Over the course of several weeks, I have featured my homestead and pit latrine. Another integral part of the Swazi homestead dynamic and structure is the kraal (pronounced crawl). The kraal is where a family’s cattle are kept. The kraal is also a symbol in signifying that family’s wealth.
In rural communities, personal bank accounts are less common. It’s not that the money isn’t there. The money takes on a different form. Cows are money. A family with a lot of cows is considered a wealthy family. Some families also invest in cows. When baby calves are born, wealth is increased.
Cows are very much intertwined into Swazi culture. If I want to build a home for myself and my family in a rural community, I am expected to give a certain number of cows to the umphakatsi (pronounced oom-pa-got-see), or local community leadership. If I want to marry, I must pay lobola (low-bow-la), or bride price, to the bride’s family. The lobola is traditionally negotiated between the families, and paid in cattle. For major events in a family or community, a cow may be slaughtered in honor of the occasion.
The cows are released from the kraal daily and taken to graze by a cattle herder. Amazingly, the cows know exactly where their respective kraal is and the cattle herder knows exactly which cows belong in that kraal.
In addition to wealth and food, the kraal also provides plenty of cow manure for to be used as fertilizer during ploughing and planting season.
Be kind to yourself.
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Recently, I was fortunate to attend an event in my community known as Sibhimbi (pronounced see-bim-bee). This is the installation ceremony of a new chief. It’s a really big deal. Most of the people in my chiefdom (community) were there, and people even came from far away for the all day event. The king sends a representative from the royal family. It’s huge.
The week leading up to the Sibhimbi, I noticed that infrastructure was being arranged for something big. Large trucks worked to ensure that the gravel roads were level. School children took time away from school to remove trash from the side of the road. I was urged by community elders to make sure I was present at this event. One of the teachers at the high school explained all of the fanfare surrounding this event. He told me that these events rarely happen. He shared that he had never been to one in his life. He’s almost 40 years old!
He explained that once a chief dies, the position of chief typically passes to the eldest son. While the new chief may govern the chiefdom (unofficially) for years, it isn’t until the Sibhimbi that the new chief becomes official. Because there are so many people and resources involved, it can take years to organize. It is at this event that the new chief gets his late father’s shield, among other items. The Sibhimbi involves much singing, dancing and eating. For this occasion, at least 18 cows were slaughtered. This is in addition to all of chickens.
In the picture above, several men from my community sing and dance in full traditional dress to celebrate the installation of the new chief.
Be kind to yourself.
One of the ways that I have been hanging out with my bobhuti na bosisi (brothers and sisters) is playing games at home. I bought a deck of playing cards, and learned a few tricks to share with my bobhuti na bosisi. The tricks were well received, and met with faces of wonder and amazement.
Some of my bobhuti decided to teach me some of the card games they play here. The first game they taught me was called, “Casino”. I still don’t understand how exactly it works. I do remember a few things about the game and its rules. Each card has a value. All numbered cards are that number’s value. Jacks are worth 11. Queens are worth 12. Kings are worth 13. Aces are worth either 14 or 1. To win, you have to build a home, which is a stack of cards. Whoever has the most spades in their home wins.
One of my bhuti taught me how to play a card game called, “AK-47”. Each player is dealt four cards. Each player begins her/his turn by picking up a card from the deck, which is face down, and discarding one card face up. A player can also pick up one card from the discarded pile. The goal of the game is to get an ace, a king, a four, and a seven. These cards do not have to be the same suit. This game was really simple to grasp. Because of that, I really enjoyed it.
Another game that my bobhuti taught me was called, “Stomach”. The cards are spread in a circle face down. Each player begins his/her turn by picking up any card in the circle and placing it face up in the center of the circle. When the next player starts her/his turn, s/he cannot repeat the suit on top of the face up pile. If the suit does repeat, that player must pick up the entire pile of face up cards. S/he will then turn over a new card to start a new face up pile. Once all of the cards in the face down circle are gone, the next player will play a card in the face up pile. Whatever card is played cannot repeat the suit of the card on top of the discard pile. If the suit is repeated, that player must pick up the entire pile. When a player has no more cards, that player wins. I asked one of the boys why the game was called, “Stomach”. He told me that towards the end of the game when a player has to pick up a large pile of cards, it looks like that person is pregnant or has a large stomach.
I’ll close by saying that while I have enjoyed playing with the children and learning about them through play, I am oft times amazed at the ingenuity of the children around the village. One boy made a model car with scrap metal rods and plastic bottle caps. He is able to steer the car with a metal rod that he pushes. Another boy has made several soccer balls using plastic grocery bags packed with the trash of the homestead. It’s pretty amazing.
Be kind to yourself.