Friday, December 08, 2006

Thandi sets her hair on fire

Thandi is a beautiful girl with long and hair full of curl.
She likes to play house with her friends.
She likes to make things with her hands.

“We can’t play house without cooking,’ Morongwa says.
Bongani agrees.
Pap and meat are easy to cook,” he says. I’ve watched my Mama cook a gazillion times.
“Where can we cook?” Thandi asks. Mama won’t let us use her stove.”

The gang make a list of things they need:
Matches, wood and paper.
Salt, maize meal and water.
“Psssssst! Don’t tell Mama I stole some meat!” Thandi says.

Bongani puts two large bricks side by side, to make a stand for the pot.
He puts newspaper and wood between the bricks.
He puts wire mesh across the bricks to make a seat for the pots.
He sets the paper on fire.
“Did you put enough water in the pot for the pap?” he asks the girls.

The fire is not catching properly
There is too much smoke
“”I know what to do,” Thandi says.
She kneels on the ground, takes a deep breath:
Phooooooooh! Phoooooooh!

“Get up!” they scream
“Thandi get up! Geeet uuuup!”
“What is it?” she asks. The she sees the smoke passing over her face.
”No! Oh no! Mama! Mama!
Maaaamaaaa! “she screams.

Her Mama comes running out
Öh my! What have you been doing?
She grabs Thandi, throws her on the ground,
Pours sand all over the smoking hair.

The smoke stops.
Burnt hair is shrunken and hard.
Thandi’s Mama presses on the head
‘Is it sore?’ she asks

“You are lucky your scalp did not burn,” Mama says.
“I’m sorry Mama. We wanted to cook for our house.”

Snip, snip, snip
Thandi’s Mama cuts her hair.
The long, beautiful curls are gone.
Thandi has chiskop!
‘I look like a boy,’ Thandi cries.

“Mirror, mirror on the wall, which hat is the fairest of them all?” Thandi says

Fresh salads and sarmies are best
As we don’t need to cook them.
Just wash, cut and mix
Add a bit of salt
And lots of mayo
“Use plastic knives, or you will cut yourself by accident,” Thandi’s Mama says.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The legend of Sananapo

The story of Sananapo is told by his dog soon after his death. It has also been recorded by choirs and a number of artists.

I’m putting it up here because it’s a popular song among African families, and strangely enough, I couldn’t find the lyrics on the Internet.

Anyway, translated, Sananapo’s dog says:

Sananapo, Sananapo 2 X
They have killed him, Sananapo
Then they tried to give me his bones, Sananapo
I do not eat human flesh, Sananapo
I will certainly not eat my royal master, Sananapo

Setswana version says:

Sananapo, Sananapo 2 X
Ba mmolaile, Sananapo
Ba mpha lesapo, Sananapo
Sapo ka gana, Sananapo
Ga ke je motho, Sananapo
Ga ke je mong wa me, Sananapo
O a thebe ya kgosi, Sananapo!

These are not full lyrics of the song. If you know the full song, including the part of how Sananapo was killed, please let me know.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The farm animals refuse to work

Ntate Moabi was tired. He had spent the past year working hard on his small farm to get a good crop of maize. Taking care of the farm animals was a big job too.
‘Let’s go to Durban on holiday,’ he said to his wife.

Page 1

Ntate Moabi could not leave the farm animals alone. Who would make sure that they eat and drink well? Who would clean their stalls?
“Ask Cousin Makhele to help,” his wife said.
Cousin Makhele, who worked as a school teacher, agreed.
“I want to buy a farm one day, he said. “Helping you will show me what it’s like to own a farm.”

Page 3

Cousin Makhele was shocked to find out how spoilt Ntate Moabi’s animals were.
Lolo the Cat ate only canned cat food.
Cousin Makhele tried to teach her how to catch mice.
“Come on Lolo, go catch the mouse. There’s a good kitty-cat!” he said.
Lolo refused to pounce on the mouse Cousin Moagi caught for her.

Page 4

Lolo complained about their new caretaker to her friend Foxy the dog.
‘He tried made you catch your own food? Eeeeeeew!’ he said, scrunching his face in disgust.
‘Imagine how humiliating it would be to chase one those creatures and then killing it! Gross!’
Foxy also had a problem with their new caretaker. Cousin Makhele said Foxy had to watch the sheep and make sure they didn’t wander away. He also said Foxy had to sleep outside, not in the kitchen where it was warm and cosy.
“Now that is really mean!” Lolo said. “How can that man do this to us?”
“The question is: what are we going to do about it?” Foxy said.

