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Lives of Women: Author | Albertina | Rosalina | Valentina

Lives of Women (Albertina Tiwana)


14 October 1995, Facazisse

H: So your vukatini with Vuma, it was also in Xihluku, where you grew up?
A: Mmm. It's there we courted each other. Well, we left, in that time when the water overflowed. Because the water overflowed, in that flood, the flood called "ndhambi ya mulungheza." Well, we flee from that water, we come here, to Facazisse. We sleep up high, in the trees! [laughs]
H: Do you know why the flood has that name?
A: Oh, I don't know how to say it in Portuguese, how many kilos of water, there was water over there, water here, the Nkomati, it spread! Over the whole country! Huts, they fall. Cattle, they go! Yah! Lots of water!. . . . We come to Facazisse. They give us fields, they give us a place. We arrive, we stay in the hut of that second wife of [chief] Facazisse, N'waGwelha, there at the chief's place. . . .

26 January 1996, Facazisse

H: What kind of work did you do while you were living with Vuma?
A: [laughs] It's the work of cultivating, and cooking. There's no other xilandin work, it's only that! You cultivate, you cook, you wash for this husband of yours. Yah. It's better if you can iron—I was taught to iron. There's no other work than cooking. You know the belly of your husband, that he eats at what time. That's all. . . . We sow corn, we sow pumpkins, we sow sweet potatoes, in our fields. Truly, when you were suffering, you look for corn, you go and buy what you need to help you. Maybe a dish, maybe a winnowing basket, maybe a xihiso [clay grinding bowl], maybe an iron pot. We bought these things with corn, because where did you find money? You didn't work for money. We worked by cultivating, only. We bought things for ourselves with that corn. I go, I exchange—I give corn, I take a winnowing basket. When the rain didn't fall, heh! We didn't find those things. . . . Me, I made xinto, 1 at my vukatini. I pound corn, I cook xinto. Mmm. And [my husband], when he comes home to his muti and he finds it, he's happy. [laughs] Even though he didn't drink, Matlangane. Me, I didn't drink, and she, that co-wife, she didn't drink. But we cook byala, to make people happy.

14 October 1995, Facazisse

H: How long did you stay with Vuma?
A: Yee! Years, I don't know them, because I didn't study. I lingered a long time. Even [I could have had] a child, I was there that long. But Xikwembu [God] didn't give me the things you need to give birth. Well, my heart was weak, I say, "When they mistreat me—"
R: You hurry, you go from there!
A: Eeh! I was suffering, to save myself—to go, I run away out of madness. I'm going over there, I'll work.
H: What happened to cause you to leave Vuma?
A: Hmm. The way of life there, it didn't make me happy. I find [my co-wife] when she has a child, her first-born. She gives birth to the second when I was with her. But, she didn't understand me well. These children, I'm the one who washes them. They grow up, I make food for them, I take their clothes, and hers, the mother's, I go and wash them—I served them well! Well, these things, they go and start with him, the master of the vukatini. Well, we quarrel with this man, I leave from here. These things came from her, the woman. . . . The pongo [noise], it comes from the woman, it goes to the husband.
R: And the husband, he accepts it.
A: Eh-heh! When you don't give birth, truly, ah! They don't love you. . . .
H: So was it for this reason that your co-wife didn't like you?
A: Oh, these things were inside her heart. And, I liked her, because I took care of her. Well! Water, I draw it for her. I warm it up, [so she can] bathe at home. Clothing, I took it from my hut, and from hers, I washed it for her. Isn't that love?
R: It is.
A: Well, the children, they were looked after by me. Her children, they weren't mine! Mmm. They were looked after by me. . . . Well, I knew that, she didn't think I was working for her, in the end. Why? I don't know. Yah. Well, she says, "I can't make her go away. It's better if I take this dirt, I tell our husband, so he'll leave her."
H: Did you do anything to try to cure your problem getting pregnant?
A: Aah! He sent me to tin'anga, four of them. This one gives me a medicine, or maybe he cleans out my insides, he finds that there's nothing. One time, I drink that medicine, to wash out my insides. I drink it, I grow fat! Yah. I say, it's pregnancy, it's pregnancy, but nothing. I go on, ah, we don't find anything. Mmm. Well, I just stay this way, I end up this way. And now, I've never given birth to a child, even pregnancy, I don't know it. Mmm. . . . Yee! I suffered, truly! When [my period] arrives, I say, "tswaa!" I just sit in the woods, I cry. At my vukatini, again. I sit, I cry, I finish. Well, I look for firewood, I go home, I cook. Yah. I go and cook. This soul, it wasn't happy. Well, these things, when I start to bite [my food], well, my heart, when I eat, I go "eee!" [A mimics throwing food away] Food, I couldn't bite it. I spit it out, I throw it away, I go to sleep, that's all. Because of suffering. I go around thinking of those [women] I play with, they have children, they're peaceful. I say, "If I'd known that I wouldn't give birth, I wouldn't have married, I would have gone to stay at home. . . . " [My co-wife], she's saying I'm practising witchcraft.

