Lumbiwe: The Village Star – Episode 1
© Tisa Phiri
“Beauty and a good character are the most attractive virtues of a woman, especially one who has come of age” my grand mother told me as we sat outside her small hut. I enjoyed watching her prepare meals, everything she touched to prepare turned out so delicious.
” so mbuya.. tell me more about beauty and the other thing you mentioned….”
” mmmmmmm character you said?” I asked her excited as I rolled the small stool she had made from a bank of a tree. It was round but she curved it down so that it would sit flat on the ground without rolling over.
” Zelipa my child..you are something.. I said beauty and a good character attract men and people to a woman, but ofcourse one has to be careful because it’s not always that a magnet will attract good things you know?”
I looked at her..
“mmh I somehow hate it mbuya if you just tell me riddles. Why can’t you just tell me straight up what you mean?.”
Hiting my shoulders, she laughed.. “okay Zelipa I will tell you a story, about myself when I was your age..” she leaned forward and placed more wood to the fire making it improve its lighting and heat. she opened the moulded pot which was placed on the fire and shook it a bit. I wondered if she never got burnt with the heat. how possible is it that a 60 plus year old woman would touch a hot pot on the fire without a wince..?
Placing back the small plate on the pot, she gazed in the sky. I too looked up to see what she was seeing up there.
“you hear that?” She asked me.
“what mbuya ?” I asked not knowing what she meant, because I could hear insects click on the bushes some dogs barking from a distant village but she said,
” mhuuum” I agreed hearing the loud sound of the bird singing in the trees, the moon was full and bright…
“you know what the bird is saying?” She added her eyes still in the sky.
I let a laugh..
“mbuya that’s just a bird, how can you tell what it is saying?”
“yes I can child” she smilled revealing her countable teeth which were in her mouth.
” it is saying, ‘mwezi uwaaale! tikatenge bongololo..mwezi uwaaale!tikatenge bongololo!” [Let the moon shine..we go and pick millipeds..].
“oh” I nodded, now that she said it, it really sounded that way.
” wow !” I giggled. Going for the holiday was worthy it. I recall my mom telling me.
“Zelipa this holiday you should go see your grandmother in the village.” I was a bit hesitant but the idea of being with mbuya become exciting. I have always loved her talking. she made such expressions in her speech that will give you great imaginations. so here I am sitting by the fire place and enjoying her presence.
“So mbuya tell me about yourself now” I reminded her.
” kikiki” she laughed
” you and stories… okay where do I begin from?” she paused getting a small stick pushing it in the fire making it grow red.
“At your age..that is 13years old, in our time one was considered a woman. You could get married and even bare children. If you were lucky your parents would wait untill you turned at least 15. so I Lumbiwe was one of the few that their parents let go to school until I was grown enough, my parents were great farmers and my father was a good fisherman too. Everyone in the village knew he always came back from the river with more fish as compared to other fishermen. So you can imagine how much we ate fish.
I hated it anyway and preferred Bush meat. I would always boast saying
“I will marry a hunter ”
at 14 I was the envy of many girls my age. They all admired the flawless skin and long silk hair i had, my teeth were once full in my mouth and whiter too. So my beauty always preceded my reputation and it gave me pride.
One day, i was coming from fetching water with my friends. Along the path, we met the son of the greatest hunter in the village at the time, his name was Tendeka.. He was a strong man and hard working too and all my friends desired to get married to him.
He greeted us as we passed and all the girls responded with smiles except me. He then called me back.
” Yes” I answered, turning with pride to look at him.
“why didn’t you answer my greeting…?”
” mmmmmm am I obliged to?” I asked him holding my waist, he shook his head…
“you are too proud my dear.” he told me
“one day, I will put you in the way.”
I looked at him, his potruding muscles and chest exposed. He wore a small t-shirt with sleeves cut off. Indeed he was handsome. his face was calm and fearless. I took time to analyse his teeth, for sure he was a hunter’s son.. they were perfect… I would confess he was worth admiring.. however, I always aimed higher.. my dream was to marry the Prince..
“as soon as I matured I would make sure I make him notice me” i thought to myself.
However, I didn’t mature early. Most of the girls would see their first menses at 13 or 14 years. unfortunately I took longer than usual. Mine didn’t come until I was 15 and before that my grand mother would tell me that if I had hidden it from elders my fingers would grow long.” mbuya Let a laugh as I listened quitely .
“So what happened next ?” I asked her..
“Well I finally had periods in mid September, the perfect time to be put in the house. I was to be taught by the elderly women about womanhood and how to take care of myself, my husband, in short, they taught you all the traditional things one has to know especially how to take care of a man.
During the period, they sang songs and taught you dancing as they beat the drums.
After a month of being locked up for these lessons, the day finally came when I was to be released to perform some final traditions and then dance on the stage they made out of strong banks and grass. Everyone came to watch me dance, they wanted to witness the beautiful girl come out of age.
As the women led me out from the small hut I was kept for a month. I was covered in a chitenge, they sung songs. my father had bought meat, chickens were slaughtered and my mother brewed beer and munkoyo. other women were busy preparing food for all the people who came to the ceremony..
Time came to be uncovered and they made me stand on the stage we called ‘pa musasa’. everyone clapping and singing joyfully. I stood slowly with my knees bend. with pride..my waist fully exposed with some beads tied around it and my pointed breasts exposed. Though i was painted in white and red..people could see my exposed parts..except a small wrapper covering from my waist down to my kness. They tied some things which made a sound as I danced on my feet, placed some things to cover my face which dingled as I danced. Those who didn’t know me wouldn’t tell it was the following day..
I danced gracefully wiggling my waist my hands lifted up as the drums beat..and the women sung. The sound of the drums got my ears making my body more excitedly. I peeped through the cover on my face and there he was..
Smart, the village Prince.. he watched me with so much admiration and I was so proud. I saw Tendeka in the audience too..his stern look focused on me…I smiled in my head.
As the drums went..’click dingi, click dingiii..dingii
i dingiii click dingiii! ‘ I went wild turning all sides twisting my waist .. lifting my burst and throwing my hands side to side with confidence as my head moved with my body movements.
To be continued