Page 5

The two friends decided to call for a meeting for all the animals on the farm.
All the animals attended the meeting.
Even the rats came: if Lolo hunted them, they would have to find a new place to live!
Lots of animals had something to complain about.
Manana the Mother Sheep said: the sheep don’t like Foxy watching them. He is big and looks scary to the lambs. And today he chased the lambs that had trouble keeping up.”
“He doesn’t let us run about and have any fund either,” one of the lambs piped up.
‘You’re lucky,’ Tsana the donkey said enviously. ‘I work from sunrise till sunset, pulling a wagon. We must have hoed everyone’s farm by now.’

Page 6

The animals decided to go on strike and refuse to do any of the jobs that Cousin Makhele gave them.
Lolo refused to catch mice.
The lambs ran anywhere they liked.
Foxy didn’t chase them back. He didn’t bark when strangers came to the farm either.
The cocks did not crow in the morning.
Nia was still bored in her stall because there was no one to ride her.
Tsana didn’t want to go on strike.
“Makhele can easily replace me with a tractor if I’m useless to him,” he said.
“He can’t do that,” the other animals said. “It’s not his farm.”

Page 7

Mice, on the other hand, were encouraged to run through the house.
“Make sure that Ntate Makhele sees you in the house,” Lolo told them.
”We will win this battle,” Foxy said.

Page 8

They won.
Cousin Makhele eventually gave up and decided to treat the farms animals just as they were used to.
“Soon Ntate Moagi will come back to the farm and its lazy animals will no longer be my problem,” he said.

Page 9 and 10

Their victory did not last long.
A week before Ntate Moagi was to come back home from the holiday, Cousin Makhele received a phoned call from him.
Ntate Moagi said he and his wife had decided to sell the farm and live in Durban. He explained that he and his family enjoyed the coastal city so much that they decided to live there.
Cousin Makhele was shocked.
“Sell the farm?” he exclaimed. “What about the animals?”
Ntate Moagi said he had tired been of farming for a long time. As a result, he allowed the animals do what they liked, he said.
“Would you like to buy our farm?” he asked Cousin Makhele.
Cousin Makhele said he needed to think about it.
“Ok. I’ll phone you in a week then,” Ntate Moagi said.

Page 11

When Cousin Moagi finished talking, Lolo came out under the sofa and ran outside to tell the other animals the bad news.
“Foxy! Foxy!” she meowed as she run through the house looking for him.
He was not in the kitchen, so she went to the stalls.
“What?’ he whoofed when she stopped next to him.
“Trouble,’ she said, panting for breath. “We are in deep trouble.”

Page 12

Lolo told the animals that Ntate Moagi and his family are not coming back to the farm to live. He wants to sell the far, to his cousin.
“Oh no! What about us?” Foxy asked.
“Moagi will sell us the place, move on and forget us. That’s what people do,” Tsana said.
Tsana said there was nothing the animals could do. They all had to accept the change and hope the new owner was kind to them.
Lolo told them that Ntate Moagi offered the farm to Cousin Makhele to buy the farm.

Page 13 and 14

“I think it’s time we all changed our attitude to Cousin Makhele,” Tsana said. “From now onwards, we must do what he tells us, when he wants it, no questions asked.’
“Do what he tells us? Do you mean I have to start hunting mice? Are you crazy?” Lolo asked, her face scrunched in disgust.
Tsana said he didn’t like giving up their fight either, but there was no choice.
“Now I will have to work all the hours God gave,” he said.
“You don’t have to catch the mice yourself,” Nia said. “Invite those wild cats that Foxy likes chasing. Tell them they can come visit on the farm, as long as they agree to catch the mice for you.”
“Wow! Why didn’t I think of that?” Lolo said happily.

Page 15

“E-e-e-excuse me!” a big grandfather mouse took a deep breath before he asked: “Are you saying it’s okay for the cats to start hunting us now?”
“Yep!” Lolo said happily.
“That’s not fair!” a tiny mouse squeaked as their mother pushed them out of the stall.
It was also agreed that Foxy would start watching the sheep.
Manana said she didn’t mind.
“I didn’t want to say anything because of the strike and all, but sometimes the lambs got lost, and I had to find them myself,” she said. “I didn’t like that.”

Page 16

The following morning, Cousin Makhele woke to cocks crowing.
At breakfast, he didn’t see Lolo and Foxy, who usually sat on the floor watching him. The mice that usually scurried round the room while he ate were also absent.
After breakfast, he went outside to begin work.
The sheep were already out in the fields, grazing. Foxy was also out in the field, occasionally running to block a lamb that wandered from the herd.
Cousin Makhele was surprised, but he was also pleased.
“I wonder what changed their minds?”


