Lumbiwe: The Village Star – Episode 2
© Tisa Phiri
After a while of dancing, the people watched with joy and others with admiration. My male cousin scooped me and ran as fast as he could to the hut as all the people cheered. It was a really great time. My parents were proud and my friends all came to welcome me to womanhood ,” you are welcome Lumbiwe ” they said.
“Now that you have grown we all look forward to seeing who is coming to ask for your hand in marriage.”
Funny how every girl dreamed no further than marriage. I had always thought of aiming higher if am to get married. l told myself, It ought to be to an important man or a prince , not just any man in the village.
So one day,l went fetching wood alone in the woods after my mother insisted l get the wood since all my brothers were busy helping my father in the fields. As l walked, enjoying the feel of the fresh growing grass on my feet, humming to the song l learnt from initiation, I didn’t realise a nyau (masquerade) had followed me. when it cried out letting out a scaring sound l turned to look back and l saw it, wagging its whip as it’s outfit flew around him like it was windy. I ran as fast as l could screaming all the way.
It was never a good thing to meet a nyau , they had a tendancy of whipping anyone in their way especially women.
Just when all my strenght was gone and l couldn’t go any longer, l fell down to the ground panting and weeping in fear. He stood straight before me and l bow my head to him in respect like he was my master.
Instead of whipping me as l aniticipated, the nyau leaned forward and tried to touch my face. l looked away , he stood before me for a few more minutes. It was like he was enjoying watching me suffer , lifting me up with his one hand, l felt his strong hands holding my back. At that moment l almost collapsed , his strong smell filling my nose. He bend his head to the side watching me carefully his mask scaring me to the core.
As soon as he let me go. I took off leaving my chitenge caught in the branches of a small tree. I arrived home panting. my mother who sat outside sewing a basket saw me.
” Lumbiwe what is it ?” she asked when l fell on the mat panting and sweating.. All l could do is point in the woods untill finally, l managed to say ” nyau… nyau….!”
she sat back shaking her head.
” It really must have scared you to death my daughter , you look scared.”
” I hate those people” l cursed after calming down.
Two days later, my friend Dolika came to visit me. we sat under the tree as she braided my hair.
” So tell me Lumbiwe, how is it like being a woman ?”
I let out a laugh , “what can l say? well, it’s good , only that l cannot play my favourite games any more.”
she chuckled ,” yeah l miss those too , now its our tradition there`s nothing we can do.” She shrugged.
We laughed as we discussed our experiences in the initiation. Later, l called my young sister ,we used quarrel a lot and were always fighting. However , since the day l came out of the initiation, she had greatly changed. In fact she was now calling me ” a Lumbiwe” , how funny even my father started calling me aa (respectfully) and it sounded funny coming from him.
So l called my sister,
” Maaaa ! “she answered and we laughed with Dolika.
“How nice” , she said,
“now you are respected.” I stood and turned around ,
“just look at me ” l skit, “Am a woman” she clapped her hands as we both laughed out.
I escorted Dolika and on the way we met Tendeka. when he saw me he started laughing hysterically. We looked at each other with Dolika
“what ? ” she asked shocked and l raised my shoulders in ignorance ,
“l don’t know my friend, maybe we are naked” l teased.
Dolika went closer to him , “and what is funny this afternoon Tendeka, that you laugh at us like that ?”
” It’s nothing” he said as he tried to compose himself. Irritated we walked on ignoring him. On my way back l found him seated on the path like he was waiting for me.
“Oh no he didn`t just do that ” l thought to myself ,
“who does he think he is ?” I gnarled angrily. I charged forward deciding to give him a piece of my mind.
“What is it you fool ?” I snapped
“You laugh at us like we are carrying faeces on our backs and now you sit here knowing am coming this way. What is your problem?”
He stood up and blocked my way.
” I thought l warned you about that pride Lumbi ” he said , abbreviating my name.
” you never learn eeh?” , he said laughing again.
“You know what? I don`t have time for idiots like yourself!” l shouted pushing him out of the way as l walked away raising my bust and buttocks knowing so well he was watching me.
I hated his guts, there was something about him but I never wanted to look at him any different from what he was, a Hunter’s son and therefore not my type at all.
