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Schooling Story: Author | Albertina | Rosalina | Valentina

Lives of Girls (Rosalina Malungana)
Schooling Story


28 February 1995, Facazisse

R: Ah, my mother told me everything. Eee, everything! She too was curious to know everything! [R laughs] . . . I was always there at her feet—sometimes she said, "Ah! But why do you want to know all this?" "Ah, Mama. Why can't I know? You, some day, you'll die, and I, I have to know your whole family." "Ah, you're really tiresome!" And she begins to tell, and I hear, all that she is telling. . .


3 June 1995, Facazisse

R: Well me, some things, when I want to know them, I say "Hah! I'll ask Mama!" . . . "Mama," I say, "your kokwana, this one who gave birth to your husband, who is she?" She says, "Eeeh! You want to know everything!" I say, "Heh, Mama!" She says, "Heh! Truly, to die is to sleep." 1 Me, I want to know. Well, she tells. She says, "Truly, my grandfather, this one who gave birth to my mother, he's Xihundzulana. Of the Khosa clan. And [my grandmother], she's N'waManyisa." She says, "Do you hear? Because one day, they will trouble you, they will bother you." Well, I say, "Yah, I know them, the grandparents of my mother. They are Xihundzulana and N'waManyisa. I know them. . . . " Then I say, "Those who gave birth to your mother, well, I know them. Well, those who gave birth to your father, who are they?" . . .


28 January 1996, Facazisse

R: But here at home, ah! She was very difficult [kukharata]. But, she wasn't difficult, because what she wanted, was to see me working. Mmm. Not sitting with my arms crossed. "What are you going to do when you're with a man? If you marry? Are you going to sit like that? A man wants to eat, [wants you to] wash his clothes, to work in the field. And for you not to leave anything undone in the house. I want to see you working!" We—she beat us! That's how she was difficult, because she beat us, when we didn't want to do anything. There was I, and there were those nieces, the ones who lost their mothers, whom she went to fetch—they were Clara, Raudina, and Zilda. 2 . . .
H: Did your mother teach you other things besides that you had to be a good worker? For example, about proper behavior?
R: Eee-yeee! For sure! Mmm. She told me, those gelegele [prostitute] ways, they aren't good. Mm-mm, they aren't good. They dirty the name of a person, your name. You'll have a bad reputation, in the mouths of others, they'll say that the daughter of so-and-so is a gelegele. That isn't good. A girl has to find a man, a boy, whom she can fall in love with, and marry him. Because my mother was hoping that I would find a boy I liked, and he also would like me, and we would marry. . . . What she wanted was for me to find a boy of my race, to marry him. Maybe a boy from Chibuto, whom I like, maybe from here in Magude, I can marry him. If I like him, and he likes me. . . . That's what she hoped for. Because she too, her house wasn't near my father's. My father was from Guijá, there at the foot of Chokwe. While she's from here, Mazimhlopes. But they found each other, there at those dances, or whatever. He liked her, my mother. He always ran after her. Even, my father even had to send my aunt, his sister, to court her for him, because they were friends. That [aunt] was always talking with my mother, [persuading her] to come and be her sister-in-law. Mmm. That's how it was. . . . Ah, that stuff about kugangisa [courting], courting—they talk about those things, our mothers, when they're sitting, and we're there next to them, talking. "Heh, that boy, he courted this girl, so-and-so." Or, if it's a girl, they say, "Ah, she accepted that boy so-and-so." Because that thing, kugangisa, it comes from the man. Mmm. Not from the woman. . . . Maybe you, when you see a boy, eh! "That boy, he's beautiful! He's really beautiful! Heh, I want him to be my husband!" But you can't court him, no way. Only he, when he sees you, he says "Eh! That girl, I really like her, she's beautiful! I will court her!" Mmm. . . .

