Thursday, July 29, 2010

Let the people rejoice!

"Ah! Zanexhoba!"

"Zanexhoba!" The crowd of guests respond! Hail to the king! Hail Zanexhoba! Here present, at home in his kingdom! The land of amaMpondomise.

The king himself sits serene on the podium, calmly resplendent in his embroidered robes of raw cotton, a crown of animal skin upon his head. He wears a pair of dark glasses and wields a scepter of polished, blonde wood.

We are here to pay tribute to Bhuti Magida on the occasion of the opening of his homestead. We have crossed the Maluti mountains, crossed the frozen Barclay Pass to get here, but eminent guests have come from across the region.

Indeed, nine kings are present. Ah, Zanokhanyo! Ah, Zwelixolile! Ah, Zanomvuso! Ah, Dalubuhle! Ah, Gwebindlala! Ah, Zwelobusi! Ah, Bhatobele!

The Qadi clan convenes to pay tribute to their brother. The speeches begin at noon. The imbongi praises the noble bloodline of maQadi. The kings are introduced by their praise singers, and they in turn outline the values of the community, which are in turn manifest in the building of this house, by Magida, who grew up just over the hill, on the south side of the sharp pinnacle of Tsolo mountain.

"I have worked as a traditional healer since 1974," screams a lady speaker in yellow traditional dress. "In Eliot! I have never stood back for a man."

Family, community and mutual support are emphasized, as the temperature in the marqee rises. Outside, in the kraal, men chop the limbs of a freshly slaughtered cow, and cleave the flesh from the bones with their Okapi knives. The meat is salted and boiled in enormous metal pots. Or blackened over naked flames. Soutvleis. In the rondawel behind the homestead, women prepare umqombothi.

A cultural group of barebreasted virgins sings the songs of affirmation, dancing and whistling to the beat of the cowhide drum. Doe-doef, doe-doef, doe-doef, doe-doef.

As Dr Luyenge prepares to take the stage, there's a commotion outside. The speeches are suspended as Mr Magida‚s gift is presented. A bull, specially dressed for the occasion, and donated from his parents‚ kraal as umgido, a gift to mark the ceremony.

Led into the marqee by the nose, the bull is wearing a duvet cover, a dress and a scarf. Two oranges are impaled on its horns. A bouquet of yellow flowers is perched daintily on its head.

As the speeches stop, the guests crowd forward to get a glimpse of the gift. The band breaks into song and the people dance around Magida's gift. The lady from Eliot dances forward and flicks the bull with her scarf.

Wide-eyed children crowd around the bull's hindquarters. A forest of hands surrounds the animal, brandishing cameraphones.

The bull remains stoic. A man in a wig holds the bull by a rope. Soon there will be dancing and umqombothi. The band will play. There will be horse races. More speeches, and singing throughout, as the sun sets behind the Maluti mountains, here at the homestead of Buthi Magida of AmaQadi in the land of amaMpondomise.

No comments: