The Journey: Tales of Ara and Leihlo

Photo by bill wegener on Unsplash

Professor Ante Diop hated when historians complicated Africa’s story. It was almost as if they wanted to place her under the west’s wing. Africa was just a child when Europeans came, too primal, not natural but uncultivated. She needed Europe to parent her to adulthood. Oh my, what a dangerous web we spin, when we underestimate the knowledge of a child.

Princess Ara is that first ray of sunlight that pierces through the morning sky, way before Ra, the Afrikan sun God, has fully awoken, to ride his chariot across the African sky, with the sun trailing swiftly behind him.

As a rule, I don’t mingle with children. I have my reasons. Firstly, I’m a pragmatist and children aren’t known for their profound logical insight. Secondly, and most importantly, they just don’t like me. Maybe it’s because I smell of spreadsheets, long days at the office and minimum wage, to conclude., an adult, or in simpler terms, “one who has had all child-like wonder and enjoyment of life, completely sucked out of them,” like a milkshake, through a straw.

With this in mind, me and all human beings under the ages of 16 have a rule, an age old custom. Silence is golden, so they say. This time was different.

A funny thing happens when you give children your ear. Well a few things in fact. The first few minutes pass by with you question your sanity, but once you pass that stage, you sense that all so familiar stench of dread slowly bubble up from inside you. That’s the truth rearing its ugly head. The truth is, behind your “adult” mask, there it lies caged, like an animal, fear being its captors.

You fear that you’re not doing too good, that you might have failed in your goals. Maybe you were just not cut out for this “grown-up” gig. That’s why you don’t talk to children, adults are easy to fool, they’re so caught up in themselves that they barely notice the person beside them, it might be their spouse even, picture this, “How come you didn’t notice my new hairstyle, HONEY?”

But kids, with those big puppy eyes that move past your “well-constructed” actor’s face and stir right into the crevices of your soul can see right through you, and that’s what makes you uncomfortable.

It’s that, what if they can sense my fear and peek behind this “got it handled” façade, flip, what if?

“U batla pompong Leihlo?” My name is Leo by the way, but Leihlo has a ring to it. “Well I most definitely would love one Ara!” I don’t like sweets but I would be damned if I turned down this 3-year-old angel’s offer, I mean, flip! Sweets are to children what gold is to kings.

Most of us are jealous of the young because in them you can still see that light, you can still smell that aroma of hope, it’s that glimmer of curiosity in their eye, those imaginative heads of theirs.

Being an adult is a strange thing. You’re never quite certain when that stage hits, but you’re aware of the pressures it comes with. At this stage, you should have your sh%t in shape, do away with childish things, throw away rainbows and unicorns for bow ties and uniforms.

But adult-ing never came with a manual and deep down you know what you want from life but are either too scared, weighed down by responsibilities or lazy to act, so you follow dates and times.

Order is the rule of the day. Start work at 08:00, have lunch at 13:00, knock off at 17:00, retire at 60, with a package that amounts to M290 900, and be broke and desolate at 71, What a life, mhhhhm? I can’t wait, in fact am salivating just thinking this…mxxwm!

But, Ara, knows nothing of this, LIVING to her is still the most amazing thing you can do with life. She’s very crafty, I must say, I mean how did she figure out how to, “U TSEBA MABELELE LEIHLO?” Wait, what? Lost in thought there for a bit. “Why, yes Ara, kea tseba.” I really don’t.

I can’t believe this, I’m being taught the secrets of the universe by a three-year-old and I’m sure she doesn’t even know it. For one, I realise that hunting for “mabelebele” might prove to be one of the most important expeditions of my life. I actually live for moments like these.

Experts, those guys in the white, every laundry person’s nightmare, lab coats and thick double lense glasses, will always tell that you learn more in the first five years of your life, than you ever will.

We’ve lost our spark, but not Ara. She’s literally a ball of energy, electrifying, might spark you if you get too close. She has a high value for life, you can see this when she’s in her small garden, marveling at the birds above and the beetles below. Every creature has value and a life of its own.

I sometimes wonder, if we 90’s kids, have the same respect for the fleetingness of life, for the swiftness of time or the unpredictability of death, even a full life amounts to nothing if wasted on trivialities.

So this goes out to princess Ara and those living their lives to the full. Every second counts because of you guys.


KEMNET is a communications network that is solely interested in the pursuit of the “African Dream.” It is our hope that by presenting to you (the youth of Africa) a platform where you can voice your opinion on issues that affect us here on this black continent; we will bring about a positive change.