Sometimes silence can speak profoundly louder than words and that’s the concept that the author, Roland Rugero, is attempting to explore in his novel, Baho! The main character is a mute and through his depiction is a metaphor for Africa as a nation and its people. The silence of their struggle has endured so long that it becomes a permanent condition, a tradition, natural.
Our protagonist, Nyamuragi, explains that he used to enjoy the peace that came with the instances of prolonged silence experienced in his youth while tending the sheep. The people of Africa have a central belief that they are connected to nature and each other and that is how they make sense of the world so it’s not a coincidence that the peaceful silence expressed here is portrayed as coming while alone with just nature and his animals. The peaceful scenes of tranquility and bliss briefly mentioned are an Homage to what peoples lives consisted of before being colonized and corrupted by conflict.
Rugero uses the theme of silence as to how it relates to the dysfunction of the family dynamic, specifically between father and son. Nyamuragi comments on the tone and atmosphere of his home living situation, “words were rare in that family, laughter even rarer” (9). There is a spirit of oppression and depression lingering over this household forever defined by the words never said. The silence that rested on him as a child, once preference and now permanent, has coincidently infected the rest of his family and I think the author does this to express the depths and channels to which trauma can travel and the effect it can have on individuals, families, and even the nation as a whole. The sentence structure and word choices all echo the same theme with their short length and simplicity, he refrains from wasting time with words that are inconsequential to the point or meaning trying to be conveyed.
Finally, how did Nyamuragi become a mute? He was always inclined to the peace and solitude born of silence and so it wasn’t that he couldn’t talk, it was that he chose not to. His reluctance or resistance to assimilate to the ancient art of verbal communication in his youth inadvertently leads to the very ability of speech being forever impaired. I think the author uses this symbolism and imagery of lost voices and silent families to highlight the importance of communication and how important it is to never let yourself be silenced.