31 March 2011

Who's Your Grandfather?

You address your father's father as sekuru. You also address your mother's father as sekuru. So, your grandfather is sekuru. He addresses you as muzukuru, which must mean grandchild.

However, as is to be expected, there are some differences in Shona culture. Sons of your maternal grandfather, sekuru, are also addressed as sekuru and call you muzukuru. Sons of these sons of your maternal grandfather are also addressed as sekuru and also call you muzukuru.

So, you are not limited to two "grandfathers," vasekuru (plural of sekuru), in Shona culture. Also, it is very likely that you will have vasekuru younger than you are (sons of your mother's brothers).

29 March 2011

Tsumo - Shumo

Musi muvi ndiwo muuya.

An evil day (can become) good luck.

Mavi ndiwo mauya.

Something bad (is also) something good.

-- Shona Proverb
From Tsumo - Shumo by Mordikai A. Hamutyinei and Albert B. Plangger

For example: When someone dies, people feel compassion for one another and forget the hatred they had for one another.

An English equivalent is "Every cloud has a silver lining."

27 March 2011

Deadly cobra missing from Bronx Zoo

Deadly cobra missing from Bronx Zoo

20 inch? We usually had 48 - 60 inch ones in Gweru and they were always slithering free. (The big ones didn't pay house calls, that's why none over 60 inches.)

Not to discount the danger of their venom, but to all this hype over a tiny tot in a zoo, I'll give a Bronx Cheer.

BTSZ Exams

Exam time at the Baptist Theological Seminary of Zimbabwe
Gweru, Zimbabwe

24 March 2011

Who's Your Brother? Your Sister?

In English we differentiate between male and female siblings. Male siblings are brothers and female siblings are sisters. Whether the speaker shares the sex of the brothers or of the sisters is of no importance in defining the relationship.

Shona differentiates between siblings of the same sex and siblings of the opposite sex. An elder sibling of the same sex as the speaker is called mukoma. A younger sibling of the same sex is called munin'ina. All siblings of the opposite sex are called hanzvadzi. In other words, a boy calls his older male siblings mukoma and his younger male siblings munin'ina. His female siblings are all hanzvadzi. Likewise, a girl calls her older female siblings mukoma and her younger female siblings munin'ina. All of her male siblings are hanzvadzi. Those a boy addresses as mukoma or munin'ina are addressed as hanzvadzi by a girl. Those a girl addresses as mukoma or munin'ina are addressed as hanzvadzi by a boy.

Since all brothers of one's biological father are baba, all of their children are either mukoma, munin'ina or hanzvadzi, depending upon the sex and relative age of the speaker. Because all sisters of one's biological mother are amai, the same relationships apply to their children.

To summarize, sons and daughters of one's parents, the father's brothers and mother's sisters are related as one's brothers and sisters. Children of the father's sisters and mother's brothers are not related as one's brothers and sisters. We will discover how they are related later.

22 March 2011

Tsumo - Shumo

Meso asangana
hwava ukama

Eyes which have met have (established) a relationship.

(Mombe) Dzafura churu chimwe
dzave zivani.

Those (cattle) that have grazed the same ant-hill know each other.

-- Shona Proverb
From Tsumo - Shumo by Mordikai A. Hamutyinei and Albert B. Plangger

Experience once shared unites people ever after.

20 March 2011

Danga remombe

Here you see a danga remombe (cattle corral) on the left and on the right. The yellow stuff seen through the trees is fodder for the cattle (probably maize stalks, etc.). Notice the large ant hill in the center of the picture. That's an ideal place for cobras to live and also a great source of clay for making bricks. The ant hill, large rock toward the right, and barren earth is typical of the Chiwundura Communal Land where this photo was taken.

There is a Shona expression:

Kuvaka danga
Mombe pasina

To build a cattle corral before you have cattle.

That's equivalent to the English expression: Count your chickens before they've hatched.

17 March 2011

Who's Your Mother?

Just as in Shona culture one may call more than one person baba, father, so one may call more than one person amai*, mother. In the same way that all brothers of one's biological father are addressed as baba, so one's biological mother and her sisters are addressed as amai. Similarly, elder sisters of one's biological mother are referred to as amaiguru or maiguru. and younger sisters are referred to as amainini or mainini in the same way that elder brothers of one's biological father are referred to as baba mukuru and younger brothers are referred to as baba munini or baba mudiki.

