Not too long ago, I was at a popular Café and happened to be seated next to two individuals, both adults and, from their appearance, they looked what would be easily rounded down to ‘decent’ appearance by the standards of and in any society obsessed with appearance.
They were engaged in a conversation, speaking in English, and, due to the close proximity, naturally, their conversation came into my ears. I wasn’t actively or attentively listening to them, but they were loud enough that they made it possible or even easy to listen to what they were talking about.
If this is of any consequence, they were or rather appeared, speaking generally, of a European descent. Or if you will, they looked and were the kind who would socially be described as ‘white’.
That said, I might choose to attribute the encounter – to be seated next to them – to something more and deeper than sheer happenstance given the deeply thought-provoking conversation between them.
In their conversation, they were talking about the Disney animated film The Lion King and its catch phrase “Hakuna matata” but more interesting and captivating, was their failure to agree on the correct pronunciation of the phrase.
One said, correctly, “Hakuna matata” and the other, seemingly fascinated by the phrase – suggesting a ‘this is the first time to hear this‘ sort of declaration – tried to repeat it and said something – what could easily be brushed off as an embarrassing slip of the tongue – “hakuna matako”.
That, the second individual’s attempt to repeat the phrase and how it was subsequently mangled up into something completely different but with a rather ‘obscene’ aura around it, given what it means, immediately caught my attention!
Before we proceed, it is worth giving a bit of background and stating that “matako”‘ [plural], is Kiswahili [word] and it means – translated – buttocks or bums.
It’s perhaps equally worth stating and reminding that “Hakuna matata” is Kiswahili – with slight variations – for: “there’s [are] no trouble[s]/problem[s]”
So, for the next few minutes, these two individuals deliberated on whether it is, indeed, “Hakuna matata” or “Hakuna matako”.
While I listened with intent, at this point, I was at the same time wondering how anyone could possibly and easily confuse “matata” and [for] “matako”.
This is perhaps, partly, because I understand Kiswahili and consequently, may have contributed to and led me into making a false assumption that the two individuals should surely know and understand what they were talking about.
As I listened to the ongoing deliberation between the two individuals , I started thinking and playing around with both phrases, replacing one with the other and trying to find any possible correlation between “matata” and “matako”, and the following is what transpired; somewhat obscenely poetic or poetically obscene, depending on one’s view – bearing in mind, of course, what both “matata” and “matako” mean.
Hakuna matata, Hakuna matako
Hakuna matako, Hakuna matata
Huna matata, Huna matako
Huna matako, Huna matata.
Hawana matata, Hawana matako
Hawana matako, Hawana matata.
Here is a simple English translation of the above poetic lines: “No problems [troubles], no bums. No bums, no problems [troubles]”
The fundamental moral here is that, despite our varied exalted social positions, at the heart of it all and the inevitable common thread is, we all have both “matata” and “matako”.
Rightly so, because – whether we like it or not – society imposes both, on us and we have to deal with it. Too often, to deal with it, requires or forces us to either be or act “matata” and/or “matako” or both – in some or various ways – to other people, those on the receiving end.
We are forever more preoccupied, seated on our “matako” – buttocks [bums] – with creating ever more “matata” – problems [troubles] – for/to others and indeed, by consequence or inversely, creating equal if not more “matata” for ourselves by and through our own either intrinsically well intentioned or right from the gutter outright evil actions.
The key and perhaps humble thing to do, is to know and be aware of when and at what point we are being or acting “matata” and/or “matako” or both to[wards] others, that is, those who are being victimised by our own – to borrow Huey P. Newton’s eclectic phrase – “chicken-shit ego”
It’s also important to note that the more socially exalted we’re, the more “matata” and/or “matako” – figuratively speaking – we [are likely to] have and certainly we are to[wards] others.
Lastly, “maisha [uzima] ni matata“, “maisha [uzima] ni matako”
That is, life is trouble. Life is a bum. Or put otherwise, life is that which occupies the space between troubles[problems] and bums.
A society that attempts to deny it has “matata”, is effectively a society that denies it has “matako”. And a society without “matako”, is effectively a society without “matata”. It is a dead society!