Ribbons of Hope

Ribbons of Hope 

By Veronica Nkwocha

Listening to Zahara’s Loliwe inspired this post. I love her sound and its distinct South African vibe.

Welcome to the 21st Century, she teased me. My friend, much younger than me but one with whom I shared lots of laughter and affection. It was 2008 and she was shocked I was only just joining Facebook. After our fits of laughter, I spent inordinate amounts of time tracking old friends, some I had last seen at University in the early 90s. There were joyful reunions and happy tears, finding new wrinkles, bald patches and widening waistlines from having babies or may be eating a bit too much!

I typed a friend’s name and because it was quite common in South Africa, I couldn’t tell which of the many search results was him until I typed same against our university and it returned a tribute page to him; he had passed away in the years we had lost touch. I thought to myself how sometimes, life doesn’t give one any more chances, no chance to say goodbye, none to say thank you for being a dear friend or to have a shared drink or a smile. It took me many days, filled as I was with an overwhelming sadness to contact the admin, his younger brother, who had kept his memory alive.

He was happy to hear from me especially as he had gaps in the memoir he was writing about his beloved brother, gaps that could only be filled by friends who attended university with him. I filled him in as best as I could all the while stunned, that he was indeed gone.

Mxolisi. I first met him as a quiet first year student (I, in my final year) who had recently arrived Nigeria from South Africa after the trauma of the apartheid regime. He appeared delicate but the strength in him was evident, he had endured so much and still had pellets from the agony he had suffered. He was soft spoken, ever smiling and he regaled us with tales about his homeland. He told us about his much loved family and how he missed them. We in turn allowed him into our lives as though a brother although we butchered his name to his consternation. He became especially close to my younger brother with whom their shared love of Political Science nudged them towards long winded discussions on the future of Africa.

‘Kolisi’, thanks for bringing kindness on those long days when life as students needed cheer. You were a shining example of the tenaciousness of the human spirit, calm in the face of chaos, even when your life was falling apart and you were torn from your home. I’m glad you were able to go back after completing your Law degree and your call to Bar, to give back to your community even if it was shorter than you would have wanted. Thanks to Sibu who kindly listened to my blubbering shock and has become a brother; in losing a friend, I gained one.

4 thoughts on “Ribbons of Hope

  1. often when i hear or read anything about him, i get overwhelmed by a deep sense of melancholy. This note has just made me realize that indeed time heals. when you told me about it, i got the unusual excitement, maybe it’s just one way of telling us that his soul is in a better place. Thank you for your kind words on my brother, I sincerely appreciate. Very true, you may be miles way or one step closer but still, life doesn’t allow us a chance to bid each other goodbye. I am happy for him, though, for he had friends whom not even death could stop them from caring. Thank you Veronica.

  2. I’m the younger brother mentioned and I cant add much to what Vera has said. Mxolisi was indeed a friend and a brother. I remember how he shaped my ability to see Nigeria from the eyes of a person who lives out the true implications of his beliefs. He appreciated this country but could not understand how so many people here never really meant what they claimed to believe. The occasion of the annulment of the June 12th 1993 elections was particularly painful to him and the reactions of so many people in Nigeria amazed him. Since the annulment, the trajectory of Nigeria’s history has changed and anyone claiming to know the outcome of the country’s future is obviously a charlatan. Military rule is gone but a civic culture has not replaced it. Fascist ideologies wrapped up in ethnic supremacist movements have emerged across Nigeria and we are forced to struggle against the autocratic principles that underlie them at every turn. Oh how I wished Mxolisi was here for us to share our mind’s take on what Nigeria has become. I dig deep into my memory and all those long nights we spent talking make me realize that it is not the length of time we have in this world that counts. Its is the brilliance of our vision that makes us live. Nothing matters but to live what you know is true and to have the courage to say what you believe. Nigeria is in the grip of autocrats who pretend to love freedom but wish to impose ethnic supremacist arrangements on her people while holding to a vicious form of Fascism. Mxolisi saw where we were heading long before now but what could he do to help? Knowing him is the greatest treasure I have acquired in believing that this turn in Nigeria can be defeated by honest living.

  3. Joseph,

    It’s such a privilege to also learn so much about him, from a person he had spent quite a considerable time with. Your accounts of the man and what Vera has shared, previously, tells me he was an easygoing; thoughtful and an optimist. He seems to have shared these particular traits with almost everyone who come to know him. I’m sincerely grateful for taking your time out to share. When he was back, he told us about many people back in Nigeria. I am certain he must have told us about you as well, it’s just that its difficult to remember all the names. Mxolisi had a great admiration for Nigerians and he would often tell us how intelligent and driven people from that side are. I think the country and the people gave him so much, as a person and that made him the man he was. My brother Joseph, it would seem there are areas where we, as Africans in general, seem to be taking one step forward and a few steps back. But there is still hope, we just need a new calibre of leaders to take us forward. We cannot afford to be in the same position as we were under colonialism. That being said, I’m excited about the strengthening of relations between our countries (South Africa and Nigeria). There are a lot of progressive initiative in the pipeline, so we are made to understand. When the time is right, I would love to visit Nigeria to explore business opportunities. Before I get carried away, let me allow you to get back to work. I’ll keep in touch. All shall be well with you and sister Vera.

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