After walking for a few meters away, I looked back and was surprised to see him watching and grinning.
” stupid Hunter! ” i whispered to myself walking on.
To be continued
Lumbiwe: The Village Star – Episode 3
© Tisa Phiri
The following week, we were to gather at the king`s palace as there was a ceremony… called.. ‘gule wamukulu’. It was an event when different masquareds show cased their various skills and performances. It usually was a ceremony to look forward to especially if you were of age, because all the potential husbands were there.” She paused.
“how?” i asked mbuya when she paused,
“do you mean they all went to watch the dance?” i asked her.. “lets go inside Zelipa..its getting cold here” she said lifting the pot from the fire. I too got my stool and the one Mbuya sat on and followed her inside.
“Tell me more now” i said immediately we sat inside, the faint light of the bottle lamp showing our dark shadows on the wall… i liked the smell of a thatched hut.. it felt so cool and peaceful as well. My baby brother however, hated villages. He said they were ghost in the dark shadows and he hated the sounds of small animals and insects in the night. I was glad he had decided to go, for me it was a great adventure..
“so what happened next?” i asked mbuya when she lay on the small mat silent.
” well, to answer your question, yes there were a lot of men at the nyau dance but most of them were part of the nyau.. no man above the age of 12 was allowed to go and watch if he wasnt initiated into the nyau.. its only those elders who had retired or the young boys… everyone else was to be a nyau for him to be found at the ceremony… others performed and some where drumming.. the women and children`s own was to sing and clap.
As the ceremony progressed, I saw the Prince smiling cheerfully on the performers as he sat next to his father. I watched him in admiration and noticed he was stealing glances at me as well.. i smilled proudly knowing i got him… he winked at me and i smiled..
He was a tall and graceful man.. he had a weakness for women too but i convinced myself i would make him mine alone… i felt someone tap my back and when i turned to face who had touched me i saw a small boy looking up my face.
“The prince calls for you” he whispered. I looked at where he had sat.. the seat was empty, “Where is he?” i asked the boy. he pointed to the back of the palace.
“okey” i nodded and pretended to watch the dances. I was excited i accomplished my mission but i had to pretend i was not so much into him…
When i was satisfied, he’s waited enough i went to meet him..
“yes?” i said as i stood before him.. he smiled,
“Lumbiwe, you had to just make me wait didn`t you?” He shook his head as I stood near him.
” well Smart ..” i answered
“i was enjoying the dance.. why did you call for me?”. He came closer and smiled widely.
” you are beautiful and i heard you are now a woman.”
I pushed back a smile…
” oh i see people can talk aii..”
Pretending i didnt see him at my ceremony, he chuckled
“yeah its not people, i saw you myself… ”
“Oh” i shrugged,
” guess i have nothing to hide then…” he pressed his hands in my hair and i moved back.
“what do you want Smart?” i asked of course enjoying being so close to him…
He asked some silly questions not really telling me why he had called me.. i then turned to head back to the front as the noise of cheering and clapping increased. I knew it was my favorite nyau on stage…
“see me before you go ” he added as i was walking…
” ok” i said turning on the corner of the house.
Reaching the crowd, i pushed through back to where i had been standing with Dolika and my other friends…she looked at me with questions ..
” will explain later” i indicated to her. After the dance was over it was now the last performance of those masquerades that scared and teased people with long whips. As we all screamed with fear and excitement. I saw the same nyau that had scared me in the woods come my direction. it ran to me at full force and wagged its whip across where I was.. i jumped it and ran backwards. He came closer and made a loud cry for nyaus as he danced before me and turned back to the stage. some people who were watching laughed at me as I stood covered in dust and i felt so much embarrassed…
I walked away heading home furious..
” how dare he? that idiot nyau” i told Dolika who had joined me as i walked fast.
” this is the second time that fool is getting to me.. i swear next time i will undress him, i dont care what tradition says?” i spat…
” you cannot do that” Dolika cautioned me…
“its a taboo.. you can never see a face of a nyau especially that you are a woman.”
“oh then, let him stay away from me or else this village will hear that i too posses some madness…” I cursed.
To be continued