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  • A Luta Continua:Toward Trickster Intellectuals and Communities
  • Musa W. Dube

To be in the struggle for justice and liberation is … to be in a luta continua, the struggle that always continues.1

I. The Ghost of Pharaoh

The recently produced movie Exodus: Gods and Kings,2 highlights that Moses was raised as an Egyptian prince in Pharaoh’s court together with the real prince, who later became a new oppressive Pharaoh to the Hebrews. Moses and the prince grew up as family and friends. Later, Moses goes into exile and then returns to solicit Pharaoh for the liberation of his people from oppression. Pharaoh resists until the plagues break his hard heart after the death of his first son. He sets the enslaved Hebrews free but then regrets this decision. Taking his best soldiers and chariots he pursues them, intending to bring them back. The Hebrews are crossing the Red Sea when the Egyptian army catches up, entering into the dry sea. The water reverts to its normal state, drowning the Egyptian army with their chariots. Pharaoh, however, is washed by a high wave to the shore, where the Hebrews have crossed. As the movie ends, he is seen walking on the shore with Moses! With this ending the movie makes an unflattering point: the ghosts of oppressors stay and travel with the oppressed, even when it seems the latter have crossed over to the place of liberation. The oppressed of yesterday therefore embody the former oppres sors and become the oppressors of today. Kenneth Ngwa’s exposition of postwar hermeneutics thus cites Masiiwa Gunda’s observation that many Moseses of African countries have become Pharaohs of today. [End Page 890]

The pursuit and presence of Pharaoh also highlight the obvious, namely, that the oppressors do not give up on their subjects—they want their labor and resources. They therefore harness their best horses and chariots to keep following them and reaching them in one way or another to persist with their agendas of oppression and exploitation. If there is something instructive in Pharaoh’s long pursuit and his survival in the movie, it is that the struggle is never finished. It is rather a luta continua,3 the struggle that continues. One is never really free from the various oppressive structures; one is always pursued. This situation calls for trickster intellectuals4 and communities, who are perpetually in suspicion of the powerful and their institutions, for all possible forms of oppression and exploitation. In my response to Kenneth Ngwa’s proposed postwar framework of reading, I begin by tracing the southern African wars of liberation and the ghosts of pharaohs that have haunted the region. This remembering of history is an act of divination5 that sets the stage for trickster6 reengagement with Egypt. As I understand it, Egypt refers to our very own national, regional, and international structures, institutions, and communities where our relationships occur.

II. Remembering the History of War

My high school and university years were marked by southern African regional wars of liberation.7 The 1970s saw intensified Mozambique, Zimbabwean, [End Page 891] South West African (Nambian) wars of independence and the South African struggle against apartheid.8 Although Botswana was then regarded as an island of peace (given that the country was surrounded by the regional wars of liberation), it hosted refugees, who were fleeing, staying, or passing through en route to training centers in other countries such as Zambia, Angola, Mozambique, the Soviet Union, or China. The black student uprising against apartheid and the massacre of protesters on 16 June 1976 happened at the end of my high school years. The unrest forced scores of students to flee to countries in the region for safety and for military training to fight the white minority regime of South Africa.

Botswana may have hosted other liberation-struggle personalities who ventured into the oppressed countries, to wage war against the colonizing powers. I remember a night of systematic bombing of houses in my city that were known to host liberation fighters. This context of war was not something distant for me, inasmuch as I came from a Zimbabwean...


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