Born of Silence

by Mazuba Mwiinga

Chapter 4

Down the Plateau land, it was calm but hot. The sun was heating the land from the Tropical of Capricorn. Cicadas were complaining bitterly in trees. Birds hardly chirruped. They made incessant trips to and from the Village stream, Baceta to quench their bursting thirst. But from here some found themselves in tight ropes of traps set by villagers.
At Hapaku’s home in village Munjile all was a nine-day’s wonder. Namweemba’s first born child was now sixteen. Her name was Malweza locally meaning taboo. Only a few villagers knew how that name came about; yet no one dared to ask. Had the local adage Mungu Munene Uvumbwa Matu – ‘a big pumpkin is covered with leaves’, not valued very much? Surely, ignorance has no excuse. Its either you know and you speak rightly, or you don’t know and you keep quiet.
At sixteen, a typical Tonga girl was to graduate to womanhood. Her breasts were as pointed as a ripe cucumber; and that was dangerous, for men would have already started giving her deep sighs whenever she passed by them. Their looks would be so bewitching and penetrating through her. To avoid any embarrassment from the watchful public, she had to be initiated into a higher class of village status; taught how to behave as a young lady towards such advancing beasts; preparing her for marriage and social life; how to handle men in all circles of life and many other such village clap-traps.
This was particularly the fun part of the nkolola initiation rite. Mudonga, an old woman in her late seventies was hired to lecture Malweza on how to keep her home to perfection.
“My granddaughter, you will not be expected to grow horns as a sign of maturity”, she started her usual ancient propagandas. “For you to be in this house, secluded for all this time is proof enough that you are no longer a girl, but a woman who is expected to give your husband the best of his marriage to you. A good wife takes care of her husband the way she does to her children. Burning food while cooking is cause enough for divorce; so is poor performance when sharing the golden fruit at night”, at the mention of this she would smile as if reminding her of her sweet sixteen days.
“Men are crazy my granddaughter. They like surprises and whenever your husband calls for the secret tête-à-tête; even if you are in the middle of house chores, you have to take a break and attend to him. In that way he will never look elsewhere for quenching his binding thirst
“When he is talking its rude to answer him unless he asks you to do so. Don’t look at him on the forehead; it signals that you can challenge him which is not the way to keep him in charge. Always keep your body warm. I will show you tomorrow some roots you can be digging for yourself to mix in your porridge before you go to sleep at night. But don’t ever let your husband go to bed before you. It’s your duty to warm the bed for him before he joins you”.
The old woman spoke with agility and seriousness. She was one such woman who never left tradition behind. Her mind was always focused on what life was during their days as girls. Though her face was wrinkled with age, one would imagine her youthful posture behind that loosened skin. She should have been an attractive lady who could not have been walking around the village unnoticed. Just from her smile and tone, you would deduce some metallic postures of a woman who was proud of her dignity and character. Her only contradiction was that her favorite topic in initiation ceremonies of girls was marital matters. Villagers said that she was some kind of an expert on such for she managed to keep her marriage for more that fifty years before her one and only husband past away.
“It may sound fun for you my granddaughter”, she continued after taking a sip of cibwantu from a plastic cup. “But it’s so important for you. Have you seen this water in this cup; this water is very helpful. Use it at all necessary times. A woman should always take a bath before doing house chores in the morning and before going to sleep at night. When your husband upsets you, it’s uncalled for to bark at him; to cool yourself down just take a gulp of water and you will be fine. Always make sure your husband takes a bath before he goes to the field in the morning. If he can’t then as soon as he comes back at midday, make sure he washes his body. No matter how few his clothes or your clothes are, they should always be clean.
