I’ve neglected my posts about my Ethics class the past several weeks…but we’ve been having class four days a week and have covered many topics. Our time is coming toward an end. Next week is the last week of class and our last week in Swaziland. Time has flown by.
I told you earlier about the beginning of the semester when our class discussed the traditional African cultures and practices of their home countries and tribes. I said I’d share some of them. So, below are some I wrote down from their papers at the beginning of the semester—in no particular order.
Comments and Submissions about myths, traditions, stories, songs, proverbs in traditional African life
· Bad luck if disrespect parents – respect others to be blessed
· Black cats (or dogs) on path bad luck—avoid dark places for bad results come of it
· Song: I hate the person who brought money into the world because he brought suffering
· Paying lobola when getting married teaches man to work hard in order to take a wife
· If you walk at night you’ll meet a ghost and they will take you to their grave or just in the wrong direction (get lost). – Teach kids to be home when sun goes down
· A man had a cat and treated it badly. They both died at the same time and the man was punished because he was mean to the cat. – story to teach to love animals and everyone who is in God’s creation.
· “The cow can give birth to a son.” – Whatever you are saying is possible
· Women must submit to men and be meek.
· Mermaids exist to impart different gifts to people and also to chasten the stubborn. (The reason is to call people’s attention to a greater being in control of everybody.)
· Story of Marijata, the disabled girl who later saved the community by informing them of imminent danger. – Disability doesn’t mean inability.
· “An elephant will never fail to carry its horns.” — people should bear their burdens
· Clapping hands when children are receiving gifts teaches them to show gratitude and respect elders
· “One day cannot make a calf die” (or starve). – If the cow doesn’t suck milk for one day, it will survive. We can make a sacrifice, too.
· Mr. Hare prepared a banquet at his home. He invited Mr. Baboon and his family to attend. On the day of the banquet, Mr. Hare burned all around his house. The rule of the table was you can’t eat before inspection of your hands which should be clean. Each time Mr. Baboon’s family was caught always with black soot and they had to go back again and again because of their dirty hands while the banquet was in progress and until it was over. So Mr. Baboon and family went home without tasting any meals. They went home disappointed. Later on, Mr. Baboon also brewed beer and Mr. Hare was invited to attend. Mr. Baboon planned that the feast was taking up in the trees. So, Mr. Hare remained on the ground and never tasted anything because he could not climb the trees. He also went home disappointed. – This story teaches that you cannot always cheat, “the measure you give, you will also receive.”
· When a person dies, s/he will rest with the ancestors only after you brew beer after one year has elapsed (like a memorial). The beer takes 7 days over different stages. Just a cup is offered to the deceased to tell her/him that come back to be reunited with your (living) family as they need protection and guidance. They take turns in dancing drums and drinking the other beer with friends, relatives, neighbours who become witness to the event. Songs are sung during the same event. When the beer is finished the elders finally dismiss the people, they also discuss family problems and straighten issues or problems. During the event there is plenty of food, a cow is killed, goats, chicken is served. – The meaning of the programme is the resurrection of the dead who is now elevated above the living. A new mission is now with this one in life. This is the last remembrance since it is taboo to do it again. People can only meet again if there is a problem. This is a community project to show honour to the deceased. [Note from discussion: the wife cannot have sex with anyone after her husband dies until this ceremony a year later has passed.]
· One day , Nyauhango (a certain lady) went to the forest to fetch firewood. As usual she went with her baby since the baby was very young—maybe a few months old. This was her first child. In the forest, she placed her only child under the shade of a tree. She went on collecting firewood until she had a good bundle of sticks. The baby could not cry because of a nice breeze he was feeling under the shade. Nyauhango tied her bundle and went happily that she had what she wanted, leaving the child in the forest. Later, some ladies who were passing by heard the child crying. They went there and recognized the baby but could not see the mother. They took the child to their home which was about 5 km way from the mother’s home. Nyauhango realized that she had forgotten her child in the forest when she reached home. She hurried back to the forest only to find that the child is not there. She fetched for the child until it was dark, but to no avail. Those ladies who took the child brought him home while she was still in the forest looking for a child. She could not go home fearing what she would say to her husband and the rest of the family. To cut the story short, Nyauhango lost her marriage. Elders resolved that from then on all women should carry their babies on their back wherever they go with fear of repeating what Nyauhango did. – we should learn to prioritize things and not lose everything because we don’t care for the important.
