’t listen to him,’ Uncle Phala would answer. ‘He fell out of a tree. That’s how he got those marks!’ And he would break into a great, deep laugh.
‘Now I’ll tell you how he really got his injury!’ my father would say, also laughing. And they would go on like this.
It wasn’t just that they liked each other – it was much more than that. They called each other brother. It was twelve years or more before I learned that Uncle Phala was, in fact, not my real uncle. He and my father had met in the mining village in Zimbabwe where I was born and grew up…