Two key ideas in Roland Rugero’s Baho! are belly politics and time, particularly the desire to be in the present. Both of these ideas are fed by the characters’ love of food and drink.
In this world, where really there is little to do but wait for rain, eating is considered savoring the present, while “the past rekindles memories and creates a pit in the stomach incapable of being filled” (pg 29). In the same paragraph, it is said “in order to forget his tormented past and the horrors that mark his dreams, he eats” (pg 30). The characters may not be able to change their past, or predict their futures, but they can manipulate their present and one of the easiest ways to do this is by eating. They know that when they eat, it will feel good, and thus they begin to rely on it.
Throughout the novel there are personifications and in depth descriptions of food, creating a hungry, passionate tone. Eating is even seen as an act of valiance. This attitude is applied to all food, including the meat
He dismantles chicken and other meats with force, gleefully cleaving beef and pork apart with no discrimination whatsoever (pg 11)
This is interesting, because Nyamuragi considers his animals a part of his family. It seems these characters either have found so much pleasure in the process of eating or are so adapted to eating whatever they can in the drought that they give little thought to what they are actually eating, whether it be some corn or a family pet.
They same attitude is also applied to drinking, at least for the men. “One rarely said that a man was “drunk.” No, he was “beer-sated.” Drinking was a meal that furnished endless afternoon arguments and evening deliberations” (pg 11). In this we can already begin to see the double standards of this world, because if a woman were to drink like that it is likely the men would frown upon it.
What truly inspires this hunger though, is not just love of food but also the dark and unchangeable past. The people are hungry to move forward and keep living in the present, satisfying both belly and soul. It is in this way that they can feel productive and accomplished, like they are purifying their society of the wrongs and misfortunes of the past while still remaining in the present.