Dancing with shadows of Tumo and the Law of Origin in Towerland
By Simon Mitambo
Tumo is a Tswana word meaning “send me”. In Kiswahili we say, “Tuma”. In my local language, one who is sent is known as Mutumwa. When someone is sent, s/he is expected to deliver a certain important message. Traditionally, we had emissaries who were sent by an important traditional leader to broker peace or perform an important role. These emissaries were treated with decorum. We have a saying that: “you do not reprimand the messenger, instead you rebuke the message”.
This means that a messenger is a very important person traditionally. As we gathered at Towerland, in the Langeberg mountains in the southern Cape, South Africa, from 25-28 November, tumo seemed to emerge as a key theme. And the question was, who had sent us? The ancestors or the ultimate source? We were a group of 12 – our two sangoma leaders, the course tutors, myself and Dennis Tabaro (Director of ABN’s Uganda member organisation AFRICE) as mentors, and the current group of six African Earth Jurisprudence practitioners-in-training.
Our venue in Towerland is a serene and sacred space of its own kind. It is a great home of nature and culture, a home of healing and great connection. The venue and context was right for the discussion on Tumo. As the course was coming to an end, it was important that the mentees are fully prepared to go out and propagate the message. It is important that the mentees keep fully connected to the law to remain potent and fully connected to the message they are being sent to carry.
According to Collin Campbell, the mentees have a role to remain strong and rigid like a well-watered seedling. We have to find ways to remain potent and strong in the middle of demands of the world. Rituals and ceremonies were seen as critical to keeping the message and messengers potent and strong. We started with a cooling ritual on the first day. This ritual also served to connect us with the land and territory we had come to live in. In describing the world that the mentees were soon going to face, Collin Campbell gave an analogy of four different tastes of a wild fruit. One taste is sweet, bitter, sour and salty. These four qualities are in Nature. He said the quality of bitterness is in the mind. In excess, bitterness will turn into fear. Sweetness has a quality of flow in us – like with the flow of blood, rivers and oceans. Some think sweetness is a good thing that keeps us comfortable.
The excess of it can however bring floodness and finally cause destruction. Many times, bitterness and sweetness go together. In excess, they hurt. Sourness goes with fire and the law of chilli. Sourness sucks! Salty taste also destroys when in excess. Sourness eats saltiness and vice versa. EJ practitioners have a responsibility to be aware of laws and governance relating to the four qualities as they exercise the mandate for Tumo. Modern society has strong craving for sweetness, tending to believe that if we are comfortable, we are okay.
Some people think Tumo is something we can find and cultivate while others think it is something we are born with. EJ process like the rite of passage, helps us to cultivate and nurture Tumo through participation in certain processes. Night vigiling is such a powerful process of nurturing Tumo. That last night at Towerland, we went up the mountain to vigil. In preparations, we fasted. We each kept at our own spaces in the forest. The vigil required we watch the night flow from Sun set to Sun rise.
At Sun set, I did phatla to invoke the ancestors of my family for protection and guidance in the Tumo service. In the middle of the night, I did a phatla to the ancestors of the land and territory in which I had come to live and to learn from their wisdom. At 3:00 in the morning, I invoked the ancestors who come from far away and whom have been my mentors like Thomas Berry, Wangari Maathai and others. At Sun rise, I invoked the bigger ancestors of the Earth, the Sky, the Moon, the Sun and rivers etc. These were to take our words to those who are the source of Tumo.
A story within a story
To exemplify the Tumo in context of EJ, Collin Campbell gave us a story within a story. It was a Tswana story of a rain maker who was said to live in a mountain. It all started with shortage of rain and the setting up of the dry spell that went for seven years. There was no single drop of rain. The blue sky and tree wined. It continued to get dry and dry! Even ants had started finding it difficult to survive. Animals were dying in large numbers. Elders wondered and wandered! They resolved to make a drastic measure. They assembled all the people. The elder of the oldest stood up and said that they were in a terrible state. “We’ve no food”, they said. “We have to do something extra ordinary”, they said in desperation.
They had done everything – divination, ancestral sacrifices and nothing was coming forth. They wanted to disperse people into eight different directions in search of any providence. As the final decision was landing, someone raised a hand. He started by saying, “I recognize the wisdom of the elders to disperse people in different directions, but I have heard of a rain maker in the mountain”. He told them that wherever this shaman is, rain always rain. “I don’t know for sure if she exists but I am willing to explore and look for her”, he said. “What are you going to pay her with”, they asked him. He offered to give it a trial and all gave their blessings. The elders told the man that they will wait for her for three days and if he doesn’t find the shaman, let him not bother to come back.
The man disappeared to the West. Days went until the third day without any signs of anything different happening. Only despair reigned. The village gathered again with their belongings to disperse into eight directions. As they were in the process of finalizing, children came running! “Come and see”, they said. It was at dusk. They saw two persons emerging from the horizons. One of them was a beggar in rags. The villagers wondered what to give to the beggar the gentleman had brought as they had no food. They were a bit disappointed to see the man bring them a beggar when they had nothing to give to the beggar. The gentleman however, explained how he faced difficulties with animals and people who were unfriendly during his mission to look for a shaman who could make rain.
He had gone to a village where he was shown the mountain and told to climb up the mountain to the top. He found shanty home at the top of the mountain and the beggar. He asked the old woman whether she knew a shaman rain maker. The old woman told him that she had lived there for ages and had not heard about a rain maker. He asked what the old woman does and she replied, “Nothing!” She said she loves travelling. She asked if she could join him to go and see where he comes from. Ha agreed and so they went. The elders were wise and gave the old woman some hut to stay on. The villagers began to watch. The talks spread across the village far and wide about the old beggar. The old woman did nothing except attending to her normal daily duties – busking in the Sun. She spread her dirty clothes in the Sun as there was no water to wash them.
Other time she travelled to the market and back. Days went by and nothing changed. One day, a few clouds began to gather, wind started blowing. And finally there was rain…it rained for days and people started to plough and plant. Everything now started to change. The old woman wanted to leave now. People came and told her she was a rain maker. She said she isn’t but no one believed. She left without comments. It emerged that the old woman had qualities of rain making but she was not a rain maker herself. These were inherent good qualities of Tumo from an EJ perspective.
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