What we are experiencing today is the marginalisation of inferior languages by superior languages, the languages used for official purposes, for conducting businesses around the world are slowly killing the native tongues, some languages are disappearing as they lose grip of a fast changing world, in many countries when a child grows up they are forced to speak a foreign language at schools, a language they don’t speak at home, and by the time they grow into puberty they are unable to comprehend their mother tongue, since they are not preserved in books they are at the greatest risk of being lost, they remain at the mercy of the forces of globalisation.
“Our great-grand parents urged us to continue telling these stories,” remarked a Nyiika boy, they say, when the Europeans first arrived to the horn of Africa, in the early eighteenth century locals chiefs sent spies to them, to watch over their settlements from a distance, unfortunately no native spoke the language of the settlers at the time.
When one warrior saw ten European soldiers seated at a table discussing something he thought was fishy, he moved very close in order to listen to their talk, but he couldn’t hear nor understand anything. The messengers came back with this message. “the settlers & invaders don’t speak well like humans, they simply chirp like birds, and when you hear them call one another from a distance, they haul like baboons, they simply don’t know how to communicate well, the white man does not know how to speak like a human, we will teach him how to do so, the language of our tribe is the easiest in the whole world.” So we shall have to send our children to live with them for a while in their camps, to deceptively act as their servants, learn their language then they’ll run away, flee back to our village to reveal unto us their secrets, whatever hidden message they have, we shall know it soon enough.
Knowledge was passed down from one generation to another by words of mouth, no system of writing had been invented in in this part of the world at the time, so you had to remember everything you are taught. Everything from farming, family business, the act of warfare, fishing, religious ceremonies were constantly drummed into the children’s ears, those who had poor memories were regarded as a waste, an outcast to the community. In this part of the world, your memory was your treasure, your shield, your source of food and livelihood, everything.
The counting of some forest communities could barely go beyond twenty, this is because they were hunters and gatherers, who lived in very small families, they grew no food and never kept large stock piles of property, food reserves etc. all food they hunted using their bows and arrows was consumed instantly when they later intermingled with other tribes who were farmers and cattle keepers, one story as was told very often in folk tales was of the great chief, he was very excited about his newly acquired wealth all his life he has been in the bush hunting game meat, now he has animals in his homestead, that can give him a regular supply of this vital source of life, both milk and meat.
But there was a problem, the agile chief didn’t know how to count such many cattle, so he invented an ingenious plan to overcome such a hurdle, he went out and picked a pair of white stones exact in number to his cattle , so when the cattle left the shed in the morning, he removes the stones from the basket and drops them down side by, he stood there at the entrance, and as each animal walks into the pen later in the evening, he drops the stones into the basket, he picks a stone when an animal walks into the pen and drops it into the basket, one after another, after another, when all stones are in the basket, he’s relieved knowing that all the cattle are in the pen.