From time to time I publish short stories – here and elsewhere. I will post them on this page.
From African Roar (I submitted this story to them last year and it was published on their site, and it has now been chosen to go into their Annual Anthology – See here
03 July 2011
The Revenge of Kamalaza Mayele by Vukani G. Nyirenda
“When is that mambo of ours going to open the partying season,” grumbled Kamalaza Mayele while at Chitenje;the men’s gathering place. “We ground our millet three weeks ago, more millet is in the storage bins,and still the women’s grinding stones lie unused.”
It was that time of the year in the rural areas of Zambia when every day was a holiday. The harvesting of crops was over,granaries were full to their brims, and the next agricultural season was more than three months away. And so everyone was anxiously waiting for Thaulo Mambo,their venerable headman,to open the party season as dictated by their customs.
“What a good season we had,” an older man said, with a broad smile. “Never have I seen such abundant crops- the beer this year will be especially tasty.”
“If we ever get any beer,” Kamalaza said with a scowl. “The way Thaulo Mambo is going, we’ll be knee deep’in rain before we’ve had our first party.”
Kamalaza’s own desire to become more acquainted with Kampeteu Pende,a young widow not yet cleared by her late husband’s family for courtship,was more pressing in his mind than any number of calabashes of beer. The first party was the time he’d begin his wooing discretely,just to find out whether the plump pretty widow liked him at all.
Thaulo Mambo must have smelt his people’s anxiety for it hung in the air like heavy rain clouds. “Na Mwiche,” he called his first wife,by the name of her first-born daughter,Mwiche;a sign of respect. “Na Mwiche,” Thaulo called again to emphasise the urgency of the matter.
“I am here,Mambo,” said Na Mwiche.
“Have you ground enough fermented finger-millet to brew beer? The harvest season is long over and my people must be itching for the first beer party. We must open the season of celebration.”
“Eya Mambo,I have enough fermented millet and my girls are ready to grind it. In five and two days the beer should be ready,” replied Na Mwiche,his wife of more than thirty years, as she lay on an old reed mat near him.
“That’s good. Remember also to tell our boys to select chickens to be slaughtered on the day of the party. I will instruct Kasanda, the hunter,to go kill one kudu. There are plenty downstream. Beer goes well with roasted meat, you know.”
“By the way,have you thought about who will do the tasting of the beer?” Na Mwiche wanted to know. She knew that at such gatherings all were welcome so there were no invitations to be issued. But tradition required that a well-known and respected personality be asked to come before sunrise on the day of the party. His task? To ‘taste’ the beer and certify its potency
“Do I have to think about that?!” responded Thaulo. “Of course Kamalaza Mayele will do it, who else? Remember he is the only connoisseur when it comes to certifying beer. Besides,he is always around and willing to perform such duties.”
Thaulo thought about Kamalaza who was his cousin and good friend. They were not exactly of the same age set,but the difference in their ages was only about five years,with Thaulo being older. However,no one was certain though in such matters because birth was only known by,and related to,events that occurred in the community when a child was born,not pegged on specific chronological dates. Going by the event that marked his birth- the plague that killed so many people in this village including the former headman – Kamalaza couldn’t have been more than fifty years old. However,the hard work on his land and the ill-fitting jacket he always wore made him look sixty-plus. He was slender,delicate looking,a_nd walked with a stoop,incessantly sucking on his clay pipe, which he had difficulty lighting because of the violent quivering in his hands. May be he had Parkinson’s disease but whoever heard of such a malady in rural Zambia? ‘It’s a sign he’s aging,’ Thaulo had heard people say.
Kamalaza’s marriage to only one wife in a society that expected adult males to marry two, three,four, or more wives was a source of whispered gossip among his peers.And whenever there was a beer party he loved straying into women’s groups raising more curious eyebrows among men. ‘Why is Kamalaza more comfortable among women than among us;is he hiding something?’ the men wondered. Kamalaza, who was an entertainer with a powerful singing voice,scoffed at any such suggestions and laughed at such
disparaging remarks with relish. ‘I am a ladies man. I challenge any one of you to outdo me in winning ladies favours,’ he would respond in a boastful voice. ‘You’re a woman in a man’s clothes,’ Chinyama Zawu,a youthful-looking man who was given to frequent and sudden mood swings and aggression,had told Kamalaza at a beer party last year. Thaulo knew Kamalaza didn’t take this verbal assault lightly and was neither to forget it nor forgive the assailant.
Five plus two days had passed since Thaulo gave instructions to his wife.Beer was brewed and Kamalaza had passed it as excellent. “This is a great brew,” he said,wiping the residue of the opaque beer from his moustache with the back of his quivering hand. “People will start dancing just after taking two
mouthfuls of it,” he proclaimed.
Men sta ed arriving soon after daybreak and women followed a few hours later. The mother of parties had started. Women sang,men drummed,and the excitable among them were already on the floor dancing to chimbo,the celebratory beer party music played by their village musicians.
“This is why I love Na Mwiche. She has brewed potent beer the last twenty plus ten years of our marriage,and this is why I love my people for they know how to entertain themselves,” said Thaulo, sitting on a high wooden stool among his male guests,and nodding in appreciation of the dancing. “Bring more calabashes of that good beer,” he ordered his second wife. Turning to Kamalaza,he asked. “How’re the girls doing?” He pointed to one women’s group gathered under a mango tree. “Are they well catered for?”
“Yes, Headman,they’re alright,” said Kamalaza. “They have two calabashes still full of beer and they are happily chatting,singing, and dancing. But I think they shouldn’t be given any more beer,this should be the last supply. It’s late in the afternoon, and as mothers and wives, they should start thinking about returning to their homes to take care of the.ir families.”