“Visitors are more important than your own relatives. Keep them safe, health and cared for. In this way you will never be a stranger to anyone even in a strange land. What happens in your house with your husband belongs in your bedroom. No one should get wind of it. ‘nkatombe kanu’, its your own dirty to clean. Our village has many people with various languages; but you have only two ears; make sure your ears only listen to such language which is palatable. If you allow your ears to pick everything it hears, you will become deaf, because your ears won’t manage to keep all the messages and that will be your end in your marriage. A trained wife has both the heart of a Lioness and a Lamb. Proud of her self and what she has and humble to everything that bleeds blood.
“Your times are very enticing. So don’t fall prey to what you see or hear about your peers. You are such a beautiful girl; but your looks are just like any other looks. Don’t let them deceive you. Selfishness and pride are the most hideous vices this world has ever given us; avoid telling lies and deceiving others; in that way you will be rewarded with old age like me”. Mudonga spoke with revered authority, breathing in peace meals as if she may not complete her sentences. She looked at Malweza and smiled broadly exposing her thick brown toothless gums. She enjoyed such times for she had nothing else to do apart from collecting dry wild fruits called mbula and pound them to make a traditional cake called cibbuubbu. But such times were so important to her for they brought her youthful memories so close to her heart.
“I think you have heard enough for today my granddaughter, but one more thing; the time you will open up your heart to someone its important to take note of him before you finally let yourself go with him. Men have different sizes of their manhood. Some have small ones, some medium ones and others big ones. But a woman of your stature need full satisfaction to avoid outside temptations. So you can guess who has what by looking at their fingers. If he has long thin fingers, so is his piece. Such pieces are painful because they almost reach the core of your house and pregnancies are very quick. If you are not ready for a baby such a man should be avoided.
“If his fingers are short and broad, hence his piece too; and such pieces satisfies us though sometimes it may hurt you if it is too broad. Pregnancies are slow because the water has to go a long way into the baby chamber. Such men are the right ones if you are not ready for a baby but just play; but they are not good for marriage. The right men are those with long and not broad fingers. These will give you both satisfaction and children”, she giggled and laughed to herself.
Mudonga never got tired of talking. She would speak and speak until she spoke no more. For six months, Malweza received different women with different experiences, each with her own theory on how to be a woman. Only two days was remaining before she graduated. Preparations had already started. Grass shelters were built and meal-rice was ready for brewing cibwantu. Goats were already selected for butchering and a celebration drum beat was unceasingly sounding making the whole village and others beyond be aware that something jovial was underway here.
Then the D-day arrived; the eve of the graduation. A dance known as kulinda was held to welcome Malweza in the class of respected people in society. From every nook and corner of the plateau, villagers hurdled together at Hapaku’s home that evening. They were whistling and humming tunes of famous songs as they came in the compound. Some were hurling obscene at no one in particular but just as a sign of attracting attention. Others were shouting and wailing rowdily. In a moment or two, they all broke in a frenzy of an acapella-tuned song; the latest kalimanda jive rhythm originated by the highlanders. The young men who in a split of a second formed a circle wheeled their waists; scampering and jerking their fronts and backs in sexy styles as they chorused in an almost same vocal syllable.
The drummers – three men from the eastern end of the plateau, beat the drums to ear deafening. Animal skin made instruments throbbed to a point where they almost talked. The rhythm possessed old men and women who sat on mats and stools speechless; reminding them of the times they would be leading the procession like this and gradually they started jittering and humming; their heads nodding in anticipation. They were carried away by childhood thoughts; those days they would play hide and seek under the bright moonlight. Kalimanda wasn’t there at the time, but its rhythm was maddening too. Ululation filled the air; enticing lame men and women to wishful thinking. Nsabata was the one leading the song; the very young man popular in every ceremony and celebration. He would lower one song stanza, high-pitch the other line and almost talked on the other; and a rippling of joyous laughter would explode mostly from young women; sharp and high like an afflicted pack of laughing jackasses, as men picked it up with the chorus.