They told us that we have to guard ourselves, because if you marry and your husband finds you are not a virgin, ah! There's trouble. The husband, he goes there, to the old women, the masungukati. And the masungukati too, yah! Because they too, when they wake up in the morning [after the wedding], they want to hear what the man is going to say. Eeh. They call the man. "Eh, good morning, good morning. Eh, we woke up well, we have nothing [wrong]. Ah! What about you, maybe you slept well?" Slept well, heh! That's to discover what he has to say. "Eh, we slept well, what about you? . . . " Well, he says, "Yes," if he found that his wife, if he found her virginity. "Eh, we slept well!" Ah, mmm. "That business of yours, is it in order?" "My business, it's in order. I found everything all right." "Ah, thank you. So nothing's wrong?" He says, "Ah, nothing. I slept well." Well, they already know that, there is this—there's another thing, they ask for the sheets, those masungukati. [To see whether] they have blood on them. . . . When they see that there's a little blood there, ah, they're happy. They even have to give some money, that money is for the mother [of the bride].

H: What happened if they found no blood?
R: Eeh! That was a problem, they want to know who took her virginity. Mmm. She has to say. They have to call that girl, to tell them who did it. Because she found shame, for not being a virgin. . . .
[. . .]
R: My uncle Dane, that one who worked with the Swiss Mission, he's the one who sent me to be raised with the Swiss, the Misses, the madrinhas of the Swiss, there in Lourenço Marques, at the Internato, at Nkovo. 3 . . . We were twenty-three students there, girls. Some from Lourenço Marques, some from Xikhumbane. Even one girl, called Natália, she was the daughter of—in that time we called it daughter—she was the daughter of Misse Porta and Misse Reva. They took care of that girl, her parents died, and they took the children—there was Natália, there was Masomulo, who is a dwarf. And later, they took this Natália to, to Nkovo, those Misses Reva and Porta. They took her there to study. . . . When we got out of school, we came to lunch, and afterwards we picked up our hand-work. Whoever wanted to do crochet, did crochet. Whoever wanted to make socks, made socks. Whoever wanted to make, mmm, a nightgown, made a nightgown. Mmm. And we were twenty-three there. . . . When I was at the Internato, my friends there, they were Andina, Andina Tembe. Mmm. There was Leonora, who was the niece of my teacher, Aldasse. . . . These were two friends that I had there. Later, that Andina got married, when I was still in the Internato. And when I left from there, Leonor was still at her parents' house. But afterwards, later, I heard that she got married to, to that teacher. Later that teacher became a minister [mufundhisi]. Mmm, that mufundhisi, ah! He died, it was terrible. He was beaten—have you never heard this story, that there was a minister here, a minister who died from a beating, called Manganyela? 4 . . .

Menstruation, it attacked me when I was there at the Internato. Even—[laughs] at two o'clock, I was teaching a class. Because I was already in the third form, with my teacher called Aldasse. He was a misto [person of mixed race], a Muslim. And then, since that [teacher] Filimone had many students there, in the second form, he came to ask my sister, my maezinha, Misse Elizabeth Randin, if I could help, to teach the students who come at two o'clock. . . . And then, that Leonora, sometimes she came to play here in the Internato, because she was my friend. And then, when I was sitting, giving classes, I finished, and she was already there. [Suddenly] I felt my pants were wet! I said, "What is this?" . . . [R describes her surprise and confusion] How I was crying, when I saw that blood! And then Misse Randin, she heard the crying. "Who is that crying in there [in the bathroom]?" "It's Racelina! Because, I'm bleeding!" And the others, who were there, they said, "She's bleeding! She's bleeding!" And then she came in. "Racelina?" "Misse?" "Why are you crying?" "Misse, I'm bleeding!" "But don't cry! We all get this. The time has come, now you are a woman! Now you can marry. A person who doesn't bleed, can't have children. It's a sign that you, if you marry, you'll have children—don't cry!" And then she came in, with rags, [the kind] she also used. . . . [R explains how Miss Randin showed her what to do]

H: So before this moment, you didn't know about menstruation? Your mother hadn't told you about it?
R: Ah, no. She couldn't say anything. She was just waiting, thinking that I would start when I was at home. She too would have taught me how to do those things. Misse Randin, she explained everything. "Now Racelina, remember that your menstruation has started. Mmm. You have to behave well. Because you, if you don't behave well, if you find boys who want to play with you, you will become pregnant. And that way, you won't marry." And she gave me a little box, for me to put those rags in. . . . For us, students at the Swiss Mission, they really insisted on that, that girls guard their virginity. Heee! Even when we girls were talking about that, all of us, together, we say, "Eh, me, no way! I can't marry if I don't have my virginity! No way, he won't take that from me, when I'm not married! No way." . . .

