There are seconds, minutes, hours and then, there’s African Time.– Sifiso Dlamini
These are all units quantifying the passage of time. The latter is however known to be synonymous with tardiness. Not five, ten or fifteen minutes lateness, but an indefinite period between the time set for a meet, and some colourful, adventurous stories of how one had to summit Kilimanjaro from the exact moment the meeting was meant to be.
Kilimanjaro is on my bucket list. I know. The outrageously futile triumph of scaling a mountain. Okay, THE mountain. I digress. But I am never late. Ever! I know I’m not a Nazi or anything like that but does this mean I am non-African?
The most fundamental characteristic of African Time is its defiance to keeping any logic of the sequence of time. It is haphazard. It is in control. You will wait as if for a royal. You will get severely disappointed without any promise of a later time or a reschedule. African time is ruthless like that. Ruthless like an animal would drag you into the wilderness and leave you to die.
Since you have already discovered my fetish for lists, I could give you countless scenarios where I was a victim of time manufactured in the “Motherland”. Let me rephrase. I could give you countless stories of how I went into fits of rage while waiting for your African princes and princesses.
I’m foaming at the mouth. I’m fuming.
I was about nine and my parents weren’t around for the weekend. They had made arrangements for someone to come and take me to my teacher’s wedding on the Saturday by 12 O’clock. Actually, let me name and shame. His name was Andrew. As the grade four class, we had been rehearsing “It’s a whole new world” for the past month or so and we were excited to sing at her wedding.
I don’t quite remember what I was wearing but it was formal -church formal. Argh, you know how an African child looks in grown-up clothes, right? So, I was at the front of the house plastered in Vaseline and overly ready to be fetched. Do you have any idea how loud the stroke of the seconds arm is when you are running short of patience?
My wristwatch was analogue. Classy but never expensive. Chewing at my nails and nervously looking at my watch, a lump of sorrow was slowly growing at my throat. Yes, that one before you begin with the uncontrollable sob. I don’t know but for some reason such sobs make you sound like a goat before the waterworks come on display.
By quarter to twelve I knew I was already screwed, but with the fresh layer of baby scented Vaseline hiding any evidence of the salty streams running down my cheeks, I had a renewed hope. Stupid hope I might add.
Because as it turned out, Andrew wasn’t coming.
You see, this is when I began to loath African Time. My time has nothing to do with Africa. I am most certainly African though. I am an African. I would know because African Time has dragged me into the wild and unkempt savannah numerous times. I was left for dead it would seem. With each minute approaching twelve o’clock, my fate was becoming public knowledge. Do you remember the time your school transport didn’t come to fetch you? By ten o’clock, you’d probably be glued to the front of the TV having the last bite of whatever was in your lunch box???
I am an African but… Wait a minute. Or not. Don’t be like Andrew; arriving as the Master of Ceremony is giving a vote of thanks is no way to attend a wedding! Just be on time and everything African will be sublime!
Hey, Star! This great piece was written by Sifiso Dlamini, a southern African writer from Swaziland, eSwatini. I’m elated he jumped on this blog chain, ’cause that made me go read up all about his beautiful country.
By the way, this is the third episode of the “I’m African but…” blog chain series I started with Valentine Writes few weeks ago. Remember, you can also be a part of this.
All you have to do is to creatively write on anything you are expected to know how to do or be as an African but you can’t do, don’t like to do or you simply are not. After which, you can send to firstname.lastname@example.org & email@example.com, and we will share on our platforms and yours, of course.
Featured image from here