“mzungu, how are you?”
“mzungu, i love you!”
“mzungu! mzungu! mzungu! mzungu!”
my friend heather has recently blogged about language, and mentioned two words that caught my eye– biligana (the navajo word for and anglo person, meaning one with whom i wrestle) and the ojibwa word for an anglo person- Chimookamonnug (“which means long knives, a description of the ones who came bearing swords.”) reading these words and their meanings has brought my mind back to the words to describe anglos in east africa.
mzungu the kiswahili word that the majority of east-africans use as a fall-back for naming an anglo (or more broadly, someone from “out”). the name for an anglo in east-africa has more of a humorous meaning than the navajo and ojibwa words for an anglo:
a zungu is a circle. a mzungu is someone who wanders aimsly in a circle. so white people showed up in east africa, wandered around seemingly aimlessly in circles and we shall ever be known as those who wander aimlessly in circles.
it just strikes me as pretty apt considering the large influx of white skin in this part of the world during colonization when a lot of individuals and families did kind of wander about aimlessly making claims that they discovered things like the source of the nile. (yep, the people who live hear are the ones who “discovered” that. not speke. sorry, dude!)
this does not mean, however, that i like being called mzungu. its not the pointing out of my difference. while that’s not my favorite thing i can handle that. its not the actual word itself–i can attempt to find it amusing or see it as some sort of retribution for the pain and horror that white skin has meant to a lot of this part of the world.
a lot of the part that grates on my nerves is the decibel level at which its shouted at me by large groups of children “mzungu!mzungu! mzungu!” or the inappropriate oogling or touches that come with “mzungu, i love you!” in kampala (mostly from bodaboda drivers. and the marriage proposals are far more common than inappropriate touches. just to clear that up.) and the frustration of not really understanding why people are always saying “bye” even when its hello…
right. well i’m off to wander in circles so as to live into my name.