The book “Lessons From My Grandmother: Every Life Is A Guided Journey” (2018, Morgan James Publishing, New York) by Martha Mutomba is a real life story that puts together pieces of a broken African culture to bring a true and fresh understanding of issues of African spirituality.
It is an experienced phenomenon, an autobiographical story in which the author turns herself into the main character and narrator Yeukai Mandizvidza.
The narrative, focusing on how Yeukai develops spiritually courtesy of her grandmother’s wise teachings, is a remarkable reminder to all Africans that the return to their true identity is but within them and nowhere else.
During the era of colonialism, and afterwards, the belief in African ancestral roots dwindled as Christianity expanded. The continent suffered a cultural crisis which still follows it today and this crisis is embodied in Yeukai in “Lessons From My Grandmother”.
One can bet that the same strong need for an African cultural restoration is also what inspired another author Lutanga Shaba, known as Mbuya Muhera, to pen her teachings (The Way of the Light) on the same subject in 2013. Shaba is a Shona spirit medium (svikiro) and energy healer, who is devoted to spiritualism of the indigenous African Bantu people. Both authors Shaba And Mutomba do not totally despise Christianity but they give insightful African spiritual truths and how we can live in harmony with the God who is the Source and not the God of the colonialists who saw African religion as demonic. In Mutomba’s story, Yeukai, educated and with the world in her lap, is in a dilemma the ordinary eye can hardly see. Her grandmother’s wisdom in Shona spiritual matters, already served to prepare her for a ‘guided journey’ of life but she gives it up to pursue the glitters the outside world offered — ambition, money, ‘freedom’, and many others.
She goes to America where she gets lost in its materialism but still something keeps haunting her inside, her grandmother with whom she had a deeper relationship keeps urging her in dreams and visions to go back to her roots. And when she discovers the truth, she reflects: “America is where I found my dream. And America is where I lost my dream.”
The internal sorrow that comes with a spiritual dilemma is also felt when Yeukai recollects the time she made contact with a foreign culture in which the dollar and the individual ruled more than the needs of the spirit and all humanity.
“But deep down, I was terribly unhappy. I felt empty. I felt lonely. I felt disconnected,” she writes. When she returns home, the reality further disturbs her, makes her think again about the mission to make the world a better place.
In “Lessons From My Grandmother”, Mutomba tells her story with alternating solemnity and humor, avoiding tutelage but using the narrative form coupled with some elegant poetry.
The nagging question that hangs after reading the book is: what will be the future of African culture in the next few decades?
Mutomba was born and raised in Zimbabwe. She earned a PhD degree from Cambridge University in England and then worked in the biotechnology industry in the United States of America for many years.
She currently volunteers for Munhu Inc., a US-registered organisation dedicated to helping orphaned children in rural areas of Zimbabwe and she is donating a portion of sales of “Lessons From My Grandmother” to this organisation.