Killing Time is a short story penned by Nasibu Mwanukuzi, a Tanzanian writer, poet and musician. Nasibu is known for his experiments in music in which he blends African music, reggae with a dash of poetry. He has attempted to present the real charms of African music, poetry and dance by which features of African culture can be traced. Settled in Norway, Nasibu has brought forth various collection of his artistic enterprise and has performed for the African legend Nelson Mandela, when the latter made a visit to Norway. At intervals, he works with short stories as well. Killing Time, Days of Summer, The Stolen Amulet are some of his best short stories.
In Killing Time, as in his other short stories, we are introduced to the experiences of a young narrator who bear witness whatever happens outside. This young narrator is cast in half westernized settings where they brood over the intricacies of modern life. They expect something unexpected to happen. In Killing Time, as the title suggests, the narrator is spending his time lazily (a similar case can be read in Days of Summer, in which the narrator is thinking of death in the early morning hour while the whole world is busy with working) at a café and notices the arrival of a man of fifty or above, who finds a seat for himself away from the crowd and sits with a glass of beer. As time goes by, the narrator notices that the man is lost in thought and is seriously involved in some personal dilemma. He idly fabricates many reasons for the moody temperament of the stranger. Meanwhile, as he closely watches the stranger, he suddenly realized that he too is being observed by a third person. Gradually, the café is filled with smoke and he can see the old man amidst. To his surprise, the old man started rising up in the air with the table and half emptied glass of beer with him. It is difficult to say whether the old man really rose with the table or the narrator imagined him so. Whatever, this disenchantment with reality is a mark of Nasibu Mwanukuzi’s prose writings. In Days of summer, the author observes the reality outside, and suddenly gets detached from the normal and its significance. As he writes,
“Then suddenly, all of a sudden, and without warning, everything turned sad, the man with the yellow flag looked older, grey and sad.
In Killing Time, it seems that Nasibu is interweaving reality with magic. This can be an instance of adding the color of fantasy to a newly emerging culture which is, from an African point of view, dull and dry. Once western culture is introduced, its rationalized logics make the illogical, supernatural, primitive indigenous cultures insignificant and leave the natives in hand of a culture which is artificial, rational and detached. So, Killing Time can be considered as an attempt of the narrator to bring the harmonious life of the earlier culture and myths and get rid of the ‘killing time’ vacuum of the present.
The use of magic elements in prose and fiction is an important strategy of post-colonial writers. Writers from Africa and South America including Marquez, use magic realism as an extension of realistic narration which somehow ignores the real element of non-western cultures. The interweaving of myth/fantasy with realistic narration is an effective mode of narration in post-colonial discourse. Realism was the dominant mode of narration of nineteenth century novels which presupposed many euro centric notions with it. African and Latin American writers want to break these assumptions of realism and brought forth many elements of magic into the text which was one way of introducing their cultural heterogeneity into the main stream. Black American writers like Tony Morrison too attempted to put magic realism as a mode of narration in her fictions. This synthesizes the western mode of narration with the rhythm of the indigenous.
Nasibu Mwanukuzi presents the virility of a culture that caters to the imaginative realm of man. It is common among African writers to contrast the objective dull world of the present with the mystical, harmonious days of the past. Nasibu too contrasts the artificiality and dreariness of the present (where the purpose of living is missing, as the title suggests) and the colourful, imaginative, harmonious life of the ancient Africa is recalled. Expressions like ‘reincarnated’, ‘like a master yogi meditating above Kilimanjaro, may imply the spiritual harmony of the old. At the end, the man disappears and the narrator comes back to senses.