This way of expressing family relationships is very logical and makes clear where in the hierarchical family structure every member of the family fits. Each time one speaks to or about one's parents and/or their siblings, that person's location and responsibilities within the family structure are identified and reinforced. This will become clearer as names for other family members are discussed.

*In most Bantu languages the word for mother is mama. Shona tends to use amai, sometimes shortened to simply mai. It is interesting that the Portuguese word for mother is mai. With the definite article it becomes a mai. Could this use of the Portuguese expression for mother in Shona be related to the contact between early Portuguese explorers and and the Monomutapa, ruler of the 16th century kingdom from which modern Shona people are descended? I'm sure some scholar has researched this issue. Said scholar has yet to reveal himself or the results of his research to me. Maybe some day.

15 March 2011

Tsumo - Shumo

Chinokanganwa ibadza
ivhu harikanganwe

The hoe forgets but the soil does not.

-- Shona Proverb
From Tsumo - Shumo by Mordikai A. Hamutyinei and Albert B. Plangger

The offender easily forgets but not the offended.

13 March 2011

Victoria Falls Rain Forest

A rain forest stretches from the Devil's Cataract to the Main Falls.

Heavy spray from the falls makes possible the lush vegetation of the rain forest.

The rain forest scenes in the 1985 version of the movie King Solomon's Mines staring Richard Chamberlain and Sharon Stone were filmed in the rain forest at Victoria Falls.

The 1985 version of King Solomon's Mines is probably the worst movie adaptation of the book ever made. When driving down Enterprise Road in Harare one day my family and I saw what appeared to be a huge clay pot on the back of a lorry in front of us. It turned out to be a prop from the movie. In the movie Richard Chamberlain and Sharon Stone are tossed into a pot full of plastic vegetables, presumably to make some sort of unappetizing soup. (Typical of the silliness of this movie.)

The set for the exotic town scene in the movie was constructed beside the main highway from Harare to Kadoma near the cut-offs for the Larvon Bird Garden and the Lion and Cheetah Park. Plans were for it to be developed as a tourist attraction. It mysteriously burned without ever being exploited for tourism.

A visit to Victoria Falls and a stroll through the rain forest is highly recommended. Only watch the 1985 version of King Solomon's Mines if you need a few laughs. (The 1950 version of the movie staring Stewart Granger and Deborah Kerr filmed in East Africa is the best version. An earlier version with Paul Robeson is interesting as well.)

11 March 2011

Who's Your Father?

The young Shona man approached his European employer and asked for time off to visit his musha* for the funeral of his father. His employer felt sympathy for his faithful worker in his time of sorrow and granted his request.

A few months later the same young man again approached his employer and once again requested time off for the funeral of his father. This time his employer began to berate him. "What kind of fool do you think I am? You just buried your father a few months ago. Don't make up lies just to get a holiday. Be off with you! You no longer work here."

This unfortunate termination of a loyal worker was the result of differing understandings of the answer to the question "Who's your father?" on the part of members of the Shona community and Europeans.

For the European, one's father is his immediate male progenitor. One only has one father (although allowance is made for step-fathers). In Shona culture, one may have many fathers. The Shona word for father, baba**, refers not only to one's immediate male progenitor, it also includes all of that person's male siblings.

A person's father's brother is called baba. If he is an older brother of his father, he is baba mukuru. If he is a younger brother, he is baba munini.

So, the answer to the question "Who's your father?" depends upon the language you're using or the culture within which you are operating. If you try to operate with word for word translations, you can end up with misunderstandings, broken relationships and conflict.

*musha -- homestead

**Baba is pronounced with implosive "b"s as opposed to the explosive "b" used in English. Hold a piece of light paper in front of your mouth and say "b." If the paper moves, you have used an explosive "b." The puff of air exploding from your mouth moves the paper. The implosive "b" will not move the paper since any movement of air flows gently into the mouth rather than exploding outward. Shona has explosive "b"s as well as implosive. The explosive "b" is written as "bh."

08 March 2011

Tsumo - Shumo

Muromo haupi
chinopa maoko

The mouth doesn't give. The hands give.

-- Shona Proverb
From Tsumo - Shumo by Mordikai A. Hamutyinei and Albert B. Plangger

"Actions speak louder than words" would be an English equivalent.

06 March 2011

Great Zimbabwe -- The Acropolis

Great Zimbabwe has two major structures. The Acropolis sits upon the mountain top and the Valley enclosure sits in the valley below. See entry Great Zimbabwe for detailed pictures.

The valley floor is strewn with unrestored ruins and an abundance of native aloes.