Utatako Ep 4: Observations on identity and belonging

Zooming with the Zumas
Zooming with the Zumas Part One: Lessons on Fatherhood
May 18, 2020
Gender-based violence and the role parenting plays
June 18, 2020

Utatako Ep 4: Observations on identity and belonging

Utatakho

This was a painful episode to watch. We watched a 36-year-old man, Wandisile Njoti, going on a journey of discovering if a man he knew as his father was. He believed that he was because this is what his mother told him. 

But this was not a man that did not his parents. His mother was still alive, and there was a man he knew as his father, even after years of being denied by him. The treatment he received from him and his other children made him feel like he never belonged. 

Bhut’ Wandisile’s mother never had answers for him (a conversation for another day), and his ’father’ did not either. 

Identity is so important in black culture. 

Our roots as children of the soil are paternal. 

And paternity is generational. 

He wanted to know who his father is, not only for his own identity but because he was now also a father. His children were facing challenges he believed would be curbed if he knew who his real father is. He could know his real surname, perform the necessary rituals, and do the same for his children. 

But sadly, the episode ended with a paternity test that proved that the man he sat next to was not his real father. 

The years of feeling lost and lacking a father figure saw him getting caught in a life of criminality. Those circles welcomed him and gave him a sense of belonging. 

He was first arrested at 16-years-old. 

16-year-olds are at a psychosocial stage of figuring out what their identity is. If they can’t, they fall into crisis. Which is exactly what uBhut Wandisile experienced. This is according to psychologist Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development

One’s sense of self is developed in this stage, and it stays with them for the rest of their lives. 

Even at the age of 36-years, uBhut Wandisile is still experiencing an identity crisis. 

Utatakho

He was shattered as he learned that this man was not his father

Psychology Today explains that “feeling that you belong is most important in seeing the value in life and in coping with intensely painful emotions”. Belongingness is as important as food and shelter for human beings. 

And the lack thereof results in humans that are roaming the world with no sense of knowing oneself. Worse, they look for belongingness in other places/people. 

What’s worse for uBhut Wandisile is that even his mother abandoned him when he was a little boy, thus his anger towards her. There were accusations of violence from his mother. He threatened her with a hammer when they were arguing. He denied this and said, “I don’t remember”. 

It pains me to even think about how many people share a similar story as his. 

This further emphasizes the importance of a role that has, over the years, been abandoned by so many men; Father. 

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