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Lives of Grandmothers: Author | Albertina | Rosalina | Valentina

Lives of Grandmothers (Valentina Chauke)
N'waXavela Mazive


4 October 1995, Facazisse

V: My grandparents, I didn't know them. The ones who gave birth to my mother, they don't know me. The ones who gave birth to my father, they don't know me. . . . I grew up with my kokwana. . . . It wasn't that grandmother Salume, it wasn't Salume. 1 . . . [Salume] is the one who does that, she goes and takes her, that kokwana. She takes her from her vukatini [marriage home]. They say, "Come, you will look after this child." She looks after him, she stays there—she says, "But I'm married!" [Salume says] "Come back [home], you will look after this child of ours, this boy Matoyi." N'waXavela is the nhlantswa. 2 He died, the father of her child. She gave birth to one male child. He was Phumuyani. When he grew up, he was Manuel. . . . This kokwana, she was born together with Salume. Salume, she goes and takes her from her vukatini. This kokwana who brought me up, she is N'waXavela, N'waXavela Mazive. She is a mother of my father. Salume, she goes and takes the daughter of [her father's] brother. She goes and takes her because [she wants her] to bring up that child, that boy.
H: Wasn't N'waXavela upset, to be taken from her vukatini that way?
V: What will she be upset about? No, she wasn't upset. Because [Salume] takes her with her child. She comes back to the house of Malate. 3 They got along well, those VaHlengwe! Our kokwana, she was taken—the fathers, they agree to take our kokwana. . . . Salume takes a nhlantswa, to bring up this child.
A: She brings you up?
V: No, it's [Matoyi]. We, we came later. N'waXavela, she marries at her vukatini. Salume, she goes to take her. She takes this kokwana, this one who was married by the Mawayi family. Well, she takes her, she returns home, she returns to bring up this child. When he was still small, he hadn't yet married.
A: But how does Salume "take" N'waXavela, from her vukatini? She just goes and "takes" her?
V: Don't we get along? We get along. You [V to A], you have a sister. You know that your sister, she gave birth to a child, over there. And at that place she doesn't have value. [Salume], she goes and takes her, it's because of love between sister and sister. N'waXavela and Salume, they were sisters. Salume goes and takes her, from her vukatini. And [N'waXavela] says, "But I'm married, hahane, and yet you're taking me?" 4 And [Salume] says, "I'm taking you to bring up this child." She refuses at first, [but] Salume says, "I want you because you will look after this child until he grows up, he takes a wife while you're there with him." Indeed, she brought him up. She brings up Matoyi. Because this Matoyi, his mother died, when Matoyi is still small. Now who will raise him? [N'waXavela], she brings him up, until he becomes a young man, until he takes a wife. And then me, I was brought up, I was brought up in the house of my brother, this Matoyi. . . .
H: Why was it N'waXavela who raised you, then?
V: Mother died, and I was still this small [V indicates size with her hands]. We, we two—because there was one, she was living with our hahane, this one who was born with Xihlehlwana [i.e., Xihlehlwana's sister]. This one, who let my sister burn in the fire. . . . When he goes home, when Xihlehlwana goes to Hlengwini, he says, "Take this child, bring her up." Me, they leave me behind, they leave me behind, when I'm very, very small! They leave me behind, at this kokwana's place. I stay, and I'm still small! Father, he goes to Hlengwini. Father, Xihlehlwana, he gives me to N'waXavela. He says, "You, mother, look after this child of mine for me." They got along, those elders. They got along so well, those of long ago! Long ago, those of long ago, they got along so well! They weren't like us—they got along together, those of long ago. When one said, "Go over there, you go and bring up that child," you did it.

Lives of Grandmothers: Author | Albertina | Rosalina | Valentina



Note 1: Salume Mazive, birth mother of Xihlehlwana Chauke, Valentina's father.  Back.

Note 2: Nhlantswa normally refers to the daughter of a woman's brother's daughter or to the woman's younger sister, whom her husband may marry as a junior wife. Valentina uses the term differently here. Salume and N'waXavela were considered vamakwavo (sisters) because their fathers were uterine brothers. Since Salume's father was the elder of the two, Salume was senior to N'waXavela and so could treat her as nhlantswa—in this case, calling on her to live in Salume's household in order to look after the boy Matoyi, who was the orphaned son of one of Salume's daughters.  Back.

Note 3: Malate: the clan name of Salume's son-in-law, Matoyi's father.  Back.

Note 4: Here, hahane (which normally means father's sister) is used by N'waXavela because Salume is the elder sister.  Back.


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