The thing about history is that often the story that gets told the most is that of the victors, the conquistadors.
The story and history of the battle of blood river has two contested versions.
The full story of Mkabayi has not been ventilated enough.
The story of Mmathatisi, the warrior African Regent [1784 – 1847] of the Tlokwa people is not told.
The story and history of Africans and technology is contested. Africans claim [rightfully so] that they have always been mining and processing precious metals long before colonists arrived, otherwise where do you think they got their spears from.
The deeper you dig into history, you realise that there is so much history that we don’t know about, other versions of events that never made mainstream books.
If you don’t write your story, no one will write it for you.
If they do decide to write your story, they will write it according to their world-views, which might be wrong.
As the African proverb says:
Until the lion learns how to write every story will glorify the hunter.
As long as the lion can’t write, the hunter keeps telling his side of the story.
The hunter will his heroic acts in the jungle, his expeditions, medals and bravery are glorified in all of his stories.
He could say that the Lion runs away and hides on his arrival, scared of him.
He could tell stories of how he saved the animals under the attack of the Lion.
He may describe the stories of cruel and barbaric nature of the Lion, and how he spared its life when he caught it.
The people who listens to him will trust him as they don’t know the other side of the story.
But by the time Lion learns to read and write, it can debate and reject many of the claims, revealing the true nature of the hunter.
The lion can write its version of the story saying how scared is the hunter on seeing the lion, how he survived on dead animals, how cruel he was to the small and innocent creatures, how he hunts down animals for fun.
Every time a civilised society is established in the history, a barbaric tribe or invaders attack and destroy their history and re-write what they intend it to be.
It was the reason many of the flourished civilisations remained in history. Their cultures, languages, religions were lost. Some of the invaders who destroyed them are hailed as great emperors.
The stories of the war are told by the one who won it.
Most of the emperors are described as great because no one dares to write against them.
The invaders eradicate the cultural identity of native kingdoms and establish their rule as if they are doing them a favour. Then the religious practices and ceremonies are ridiculed.
Finally they instil a sense of inferiority in the native people and exploit it in their favour. Africa’s colonisation too followed this pattern.
This concept is widely applicable to too many events of the history.
This proverb: until the lion learns how to write every story will glorify the hunter, frankly reminds us that what we call history is just one side of the story.
Until we write, document, capture and tell our stories, others will tell their stories, and in their stories, they are heroes and we may be the villains.
There is a lot of stories to tell, a lot of revisionist history that needs to be done as Malcolm Gladwell would say.
In writing the story of our lives, we need to hold the pens that write.
Our stories matter.