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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Interpreting Kanumba death outpouring of grief

15th April 2012
Steven Charles Kanumba

It is widely acknowledged that since the death of founder President Julius Nyerere, never has the country been gripped with grief and shock that in any way compares, even distantly, with what has been experienced following the death of Steven Charles Kanumba.

For a young man of 28 years to have been an icon beyond pair or comparison, such that more than one hundred people are declared to have fainted and close to half a dozen losing consciousness (some claim there were outright deaths), at least one opting to take poison and also die, was beyond imagination. As they say, truth is stranger than fiction.

While in nominal or elementary terms what took place was the death of a film artiste and director or producer, in actual fact it was the removal from the life of millions of fans of an icon of everyday life in their homes, rooms or groups. There is an old dinner prayer among

Europeans which talks about an 'unseen guest in every meal,' in which case people are now comparing the late Kanumba with an unseen guest in

every household, such that the grief is felt very personally, a direct excision of a part of oneself.

That is why people collapse with grief

because a part of their balanced hormones, feelings is severed.

What this outpouring of grief indicates is that there is an aspect of national life that it taken a little too lightly among 'bookish' centres or spheres of national life, which they don't comprehend its


It shows that plenty of what goes on in ordinary life as mere gossip is the lifeline of sentiments across large numbers of

youths and not too few adults as well, as anything that happens to one of their icons, or in this case the key figure of their sentimental life, is injurious to their very mental state, psychic balance. It is

what is called hero-worship, where a person becomes another life, superhuman in society.

These unchecked and overpowering feelings about Kanumba remind one (of

the old school) a line in Julius Caesar, the Shakespearean drama which Mwalimu had translated in his younger days to Juliasi Kaizari. The leading conspirator against Ceasar, then a successful general whom a portion of Roman free people wanted to make him their king, is muttering to someone he is drawing into the conspiracy being hatced to kill Ceasar, out of envy. He says “he doth bestride the world, like a

colossus,” which is precisely what the late Kanumba did in homes of hundreds of thousands; he represented their dreams.

The feelings demonstrated about the late Kanumba dwarfed by far and away the massive outpouring of grief following the death of Special Seats MP Amina Chifupa (UV-CCM) about five years ago.

He was well beyond being an artiste, that is, a character or individual that people see often, from time to time, and learn to identify with him or her, the sort of which is called a 'role model.' The late Kanumba had passed the stage of a role model and was the very expression of a

specific parameter of national life – he was its heartbeat, the throb of life, the best glue that put together that community, or its table salt.

Judging by the number of films he is supposed to have acted or been involved, it is virtually the case that all films that were produced in 'Bongowood' had to have Kanumba in one or other role, if not, indeed, the leading role. When such films constitute the centre of routine

entertainment for hundreds of thousands of homes, one can imagine who left their homes. He was their most welcome guest, always.

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