Open Space Greetings –cum-Homestead Greetings

THE Oshiwambo custom followed in greeting someone inside a house is not the same as the one when people meet outside a house.

When greeting takes place outside a house, people may do it in the standing position. If one finds another person in a stationary position first, such a person is obliged to greet the one in the stationary position.

The Aawambo may begin with a short discussion as a prelude to their greetings, For example if one finds people weeding, he or she may say: Tetii, omwiidhi yakwetu omwa fa mwe gu kondjitha. Omwa longo ngiini ano yakwetu? Memukwetu owa hala oku sheka shila. Omwiidhi ngono otatu gu mana nuumvo. Tse otaatu si omwiidhi kuume. Ondi shi nokuli owe tele ndje ondjambi (Listen, it seems you have overcome the weeds. How did you weed? My friend you are mocking at us. We will never finish weeding this year. We are troubled by weeds I though you have brought me group of people to help me.)

After the two parties have exchanged a few sentences, then begin actual greeting commences.

When one finds many people in a place, they greet them all in one go. The addressees would greet the addresser one by one. The greeting may be based on the situation in which one finds the persons. When one finds a person under a tree, they may say: Tu pii wo omuzile. (May you give us shade) or Tu popilii wo omutenya. (May you protect us against the heat of the sun).

The addressee would respond: Oonguka (Here it is) or Ee-ee. (Yes) If the addresser finds a person drawing water from the well, he/she may say: Tu pii wo omeya. (May you give us water). The addressee would respond: Oongaka. (Here it is.) When a man greets another person he throws down the stick if he has one in his hand. This is done to show that it is safe as the stick is used in self-defense. A person may also hit the ground with the stick to show his gratitude to a visitor

It must be pointed out that greeting may become redundant in certain situations. Writing on the Mampruli greetings, Naden (1984) states that greeting may become redundant in the case of extended or repeated meeting in the same context.

The function of both this redundancy and saliency factor in suppressing the requirement for greeting is “information theoretically predictable” on rather general grounds. Redundancy of greetings also applies to Oshiwambo community in the same situation as expressed by Naden, but the Aawambo do not pass by a person they have met several times in the same context without saying word like ombili (excuse me) or Eewa ( it is alright or Indi pite po (May I pass).

There are, however, cases in Oshiwambo community when no greeting is expressed. When you find a woman collecting cow dung for pot making no greeting is required as such a woman will not respond. It is believed that if she responds her pot will crack.

Commenting on the Ibo greetings, Nwoye (1993) argues that the prevalence of greeting makes its absence in situations where it is expected to occur, something that requires an explanation. The mother of the twins does not respond to greeting in the usual fashion before purification rite. She simply responds by ululating.
Although greeting in Oshiwambo is often quite lengthy and effusive, that there are responses to greetings which are a truncated form of a particular situation. Such responses require long explanation. These responses depend on the circumstances under which the addressee finds himself/herself. When the people are not really coping with a situation, their replies to the question: Onawa tuu?/ or Oshi li ngiini? could be the following:

Shaa taku ku shi (as long as the day breaks). This means one is lucky to see the daylight.

Osha gwana (It is enough) In this case one is able to progress despite his difficulties. Or his deteriorating health does not make it impossible for him to do his duties.

Hatse ngaa mbano (Here we are.) We are alive or do exist despite the problems we experience.

Otatu nu ngaa momeya (We do drink water) It is believed that when one is seriously sick the only thing he is able to take is water. When one experiences serious difficulties and loses appetite for food, they resort to drinking water only.

Aahwepo ngaa . We are rather okay. i.e we are so and so.

Otatu endekele nga hu itaaku ziya. We are leaning to the side where it is not leaking. A thatched roof may leak when it rains and the occupants shift to the side where it is not leaking. This means we face challenges but we overcome them.

When people are really coping with the situation, they may give these responses:

Oshimati (It is boy way of living.) A boy is expected to lead gentle life and should not worry so much about difficulties. Figuratively being a boy means one is gentle, nimble and energetic. Unfortunately this response can be given by men only. One can also say: Osho opala. (It is alright.) In a radio interview with of John Maythan of Cape Talk, Maython indicates that the Zulu use the poetic language in greeting. He continued that the Zulu uses different poetic language in response to the question: How are you? (John Maython, Cape Tlak. Thursday 5th June, 2003 at 5.45pm). These responses depend on the circumstances in which interactants find themselves. PF

References

Nwoye, O.G. 1993. An Ethnographic Analysis of Igbo Greetings. Vol.6 No. 1 PP 37-48

Naden, A. 1984. Social Context and Mampruli Greetings. Sine loco