Disi kalimanda walala
Disi kalimanda
Yeeye kalimanda
walala iyeeye
Yeeye kalimanda
walala yee….

Midnight swiftly gathered over the heavily filled home, as joyful guffaws echoed round the whole plateau. Drums throbbed from dusk to down; villagers dancing and prancing round the drummers. The light of dawn which put whining predators to flight afflicted a further slam of drums, this time to wake up all those who were still asleep. At about midmorning, they called it a day.
In the afternoon, every bit of the ritual was performed. Malweza the initiate known as kamwale, covered in a citeenge cloth from head to feet was led by a best lady known as mubbazi to a place where two seats were prepared under a cool shade of mubombo tree in the middle of a circle of gathered celebrants. In front of the seats they occupied was a table with two metal plates for gifts. One was for her mukowa – mother’s relation and the other for her mausyi – father’s relation.
The Master of Ceremony known as Mwaambilizyi got ready to start the phase of the initiation. People danced first until he stopped them to make an announcement just in time for women to break up in a song amid merry ululation.
“Amuteelele”, the MC announced. “Moonga says ‘this girl seated here is my child. So I have fetched this coin for her’, hats off for him!” Ululation cracked as a thanks giving song followed:

Niiniini nsekelele mali
Nsekelele mali
Nsekelele mali
Nsekelele mali
Nsekelele mali

Let me be happy for the money
Let me be happy for the money
Let me be happy for the money
Let me be happy for the money

Amid joy, the MC came in: “Halt! Yes, halt. Today is today. Hakadeene says, ‘who is this man called Moonga so rich that he offers fifty kwacha for this girl while the likes of us don’t even know her? She might be a village queen sure. So I have these coins as well; one hundred kwacha! I want the whole congregation here to see this village beauty’ any counter-reactions?” Bbusu the MC bellowed with his rusty hoarse voice and there was a circulation of murmurs across the spectators as heads turned in all directions expecting someone to throw a challenge. Then one man, Muneke with a walking stick in his right hand, walked to the MC and whispered in his left ear. Bbusu beamed with a delightful smile.
“Well, well, well where two bulls are battling for recognition, it’s the innocent grass that suffers. They say ‘a man is seen by his actions and not words’. Muneke here says ‘as far as I am the uncle to the girl at hand, no one can see her amazing beauty before the ceremony is over. Let anyone who thinks is richer than me throw a dice of challenge. Here is one hundred and fifty kwacha’, manja aayo! - Let claps crack!” women broke in a song as the drum roared with happiness. No one was able to challenge Muneke with his heft amount of money he bate. So the ceremony continued; they danced and brought gifts of various décor while others offered money.
At the end of the ceremony, villagers were offered nsima with meat so were drinks of cibwantu for those who were sober minded and bukoko for those with spirited brains before they one by one disappeared just as they had come.
Malweza was then set free from the bondage of being kept in the house for six months. Her posture changed to a glossily frightening beauty. Men would hide in tall grass beside her way to have a good view of her body structure. They wouldn’t manage a direct eye contact with her for it lowered their eyes in shyness of appetizing passion. Her changed complexion was so bewitching that had it been a painting, it would have been the famous Mona Lisa.
She was a girl abounding in goodness of heart. She caressed a true turtle-dove. Buttocks were low-slang and of smooth and infinite to touch. She always wore a scent of green guavas. Her face wasn’t for mere looking. A tongue taste would have been such a condoning heart breaking matter. She wasn’t brown neither black. She wasn’t light or dark but of a glossy color just like the quill-feathers of a peacock. She had white even teeth that looked as if they weren’t meant for eating. Her nose was that fine straight one like a taut thread. Her breasts like yams, firm and gleaming. Her voice resembled the tune of a dove.
No world word matched her looks. Unlike for her movements, unceasing smile at anyone and evenly built body make up; one would otherwise have mistaken her for being a younger sister unlike a daughter to Namweemba her mother.
Now that the training was over and she graduated with honors, what remained was to be in employment; attending to someone’s home duties. Many suitors had already rested their hearts on her; they just waited for her parents’ approval. Some came from as far places as the highlands; others as far as the eastern hills of Kavuna; some came from across Baceta stream in the plains. This had pleased Hapaku the grandfather. He knew her granddaughter brought up in shameful circumstances would now end up growing up like a princes and not just like any ordinary girl who was once a village laughing stock. He knew too that Malweza’s marriage will make him popular and rich. So he just interviewed the suitors first and turned them back for a later date. He wanted to have ample time to scrutinize the bidders together with his childhood elders.

NOTE: This is a 15 Chapter novel. You know more about it if you continue coming to this blog.

Copyright: 2008 Mazuba Mwiinga

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews and for the purpose of teaching and or learning.

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