According to logic, it should not be happening. Why would a people who live so close to nature be scared? After all one of the first statements you hear outside the hot continent might be:
“Are you Africans still living in jungle huts?”
“I was in Africa. I really loved the lions, zebras and sunsets.”
Animals, poverty and sunshine are standard image of Africa, worldwide. Most international television programs create these superb wild Africa documentaries to cement the idea.Anything intelligent has to branch off the tree of sensational news via Ebola, HIV, famine, civil wars and the current big bang: religious terrorism. Out of all this flim-flam, though, came a superb BBC narrative, recently. Watch “Men Steal Meat from Lions” on You Tube.
Three Maasai Moranis, led by a 65 old veteran, confidently approach a pack of lions feasting on a wildebeest. The lions disperse watching the warriors calmly slicing off part of the meat and walk away. Since uploaded in 2011, the fabulous clip has attracted almost three million views plus three thousand comments. The comments may give you an insight into casual psychological perception of Africans.
A viewer calling himself “Whatsgoingon7” calls it genius. The compliment causes a long stream arguments and name-calling: 48 in total, by last weekend. Further down, another casual, racist observation by “ErikV1977”, says, “Blacks steal everywhere.”
The Maasai BBC clip is, indeed, something.
Something that takes me back to Arusha and Kilimanjaro where I grew up. Upon visiting my village, few years ago, I met a childhood friend who continues to live where we used to play right under the majestic Mount Kilimanjaro (below). Passing one neighbour’s house, I asked him about the white dog. This particular hound used to scare us, big time. We are talking 1964, 1965... Though over 50 years gone, still traumatised. Would the animal have had great grand puppies that might pop out, bark and smell our blood from 1966?
Laugh if you want, but one evening , last year, an elderly white English lady stopped me on a quiet London street. She was sobbing and extremely sad.
“She died, Freddy.”
The woman stared at me as if I had just smacked her scarlet face. “Fiffy died. Remember her?”
I realised she was talking about her brown dog. She was always with the animal. Fiffy would sometimes carry a box of fresh chicken tightly held in her teeth, bought from the supermarket.
“Fiffy was too old. She gave up, Freddy.”
“She was twelve, exactly.”
If you don’t know dogs, that is considered 72 years, the highest age. Twelve months of human life, so the English lady educated me, equals six years for a dog.
Quite hard to contemplate, this fondness Wazungu have for dogs. Endless; the kissing, fondling, intimacy, everywhere, on TV, roads and parks. For us who live around dangerous snakes, mosquitoes, spiders and hyenas, animals are a nuisance.
My earliest recollection of a wild animal was of my father shooting at a leopard trying stealing our livestock. If I am still for a moment, I can (right now) feel the fear and see eyes like a torch. Huge, sleek, stealth cat in the dark bushes. Fear. Africans? It is ironically, expected that we understand and love wildlife.
If you trace steps to the postcolonial period of the 1960s and 1970s, you might recall (if you were already born) huge red signs saying HATARI MBWA MKALI, i.e. warning of a dangerous dog. It was fact that dogs were trained to bite and scare away Africans from residencies of the white and rich. No secret that some dog owners fed Marijuana to canines making them fierce, crazy and unfriendly. And it was not just fear. We hated and (and might still)... dislike dogs; whether street mongrels (Mbwa koko) or stray cats. Every African has a story about a dog. Each of us even “knows” tactics to keep fierce dogs away. Like pretending to pick up a stone...
Cesar Millan and his dogs. Pic from TV Quebec
And here comes Cesar Millan. Currently the most known dog expert on TV; the Mexican immigrant who moved to the USA when he was only twenty one years old has established himself (via programs and books) and is called the Dog Whisperer. Senor Millan grew up in his grandfather’s farm and was taught to treat animals well. He argues that dogs are innocent. It is we (people) who need re training.
“The most dangerous dog in the world is the one that has been made that way by a human...”
As for Africans, we should really be leading the rest of the world in animal welfare. If we can easily disperse feeding lions without any violence, there is an obvious special, untapped talent and skill. Lost in translation. Wasted in history.
Published in Citizen Tanzania, Friday 24th April, 2015.