“No. Let them stay a little while;I love to see our women sing and dance. We don’t often get to see
them in such happy situations,” said Chinyama,who had been listening- nearly straining his neck in
the process. “I am sure they have older girls to take care of little ones and do house chores. Isn’t that what our girls are taught?”
“Ah,let them just finish the beer they have and leave. Tomorrow is another day,” insisted Kamalaza.
“What’s the rush, Kamalaza,leave the women alone. They are just beginning to get into the mood,” said
Thaulo closing the discussion.
Ignoring his headman’s remarks,Kamalaza rose from his stool and hurried towards the women’s group. The first woman he met at the fringe of the group was Kampeteu adjusting her baby secured in a wild goat skin. Kampeteu was a young and attractive widow. She was short,plump,but good looking and vivacious. She had a good singing voice and danced well,and she could be very charming under the
influence of the local brew.
Kamalaza stopped and faced Kampeteu.This wasn’t their first meeting of that day. He had run into her earlier and made advances which Kampeteu rebuffed.Seeing her again he offered to escort her to her home after the beer party. “Now what do you say to that?” He asked.
“No, you cannot be my escort, what will Na Tondo,your wife,say?” Kampeteu knew that NaTondo, Kamalaza’s wife of many years and mother of four grown-up children, was highly respected by all women of the village.
“Forget about Na Tondo.She is no problem. Plus she is no use to me;she’s past menopause.”
“E-e! Ar(t you joking?” said Kampeteu, raising her voice in disbelief. “Don’t you know that older women are more possessive of their husbands and can be as vicious as a provoked black mamba protecting its eggs? Besides,it’s not night yet, I’ll be okay walking home alone.”
“Yayi, just say you have someone else to escort you; maybe someone younger than me,more handsome and energetic.” Kamalaza said,but sounded dejected. But,before she could answer he abruptly left Kampeteu and took quick steps towards the women’s gathering, which included his wife Na Tondo, and broke into song:
“Kamugonekani,mwana Mwa’nyinamwizekuno, Pala mwakana Nkwizapapo;
Go put your baby to sleep
Then come to me; If you decline,
I’ll descend on you.
What happens is any body’s guess!
The song was an oblique invitation to all the women and at the same time a threat to Kampeteu. He sang it thrice,and the women quickly took up the chorus. “Kaya bene,kaya,kaya bene…” they sang, giggled excitedly,and joined Kamalaza in dancing to it. Men beat drums and some joined in the dancing. Clusters of amused children watched from a distance.
In recognition of his vocal artistry,an elderly woman wobbled to her feet,took a handful of grass, sprinkled it on Kamalaza’s head, and congratulated him with loud shrills. Leaning forward in a squatting position,she danced around him much to the delight of the crowd.
However, just as abruptly as he had started song and dance,Kamalaza stopped dancing. He wiped the sweat from his brow and walked towards the granaries;to answer nature’s call.
“Ah,it’s you again,” said Kamalaza,surprised at coming across’Kampeteu in deep conversation with
They ga e no answer.
Kamalaza had been so engrossed in dancing he hadn’t noticed Kampeteu and Chinyama leave the gathering. “I knew you were up to something naughty that’s why you declined my offer to escort you,” said Kamalaza,disappointment clear on his face.
Still they gave no answer.
Chinyama looked at Kamalaza and growled like a lion disturbed from its kill. He said nothing, showing he wasn’t going to let Kamalaza spoil his fun. It seemed the game was over for Kamalaza. But,no, not so easily,old soldiers don’t die face down. Kamaalaza was not one to be defeated without a fight. He had very much wanted Kampeteu’s company and might have hd it but for the interference of Chinyama, who must have been preferred by Kampeteu.
Kamalaza left them alone but decided to use his knowledge of the customs regarding widows as an effective weapon to strike back at Chinyama and Kampeteu. Kamalaza employed his artistry as an
impromptu composer,social commentator,and dancer,and as he returned to the men’s group he began to sing: •
“Kumeso, MbaKampeteu,mwe; Kumuwongo, MbaChinyamamungwe.”
Look at her front,
It’s Kampeteu,oh brethren; Look at her back,
It’s Chinyama making noise.
He sang the semg thrice and shook his head in disparagement.
It was the men’s group who understood the message first. Then women joined in the fun with their familiar laughter of disapproval. Kamalaza had blown the lid off Chinyama and Kampeteu’s affair, and received his revenge,but his love for the young widow remained a guarded secret, which he kept to himself.
The Revenge of Kamalaza Mayele was written by VukaniG. Nyirenda. Copyright© Vukani G. Nyirenda 2011.
Vukani G. Nyirenda
Mama Shujaa said…
An interesting story. I wanted more of a revenge for Kamalaza at the outset,but upon contemplation I felt that his revenge was sweet enough. I was just as ‘tasty’ as the beer he passed off as excellent. The story itself a nice taste of the cultural practices,! enjoyed it. Thanks.
Sunday, July 03, 2011
Kiru Taye said…
A fun story and nice insight into Zambian culture. Thank you for sharing.
Sunday, July 03, 2011
Thank you Mama Shujaa,for the nice comment.Actually,Kamalaza Mayele (mayele means tricks)is a sbtle character,always playing it safe. He had to be cautious lest his own intentions were known.
Tuesday,July 05, 2011
Thank you Kiru Taye.l am glad you saw the “fun” in the story. Kamalaza is an entertainer above all else. Tuesday,July 05, 2011
David Katete said…
This is a good insight into the real social life of the village setting. How I wish the plot continued. The story leaves a lot to my imagination.