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Tenga Tenga; Can I Help You Carry Your Load?

The Decolonial Practice of Re-membering
Tenga Tenga
August 2, 2022

In 2021, Aaron Mulenga was part of AfroNdiLuso, a Research Residency conducted by Modzi Arts in Mbala, Zambia, which focused on interpreting questions of who or what ancestors are. While in Mbala he conducted research at Moto Moto Museum, where he learned about Africans drafted as porters during the First World War called Tenga Tenga. Their jobs involved carrying heavy loads of over forty-four pounds for distances of over fifteen miles a day. It took roughly eight Tenga Tenga to carry one British soldier’s equipment, revealing the grotesque amount of manpower needed to move the soldiers in that region. Over 80,000 Africans were conscripted into this labor, many of whom died on the job. A modest brick monument was erected in Mbala in honor of the Tenga Tenga, and though this is a necessary recognition of their service, the monument only commemorates a mere 1,467 men, which erases the memory of majority of the Tenga Tenga.

Aaron's research aims to further engage the story of the Tenga Tenga, the loads they carried, and the metaphoric loads they left behind-- loads of memory and cultural narratives that impact the way history is shaped. This research will engage the complexity of interacting with collective memory and loss while exploring how the imprints of the past can influence the present and the future, which is critical as it allows for a re-presentation of history in a way that includes narratives of people who were rendered voiceless through omission.