Saturday, September 02, 2006

How the birds chose a king

The drought was slowly killing the birds and animals in Phokeng Forest. The grass was dry and short. There was a small, muddy puddle where the drinking water should have been. Even Mrs Crow, who had a lot of food to eat when animals started to die from hunger, was getting thinner. Who wanted to eat a small pack of bones pretending to be a buck anyway?

Page 2

Luckily, Mrs Crow was very good friends with Eagle, the King of the Birds.
‘I have a plan to make sure that we always have enough food to eat,’ Eagle said to her.
‘Please don’t tell me that I should go out there to hunt? I so hate to chase my food!’
‘Don’t worry,’ Eagle said. ‘The food will come to you without lifting a finger.’
Mrs Crow loved the plan.

Page 3

The following morning, Eagle called a meeting of all the birds in the forest. He told them to all meet at the river’s edge, where they usually drink water at ten in the morning.
‘Ten in the morning? I will be asleep by then!’ Tera the owl complained to her friend uCilo. ‘He should have arranged the meeting for early evening. That way, we would meet after I wake up and before everyone else goes to sleep.
‘Now you’re dreaming,’ uCilo said, chuckling. ‘You know Eagle always arranges things to suit him and his friends, no one else!’

Page 4

‘I called this meeting to talk to you about tax,’ Eagle said when everyone was perched on a branch. ‘You should have started paying tax a long time ago. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it. But but now that there is a drought, it is even more important that we start to do so.’
‘Pay tax?’ Mr Dove shouted at him. ‘Are you out of your mind? Why should we pay tax? And how can we do that when we don’t even have food to feed our own chicks?’

Page 5

Without a word, Eagle flew over to where Mr Dove was perched, bit his head off and let the body fall to the ground. Then he spit the head out and flew back to his perch where he faced the other birds.
‘Now, is there anyone else here who wants to question whether you should pay tax or not?’ Eagle asked as Mrs Crow flew down to eat what was left of Mr Dove.
‘No? Good! In case there is a bird here that does not know, I am the King of the Birds in Phokeng Forest. That means that my word is law. Anyone who does not like it can either challenge me or leave. But I should warn you: if you challenge me and lose, you will suffer the consequences.’
No one said a word.

Page 6

Eagle explained that all the birds were expected to spend part of their time hunting for food for the King.That is, for him.
‘Mrs Crow here has graciously agreed to accept and store all the meat that you bring for me,’ he said. ‘She will also keep track of who is bringing food and who is not.’
‘Eh.. excuse me Eagle,’ uCilo said hesitantly. ‘ I am very small and can only catch grasshoppers. I don’t have the strength to catch someone thing that you could at. Also, many of the birds here don’t eat meat and don’t know how to hunt. How will they catch your food?’
‘That is your problem, not mine.’ Eagle said. ‘The law is, all the birds in this forest should pay tax. It’s their business to find a way to do it.’

Page 7

‘You’re joking, right?’ Tera said when uCilo told him about Eagle’s tax law.
‘Nope!’ uCilo said.
‘But how can he do that? He’s not even our real leader. We did not choose him!’ Tera said.
‘We did not challenge him either when he declared himself to be King of the Birds,’ uCilo said. ‘ He said that we can either challenge him for the throne or do as we’re told. As usual, everyone chose to do as they were told.’

Page 8

For the next couple of days, uCilo worried about how she and Tera were going to hunt food for Eagle. She thought of setting a trap as she had seen humans do. But where was she going to get a trap to use? And even if she did get one, she did not know how to use it. She was more likely to hurt herself with it than catch anything useful.
UCilo thought of paying someone to hunt for them. But who? Many of the birds did not eat meat and did not know how to hunt. And with the drought being so bad and food so scarce, how was she going to pay the hunter? As she lay in her nest, worrying about the problem, a solution came to her. It was a bold and risky, but if she was successful, the birds in Phokeng Forest would never have to worry about Eagle again.

Page 9 and 10

‘You want to challenge Eagle for the leadership?’ Tera shouted at her. ‘Are-you- crazy?’
‘It’s the only way to solve the problem,’ uCilo calmly said. ‘We have enough problems with drought as it is. We don’t need is a selfish leader who forces us to hunt for him while he lazes about with his friends.’
Tera understood the need to get rid of Eagle. But challenging him was dangerous.
‘What is going to stop him from ripping your head off as soon as you say the words challenge you?’
‘Because I am so little, he might decide to play with me for a while before he kills me. You know, like a cat plays with a mouse it’s planning to eat for lunchh. Also, Eagle likes to kill in public to scare everyone. I’m going to challenge him when he’s with a few of his friends and hope that he sets me aside to kill later.
‘What will stop him from killing you even if you win the race?’ Tera asked uCilo.

