Travelling roots: Twaambo’s journey to Kasama, Zambia

Sara Drawwater
18 April 2013
Despite having had the privilege of living in different parts of the world, like a growing group of young Zambians in this situation, Twaambo Kapilikisha’s love for Zambia has remained strong. In…

Despite having had the privilege of living in different parts of the world, like a growing group of young Zambians in this situation, Twaambo Kapilikisha’s love for Zambia has remained strong. In this piece, she shares her journey about discovering her roots, by travelling to a Kasama, the town where her father’s lineage emerged.

An “in-between” life‘The nagging feeling of wanting a deeper connection with my country became stronger and stronger the older I grew. I was deeply and maddeningly in love with Zambia. I was equally mad at it most of the time. I lived a life in between, attending private school with some of the wealthiest children in the country, but still living a home life that was pretty ‘normal’.

Born to a flight attendant mother and a flying instructor father, I only wonder now what they were thinking when they sent me over ‘there’…the best I guess. After leaving Zambia and doing some growing, this desire to connect with my country seemed to take on a more ferocious grip.

In search of rootsWho was I? What did it mean to be me? What did it mean to be a Zambian me? A few answers began to trickle down at some family events. I found out that my father’s family was from the North of Zambia, Kasama to be exact. But where in Kasama? What did they do there? Who were they? These questions remained unasked, afterall it would be deemed rude to interrupt an adult’s conversation. The questions were swallowed, the gathering continued, food flowed, laughs got louder.

I could see myself in Grandpa Leo, my paternal Grandfather’s brother. My own Grandfather unfortunately died before I was born. We had the same shape of nose…oh what a prominent nose my family has! I could see my eyes in his eyes, my mischief in his grin. I did not know how to enquire, but I really wanted to ask, “Who are you really, and how am I you?” This was not just a question of genetics.

The journey of discoveryI decided to explore it myself. An opportunity came up. I travelled North with a crazy haired Italian who had driven up and down the North of Zambia, and who knew a thing or two about getting there quick and safe. We drove into Mutinondo and as we explored, his footsteps were as sure and steady as one that had been here many times before. My footsteps were tentative, unsure, but curious.

What a glorious time I had! I slept in a three walled chalet, fireplace roaring. Looking out into the darkness, I knew that if there was someone out there, they could see my little fire and me sitting in front of it. Ironically, I was devouring the pages of the New Yorker.

I felt a kinship with the staff, who spoke to me in Bemba, and sometimes giggled at my “Lusaka Bemba”, even though I knew exactly what they meant, but somehow could not articulate it as well as they did. Time at big family gatherings had ensured I had learned some good Bemba, so I was not phased.

Why had it taken me so long to come here?I was amazed at how untouched this land was. The large mountains and hills, the vegetation so lovingly preserved by “caretakers” of this Miombo woodland. There were sparkly waterfalls and streams, no peddlers, no street noise, not even the loud rush of the Victoria Falls, so, so, far away. I was in the North, where my family was from. I could feel a little bit of the settling inside me. Why had it taken me so long to come here?

We eventually managed to get to Kasama as a family, for my Grandfathers memoriam. He was spoken of highly in the village. Their faces scanned mine. They recognised me, because they remembered him. They saw him in me.

A piece of the puzzle in Shiwa N’ganduOne thing Grandpa Leo told me was, when I was up North, I must look towards Shiwa N’gandu, the glorious estate built by Stewart Gore-Browne. I had sort of flipped through ‘African House’ but what did he mean? Somehow I found it, I found my Great Grandfather’s name, written as having been born there. I was finding answers slowly, about who I was, where I was from. In the North.

I still have not been to Shiwa N’gandu, but I have a feeling that when I do, another little piece of the puzzle will fall into place.