Wisdom and Experience: “the meat close to the fire is best roasted” African proverb

An African wise elder nearing the end and close to home to all of us, was asked about the King’s temperament and the impact on His Royal Highness’ Kingdom; the wise elder chose to address the King’s courtiers: “the meat close to the fire is best roasted.”

To the rest of the King’s subjects, the wise elder reminded, in a rather cautionary manner, when the Chief’s dog – chief dog in the Chief’s Chiefdom – barks; it’s either that the Chief has tickled it into the barking mode or it barks to raise alarm, so the Chief must listen. When the Chief’s dog – chief dog in the Chief’s Chiefdom – barks; the Chief’s underlings pay careful attention, with mustered calm, to the chief dog. Because the Chief’s underlings know that when the Chief’s dog – chief dog – barks, the Chief is communicating [something]. What precisely the Chief is communicating; the Chief’s underlings will know from experience without the Chief muttering a word. For, a Chief who speaks and communicates directly to his underlings, is an ordinary Chief. An ordinary Chief is no Chief; because to be Chief, one must chief it over the chiefed.

The wise elder, after that arduous elaboration on the wisdom and art of chiefing, in a rather rambling manner, concluded: as it is done in the Chief’s Chiefdom; the King in his Kingdom chiefly does what his Chief, in the King’s Kingdom, does in his Chiefdom. This is because a clever King does what his Chiefs do in their chiefdoms. The King’s subjects, therefore, must pay critical attention to the King’s dogs in the King’s court and their reaction particularly when, not only “the meat close to the fire” is being “best roasted“; but also when it’s being prepared to be best roasted or cooked. The King always decides on preference.

The wise elder was also asked by the King’s courtiers why he goes to bed naked; without pyjamas. In a rather uncharacteristic exasperation of someone of his wisdom and experience; the wise elder asked the King’s courtiers whether their ancestors would know what pyjamas are?

The courtiers, sensing they were up against wisdom and experience gathered over a lifetime in the King’s court, bowed and immediately retreated to court courtesy; silence. The wise elder, still visibly dealing with his exasperation not so much at the insensitivity of the question but the disturbing ignorance of the King’s courtiers of their own African history. He calmly reminded the King’s courtiers, drunk on and obsessed with modern King’s court titles – and enraged, some keeping a grudge for and if not addressed as “Excellency, Honourable” – that Africans went to bed naked because it was convenient with the weather.

It is worth noting that all the King’s courtiers, as is the King, are all Africans in appearance, with token African names and observing some token African royal customs but western [influenced] in mind, behaviour, mannerisms and aspirations and without doubt deeply moulded in western civilisation and its value-system. It’s no exaggeration to say that they are the paragon of western civilisation in [their] any African kingdom, through and through. It was not until the marauding uncivilised European savages went to Africa, ashamed of and insecure about their own bodies and nudity; saw Africans confident about their own natural bodies, happy and secure in their nudity, forced them to cover themselves with European garments.

The wise elder, at this point, visibly tired and struggling for breath during a critical period in his nonagenarian lifetime when air, in the COVID-19 era, is a critical enemy to human health and breath, therefore, must be carefully rationed; asked the King’s courtiers whether or not the King is naked?

The tables were turned, wisdom and experience gathered over a lifetime in the King’s court clearly demonstrated, and the King’s courtiers were visibly not only extremely exasperated but uncontrollably dismayed – clearly put off their stroke; by the question. As if that wasn’t enough pounding sense into their courtier heads, the wise elder, sensing their extreme exasperation, dismay and unconcealed embarrassment; with a slight cheeky grin, asked the courtiers: would you tell the King that he is naked? How would you tell the King that he is naked?

“I would walk to the King naked” One courtier replied. That’s unacceptable behaviour in the King’s court. It’s not acceptable court manners. The wise elder warned. “Why bother tell the King that he’s naked?” Another courtier asked. The wise elder, pensively looked at him for a while, and asked this courtier whether, during his court time and experience thus far, he has heard of the court game called “treason“?

The courtier bowed and retreated to court courtesy – silence – but the message was understood.

“But the King can’t be naked. It’s not possible for a King to be naked. Even if he would be naked, I wouldn’t see it that way. I prefer to look at the King with King eyes” Another courtier bellowed. The wise elder, clearly tired and with eyes shut, drifting to sleep but impressed by the third King’s courtier’s perspective and attitude, complimented; you’ll last long in the King’s court and service. For, blessed is the courtier who looks at the King with king eyes and kings the King.

Blessed is the King’s courtier who kings the King’s dogs in the court, treats them like dogs they are outside the King’s court. But, the wise elder hastened to caution: beware of “the meat close to the fire is best roasted.” Beware of the King’s dogs in the court too.

But the King is naked; and the King knows he is naked. The King is insecure too about his nakedness. The King’s courtiers know too well that the King is naked and insecure about it. They are baying for the moment, the right moment to tell the King what he dreads to hear – what’s otherwise sacrilege in royal custom but what’s on their minds, what they see daily as they attend to the King under their royal duties – that the King is naked!