Page 11

Tera went with uCilo to challenge Eagle ‘for moral support.’
To everyone’s surprise, Eagle accepted the challenge with good humour.
‘Ha ha ha ha ha!’ he laughed when uCilo issued his challenge. ‘You think that you can beat me and become King of the Birds?’
‘Yes I do,’ uCilo said, trying not to look as scared as she felt.
‘Fine then,’ Eagle said. ‘Meet me at the river’s edge tomorrow afternoon at five. We’ll compete who can fly the highest and fastest.’
‘But that’s not fair!’ uCilo said.
‘Fair?’ Eagle laughed harder. ‘What does fair have to do with choosing a leader?’
‘The contest should be something that the another bird can do equally well, not something that you only you can win,’ uCilo said. ‘A good leader should be judged by his wisdom, kindness, knowledge of how the other birds live and an interest in making their lives better, not by his ability to fly.’
‘Why should a weaker bird be given the chance to be a leader? We should choose a bird that is stronger and able to enforce the law. As I am about to demonstrate, I am that bird.’
‘Make sure that you eat a good meal tonight, my dear,’ Mrs Crow said when uCilo and Tera left. ‘You’re going to make such a tasty snack for me tomorrow evening after the race!’

Page 12

Tera and uCilo spent the rest of the day visiting the other birds, telling them about uCilo’s challenge.
‘I am worried that Eagle will kill uCilo even if she wins the challenge,’ Tera said. ‘Please help me protect her soon after the race.’
‘How can we help?’ the Sparrows asked.
Tera’s plan was simple. If all the birds enter the contest, then uCilo won’t be the only challenger.
‘And if Eagle kills her, then he’ll have to kill all the birds that entered the race. And he can’t do that because there will be too many of them.’

Page 13

Although there were many birds who agreed to the plan, some refused.
‘My husband was stupid enough to question Eagle and he died because of it,’ Mrs Dove said. ‘I am not going to do anything that could get me killed and leave my children orphans.’
‘We are all afraid, but we cannot let fear rule our lives,’ Tera said. ‘Eagle became king because we were too afraid to challenge him when he put himself on the throne. uCilo’s challenge gives us the chance to get rid of him. If we don’t and he gets away with setting a law that says we should hunt for him and his lazy friends, what will he do next? Pass a law that says he and his friends can snack on us anytime they like? We have to stop him. Now.’

Page 14

All the birds in the forest attended the contest. For some of the birds, the event was pure entertainment. For others, it was an opportunity to see their friend Eagle wipe the floor with that impertinent little bird, uCilo. There were many birds that attended the event in order to support poor little uCilo. Her cause was right. Unfortunately, she could not win in a race against Eagle. The only thing that they could do was enter the race, as agreed with Tera.

Page 15

Eagle did not mind the other birds entering the race.
‘It’s a good thing that they are all entering the race,’ he said to Mrs Crow when she complained. ‘They will not be able to say that I made myself king when they don’t like the rules. They are getting the chance to win the throne away from me and I know I will beat them.’

Page 16

When the race began, Eagle flew high above the other the birds. When he was as high as he could get, he twisted and turned and danced generally provided a good show for everyone. He was the clear winner!
‘Where is uCilo?’ Tera asked in concern. ‘Can anyone see uCilo?’

Page 17

Eagle was just about to begin his descent when uCilo came out from under his wing and flew higher. Before the race began, uCilo crept under Eagle’s large wing. He was so busy bragging to his friends that he did not notice the little extra bundle under his wing.
Eagle tried to catch up with her but he could. He was too tired.

Page 18

‘There she is,’ Tera shouted, flying in circles just above the spectators. ‘She won! She won!’
‘No she didn’t,’ Mrs Crow said angrily. ‘ Eagle ran faster and higher than all the other birds, and that little UCilo tried to cheat him.’
‘Who cares how she did it?’ Tera shouted. ‘She won! She won!’

Page 19

Eagle was furious.
‘uCilo did not win the race fairly, so she should be disqualified,’ Eagle said to the Mrs Swallow, who was referee to the race.
‘Fair?’ uCilo laughed, taunting Eagle like he did her. ‘As you said, what does fair have to do with choosing a leader? I have provden that a leader need not be the strongest bird in the group. He or she should be smarter and more cunning that her enemies. As I have just demonstrated, I am that bird.’