And my husband, he believed them, when they were saying I was a witch. Well, these things made me angry, hah! And it goes on. . . . Well, I'm sitting and suffering! Years and years I finished there, and I'm working for her. Because I do what she tells me there. Hoh! No way. Well, this woman, when I was with her, and this husband of ours he wasn't there, he was in Joni [i.e., Johannesburg]. Heh-heh! She was always quarreling with me about these things. She tells me, "You're casting spells!" I say, "Ah! And yet those problems, they're coming from you!" [I think], it's better if I go to a tree and hang myself, I die! Forget everything. When you sit in suffering? I'm there three years, and I'm eating tears. Aah! I say, "I want to be at peace." Well, I leave, I go home, I go to my mother's place. I go and sit there. 21 I take these things that are mine. Mmm. Well, my heart is angry, I say, "Mamana, it's too much, I'm going to Joni. It's better for me to go and look for work." Mama, she says, "No way. And them, they'll look for you. Because you might leave and they won't know it. They'll come, they'll find you here at home." [But] my husband, he doesn't come! He doesn't follow me. They leave, they move, they go to Motaze. And me, I'm at my mother's place, there. He didn't follow me. . . .

H: So you still loved your husband?
A: I loved him! Hah! I leave because of this one [i.e., A's co-wife]! Me, I want to go and work for myself, only! I didn't want a man anymore! You work for someone, and you sit, you're despised! I didn't want anyone anymore! 3

26 January 1996, Facazisse

A: Well, I'm angry, I go over there. I go in search of work. . . . [A raises her voice] It was angry, my heart! I was going to Joni! I didn't want here, I wanted to find people in Joni, I'll go to work there! I'll go and find the work of men! [laughs] Heh-heh! . . . Well, I arrive at the place of this woman, this MuSwazi. She was married by a Muslim. Mmm. Well, I arrive, I stay here. I didn't get to Joni, she didn't want it, this woman. She refuses, she says, "Stop, stay here at my place! I'll give you work, I'll take care of you. Your relatives, when they go out looking for you, they'll find you here." . . . She says, "Don't work! Because, there in manghezeni [place of the English], in Joni, they have workers. You could be killed by bandits, stay here! You need a man [to go], because when you don't have a man, they'll capture you, to lock you up in jail. Do you see?" [laughs] Eee! They were captured, truly! At the administration? I saw that they were captured, and that MuSwazi, she tells me. Mmm. She says, "Understand what I'm saying to you. I don't want to let you be captured. Those people there, they were captured. They, they're working there, at the administration. They work! Because they don't have husbands. It needs money, you'll pay the tax there. You're a woman, you don't have a man, you pay the tax. You take out your money, you pay, there in the office. If you have money, you pay, you go home. Where will you find it?" 4 Well, I stay there.

14 October 1995, Facazisse

H: What was the MuSwazi's name?
A: Ah, this MuSwazi. Poor thing. Well, she's Margarida Ngomane. From there, Namaacha. Well, she's here in Moamba, she goes and marries with him, she wants to be married by the Muslim. Mmm, she took care of me well! This woman? Mmm. . . . Well, the husband there, he sold things in the shop. He was a Muslim. . . .
H: What was his name?
A: Simayele. He was a Muslim. I don't know his xivongo. He was a Muslim, a mulungu. He had a shop, it wasn't his, he just worked there. There where they gave us a place, it belonged to the owner of the shop. Well, he marries this black woman, this MuSwazi. . . . Heh! [laughs] She used to fight, truly! Her [first] husband, there in Namaacha, it didn't go well. She shows me the scars, where they stitched her. She beats her husband. Well, [her arm] is dislocated, they cut her, cut her [to repair her arm]. Heh! Ah-heh! She was difficult! But me, she loved me. . . . Her husband died, the one she was always fighting with. Mmm. He finds he's with other boys, out there drinking. They gather together, they beat him. Finally, he dies. Well, her heart is sore, she leaves home to wander, she comes here to Moamba. Well, she comes to accept this Muslim as her lover. Yah. . . .

This MuSwazi, ah, she courts another man for me. Well, eh! And he, he has his own timhosi [flaws]. 5 [laughs]. Eh-heh! When I go and cook byala, so that I can buy clothes for myself, [A claps hands], nothing!

