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Monday, October 13, 2008

The Story of Africa

“Africa, Her People, Her Glory, Her Tears.”

A long time ago, there lived a woman named Manzandaba (mah-nzah-ndah’bah) and her husband Zenzele (zay-nzay-lay).

They lived with their family in a traditional home in a small mud hut on the outskirts of the village homestead and for the most part, they were very content.

The girls would spend their days with Manzandaba weaving, cooking and making pottery and the boys hunted and tilled with Zenzele, who also had the hands and heart of an artist.

In the evenings when the family would sit around the fire before going to sleep they were restless. It was too dark for weaving or carving, and yet too early to go to sleep.

“Mama” the children would cry, “Sifuna izindaba!” (see-foo-nah ezee-ndah’-bah) “We want stories! Tell us some stories, Mama!”

Manzandaba would think and think, trying to find a story she could tell her children, but it was of no use. She and Zenzele sought the counsel of their neighbors, but none of them knew any stories. They listened to the wind but they heard nothing.

One day Zenzele told his wife that she must go in search of stories. He promised to look after the home and to care for the children. Manzandaba agreed. She kissed her husband and children good-bye and set off.

The woman asked every creature she passed but had no luck until she met a gazelle. “Oh, kind Ndlovu (ndloh’-voo), “she asked, “do you know where I might find some stories? My children and people are hungry for some tales, and we do not have any!”

“Dear woman,” said the gazelle , “I do not know of any stories but my friend Nkwazi (nkwah’-zee) the great spirit bird might be able to help for he is able to see the secrets of the big, wide world.

They found the spirit bird near the mouth of the Tugela River and called out ad he was swooping down from the sky.

“Nkwazi! Nkwazi,” the gazelle shouted. “Oh great and wise Nkwazi, this woman is hungry for stories to take back to her family and her people. Do you know where she might find such tales?

The bird looked carefully at Manzandaba. “Woza, nkosikazi”, said the bird.

“Hello,” said Manzandaba. She told the bird of her desire.

“ Climb onto my back and hold onto my wings,” said Nkwazi, I will carry you first to the Land of the Spirit People to a time close to the age where the First Man and First Woman walked upon the earth.

The woman took hold of his large wings and up they went into the expanse of the sky before swooping into time. The spirit bird took her straight to the thrones of the King and Queen. They were so regal and their eyes burst with mystery from beneath their beautifully painted faces and jeweled wraps.

Manzandaba bowed down before them.

“What do you wish of us, woman form the other side?” they asked.

“Do you have tale that I could take to my people?” Manzandaba asked rather shyly.

“Yes, “they said, “we have many stories. Our ceremonies, our family life and our traditions have been with us since the beginning of time. But what will you give us in exchange for those stories, Manzandaba?”

“What do you desire?” Manzandaba asked.

“What we would really like,” they said, “is a picture of our future.” We have heard talk that there is and umillo (fire) coming our way and we are scared for we have been told it will destroy our way of life. Since you can travel through time with Nkami, can you bring us mews of what our future will look like.”

Manzandaba could not believe her luck; this would yield her a treasure chest of tales.

“Oh, yes!” she answered. “I can do that! Thank you, thank you!’

Manzandaba set off to do as the Spirit King’s bid.

Again Nkwazi sped through time and soared fast as lightning. Manzandaba saw as many villages as there were hills and land and seas. She saw large compounds with several generations of family living in them.

“These children are as important as my children,’ she said as she looked on and saw how each child’s development was shared by every one in the community.

“See where your own traditions began?” prodded the bird, “all these children belong to the village.”

Nkwazi hovered above a wedding ceremony. There was much laughter and gaiety and a huge, sumptuous meal that everyone had come to share.

In time they reached a great river and paused. Everything looked strange but still familiar: the land, the great mountains, and the people. But as Manzandaba turned toward the river to drink she felt a great heat. When she looked she saw an Umillo its heat dazzled her eyes and caused her skin to burn. In the water Manzandaba and Nkwazi saw Death, Disease and Destruction. They saw children burying their parents. They saw babies being born with a sickness that killed their parents. The saw small children wandering around without care, food or hope.

Manzandaba could not take this news back to the Spirit People, instead she instructed Nkwazi to return to her village. There she hurried straight to Zenzele and told him what she saw and made request.

“Zenzele, please create something for me to take back to the Spirit People?”

That very night Zenzele went to work and with deft fingers began to carefully create a picture of Africa, of her past rich with traditions and her future mad bleak with the generation lost children. He called his piece: “Africa, Her People, Her Glory, Her Tears.”

When the next round moon showed her face, Zenzele was ready. He carefully tied the picture to Manzandaba’s back. She climbed on the Nkwazi back and away they went to the Spirit Kingdom.

When the King and Queen of the Spirit people was the painting they became somber.

“You have warned us,” they said, and fell silent.

They then praised Zenzele’s talent and gave Manzandaba a special necklace made of lion’s teeth for her husband in thanks.

“And now for you Manzandaba and your people, “we give the gift of stories.” And they handed her the largest and most beautiful shell she had ever seen.”

Whenever you want a story, “they said, “just hold this shell to your ear and you will have your tale!”

Manzandaba thanked them for their extreme kindness and with Nkwasi I headed back to her own world.

When she arrived at the shore, there to meet her own family and all the people of her village. They sat around a huge fire and called out, “Tell us a story, Manzandaba! Tell us a story!”

So she sat down, put the shell to her ear, and began, “Kwesuka sukela…..”

Monday Question Time

When this question and answer session first started it was to give you, readers and masqueraders, to communicate with a band leader to get your questions answered. This far we have gotten some interesting and thought provoking questions but it seems as if you guys might be running out of steam; I wonder if the hype for Carnival has waned a bit.

Anyway, if you have any questions for out band leader please leave a comment or email me at
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