· “The wild pig groaned while the trap was almost breaking.” – Don’t get weary! Sometimes we lose hope or give up while we are almost done with the problem, which is on our way.
· We grew up with the story that children do not eat eggs or they would be touched by epileptic disease. The only time a child eats eggs is when he/she is given by parents. When I was 15 I asked my mother several questions because I could not make sense out of it. She told me the reason they said this is that eggs are liked by children and easy to be prepared. So children would be eating them each time they find eggs, and the chickens would not hatch chicks.
· When women are on their monthly periods, they should neither cook for their husbands nor sleep on the same bed. The reason for not doing these is that their husbands would lose their teeth so easily. – trying to facilitate cleanliness and is strictly observed in many places to date.
· In my culture a tradition of male and female circumcision is influential in people’s lives. The people who are circumcised make a partnership in the community of age set. They believe that people who are of the same age set (those who were circumcised the same year) have greater respect for themselves and if you have a problem your fellow age-set members will help you. Also circumcision is a rite of passage from childhood to adulthood, preparing you for the tough life ahead of you (i.e., marriage).
· If somebody does a mistake (i.e., murder), the elders of the community will meet and offer a sacrifice to gods and while they are in the process of offering they will be uttering curses upon the individual and at the end of it all that very person will be mad or he will kill himself (suicide). – It teaches that the elderly have power to bless or curse people if you don’t do according to the rules and laws that govern that very community.
· Long time ago there lived hyena. One day he was invited for a feast. On his way to the party, he reached where there were two roads heading to different places, so he failed to choose which one was heading to where he was invited because he felt a good scent of food from both sides. So he decided that he will go to both places. He tried but he burst into two halves. – This story teaches us that we should not be greedy. It will cost our lives. And we should be wise in making decisions.
· Long ago, cows used to stay with lions. One day, cows went to the stream to drink water in the absence of the lion, so he was very much upset. So he decided to chase him away and he swore to eat him. So the cow decided to run away and on his way he found guinea fowls who had dug a hole. So he asked them to hide him and he them that when the lion comes, don’t tell him that you have seen me. When the lion came, he asked them but they denied, so the lion went away. After an hour, the cow asked them to uncover him. He thanked them very much. As if that was not enough, he decided to sprinkle milk on them…and that is why guinea fowls have white spots on their bodies.
· Do not talk about an elephant before you climb on a tree.
· Do not overlook someone.
· Do not insult the midwives while you’re still giving birth.
· The man who has only daughters is advised to be a night-runner so that he can have a male child.
· Owl is associated with bad luck when it comes near your house and makes some noise, it is believed that somebody in the family will soon die.
· In some tribes when your first born is a baby boy, it is true that he belongs to your husband. If the baby is a girl, the husband can end up divorcing his wife with a belief that the child does not belong to him.
· I am not allowed to call an elder—or anyone older than me by his or her first name—even my own wife. But I have to call him by his first born son/daughter (or any of his children)—“Father so and so”—or just say uncle, aunt, grandpa, etc. [Note: except this is said in their native language—so for me, my name would be “Babe (baa-bay)-Ellianna” or Uncle (as the kids call me) or the women would be called Mage (ma-gay) or Auntie…older women with grandchildren would are go-gos.]
· If a quarrel with someone extends to a killing, the spirit of the deceased will return to revenge the whole family of the guilty one which saves a lot of people from murdering each other.
· Words for “morality” or “ethics”: tsika nemagariro– meaning how people should behave and live among others and emphasizes that people should behave well and not like animals among others who should stay well with concern for others.
· Native words for morality/ethics: Nkaro/umunthu– emphasizes the way a person conduct himself/herself that is acceptable by the community.
· Native words for morality/ethics: Ukuziphatha/isimilo– to behave in a certain manner and to have a certain character that is acceptable in the community. Emphasis on not bringing shame on him or his/her family.
· During a feast, a special house is built for spirits, where they put their food, because it is believed that if you don’t invite them something bad can happen in the family…so you have to appease them.