R: You don't find anything.
A: And to feed myself, I take these two hands, I cultivate for myself, I feed myself! And then, when he comes back—he's off drinking, hoh! He traps you, like this! [laughs] I was beaten! [laughs] . . . It's she, she's the one who courts that man for me.
H: How did she do that?
A: Ah, I was there a few months. It was from, I got used to them, those young men. Well, he used to come, this man, he comes to [Margarida's] place. Well, he comes to court me—it's those two, they arranged it together. Well, she tells me. I say, "No way! I don't want to marry! I'm tired of working for those men, when they don't do anything for me. Me, I want to go and look for work, that's all!" She refuses! She says, "No, you shouldn't go. Because they'll seize you, when you don't have a man." In the end, I accept, I don't go. I come to an agreement with her. . . . Yah! I didn't do any work there. This one, [the man] I accepted, he didn't allow me to go out to work. This, this mamana, Margarida, she buys [things to sell], I arrange the tinguvu. This one, she looks after me! When I was quarreling with this husband, I went to her. "Heh, mamana!" [laughs] When we quarrel, I go and complain to her. . . . Mmm, and him, I quarreled with him. When I don't want us to argue, I want us to sit and talk. Well, he leaves me, he goes drinking, he gets drunk—and me, I'm defiant too. It's because of that problem of his, when he's drunk, he'll quarrel with me. He follows me, he says he wants to beat me. I run! I sit with a stick [laughs]. . . .

Then, they transferred this husband of mine. 6 They sent him to Movene. Well, [Margarida] says, "Go with him, and you'll cook for him." I refuse. I say, "If he starts beating me over there, how will I come back here?" She says, "He won't mistreat you, if he mistreats you, come back to my place. And me, I'll fight with him. Because I don't want my daughter, the one I took care of, I don't want it this way." She buys pots, wooden spoons, a winnowing basket, so I can go work with these things. She packs them up well. . . . Well, I say, "No way! It's better if you build a house for me, at home, I'll cultivate there." I say, "Send me home, build me a muti, I'm dying from quarreling. My relatives, they're at home, it's me who left home to wander. Me, I'm used to cultivating. I'm not used to this buying everything." Mmm. Well, he accepts. He puts me with his sister. He builds a home for me, here in Xihluku. Near my mother. They give me a field, I cultivate there. Indeed, I sit, I cultivate, we visit each other. I prepare food, I go with it, and I cook for him. When it's time to cultivate, I go home. And he comes to visit me, and I go to visit him. . . . Well, he was used to things being this way. He was always out drinking, wherever there was byala. When he drew his wages, he spends it on byala. Me, I grow corn for myself, I sell it, I find things to wear. I find things to feed myself, and I feed him. I clothe that muti, that one called by his xivongo. From my own seeds. I look after the child of his sister, [because] she couldn't. I say, "Ah! I don't want a man anymore!" I leave, I return to my mother's place, I'll stay with her.

H: How long did you stay with Nduma?
A: Yoo! Many years, I can't count them. Well, he died, too. And Matlangane, he died. It's the same thing. You suffer, it's no problem. Mmm. And now, here I am. Now, I'll die. [laughs]
H: Did you stay with Nduma until he died, then?
A: Mm-mm. I left him long ago, truly! They all died when I'd already built [my home] here. They all died long after I left them. Eh, I'm used to it now. . . .
H: It sounds like you didn't have luck with men, vovo.
A: For sure! Mmm! Again, ah! But, I gave them everything, I worked for them!
R: Eh, vovo, don't you know that it's always this way?
A: Eh, he's human. You, you use up all of your strength, you work for them, but they turn around and beat you? Mmm? I say, "Yee! Well, I'm tired of it. I don't want a man! Truly!"

