Gukurahundi

It is always winter, now. The trees are a delicate tracery of twigs, black against the grey skies, and the rotted branches grasp me, clawlike, each step a battle. Frost crunches beneath my worn boots as I crest the rise. Below me lies the valley, indistinct in the dawn mists that rise from the river. The cold enters my lungs like martial steel. The ring stretches before me, a mile wide, cloudy circles retreating into darkness and unknown depths.

I wish I could say this was the only site. It doesn’t match the great ring at Auschwitz, twelve kilometres across, the weight of millions boring into the earth. In New York, 9/11’s cone punches the soil like a fist, concentric circles of horrified loss. This few hundred metres of psychic wound is a locus, I think; it stands for more than the sixty-two massacred, concentrating the atrocities across the province into one great wound in the earth.

A single bloody decade is memorialised here, as it wasn’t when it happened. The ones we can’t identify are worse – solemn, incomprehensible, mathematical mutilations that mark a magnitude of loss our history ignored, or can no longer recall.

We have given up trying to account for the rings. Like the winter, they pass on history an inscrutable moral judgement; we have been all too aware that the billions who starved have created no rings of their own. This disfigurement is of our own making. I do not know if the realisation is enough, but I hope. Like others before me, I will shortly walk down this slope to plunge into the cloudy, geometric depths – to fall, endlessly, appropriately, into dissolution.

None return from that journey. None deserve to. If all who survive sacrifice themselves, it will barely begin to ameliorate our crimes.

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