/ 3 October 2017

Slice of Life: Checking in with my ancestors

'They couldn’t look out for me — they didn’t know where I was'
'They couldn’t look out for me — they didn’t know where I was'

At home you are expected to say where you’re going, when you leave the house. You can’t just up and leave.

Ba nyaka o laele (They expect you to tell them of your plans and whereabouts) gore o laele (it’s to your benefit to let them know) and I didn’t think it was a big deal until I was in trouble because ga kea laela (I didn’t tell them where I was going).

I wasn’t sure about what I would do after high school. Then a career counsellor suggested I look into biomedical engineering. I did some research, thought it was exciting, so I left home for the very first time and came to Wits.

Initially, I wasn’t ready for it.

I kind of stayed in my own lane. I felt lost in class for the first two weeks. I couldn’t wrap my head around what was being said.

I really felt like there was something missing. I remember crying in one of my classes. I put my hands on my face, looked at the board and just started crying. I felt defeated and just started.

My parents said: “This is unlike Tumi.” So I went home.

Then it dawned on them that I may feel alone because my ancestors don’t know where I am. I had never left home, so it didn’t occur to us that it’s something that we have to do.

It explained why I felt so alone.

They couldn’t look out for me —they didn’t know where I was. So my father asked Rakgadi, his older sister, to make it known.

I didn’t think they could play such a huge role, in my life anyway.

I was mainly surprised with the difference it made — especially because I was a little sceptical.

So then it was like, this can’t be a placebo effect because I was never a believer. Instead it’s like, okay, this is real. 

— Boitumelo Ntebatse Mantji, a biomedical engineering graduate at the University of the Witwatersrand, as told to Zaza Hlalethwa