24 June 1995, Facazisse

A: Well, when I'm at my vukatini, I go and clutch these oxen. Well, it's because [we see] land should be cultivated by oxen.
R: Mmm, it's better.
A: He goes, he comes, my husband [i.e., Nduma], because he's working there in Moamba, for the railroad. Well me, I stay here at home, with the cattle. He arrives, he takes these oxen. He teaches me, truly! To cultivate with oxen. Well, he teaches me. I say, "Eee! Me, I won't get used to it, because they'll beat me, these cattle!" He says, "No way. What it wants, they need to feel, to feel your spirit. When you're working with them." Indeed! When they're hitched up together, to cultivate, I drive them, I drive them. I hold the plow here in my hands. And he lets go, he gives it to me. I clutch the plow. I let go, I hold on with one hand. I hold onto the bar. And I drive them. . . . Well, I got used to it. . . . When [one ox] cuts the rope in its munkhalo [nose-lead], here, this munkhalo, it goes "eee" [A demonstrates how ox cut nose-lead]. I pick it up, me. A man comes, he teaches me, he says, "Eh, what's the problem, mzai?" 7 I say, "It cut the munkhalo." He says, "Is there any rope in the house?" I say, "Eee." "Go and get it." I go and get that rope. He says, "This [ox] in front, I'll stand over there, you stand here. Stand here." We drive them, we throw that munkhalo away. This child, she takes the rope. And me, I go over there. . . . [A demonstrates how they roped the ox-team together by the nose and throat] Well, we finished.
R: You tie the horns.
A: Eh-heh! We tie the horns. We take—[laughs] this rope. Well, when we tie the horns [of one ox], well we settle down his friend. Well, we take [the rope], we do it again. Well, when I've harnessed them, they're together, I take the cord, this long one. He shows me, this man there. "Ah," he says, "come here. If I [drive] them, they'll run, because they're not used to me. They're used to you." Well, I pick it up, I take this cord, this one he gives me. To tie them up, he helps me tie them. He says, "When it cuts the rope, you do this and this." I know it. . . .

All of these things, I was taught by this husband of mine. Heyeh! Heee! He goes and fools me, he leaves, he borrows a head of cattle. It was savage! Heh! [laughs] He returns home with it, he says, "If you take this one, [you'll be able to plow] in those deep trenches." Me, I say, "Heh! The cattle of another, I don't want them. Because, I know that each head of cattle, it's used to its owner." Mmm. He refuses to return it. This man, he doesn't care about the problems of a woman. "Eh! It will beat me, that cow!" [laughs] Eh! When it beats me, that cow, [it was] at this time we were unhitching [the oxen], well, we were going to go home. We were going home. Ah! It goes "ngu-ngu-ngu!" [A, R laugh very hard] It was on top of me! It and I, "thu-tha!" [A mimics being knocked over] Ay! This shoulder blade, it's hurt, it goes "eee!" . . . [A shows how her shoulder was dislocated] It runs off, that animal. You go to stuff the arm [back in place], but you don't know how to do it, you don't know these things well. And that arm, it wouldn't work. Well, we find an old woman, she knows a medicine. She arrives, she cuts me, she cuts me, 8 she straightens me, she straightens me. Here on my arm, it bends, it gets stronger. It gets better, it no longer hurts. I cultivate.

26 January 1996, Facazisse

A: Well, I leave that husband, I go to live with my mother. My mother, she too leaves her vukatini, she goes to live with her mother, there in Mawelele [Xihluku]. It's here she dies. I stay with her, she gets sick, finally she dies. I'm the one who buries her. Long ago, truly, [the men] only dig the hole, you carry [the body to the grave] by yourself. You get there, you enter the hole, you're carrying her. . . . When they dig, they go "mmm," they turn around and dig, they go "mmm" [A goes through motions of digging]. Well, they go home. I enter the grave, I take her belongings, I fold them, I fold them, I fold them [A demonstrates]. It's finished, it's finished at last. I suffered from this. Yah. Well, I no longer have a place. Maybe I'll get sick, oh! They'll come, I'll be disintegrating there in the ntsonga [shack]. 9 [laughs] . . . I'm tired. Well, I leave and go back to bava Palati's place, over there, with N'waBoho, this sister I'm born after. 10 I stay there. Eh! I rest!

23 February 1996, Facazisse

A: Well, my mother dies, then we were just two staying together, I and my sister, Maria Muhlanga. 11 This N'waMuhlanga, and this husband who married her, they went over there to Joni, to Nelspoort [i.e., Nelspruit, South Africa], over there. Well, she dies while they're in manghezeni. . . . Well, then she dies. I write a letter, I tell them that mother is no longer there. Well, when they come here, back home, they find that our mother is no longer here. Here at home. They find me, when I'm in solitude, I'm just sitting here at home. Well, that's why we leave here, from Mawelele. Maria says, "Let's go over there to mamana Nkotassane's place. Isn't she our mother? She's the senior one. Mother died, we don't have a mother. Well, she's our mother, Nkotassane. It's no problem, we'll go to Palati's, he'll look for a place for us. . . . " Indeed, he put us there, he shows us a place, we sleep there. This husband of [Maria], he builds a muti. . . . 12 Mmm, I go home to Chobela, I look after the children of my sister. I brought up those children, those five. Hoh! I still had strength then! Eh, it's gone. [A slaps her biceps]

