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Life Reflections

Whither, our wizards of yore who played their part in bonding us?

By October 23, 2021June 6th, 2023No Comments

October 22, 2021

Our wizards of yore, why, in the name of all that’s good and useful, did we accept to do away with them? Healing bodies, ensuring positive fortunes, divining the future for refashioning, fending off evil, neutralising enemies, mitigating weather onslaughts; they did them all to keep us safe, secure, well-to-do and generally united as a family.

And so our family was a firm web (injishi) held together by good governance that ensured near-egalitarian existence, even as a monarchy, thanks in great part to these wizards. At the royal court as Abiru, they ensured smooth leadership transition, success in the defence of the country against external enemies and control of many other internal and external threats. At all levels, they warranted security of person and property but went beyond to do a lot more.

Witchdoctors healed body and mind. Soothsayers predicted the future and revealed intervention methods against impending ill-fortune. Conjurers played tricks with any likely harm. Enchanters tricked calamities into turning blessings. Mediums put us in contact with, and at the service of, God of Rwanda. Many more wizards did many more things.

The great warriors of this land kept invaders and slave traders at bay, in the main thanks to these wizards. And mainly for them, our warriors were great.

So how, you’ll ask, did your wizards prove ineffective against the iron-fire and the hitherto-unknown word of the colonialist? Well, seeing the superior strength of that fire and the softness of the word, they advised against confrontation in the hope that the word would prevail over fire.

Alas, the fire reigned over us and rendered our leadership impotent. The word denounced our wizards as agents of Satan whose practices would send us all into eternal hellfire.

It’s thus that division stared us in the face and it’s thus that colonialism sent us a-scatter.

So, it galls your inside many times over when you see the offspring of those colonialists treating their wizards with unlimited reverence today.

Maybe apart from having heard of the 2019 terrorist mosque shootings of Christchurch, New Zealand, you’ve heard about the case of a wizard who’s been in the city’s employ. The Wizard of Christchurch “provides acts of wizardry and other wizard-like services as promotional work for the city…”, a newspaper report affirms.

Mr Ian Brackenbury Channel, formerly a university professor, reaffirms: “I’ve invented a wizard out of nowhere. There were no wizards when I arrived in the world, except in books.” Well, I wouldn’t swear on the fact of him being first in Europe, where New Zealanders hailed from in their history. Much as, of course, it’s true that I personally rely on books I read for my belief!

Whatever the case, Mr Channel was described as “a living work of art” by his employers. He was lauded as a performer and public speaker who has revived the ancient art of rhetoric and has been seen synthesising the ideas of famous philosophers.  A marvel, indeed!

To quote only one wonder he performed in a small city near Christchurch. To the cries of its residents about the scorching dry weather, Mr Channel performed a rain dance. Within a few hours of the ritual, “The Wizard adjourned to the refreshment tent to watch the downpour and partake of the free whiskeys that were being thrust into his hands.” In the evening news, the weatherman confessed ignorance of how to explain the phenomenon!

But don’t get this opinion wrong; it’s not about Rwandans dropping the faiths they profess to go back to their ancient rituals. It’s about living and letting live.

It’s about those in one faith not pronouncing others pagan and threatening them with eternal hellfire. It’s about letting those who believe in the spirits of their ancestors be or even exploring them in case they make more sense than other professed faiths.

It’s about people confining themselves to their faiths and refraining from taking violence to those who profess to other faiths because no faith whatsoever should preach and practice violence.

It’s also about giving a sympathetic ear to Rwanda’s wizards of old. Recognising their role in maintaining and strengthening the cord that bonded Rwandans.  

Examples are galore. Blood brotherhood/sisterhood (kunywana) bonded us to whoever was not in our bloodline to ensure we are one family, as recommended by the wizards. They spelt out taboos to forever shun.

And so, Rutangarwamaboko the umupfumu of Kigali who has healed many, hone your trade and impress it upon others as their teacher, that it should not die. Ssalongo, the conjurer usually seen sitting comfily on a flying saucer and is said to be behind many thieves being stuck at their scenes of crime, do your thing and be sure to pass your conjuring tricks on to others.

Was it Magayane who foresaw a past killer ruler of this country ending up in a frying death? Well, the ruler in question landed in his compound as the fried mixture of flesh and metal of his own jet.

Our abapfumu (witchdoctors), abavubyi (rainmakers), abaraguzi (diviners), abashitsi (enchanters) and others, past and present, known and unknown. Your place in this society should be recognised!

Our wizards were and are our living works of art.

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