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Trading Story: Author | Albertina | Rosalina | Valentina

Lives of Girls (Albertina Tiwana)
Trading Story


24 June 1995, Facazisse

A: Truly, long ago, these other things that we wear. We abandon these bad habits—these breasts! [A grabs her breasts, flaps them up and down, laughs] The boys at home, you go to put the food here, you give it to them, you say, [in meek voice:] "You will eat some food." [laughs] You didn't wear anything! It's these things we lived by, we didn't wear anything! . . . But these things made us happy, because they are our ntumbuluko [old custom]. . . . We were taught to wear xikhatawana, 1 we were taught by the Banyans. We were taught to be clothed by xikhatawana, those things you chop. They cut those cloths, they sew xikhatawana by hand, they stop there, they stop there [A indicates dimensions of measured cloth]. They put them in a line. Well, when you want to buy something, they show you, this one is so much money, this one is so much money. They take them, they say "Try it! When you dress yourself, you'll look good!" Because they close up your breasts. Heh! Those children! I'm happy. Well, she [i.e., another girl] sees a fellow girl and she's clothed, yee! "Me too, I'll buy one!" Mmm. We were taught by them, here. Well, things go on, things go on, until this time. We didn't have—on our heads, we didn't use a nturhu [veil]. 2 You dress yourself in an nguvu, it stops there [A indicates waist]. They take that nturhu, they tie it, they go like this [A demonstrates, laughing, tying two ends of scarf around throat, then two ends behind back, below breasts]. Well, we go on, we get used to it, we go on, we'll buy it, we'll buy this garment for ourselves, for our breasts. Ayee! We lived well by those xilandin ways, you know! . . .
H: Where did you buy these things?
A: Ah, from them, the [Banyans] in the shops here in Magude. They arrive here, from their land, that, where is it?
R: From India.
A: Mmm, India. Well, they go to work for themselves. They bring some things, they come and put them in order, they sell to us. . . . When you get used to store so-and-so, you're a customer! You come and buy here, you arrive, he takes a loaf of bread. He gives it to you [A claps hands together]. He takes sugar, he comes back and pours it [in a piece of] newspaper, he takes maybe two, big loaves of bread, he puts them here. He puts them there, he wraps them up for you. He gives it to you! When you go to buy goods, maybe with an mpondo [100 escudos], 3 he comes over, he takes a basin, a plate, this big one of the Banyans. He pours sugar. He takes loaves of bread, he puts them in there. He calls a boy, he gets water, he says, "Give it to mamana. The bread, she'll eat it. There is hunger." . . .
H: But why did they do this for you?
A: Ah, it's because of their tintswalo [kindness]. They feel our poverty. Well, when you're buying, you finish spending this money, maybe an mpondo. He says, "Take down a scarf." They give a basela [small present]. He takes those loaves of bread, he wraps them up with the sugar, "You'll give them to the children at home, go home with these things, they're hungry too, at home." He takes matches, he cuts [a piece of] soap. These are all presents, they're not sold. . . .

Mmm. When you come, maybe with your husband, they pour a litre of wine. They give it to your husband. Because you're customers of theirs. Even if you're a woman, they can give it to you. . . . [When I was a girl], we bought things with corn, that we cultivated with these hands. If there was hunger, there's drought, the corn doesn't come up. Well, you don't have anything to wear. . . . The life of long ago, it was good. Mmm. Of long ago! We didn't feel poverty, even if you're suffering! We were living, the life that was there. When you go to the store and you have your escudo, they did something for you with that. Mmm. They governed us well. A kilo of sugar, it was three and a half escudos. You buy a kilo. A kilo! Three and a half escudos.

H: When you were a girl?
A: Mmm!! Hoh! We didn't care about tea, because we knew that that servant [at the shop], they'll give you sugar. The Banyans. They went and cooked soft porridge, they poured it for you. . . . Eeh, they give it to you, "Ah, you've come, customer, you've come!" He goes over there where there's sugar, over there. He scoops some out, you hold out your hands, you clap your hands together, those things for us in the shops, [you think] you're drinking tea! [laughs] You lick your fingers, hoh! But he sees you, [you say], "Son of a mulungu!" He says, "Oh, mbuyangwana [poor thing]!" He goes and wraps up more sugar, "Go home with it, feed [the children]!" [laughs] At home! [A is laughing hard] Well, we leave, we go into another shop. Well, you believe you'll eat again! They pour for you, they wrap it for you, they give it to you. Ah! You'll pour it into your porridge at home. . . . When you buy at the valungu shops, when there's hunger, eh! They didn't let you buy many things. When you have a cheleni, or maybe a dzuka, 4 they measure out a little flour for you, a dzuka's worth. They measure flour out for you. For a cheleni, when you want a cheleni, they say, "Stop! Leave some for your brothers and sisters. So they'll come and find some here." He gives it out a little at a time. And they, when they arrive they'll find a little, and they'll buy it. . . .
H: How much was corn worth, in that time?
A: Two cheleni [laughs], you fill that gogogo [4-gallon tin] to the top. You want them to cut this nguvu. They count that, heh! This gogogo, it's two cheleni. A sack, inside of a sack—that was really a lot. It's an mpondo, one sack! Six magogogo.
H: Could you buy a lot with that?
A: Yo-wee!! [laughs] You found many things! Maybe you want to buy a mukumi [extra-large nguvu] you buy it with that corn. This nguvu to wrap yourself in. You buy three measures of cloth, 5 they [sew them together] to make a mukumi. Yah.


Trading Story: Author | Albertina | Rosalina | Valentina


Note 1: Xikhatawana seems to have been a very simple style of blouse or halter top for women, stitched together out of segments of patterned cotton cloth.  Back.

Note 2: Albertina is referring to a kind of headscarf, although the word more commonly used for this is faduku.  Back.

Note 3: Mpondo (from the English pound): the Shangaan word for 100 escudos.  Back.

Note 4: Cheleni (from shilling): a monetary unit that equalled 5 escudos. Dzuka: half a cheleni, or 2.5 escudos.  Back.

Note 5: Each measure of cloth is a vemba: a length of cloth, measured from the fingers to the top of the sternum when one's arm is fully extended straight in front of the body.  Back.


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