They were the children of my sister. Yee! Not all of them. I began with the child of my sister, this one who is born after me. 13 A girl. They send her to [my] mother's place, there. Well, I raise her, me. While we're staying together with [my] mother. Well, and there's [the son] of Maria Muhlanga, this Albano, Albano Nhlongo. Maria, she finds a child there. And she weans him, she leaves him. They go to Nelspoort, they go to work. I stay with these children. I look after them. . . . Mmm, Albano. He was brought up by me. Well, at first, he stays with my mother. She dies, I stay and I raise him. . . . Mmm. He was still a little child. I carry him on my back, here. He grows up. I cultivate corn, I buy clothes for him, I wash him. He grows a little, I send him to school, at the priest's place. 14 Well, when we leave from over there [Xihluku], we come to Chobela, in poverty, he studies in the school here [at Antioka]. Mmm. Indeed, he grew up here, he was raised by me. Until he leaves, and he takes a wife. Well, that girl, I accompany her back to her home. Well, she goes out with young men, she gives birth while she's still at home, with her mother. She's here, even now, in Machambuyane. [laughs] Mmm, they're living, all of them. Well she, this daughter who I raise, of this sister who is born after me, she gives birth to a child. A girl. And she, the third one, they bring her straight to me, at my mother's place, because my mother, she died. Well, they send her, again I raise [this child].

They say, "Go and raise her, we know that you raise children. And yet at this time you don't have anyone. Let's take the child. You can go with her, go and raise her—her mother, she doesn't have a husband at home." Indeed, I carry her on my back, I go home with her. . . . And she grows up. She goes home, to her mother's place. When she was a girl. She accepts a man over there. And now, she's with her mother—she leaves to marry, she sees that, aah, since it's my vukatini, I'll take my mother. She's staying with her mother. She cooks byala, she sells it for herself, that granddaughter. . . . Mmm. Well, her husband, he was killed by Renamo. . . . Aah! These things, they subside, [but] this husband is no longer here. Yah. And she bore four children. . . . And now, she's here, she's here with her mother. Yah. And she was raised by me. She grew up, she became a girl. When they leave, they leave when they're girls, they can marry. Mmm. They're living.

Well, there's still this one, this one who built a hut for me. A boy. [His mother] weans him—he's Abílio, [the son] of my brother. 15 He sends him to me. Well, his mother, she's pregnant. I'll raise him. I send him to school. [laughs] Well, he grows up, he goes off to work. He's here, even now he's here at home. . . . Yah. I finished with him, he's the last one. But there's [another] here at my vukatini, when I was still there. There was a grandchild, he's the grandchild of my husband, he was born of the sister of my [second] husband. . . . And him, I raise him. I send him [back to his mother] when I'm at my mother's place. . . . They're living! All of them. I raise this one, he leaves. I raise this one, she leaves. Mmm. Two boys, Albano and this one, Abílio, who builds my hut. Girls, three. Yah. . . . And now, Maria, she's there in Chobela. Well, that we separated, it's because, when you're sisters, you sit and you quarrel a little. Well, I say, "That's not right. It's better we scatter, and me I'll have my own muti." Yah. I'll have my own muti again. . . .

I was staying with Abílio. Mmm, this one who builds my hut. I left Maria's place there, well he was a little boy. I cut the trees to clear the land, with him, when he was still small. 16 I say, "Learn! One day you'll grow up. When you've grown up, you'll take a wife, you'll bring her here, I'll cut a piece [of land], so you'll have a field, and I'll have a field. Because to keep feeding you, I won't be able to endure it. What will you [and your wife] eat? You'll eat here." Yah. I stayed with him. He's the last one! I say, "Yee! Well, I've grown old." [laughs] "I won't endure it!" To carry a child here on your back? On your shoulders? And you're here cooking? Well, eh-heh! You can start cooking in the afternoon, you'll still be cooking at night! . . .

