In the Service of our Ancestors and African Love,
Listen Seeker, I come in peace,
“We wear the mask that grins and lies.” — Paul Laurence Dunbar
One can subscribe to one of three “Cultures:” an African, a European or an Asian culture. The African culture alone will bring Africans harmony. It is also the most foreign culture to African people in general. A phenomenon such as admiring a waitress has a cultural expression in African culture that differs from its cultural expression in European culture. This play distinguishes the two and the unhappiness it will cause.
Play: Admiring the Waitress
By Onitaset Kumat
Zala: Will I be invited to your wedding?
Katimo: Dear wife, I beg your pardon?
Zala: I see you ogling the waitress. I now only wonder whether you will invite me to the wedding.
Katimo: A man must know when to engage or disengage. Now is the time for the latter.
Zala: Why? I am just asking a question. Will I be invited?
Katimo: (aside) Alas I am weak. (to Zala) There will be no wedding for I am married to you.
Zala: Oh am I in your way?
Katimo: Why do you do this?
Zala: Do what? Ask questions?
Katimo: Can we just enjoy our dinner?
Zala: And the view, I’m sure?
Katimo: You will hurt me.
Zala: And you do not think I am hurt? I’m sitting with my so-called husband and every time the waitress comes by, he sits straight, follows her with his eyes, smiles from ear-to-ear and speaks with an awkward elation, I’m supposed to be fine and dandy about that?
Katimo: Let’s just eat.
Zala: No answer my question. Answer my question. Put down your fork and answer my question.
Katimo: What question?
Zala: You made me forget.
Katimo: As did I. All for the better. Do you want to get our food wrapped up?
Zala: You want me to call that pretty waitress over for you?
Katimo: We can wait. This is a restaurant. Someone will come.
Zala: So true. Here’s your ring. You can give it to her when she comes. That cheap thing spoiled my fingers anyway.
Katimo: You are so hurtful. As I recall, you picked out our rings.
Zala: My mistake.
Katimo: I am hurt.
Zala: As am I. You want me to sit here and be pleasant as you flirt with our waitress right under my nose.
Katimo: I have nothing to say.
Zala: Should I be her?
Katimo: What is the big problem?
Zala: Are you going to sit here and deny that you were looking at the waitress, that you were fixing your posture, that you were smiling, joking, laughing with our waitress?
Katimo: I do not remember the posture change, but of course I smiled, joked and laughed with the waitress.
Zala: I can’t deal with this. If you want a divorce, the office is open on Monday.
Katimo: So this is it?
Zala: You want to be with another woman. I won’t stop you.
Katimo: But I never said that.
Zala: Well, actually you did.
Katimo: Woe is me.
Zala: Yes, “woe” to you as you do me wrong. I do not understand men.
Katimo: You do not understand Africa.
Zala: How dare you?
Katimo: Degrees and complexion notwithstanding, you are the Western woman. Yes, I did look at the African Sister, yes I did smile, joke and laugh, and maybe I did fix my posture, yet in doing any of these things how am I any different from you, who admires the infant in the kente cloth, puts up posters of our ancestors or beholds a scholar and revels in the opportunity to sit at the scholar’s feet? You admire Africans who are young, who are old, who have passed on, yet when the African is your contemporary, you are unable to accept that I can admire him or her, nevermind that the young will age, the old were young and the ancestors once walked this earth as do you and I! Yes, I admire the waitress! She has the bearings of a Queen: Africa marks her jaw, her posture, and yes her butt! She is beautiful, regal and a Sister! Why should I be harassed for loving my continent? For loving my people? For loving myself? Can I not, one who was harshly removed from his continent, return in any capacity, even socially? Must I forever be bound by my oppression where within my marriage I am an enemy and outside of my marriage I am without friends?
Zala: I do not want you as an enemy and I want you to have friends. I just think you would prefer to be with another woman.
Katimo: Another Western response. The trouble is we are in the West, but we do not need to be of the West. You are of the West. In the West, Love is a commitment to one’s Lover. For the Westerner that union is more than any other. In Africa, Love is a commitment to Order. For us, Beauty is Divine and Ancestral and we are awed by its representations wherever and whenever. You show your African Love for the young, the scholastic, the ancestors and so forth; but to your contemporary and me, you show Western Love. Western Love will never resonate with an African, and as you brought up divorce, removed your ring, ruined our date through it, I will leave you to silence and concentration on this matter.
Zala: Where are you going?
Katimo: If the waitress were a young girl, you would hold her in high esteem. If she were an elder, you would fancy her striking! If she were a scholar, you would purchase her wares. If she were an ancestor, you would have a poster of her. But as she is your age, you hate that I give her the respect deserving of the Queen. You want the respect of a Queen all to yourself and you will do the deeds of a Westerner, who has never had a Queen, to achieve that respect. I go to pay this bill. I will wait outside until you are ready to show African Love.
Zala: Wait! I will come with you. I want to tell the waitress that she is a very beautiful Queen. And I wish to compliment the Chef!
Katimo: Now what do you mean by that? (smiling)
Zala: Oh Katimo! (they both laugh)