And then, there was one month, when I went for fourteen days, while I was menstruating. And then my mother said this. "Look, this is because you started your menstruation there. If it were here at home, I would have done something, to reduce the days, I would have prepared a medicine to reduce the blood." That is, kukombonya. "If it had started when you were here at home, I would have done kukombonya for you." 5 . . .

H: Did your mother know how to do that?
R: Ah, no. It's known only by the tin'anga. Well, I don't know, maybe my mother learned from her mother. They say that you take a ximbitana [small clay pot], 6 they put the medicine in here. They put it on the fire. You sip that medicine, you sip it for three days. Then they take that ximbitana, they go find a tree, they scratch in the soil here, on the ground. They dig, maybe with a hoe. They dig, they dig, they dig. Well, they take that ximbitana, they go "eee." Well, they pat the soil down, they cover it up. Well, they'll open it up, they'll smash [the pot], when it's your time, when the time arrives that, it's all right for you to bleed. Mmm. That's what they do. But when they don't open up that ximbitana, ah, your menstruation is finished, you won't have children.


Schooling Story: Author | Albertina | Rosalina | Valentina


Note 1: Kufa kuetlela, which can also be rendered as "death is sleep." Henri P. Junod translates this proverb to mean that "Death is like sleep. Therefore do not worry about a dead person. He does not feel pain anymore but rests" (Henri P. Junod, The Wisdom of the Tsonga-Shangana People, 3d ed. [Braamfontein: Sasavona, 1990], 289). Many women used this phrase when recalling how their mothers and/or grandmothers used to talk to them about family history, less in the sense Junod describes than to reassure them there is nothing wrong with talking about their ancestors.  Back.

Note 2: Clara and Raudina Tivane were the daughters of Tavasse Ubisse and Patapata Tivane, the eldest brother of Rosalina's mother; Anina took responsibility for Clara and Raudina after Patapata killed himself and his wife. Zilda Mangwana was the daughter of Movanyani Mangwana, whose mother (Nsenganyana Khosa) was the elder sister of Rosalina's maternal grandmother, Kondissa Khosa. Rosalina's mother also raised Zilda, first as a daughter and then as a de facto daughter-in-law after she conceived a child with Rosalina's brother Bernardo. Although the cousins never officially married, Zilda had seven children with Bernardo and spent her adult life as an accepted junior wife in the Malungana homestead.  Back.

Note 3: The most common meaning of the Portuguese term madrinha is godmother; like maezinha (little mother), which Rosalina also uses for the European women who presided over African girls studying at the Swiss Mission girls' school in colonial Lourenço Marques, it explicitly constructs the female teacher-student relationship as a mother-daughter bond.  Back.

Note 4: Rosalina explained how this man, accused of spying for Frelimo in the war for independence, was imprisoned and beaten to death by the Portuguese. According to Rosalina, a delegation of Swiss Mission officials came from Switzerland to exhume Manganyela's body in order to determine how he died. Interview with Rosalina Malungana, 28 May 1995, Facazisse.  Back.

Note 5: As Rosalina and other older women explained, kukombonya (also kufunengela) was done when a girl began her menstruation too early, when she was considered too young to marry.  Back.

Note 6: Ximbitana is the diminutive form of mbita, the generic term for clay pot and also the name of a particular type of clay pot used mainly for cooking. The ximbitana has great ritual and symbolic importance as the proper vessel for preparing and storing infant medicines. See chap. 4.  Back.


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