14 October 1995, Facazisse

A: Maria, mmm, she's a n'anga. Well, now, she's not well. She says, "Eh! I've grown old. I can't endure this work anymaore, this witch-smelling [kufemba]." Well, there are her children, the children of her spirits, the ones she teaches, they go and work for her, they take care of the sick people.< 17 She was a nyamusoro! And me, I went around with her. I carried her muthundu 18 on my head. I say, "Say truly, if you no longer want it. Because if you no longer want it, since we used to pray, I want to go back to church." They obligated me [to work with her]. . . .
H: When did you start going to church?
A: We began, we entered the church—and she, I was introduced by her, to the people praying there. Well, she finds out about her spirits there. She didn't have to have her spirits drummed out for her 19 at the n'anga's place, she didn't have to do the drumming, her spirits just come out, there in church. Well, her husband, he goes and looks for a n'anga to give her the medicines for her spirits. She goes to the n'anga, she just finishes her treatment and kuthwasa [to complete rites of healing and training for spirit mediumship] 20 there, well, her husband, he arranges everything for her to kuthwasa. She returns home and begins to work. Mmm. Well, they say, "Work with her. Serve her, you're her sister." I don't want to. Indeed. Well they say, "If you abandon your sister, she might find trouble, in those places where she goes." I say, "Eh! I won't be able to do it." I say, "When she begins to speak those things, those spirits, I don't know it!" She says, "You'll know it." And her husband, he was alive. He goes with her, we three. Yah. I didn't like it, it was forced on me, "You abandon your sister, she goes alone—when she meets up with trouble?" She'll go, she'll find trouble, and people will speak disparagingly of me. Eeh. . . . She says, "You'll know it! Accept! Accept." Indeed, I accept when I didn't want to. Mmm. Then, these things, I get used to them. Mmm.
H: What did you do for her?
A: To help her? [laughs] Ay! That work, when they call her, people, those who want to be made well. Well, she packs her things, her clothing, the things she works with. Well, that's finished. She comes and tells me, "We're going back to the place of so-and-so, there where they're calling us." I carry [her things] on my head. I help her by going around with her, and I work with her. Well, this work of kufemba, when [the spirit] comes out, she grabs the xizingo [pouch] 21, she smells, she smells, she stops, she catches these things [that are troubling the patient—i.e., harmful spirits]. I take the xizingo, I hold it to her nose. I make her name [the spirit]. Mmm. Only that. That's it, the work I do for her. I serve her by [doing] these things, as her nyauthi. . . . 22 When it's all finished, they express their thanks, that she has worked well. Mmm. And truly, when she worked well, they stayed in health, maybe the spirits ask for medicines, to set the house right, they set right everything that [the spirits] want. Well, they show their gratitude . . .
H: Did you get to know Maria's spirits?
A: Yeh! I know them! There's Muthema, he's a man. Muthema, Muthema Muhlanga. His wife, she's Nyankwave. Mmm. They're VaNdau, they speak Ndau. They come from over there, Musapa. They run from the war, the war like this one, now. They come here, those VaNdau. Long ago. Well, this Muthema, he says, "You, my wife, Nyankwave. You're really stupid, you're too slow, these things we want to catch [i.e., harmful spirits], they run! Let me do the kufemba." Well, the husband, he does the work of kufemba.
H: Did Maria also have Nguni spirits?
A: Mmm. Phande, Phande Muthetho. He's a man. The woman, she's Tandhosse, his sister. Mmm. They're brother and sister. Mmm. He was a bachelor, he didn't have a wife. And she, this girl, she hadn't yet married. Eeh, long ago, they did this work, before they died. Well, when they've died, well, the children of Muhlanga are born. Well, these children, they reach for N'waMuhlanga [i.e., Maria]. [Through her] they do this work that they do, in that time long ago. They appeared, they're looking for work, they were tin'anga, when they weren't yet married.
H: Do you mean that someone in the Muhlanga family had these spirits before Maria?
A: Ancestors of long ago, of the Muhlangas. Those ones, they had spirits, [but] they died when they hadn't yet gone to kuthwasa, they didn't kuthwasa. These things, they want to kuthwasa, well, they died, those ancestors. Mmm. Well, they begin to make [Maria] sick, when she's with her husband. Well, those dead ones, every day she was suffering. Her husband looked after her, he sent her to kuthwasa. Yah. Those tin'anga, the ones who trained her, they say, "He can't carry her muthundu on his head." Mmm, they refuse. He's the mukon'wana [son-in-law], her husband. 23 "She needs you, you're her sister. You go, you'll see how she works." Yah.
H: So did you work as a nyauthi for many years?
A: Eh! Many years. Mmm! We went to Boane, there are mathwasana [students] 24 of hers there. To Maputo, Marracuene, Mapulanguene, Macaene, out there! To Macia, even to Nkaya! We go everywhere, to Ukalanga, everywhere, we went. We go and make people well. And there was never any uproar about her! Mmm. She's written down there, they know her in Magude. At the [Frelimo] party office. When she arrives, "Oh, Maria Muhlanga!" . . .

