Isdore Guvamombe on Friday
The village may eventually prove to be the spiritual conservatory of the world. When the civilised nations in consequence of their wonderful material development shall have had their spiritual susceptibilities blunted through the agency of a captivating and absorbing unrealistic materialism, it may be that they have to resort to the village to recover some of the simple and original elements of real life.
Whatever we do in towns — the jungles of concrete buildings and pavements and junk food — one will always revert to the village to drink and dine from the wealth of our ancestors, from our mothers and fathers who lead the most modest of all lives.
Back in the village in the land of milk, honey and dust or Guruve, the months of waiting for Christmas were over.
The festive season had reached fever pitch, having increased in tempo and crescendo in mid-December. Mothers had decorated their homes, hand-painting their walls with fresh soil paste and the floors with cow-dung paste.
In the village, clothes had names that even replaced manufacturer’s labels. There were clothes bought from groundnut selling proceeds (bhurukwa renzungu), those from selling the ox, Bhusumani (bushman) and was called bhurukuwa raBhusumani and so forth.
Grandmother had her special colourful dress bought from the sale of flying ants and she called it hembe yeshwa. That was the village. These special clothes always surfaced during the festive season. Special!
Eyes had already been cast on which goat would be slaughtered and which cock was for the pot. Grocery shop owners had drawn lists of which villager wanted how many loaves of bread, and how many packets of sugar. Bread was collected on Christmas Eve to ensure it was at least ‘fresh’. Mothers hid most of the groceries and new clothes for unveiling on Christmas Day.
This villager was just seven. This day, together with many boys in the village, started by streaking to Dande River to bath. It was a very cold bath by all standards, and the water was brownish due to the silt collected in the night rain.
On that day everyone bathed, even those boys who had gone for weeks without bathing, did so. Thereafter, every boy heavily applied Vaseline to avoid turning ashen grey. It was only one boy who had the Vaseline, but on such special occasions, sharing was not a problem. Normally in the absence of Vaseline, boys would apply soap as a lotion. Lifebouy was the most popular soap for boys. Women favoured Lux. They bathed with soap, towelled themselves dry then applied soap. But not on Christmas, at least one person had Vaseline.
After the river, the boys dispersed to go and change into their new clothes. It was not uncommon to never have worn new clothes the whole year, until Christmas. So Christmas was very special. Very, very special!
This villager had been lucky this particular Christmas. New clothes — a Sting label trousers, a matching shirt and Tender Foot tennis shoes — all from the sale of our aging ox named Captain. What else could a village boy want on a Christmas; after all Sting was in fashion? These days the urbanites call them cargo pants, whatever that means. After fitting in well, it was time to show off to the other village boys, some of whom were not so lucky to get anything new on Christmas.
This villager took a footpath that went past the homestead of Sekuru Jemusi (James). Sekuru Jemusi had a huge mango orchard. It was bigger than that of anyone in the village and beyond. He normally sold his fruits for a song. Village boys also stole from him so he kept huge vicious dogs. So the path slightly avoided his homestead as people were scared of his dogs, especially the one called Peri. Legend had it that Peri was named after a bicycle given to grandfather as a gratuity for his heroism in the Second World War in The Bahamas.
Grandfather’s white friend and war-mate Tim was given a farm across the Dande River as gratuity for being Second World War Hero Class One. Blacks were class two heroes and were given bicycles, while their white counterparts were superior by virtue of their skin and named class one. While whites were given farms, blacks were given iron horses (bicycles).
That is beside the point.
The Christmas narrative is that this villager used the path that slightly circumvented Sekuru Jemusi’s homestead on his mission to show off to other boys, especially his cousin Oddo, who had already spread the message about his new Christmas acquisition.
From nowhere, Peri leapt from the hedge that ring-fenced Sekuru Jemusi’s homestead and brought this villager to the ground. Peri was vicious. She sank her teeth into the villager’s leg, tearing the new Sting pair of trousers.
Peri bit several places, intermittently dragging this villager by his clothing. It was a sorry sight. By the time Sekuru Jemusi came to the rescue, Peri had not only humiliated this villager, but had also broken his Christmas spirit and torn his clothes.
It was a noisy attack that attracted everyone and sent villagers streaking from all corners. This villager limped a bit and pretended to be fine. But do villagers not say a lizard that jumps from the tallest tree in public might pretend not to be hurt, but will certainly feel the pain at night when alone?
The pain was later to catch up with this villager and by the afternoon, the villager was on the back of a bicycle being taken to hospital.
By the time this villager came back from Guruve Hospital, the greater part of the festivities was over. This villager limped to a homestead where boys and girls competed in dancing to “Venencia” from Leonard Dembo and the Barura Express. This villager just watched while nursing the wounds.
If it was not for the wounds, he would have raised the dust with his spectacular dances, centred on deft footwork.
There was another song by Patrick Mukwamba or someone, about Bonus. That one sent youngsters sitting down and elders dancing spiritedly. That was Christmas in the village. Yes, the village.
So, the village may eventually prove to be the spiritual conservatory of the world.
When the civilised nations in consequence of their wonderful material development shall have had their spiritual susceptibilities blunted through the agency of a captivating and absorbing unrealistic materialism, it may be that they have to resort to the village to recover some of the simple and original elements of real life. The village!