Page 20

‘You agreed to the race Eagle, and we never set the rules of the game,’ said Mr Swallows, who acted as referees said.
‘Because I did not expect her to cheat!’ Eagle shouted.
‘You said that the bird that can fly the highest and fastest becomes king or queen of the birds. uCilo flew the highest. So you have to accept the results.’
‘And if I don’t?’ Eagle asked, walking to Mr Swallows in a threatening manner. ‘What if I decide to kill the little cheat and give her to Mrs Crow to snack on?’

Page 21 and 22

Mr Swallows took a huge gulp of air, but it did not calm his nerves. He looked at the other birds that had agreed to support uCilo, standing behind him. They could not back off, esepcially now that the chance to get rid of Eagle was so great.
‘We.. the other birds.. we..we agreed that if by some miracle uCilo wins the race and you still kill her, then we will kill you too.’
‘Kill me? How?’ Eagle asked incredulously.
‘Physically, none of us can win a battle against you,’ Mrs Swallows said. ‘But we can get to in other ways. For example, when the hunters come, we could fly towards your nest to lead them to you. You are a big bird. Sooner or later, they would get you with their guns. ’
‘Or, we could poison the meat that we bring to you as tax,’ Tera said. ‘You would never be be able to look at your food without wondering if it is safe to eat.’
‘You are going to let her get away with it!’ Eagle exclaimed angrily.
‘Sorry Eagle, but uCilo is the better leader, despite her small size,’ Mrs Swallows said. ‘She also showed us that we don’t have to be physicaly stronger in order win.’

Page 23

‘Bye bye,’ uCilo taunted him, waving a wing at him. ‘ I can’t say that it was nice knowing you.’
‘You will pay for cheating me!’ Eagle vowed as he and his friends left the field. ‘One day, I will make you pay.’

Page 24

Eagle, Mrs Crow and many of Eagle’s supporters decided to move to another forest after the race.
‘You’re welcome to keep this dustbin anyway,’ Mrs Crow said as they left. ‘It’s dry and ugly and you are likely to starve to death living here.’
‘Sore loser!’ Tera crowed.


Based on the folkstory titled: ‘How the birds chose a king.’ An original version of this folkstory is published in ‘Zululand, Its Traditions, Legends and Customs by L.H. Samuelson (Kessinger Publishing)

Friday, September 01, 2006

Thandi goes shopping

Ooh! I’m so tired!
I just want to lie down here and sleep.

Mma and I had a very busy day.
I woke up in the morning
To find Mma washed and dressed.
‘Time to take a bath,’ Mma said.
‘We need to go shopping.’

The water was nice and warm
‘I can swim,’ I said to Mma.
I like playing with the bubbles

Breakfast was porridge with milk
‘Yech!’ I said
‘Try the banana,’ Mma said
It’s soft and sweet.

We walked up the road.

To catch a taxi to town.

‘Four,’ the lady next to Mma said
Giving her the money to pay the driver.

Vrooom! Vroom!
I say as I drive my car
Just like the taxi driver.

The shops are big and busy
Lots of noisy people.

Mama pushes the trolley
Through the long rows of vegetables and fruits
‘We need bread, sugar and jam,’ Mma says
Pap and meat are ever so nice.

Ooh! I’m so tired, I say
‘You’ll have to climb on my back, Mma says
Putting a big blanket around me.

Left, right, left, right, she walks
Movement shaking me up and down.

Ooh, that is so comfortable
I’m sure Mma won’t mind if I sleep.

Mma and I went to town.
Mma and I went shopping.

Grandfather, what's wrong with you?

I first learnt this song when I was in school primary school, while we were learning about our bodies.

Batswana mothers also sing the song to put their babies to sleep, and I was no different when Baby was small. Dont know if the song was originally in Setswana, or if it's a translation.

Ntatemogolo o tswa kae kajeno
Ke tswa kwa sepetlele godimo ga thaba
O bolaiwa ke eng?
Ke tlhogo, magetla, sehuba le letheka
Mangwele le menwana
Mangwele le menwana

O bolaiwa ke eng?
Ke tlhogo, magetla, sehuba le letheka
Mangwele le menwana
Mangwele le menwana

Rough English translation

Child: Dear grandfather, where are you from today
Grandfather: I come from the hospital at the top of the hill
Child: And what is wrong with you?
Grandfather, (indicating the mentioned body part):
My head, my shoulders, my chest and my waist
My knees and my toes x2

Child: What is wrong with you?
Grandfather, (indicating the mentioned body part): My head, my shoulders, my chest and my waist
My knees and my toes x2