23 February 1996, Facazisse

H: How did you start participating in the Antioka church?
A: The war, we were hearing a little that, a war is arriving, it's coming from over there. Mmm. . . . Me, I ask some of these people. I say, "Eh, I want to return to church again, here." I say, "We had a church, where we do these things, this laying-on hands, there." Yah. We had a church there at home, in Xihluku. Well, it stopped because her spirits came out, Maria. . . .
H: What church was this?
A: It was at her home, when she hadn't yet been possessed by spirits. Yah. They go off to Joni, they leave me, well, I held the church in my hands. She [cures] people with her hands, they live. . . . It's the church of kuchayisa [?], they say it's cheche [church]. Eh, I forget. That's how they say it. But it's [the church] of clapping, with your hands. And [Maria], she takes the hymn, she claps her hands. She silences [everyone], they witness the things that come out there.
R: You don't know the name of this church?
A: I know it this way. Mmm. 25 When they're over there, in Nelspoort, the time they call me. Well, I hurry there. They say, "You take some others." They baptize us, in the river there, the Ngwenya. Mmm. There where I'm baptized, they say, "You stay with this paper, take it and show it [in Magude]." Yah. Well, and they, they're baptized in the river. . . . [It's called] "laying on hands."

You pray for the sick one, the person who is sick. Mmm. You ask Xikwembu [God] for her. And you, you stretch her [arms], stretch, you stretch her, you stretch her. Mmm. The sun rises tomorrow. She's well! Mmm. I gave her strength. It's this way we taught the things of the spirits. It's here that Maria's spirits come out. Mmm. I say, "Say it, you've been made strong." We say, "You won't be abandoned, you'll return from the place of suffering." . . . Well, I ask some of these people [in Facazisse], I want to enter the church again. She says, "Ah! They won't refuse, when you come back to worship." Because I was used to it. Eeh, I was used to praying. Because my heart—when I sleep, I used to sleep when I was in church. Well, when Maria left her work as a nyamusoro, I looked for the people in the church where I was living. In Mawelele, Xihluku. There weren't many of them. Well, I [moved] and we were here. I couldn't bear to go over there. Well, [I think], "Ah, I'll go here." It's close to home. And this God, it's the same.


Lives of Women: Author | Albertina | Rosalina | Valentina


Note 1: Xinto: the oldest kind of maize beer that women remember making, often fondly called byala bya khale (beer of long ago) or byala bya ntumbuluko (original/ancient beer). Xinto contains no sugar and is fermented for much longer periods than are newer forms of homemade maize beer.  Back.

Note 2: The second vukatini of Albertina's mother was in Machambuyane. However, by this point, she had been widowed again and had left her late husband's home and returned to live with her elderly mother, Fahlaza, in Xihluku.  Back.

Note 3: Albertina later explained that her mother's brother found Vuma in South Africa and returned the money Vuma had given for lovolo, to make their separation final. Vuma then gave back two timpondo, telling his former in-law to give it to Albertina "because I didn't quarrel with her. It's because of suffering, from the arguments of the women. Give it to her, so she can buy something for herself." Although Albertina laughed at the image of Vuma claiming he knew nothing about the source of conflict between his wives, and ruefully admitted that "we didn't understand each other—if we did, he would have followed me, when I went home," Albertina and Vuma clearly continued to harbor feelings for each other long after they separated. Albertina later told us another, more recent story about Vuma sending a man with ten timpondo to give to Albertina so that she could visit him in Motaze—"because she really worked for me, this woman!" But since their separation Vuma had become a powerful n'anga, and, although her "heart longed for him," Albertina says she was afraid he would "kill" her if she went, so she "just ate that money" (i.e., used it for herself). Vuma died not long afterward.  Back.

Note 4: Albertina here is referring to chibalo, forced labor required of women in colonial Mozambique if their husband had not paid their taxes on time. See Jeanne Marie Penvenne, African Workers and Colonial Racism: Mozambican Strategies and Struggles in Lourenço Marques, 1877-1962 (Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann, 1995).  Back.

Note 5: Timhosi: clumsiness, ineptitude, lack of skill.  Back.

Note 6: This man's name was Nduma (aka Sabonete) Sitoi. He worked for the railroad. Albertina never referred to him by name and seemed embarrassed when I asked what his name was, saying that because he wasn't the husband who gave lovolo for her, he "didn't count." Yet their common-law, largely long-distance marriage (see below) lasted more than ten years.  Back.

Note 7: Mzai: respectful way of addressing an elder.  Back.

Note 8: Kutlhavela: here, meaning to cut incisions so as to put medicine below the skin.  Back.

Note 9: Ntsonga: small shack used as crop-watcher's shelter.  Back.

Note 10: N'waBoho is Nkotassane Tiwana, Albertina's (late) older sister (same birth parents). Her husband, Palati Khosa, lived in Mulambu, which straddles the present-day boundary between Chobela and Facazisse.  Back.

Note 11: Maria Muhlanga is the daughter of Albertina's birth mother and her second husband, Vuduya Muhlanga; she is at least ten years younger than Albertina.  Back.

