My Tribe Is Makua
26 June 2010
I have recently surmised that my maternal ancestral origins are within the Makua tribe of Mocambique. DNA tests revealed a definite match with the Bantu people there.
I wish I had known this on the weekend I spent enjoying myself at the Hotel Polana in Maputo.
While living in South Africa, I went with a friend on an excursion into the war ravaged country of Mocambique. We had to take great care in staying in “safe” areas. There are estimated to be more than 2 million land mines buried all over the country. In 2003, 800 people died every month from land mine explosions. I was there in 1998. Thus, I can only imagine how pervasive the problem must have been at that point.
I went because it was convenient for me to do so. I was living in South Africa at the time. I was on a mission to explore the continent of Africa in general and my immediate surroundings in particular. Maputo was a short 602 kilometres from my home in Houghton, Johannesburg. I was driving a hot Mazda MX6 — one step up from an “authentic” sports car.
I remember the breezy drive along the very modern highways of South Africa and then arriving in Maputo, a capital city devastated by 15 years of civil war, with highways pockmarked with the residue of war . The one bright spot was the hotel at which we stayed — the Polana.
Outside the confines of the Polana, people were living in desperation. They had to carry water up the stairs of impressively tall apartment buildings. Women were hustling their bodies on the beach. People were begging on the streets. The police threatened to confiscate my car.
My friend and I ate well. I have vivid memories of the peri-peri shrimp, highly spiced and oh so succulent. My friend gambled at the hotel casino and lost all his money. We enjoyed drinks afterwards in the hotel bar. All in all, we had a verygood time.
It was shocking when we reached the border to go back home to Johannesburg. There, we encountered so many hapless people waiting, desperate, trying to get into South Africa, an undeniably better place to be.
Today I know, the people of Mocambique are my ancestral people. After researching, I even found a picture of a Makua woman who had the same high cheekbones and broad nose that my great grandmother had. Our family ascribed that to being “Indian.” But the DNA results say otherwise.
I cannot tell you how happy I am to finally have the satisfaction of knowing that I came from somewhere. Gladly, somewhere in Africa.
That is something that was snatched away from us — African Americans. We are the only people in the world who have no place to belong, no where to claim as our own and no where to go.
Now, I want to go back. I want to revel in the idea of having a “homeland.” I want to experience “from whence I came.” I want to stop being rootless, nameless and hopeless.
THAT, for me, is the ultimate reward of all this genealogical research to which I have devoted myself over the last 30 year.
I am MAKUA. A proud woman of African genesis on a quest to find my SELF.