“Nostalgia is a seductive liar” – George Ball
In the novel Baho! by Ronaldo Rugero, the people of Kanya are plagued by a time of distress as the Burundi civil war (1993-2006) has left a behind a resentment and caution of people. The death toll of over 300,000 alongside a blistering drought has created an atmosphere of people longing for a better time as they suffer in the present.
“One eye makes out reality, and the other seeks the explanation for its harshness.” (7)
Kanya’s reminiscence of a time where “fathers would not undress their daughters” creates a strong resistance for anything that infringes of the nostalgic concept. Yet the men who strongly desire to go back to a simpler time contribute to the pain of their society by domestic violence and sexism.
The main protagonist, Nyamuragi, enjoys the necessity of the present as the past creates an illusion of satisfaction while the present suffers.
“The past rekindles memories and creates a pit in the stomach incapable of being filled. Long live the present! And his mouth.” (29-30)
The body politics depicted in the story can’t rely on the past, as the concept of necessity is nestled in the now. By denying the present of what it needs (maybe not to beat your wives and create a mob mentality) it is unable to survive. Memory becomes the highlight for this novel providing insight to the people’s life of Kanya, their upbringing and their struggles, and how it has put them in the position they’re in now.
In many ways we, America, share the same lust for a “return to innocence” while we feel that our morals are crumbling before us. We long for the Great Times of post-WWII, where one could let kids play in the street and wave at friendly neighbors except for the, you know, blatant sexism and absolute xenophobia, but America has moved WAAAAAAAY past that now so, don’t fret. Has there ever been a period of time that was truly devoid of conflict? In the same way, the people of Kanya wish for a time that in the mind has been scrubbed clean of any imperfections.