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Work Story: Author | Albertina | Rosalina | Valentina

Lives of Girls (Albertina Tiwana)
Work Story


24 June 1995, Facazisse

A: When you were a girl, they didn't let you go around from place to place. We were taught work! To cultivate, everything, to cook, to draw water, to smear the floor with clay, to plaster the hut with mud. That's what they taught us, our grandmothers. . . . Yeeee! Hee-hee! I didn't like to be surpassed by my fellow girls! At work? Yee!
H: Why did you like work so much?
A: Because when grandmother dies, what will I eat? If I can't work. What will I do? . . . We girls, we had our fields. And grandmother, she had hers. We did it by helping each other! Mmm. In the time when we were children, we cultivated with our grandmother. She taught us. We had our own corn crib. We'll eat from there. We buy goods, we buy things, with the stale corn. Yah. We buy for ourselves. When we finish [our corn], we eat from grandmother's crib. . . . When I was a girl, my ndzima [field], 1 it was bigger than those of my fellow girls! Me, really, I go "tswoo!" [A spits in her palms, rubs them briskly together] Grandmother, she wakes us up in the hut, here where we're sleeping. She takes the door—[back then] we closed the hut with a door made of woven reeds—she throws it away! "Get out! The other girls, the women, they're not sleeping! Go! Go!" She goes and takes a khuwana [clay pot for carrying water], she'll put it here on her hip. I get up and dress myself, I take my nguvu, I wrap myself up. I take my hoe. I take the khuwana, on my head, "swee!" [A whistles, to indicate setting off quickly for her field] Well, she's there at home, she stays, she takes the vuswa. She cuts it into pieces, she cuts it into pieces, she puts it into a pot, she pours sauce into it. She comes here, she carries it on her head. She comes to find us, while we're cultivating. She'll come to look for us here, to check on us. Maybe we're talking in the field, maybe I'm playing, I'm not working. She says, "You're poor, you could suffer!" [There will be] trouble, if we don't cultivate, if she finds us and we haven't cultivated to here [A smacks the ground]. Isn't it so? [chuckles]

She'll arrive. She puts down that vuswa. She kneels, she kneels, on her knees. She pours tobacco, she goes "ntu-ntu-ntu-ntu" [A imitates inhaling tobacco through her nose], she goes, "eee." She leaves with her hoe. She marks out a little section. She goes, she'll reach [i.e., cultivate until] way over there! She hoes out to there, we follow behind her. We hoe, we hoe, we hoe, we hoe. We'll finish there where she cut the section for us. We take our hoes, well we follow her, there where she is. When we arrive here, she turns around, she goes and gets the food. We sit down, she says, "Eat!" She kneels, she kneels—[laughs] do you see this! We'll [offer tobacco in the name of] our father. She kneels, she kneels, she takes one part for Boho [A's father]. She eats. She gives us [food]. We eat, we eat, we finish. We finish eating, she pours some tobacco. [A sniffs three times] She goes and cuts another section of the field for us. [laughs] Grandmother, she was difficult, truly! She arrives, she cuts a section for you, she runs! She goes and reaches way up ahead, she says, "Heh!" She cultivates, all that field up to way over there. I run, on my section. We cultivate until we finish there where she's sitting, where she's finished. . . . Well, when we go, when we reach there, she says, "Go on, look for nkaka," mmm. Well, you take the khuwana, you go to the river. You get there, you bathe, you draw water. You go home. My sister over there, she's taking the stamped corn from the water, she grinds it. Me, I pound the corn, for tomorrow. I work and work, my hands get used to it, and this heart, it gets used to working! . . . Mmm. Our grandmother, she says, "Work, work! Because when I die, what will you eat? You're poor, your father died, when you were small." . . . It's because of these things that I can work with strength, because we're afraid of our grandmother. . . .


Work Story: Author | Albertina | Rosalina | Valentina


Note 1: Ndzima: land, field under cultivation, or garden; also, a part or division of a larger unit. Here it refers to the section of her grandmother's field that Albertina cultivated as a girl.  Back.


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