Posted by: thisiskv | March 27, 2014

Half Fiction


The men carried two heavy poles on their backs. It was midday in the Kavango and the sweat from their labour was running down their faces. Their skin was dark and dry from the long hours they spent working under the burning sun. The poles were carried to a hut were many of the villagers had gathered. I was standing on the other side of the path, watching closely in a manner that I hoped would not arouse suspicion of an unwelcomed foreigner. The main entrance to the hut was sealed with the poles which crossed each other diagonally. The poles crossed each other in a way that made a big letter “X”, sort of to signal “no entry” to someone. It is believed that when death strikes its victim, he passes through the main entrance.  A new entrance was built so that death would fail to find his way in the house again. He had already claimed 7 people.

I was quite intrigued by this observation that I made it a task to visit this village again when I travelled to Rundu. The bus driver always stopped at the same tree and speaking in a tongue I could not understand yet, would shout that I had arrived at my destination. I carried a little green notepad similar to the ones that waiters carry to take down your order. I made my way through the bushes and towards the village. The village was unusually empty when I arrived. In a distance, I could see people running in the direction of the hut. I did not know this then but when a baby is born in the Kavango, neighbours run towards the hut when they hear the screams. I made my way closer to the hut and when I reached the main entrance I started to tread lightly. I thought maybe if I walked in quietly and stood at the back no one would notice me.  An older woman with wrinkles on her face looked at me disapprovingly as I entered but besides that everyone had their attention fixed on the hut.

The baby was born in the month when new fruits were harvested.  According to Koopman (1986) a name is a label in the European concept, but to Africans a name is a person i.e. a name is a reflection of one’s personality. .The English surname Smith means “metal worker, blacksmith, derived from Old English smitan “to smite, to hit” (  The name which the baby was going to receive would reflect the time of the day he was born or the circumstances under which he was delivered. I shared in the eagerness of the villagers to hear the sex of the baby. The midwife came crunching out of the hut and called the father in. Moments later he returned holding the baby in his arms. A child who was born after a baby that passed away usually received a special name. Among the Kavangos such a child is named Iipinge if it is a boy or Mpingana if it is a girl, which means the one who replaces another. He held the baby in the air for the villagers to see, saying “Kaavetoo!” because he had restored life to the hut.

After the ceremony, I decided to leave the village and catch a bus back to the city. Looking at my watch I had roughly three hours of day light left before it got dark. As I was walking I thought about the birth I had witnessed and been a part of. I thought that my rucksack was also much lighter to carry then when first arrived. I shared some of my food with the village kids so my rucksack weighed less. I thought of the baby that was born, his parents, the villagers and the old woman.  Yes the old woman, why did she look at me strangely? What was she thinking? What did she want? I was interrupted by a noise behind. I was being followed by a dog. According to oral tradition (cf. Fourie 1991) the Kavango, Aawambo and the Ovaherero migrated into Angola from the north-east in one group, probably in the 16th century. The Kavango groups (excluding the Hambukushu) split off from the main group some time before the Ovaherero, who on their part moved on into Kaokoland. I was on the bus and ready for my next adventure.

Limitless Voyage] Kaveto Tjatjara




  1. This is great man!!!!

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