A place we call HOME

IN the village of The Villager, no house is complete without three places. Every man (man because traditionally. till further notice, no women can set up a fully constituted house). No matter how big or fancy it can be, a house put up by a woman shall always be referred to as “okagumbo” (a structure). Why? The heart of every house is “oshinyanga sha mutyakemo” (private lounge). Any women of substance grew up respecting the norm.

The first point of calling is known as “ehale” (arrival place). There you find omatindi lined up sometimes ga lamba ongandjo with or without okatala (hut). That is where omitala dhaamati are hosted. Aamati (a boy or man before marriage) would play a role of being a watchman or security in any homestead.

“Oshinyanga sha mutyakemo” is the only place where you as a guest can determine as to how much you are valued by your host. If, for example, you are sent to deliver a message from your father to the neighbour, the host will first inquire whether the message is serious “ngele opu na oonkundwa”. If not, you would simply be told ondu uva ko.

Traditionally, since it’s the first point of calling, if you come looking for Tate, you are told that “okwa fa a tile ota zi mo, andiya ndi ka tale Ngele omo eli” (he had earlier indicated that he was going to go out, let me go and make sure). Whether you will be received or not depends on the particular mood the Tate is in. The wife would come back and say, “okwa za mo ngaa ndele ita kala ko”. If the messenger suspects that you have “omishengwa dhe” (carrying gifts) or good intentions and he or she does not know you, the Tate will go around the house “ta pitile kokantu” (back door) and come as if he was out. Equally if the one visited suspects you have bad intentions, he would escape through “okantu” and vanish into thin air. You would then politely be told that, “tate nani okwa meneka mo ta yi kohambo katu shi kutya ota galuka uunake” (he went to the cattle post and we have no idea when he will be back). That is despite the fact that you just parted with your friend a while ago. Sometimes that norm is pre-arranged to test the messenger (especially if it’s newly-weds) and to see if you are “cultured”, and how far you could be trusted. A lot of comical events are known to have taken place around this phenomenon.

If the message is of serious nature, you would then be invited “koshinyanga shamutyakemo”. Once back at home, your father would first inquire how and where you were received? Moreover, the message is always coded in such a way that you would not make sense out of it as a teenager. Hence the recipient in most cases would just say, “ondu uva ko” (I got the message). “Aamati yokehale” will decide where to direct you.

The message meant for the wife will always be received “kelugo” (at the kitchen). No matter how hungry the man is, men are not allowed to go to the kitchen. If, for some reason the wife refused to cook for the husband, he would call on “okatekulu” (niece or female relative) to cook for him. Normally “ondjugo” (women’s bedroom) is located within “elugo” (kitchen area). You don’t mess with the women once she went “mondjugo”. That is where she keeps all the secrets of her family including “iimona noonyoka” (beads and necklaces) and is normally where she passes on the family gentles(what’s that??) especially to her daughters. That is her bedroom. Thus when her mother, sister or female friends are visiting, that’s where she hosts them. You do not mess with a woman once she has run “mondjugo”. Men, who have tried to defy that logic, have gone crazy or experienced great tragedy after they have discovered the truth about their wives. Others have chosen to forever keep their faith and join the list of pitkot government. Such men in my village are not allowed to take up leadership positions. Girl’s rooms are also not far from the kitchen area.

Traditionally, a man sleeps in a separate room, “omutala” (main bedroom). Thus, there is no common bedroom. This is where he hosts and plays catch up with his visiting friends. Equally, this is where the he keeps “omiya dhezimo lye” (clan power). Just like in the women’s case, this power can be passed on to “komutekulu gwomumati” (nephew) or to the trusted son.

The point here is that in The Villagers’ village, as a child you are taught that “omukuluntu iha tukwa” but you can slap him. You grow up knowing that “oohapu dhokehale nokelugo” has no bearing whatsoever on the administration of the house. They can only be opinions, period! For better or worse, “oompango” and directives only comes from “koshinyanga shamutyakemo.” Period! That is the nature of democracy in The Villagers’ village. In that set up you knew that ‘everywhere’ is never your place. You knew the curfew hour to come home, nothing like ‘any time’ is the right time. That is “ombwela” (anarchy). And anarchy in any set up can only prevail if it benefits the head of the house. The Villagers’ father would say “Ngelea owa hala okuninga ombwela ka ninge lyoye,” he would direct. That directive was applicable to everybody no matter how old you were as long as you leave in his house. He would have differed completely with Minister Kazenambo Kazenambo that “Uunona nye omwa fa mwa lunduka.” (meaning???) To him, “okaana oha ka lundukithwa (as far as the departed father of The Villager is concern, a child has no capacity of spoiling her/himself).

Definitely there is something wrong with the way some traditional homes are set up. The Villager got a shock of his life when he visited a friends’ house a week before “elalo lyegumbo” (a house warming party) of an acquaintance only to find “osheelo shondjugo sha taalela kuuzilo”. When The Villager pointed out the anomaly, his friend (ombwiti) was very much apprehensive and dismissive. After all “it’s my house and I’m not superstitious.” His visiting paternal uncle who is assigned by his paternal family “oku mu temena omulilo” (to bless his house), concurred with The Villager. In the village people learn by doing and seeing (apprenticeship). Knowing that it’s not easy to take “esipa” between two fighting dogs, he drugged the two “koshigunda” where they just slaughtered a cow. He gave the knife to komutekulu (The Villager’s friend) to skin it. He started skinning it lying on its back. Before he could cut it open, he ordered his “omutekulu” to stop to the amazement of everybody.

He gave him another assignment to skin a slaughtered goat tied on a tree with its head faced down. Again the uncle ordered “omutekulu” to stop after he skinned it. The crowd of curious onlookers grew at that point. To the amazement of everybody he asked his “omutekulu” as to why he did not skin both animals from the back? “Omutekulu” answered with a sarcastic smile that “ shaashi that’s how it’s done.” The uncle congratulated his “omutekulu” with a stern face for being spot on. “For the same reason “osheelo shondjugo ihashi taalele kuuzilo,” says the uncle as he winked at The Villager. The uncle sang the chorus of

“Trust and obey
For there’s no love for...
If you don’t trust and obey”

Some things are better left and accepted without explanation. Otherwise the word faith shall have no meaning. The only duty human beings have is towards themselves, starting with simple things like washing our hands, the rest (including love) cannot be done without passion. PF