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Fighting Story: Author | Albertina | Rosalina | Valentina

Lives of Girls (Valentina Chauke)
Fighting Story


27 June 1995, Facazisse

V: My girlhood, yee! Hah! We lived by mugayeyiso [fighting]! 1 We lived by fighting, by fighting! When we were girls. [laughs]
H: Who did you fight with?
V: It was the girls of the tiko [country]. There are girls here in Facazisse, there are girls there in Magude, you invite each other. "Ah, there's a battle, let's go play together, at this place!" The girls of this tiko, they were warriors! When you go to play with each other—we go to the woods, far! We didn't fight at home, we fought in the woods. With our fellow girls. This one who wins over the others, "Ba-ba-ba-ba!" [V raps A on the head] When you see her, you must really respect her. You respect her! Ho! When they see her, they say, "She's 'tate' [elder sister]." You say, "Tate." . . . "Heh-heh, here comes tate! Greetings, tate!" Me, I was a wild animal! They really respected me. I was really a wild animal, among my fellow girls. "Ooh, ooh!," they jump in fear! She jumps, this fellow girl, she beats me! [V pauses] I wouldn't accept it. Heh! It was the time. Aida. Aida! When you invite each other, [the girl] who is eldest, she says, "You, you fight with this one," "You fight with this one." They say, "Fight together, with this one." . . .
H: How did you fight, with your hands, or sticks, or what?
V: We fought with our hands. Heh! Heh, heh! [V mock-punches A] You scratch with your fingernails, until blood comes out.
H: What did your elders think of these fights?
V: Ha! Ha, ha, ha. You don't tell them, we didn't tell them.
H: [laughing] But what about when you went home bleeding, didn't they ask you about it?
V: Oh! What will you tell them? Do they talk about the affairs of girls, the business of girls out there in the woods? The affairs of girls, they didn't care about them, truly. . . . It's our secret, this thing. Our secret then, it's fighting. . . .

4 October 1995, Facazisse

V: We fought, indeed! These things—pulling those, those mitsingi! [laughs] Well, you go "eee." [V leans forward, pulls cloth over her head] You work here inside your nguvu [cloth], here. Well, you come out, you show your friends. Well. When—[V breaks off twigs from bush beside her], you break off a little piece. When you come out, you finish [with] your body, you finish. Well, when it's finished, well, you look for a girl in your ntangha [age group], you'll show her. We weren't equal. Well, when we finished, you go— [V taps A on the head with her stick] "When you see me, respect me! I'm your tate! I'm the big one!" Tate, [because] you defeated her. You did it with girls in your age group, your ntangha. You weren't tate by your mouth alone!
H: Where did you do this fighting?
V: In the bush, in the bush. Where we weren't seen by anyone. Although a boy—he must not see you when you're in this place where you go, to do this work! It was a secret! These things weren't seen by anyone. Boys, boys, when—eh! They say, "We're going to the xitikini [playground] of the girls! When [the girls] see . . ., they go "eee" [V scans the horizon, as if for boys], we turn around, we send them away. They go. Hee! We didn't allow it! They always surprise us from behind, they sneak up on us from behind, we go "eee" [V peers into trees]. "The boys, they're coming!" Hee! But we hid ourselves. It's a secret place! Where no one goes. [V pulls leaves from bush, tears them into pieces.] We, we had this thing, the thing that makes the medicine for pulling, it's this. The medicine.
A: You went with a medicine?!
V: We dug that tree, that little tree, for the medicine for pulling. We go and heat it. We shred it into a pot, we heat it. Well, we take it. We had this xirhengele [pot sherd] and a nkambana [small clay dish] [V goes through motions of mixing medicine, using stick and a can]
A: [laughing] Is that your xirhengele, there?
V: Do you want to go and show them, there at the home of the valungu?!?
A: [laughing] We just want to learn, vovo! We won't show anyone!
V: You don't show them, you don't tell them [how to make the medicine]! It's just for us. Since you say that you want to know everything about us.
H: Mmm, I understand, vovo. I won't show anyone.
V: It's this that we worked with, long ago—here [V points, laughs] to pull [mitsingi]. . . . [V explains how medicine was made and used].
H: Who taught you these things, how to make this medicine, how to pull [mitsingi]?
V: Yeee! So [you think] I'm of today?! Even our mothers, the ones who gave birth to us, they played this way. There was no n'anga who [alone] knew the tree for this medicine. These things, this medicine—when you know the tree, you should go and take it. . . . We understand each other through these things. This one who is the biggest, we sing a song to celebrate her victory, we sing a song, there. She's really respected! Me, I wasn't beaten by anyone! I beat them. Yah! It's what we wanted, in our ntangha. We say, "This one," we say, "She's tate!" You speak [this way] of her, when you're playing. If they weren't long—"You're a child!" . . . The men, they aren't happy with us [if we don't do it], the men. They say, "She doesn't yet know these things." They say, "She didn't pull." They say, "She's a mhakwa [hole]!" . . .
A: But vovo, how did you learn about these things?
V: These things, they couldn't be told by anyone, because—you know, long ago, you see this one who is older, she knows these matters. It's she who is the elder, you're sitting with a lot of people, she says, "There's this, there's this." And these lies that exist now, they didn't exist then. These things, it was the custom of long ago, of the girls. It was the time. Girls, long ago, they lived by these things, long ago. Mmm. All the girls, they all belonged to our age groups! Not one revealed your secrets. . . .
H: Did the church know that this was being done?
V: Hah! The superiors?!? Hee! In the church, is there this kind of talk? This kind of talk, it didn't exist in the church. It wasn't there. These things were known by the old ones, that, they have these things, the girls. [But] the church, they didn't accept it, because they're heathen, these things. They said, "These things, they don't mean anything." But they had value, among the girls. The law of long ago, of the church, all this nonsense, we didn't speak about it in the church. [V pauses] You didn't speak about it in the church, [like] this craziness that is spoken now. These things that we're talking about, you didn't tell anyone!

Fighting Story: Author | Albertina | Rosalina | Valentina


Note 1: Mugayeyiso, a Zulu word meaning a challenge to battle, specifically with reference to fighting among groups of herdboys.  Back.


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