My Superman appeared around the same time Siegel’s & Shuster’s red cape and underwear wearing superhero officially did.
On 27 May 1938, while the two comic strip creators were sitting on a gold mine which sparked the beginning of the Superhero genre, my superhero was, I imagine, being carefully carried by the village midwife, and then placed on his parents’ bosom.
My Superhero had arrived at a nondescript village on the rocky outcrops of Fiji. I picture the earth shaking as his spaceship landed and I fancy that the chip on the side of the rock exposure that is Udu Point, very near where our village sits, was caused by my Superman’s ship. Run with me on this please.
He may have cried up a storm. My father never has trouble showing his displeasure. Or he may have stubbornly refused to open his mouth to show his discomfort. He is also capable of withstanding extended periods of pain. Either way, in my mind’s eye, his arrival may have been extraordinary. Because to me he is an extraordinary man. From the top of his hair to the tip of his toe, my Superman was greater than any superhero anyone could ever imagine.
A day before my Superman’s 10th birthday, the world would have witnessed the election of Daniel François Malan to the position of Prime Minister in South Africa. He was the brain child of The National party which began the Apartheid, the systematic discrimination of men based on the colour of their skin, a sour reminder to humankind that at the root of our souls was an evil that was so pervasive that we could manifest it into institutionalised hate.
My superman was not to know that this single act which happened before he had reached the age of 10 would make a poignant memory for him 47 years later when Chester Williams, the first coloured man on the South African team would lift up the World Cup Rugby Trophy. I watched, along with my Superman, as one by one they lifted the trophy, my superman marvelling at the sporting prowess he had just witnessed while I just eyed Westhuizens’ abs.
To everyone else my Superman may have been ordinary. Losing a father before reaching the age of twenty may have been ordinary at that time, however he did an extraordinary thing and left the small rocky outcrop and made his way to the City. This was an act similar to that many men of around the same age in the US military did. Men who did not know of the harmful radiations they were being subjected to on Bikini Atoll and the surrounding areas.
On his 20th birthday, the magnolia blast would have been detonated around 6am on a barge on the Pacific Ocean producing a 44,000-foot mushroom cloud. Like the displaced atoll islanders who had to find new homes, his migration to the city would have been strange, exciting albeit sadly necessary at the time. And like the displaced atoll islanders, he would have found that no amount of compensation or bright lights that the city had could ever replace the feeling of home or belonging to one’s own land.
Seven days after Waisale Serevi was born in Suva, my Superman would have been celebrating his 30th birthday and looking forward to starting a family. He had found his human land, his anchor, his sense of belonging; and his tribe would be established by his almightys’ hand. He did not know then (or maybe he did, my superman is an incredibly determined man) that thirteen years later he would be carrying his youngest child in his arms. His life would be witnessed by this daughter who saw her father as a colossus superman and what his daughter saw was good, and inspiring and painstakingly beautiful.
Every memory of him took on superhero proportions. He probably doesn’t realise that every act he did was locked away and remembered by her and every now and then she’d take it out to reassess it her mind. Like how she remembers him taking them to the river pool near Baloos because that’s where the deeper end was and he knew that Baloo was fearsome to kids and his wonderful river pool was not. Or how he would stop by the cocoa plants to open up some pods on their way to the yaqona farm even though it slowed all them terribly and the cocoa pods could only feed a few young mouths. Or how he could sense rain with his nostrils and before it hit the roofing iron he’d yell, ‘na civicivi me au mai I loma’ then thanking the girls after for scrambling fast enough and the house was smelling of freshly sunned grog. Or how he could come home after work and pound the grog on the tabili because we were selling them for 50 cents a bag so that my siblings and I could get into good high schools. And when we did, how he increased the price to $1 a bag, so that we could get into university and when all that was over he sat on the chair he made, at the table that he fashioned, in the house that he built, and looked to his human land that he lovingly belonged to and said, “sa rawa na nodaru I tavi”.
I was part of the task; he was my Superman and a fulfilled life was his reward for trying. These are the nostalgic recollections of an almost middle-aged woman about her Superman. A Superman who at 82 still commands so much respect.
He is extra ordinary I tell you, not because he is my father, but because he is a dad. They say anyone can be a father but it takes special men to be Dads.
Who is your Superman? More importantly, who are being Superman to? That simple act of stooping to hear your child better speaks volumes to a child. That being there, being attentive being present is part of your Superman disguise so make sure you are supermanning right!
Happy Birthday my Superman.