Note 12: Albertina, Maria, and Maria's husband built for themselves a muti adjacent to Palati's homestead in Mulambu, although Albertina was counted as a member of Palati's muti and was considered his responsibility.  Back.

Note 13: Hortencia Muhlanga, another daughter of Albertina's birth mother with her second husband.  Back.

Note 14: Missão São Jerónimo, in Magude town.  Back.

Note 15: José Muhlanga, brother of Maria and Hortencia.  Back.

Note 16: In the early 1970s, Albertina left Maria Muhlanga's muti and moved to a plot of land, on the eastern reaches of Facazisse, that she was given by the Facazisse Land Commission. Albertina had farmed in this same area in the early 1940s, when she first moved to Mulambu, but was then removed (along with hundreds of other Facazisse residents) when a Portuguese commercial farmer named Ferreira obtained a land concession there. Around the time of independence, when most Europeans had left Facazisse, the Land Commission was given permission by the new Frelimo district government to redistribute the land to local people who needed it (see chap. 6).  Back.

Note 17: Vana va swikwembu (children of the spirits) are the women (and occasionally men) whom a nyamusoro treats for spirit possession and, in the process, trains to be vanyamusoro (spirit mediums) themselves. Relationships among spirit mediums, both across and within "generations," are constructed in kinship terms, with an interestingly gendered twist: The senior medium (here, Maria) is "father" (bava) to her "children," and the fees and "gifts" a medium-in-training (or her sponsor) supplies to her bava in order to complete her kuthwasa are called lovolo, thus setting up affinal kinship between the senior medium, the person who pays for kuthwasa, and the spirits themselves.  Back.

Note 18: Muthundu: the sacred basket of a nyamusoro, in which all of her medicines, instruments, and costumes are carried.  Back.

Note 19: Kuchayiliwa is derived from kuchaya, which means to play a musical instrument, usually as accompaniment to singing and dancing. Albertina is referring to the long drumming session in which a person who has been diagnosed with spirit possession and whose spirits have not yet come out will practice, inducing the trancelike state necessary for her spirits to emerge, identify themselves, and go to work. Kuchayiliwa is the passive form of the verb, meaning to have kuchaya done for or to one. Albertina is saying that Maria did not need to go through this stage, as her spirits came out on their own during a church service (see below).  Back.

Note 20: Kuthwasa: to be cured of spirit possession through exorcism rites and to become a fully qualified diviner by completing a course of instruction and another series of initiation rituals. The kuthwasa process must be completed with a payment, referred to as lovolo, to the medium in charge of the training and cure.  Back.

Note 21: Xizingo: a small pouch made from the skin of an antelope.  Back.

Note 22: Albertina was somewhat reticent on this subject. As a nyauthi (assistant) to a nyamusoro, Albertina's main responsibilities (in addition to carrying the muthundu) would have been to prepare the necessary medicine for the kufemba ceremony and then to immerse the xizingo in it. In the actual process of "witch-smelling," the spirit medium enters a trance until her Ndau spirit emerges (normally only Ndau spirits do kufemba). She then begins circling the patient and shaking the wet xizingo over all parts of his or her body. Every few minutes, the medium suddenly stops everything she is doing (including breathing), and it is the job of the nyauthi to take the xizingo and hold it to the medium's nose until she sneezes once or twice, thereby releasing whatever she has caught from the body of the patient into the muthundu, which the nyauthi holds ready for this purpose. It is also the nyauthi's role to question the Ndau spirit about whatever she has found—for example, asking her to name the harmful spirit the xizingo has discovered and to disclose what that spirit wants. See Henri P. Junod, "Les cas de possessions et l'exorcisme chez les VaNdau," Africa (1934): 270-99. Cf. Alcinda Honwana, "Pratiques et r™le social du Nyamusoro en milieu urban—Maputo: premiers éléments," ma”trise de sociologie, Université de Paris VIII, 1988.  Back.

Note 23: Because Maria's husband paid the lovolo expenses for her to kuthwasa, he was considered the mukon'wana (son-in-law) of her spirits. That meant they had to treat him with the utmost respect. Consequently, he could not serve as Maria's nyauthi, because he would have heard the "insults" uttered by the spirits in the course of doing their work.  Back.

Note 24: Mathwasana: here, mediums who were treated and trained by Maria Muhlanga, whom she considers her "children."  Back.

Note 25: Ruti noted that this church was also called chazandlai (clapping hands), whose meaning is similar to that of kuchayisa.  Back.


Binding Memories: Women as Makers and Tellers of History in Magude, Mozambique