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IN this village homestead, on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day we paid respect to Jesus Christ because he saved us from our sins. Then we poured beer on the ground before the elders drank it to give respect to our ancestors, because we believed that they understood our problems because they lived in this village before they died. In death, they were a lot closer to God and Jesus Christ than we were. But my grandmother, Mbuya VaMandirowesa, paid little attention to the birth of Jesus Christ. She did not even believe that He was born on Christmas Day and that He was the Son of the Virgin Mary and also the Son of God.

One Christmas time, before independence, Mbuya VaMandirowesa ordered the killing of a beast for us to eat, mombe yemadiro. Mbuya said she wanted the beast killed on Christmas Day.

My parents, Baba naMai, said, aiwa, no, the beast must be killed after we had celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ.

This meant, we would go to St Columbus School for the all-night preaching and prayer on Christmas Eve. Then on Christmas Day, we would dress up in new Christmas clothes, wait for Baba Mutemarari, the Anglican priest to pass by our village, then follow him back to church for mass.

There was an argument between Mbuya and my father.

Mbuya said she would celebrate the killing of the beast on Christmas Day because all my uncles and relatives who worked in the cities would be home and there was no better day to kill a beast and roast meat than Christmas Day.

Mbuya’s Christmas party programme was simple. She said the party would begin on Christmas Eve as many of our relatives arrived with boxes full of bread, jam, sugar, flour, cooking oil, condensed milk, melting Stork margarine, dripping and many other nice things from the big cities.

Early on Christmas Day, the beast will be dead and the men cooked the blood and other parts of meat not meant for women. Meat will continue to be smoked over the fire and more fresh beer will be brewed right up to New Year and to the time of departure back to the cities by my uncles.

My father argued with Mbuya VaMandirowesa. He lost.

Then my mother changed strategy.

She went on her knees and begged Mbuya, saying that if she had the beast killed on Christmas Day, all the women will not be able to prepare tripe, matumbu, because they will be at church. By the time church finished, all the intestines would smell quite badly.

Mbuya saw the reason and gave in.

Several chickens were killed on Christmas Day while our household waited patiently for Baba Mutemarari.

On Christmas Day my mother told us to watch out for the Anglican priest, Baba Mutemarari.

Once we spotted him coming, my mother quickly instructed us to cover two big pots of the highly potent mhanga beer under sacks and blankets then closed the kitchen hut.

My brother Charles dragged our famous drum called “Zino Irema” and hid that in the granary.

My father switched off his Mahlatini and the Mahotela Queens music and hid the gramophone in the bedroom.

My mother was an Anglican belonging to the African Mother’s Union.

She had been baptised at Daramombe Christ the King Mission in 1942, and married to my father in the church in 1947.

Baba Mutemarari preached that beer, singing and dancing the way we did was unChristian and against civilised European behaviour.

It was Baba Mutemarari who would help us get into Anglican boarding schools.

Only children from good Anglican families with good grades were going to be accepted into those schools.

No alcohol or beasts killed to honour the ancestors were to be found near our homestead. Such unholy and heathen offerings could only be done when Baba Mutemarari had finished mass, blessed our house with a prayer.

Baba Mutemarari always stopped in our village compound on his way from St Peter’s Mutoredzanwa to conduct communion at St Columbus School on Christmas Day.

He wheeled his bicycle into the village compound, looking tired, hot, fat and sweating.

He wore a suit, jacket and tie. On the bicycle carrier was a bag with his priestly robes, candles, communion cloth, white wafer bread and non-alcoholic wine. Upon arrival, Baba Mutemarari was always thirsty for tea and hungry for fresh bread with Stork margarine and Sun jam.

We all sat down near him and spoke in low voices. Mbuya VaMandirowesa came to join us. She sat there taking her snuff, right in front of Baba Mutemarari. As they drank tea, Baba Mutemarari and my father talked about the Anglican Church and how it supported education among Africans.

Inside the kitchen hut the mhanga beer was frothing under sacks and blankets while “Zino Irema” the drum waited patiently for the evening.

After drinking plenty of sweet tea and eating several slices of white bread with Sun jam, Baba Mutemarari climbed the hill to the school. We all walked in single file going to church with my mother wearing her Anglican women’s uniform. She wore a black skirt, white blouse with blue collar and a starched white hat.

Baba Mutemarari was all dressed up in his white robes with gold or purple sash. The women helped him lay the table in the Grade 2 class since we did not have a church building. White table cloths, napkins and wine for communion. The communion took a very long time and we repeated many prayers after him.

After mass, we rushed back home to eat more bread from the open basket tray, murusero. The bread was smothered with margarine and plenty of jam. The tea was g and very sweet. Visitors from the village around came and joined in the tea.

My father, my uncles and their friends got busy drinking both village beer, Castle and Lion lagers from Salisbury.

They could also enjoy the rice and chicken while we waited for the slaughtering of the beast. By evening time, the village was full of laughter, conversation, and song and drumming.

On Boxing Day we, the young people went to Muzorori amp Sons Stores to dance to new songs. At that time, the war for Zimbabwe’s liberation from Ian Smith and the Rhodesian Front had not arrived in our village. People said the war was being fought between the comrades and the Rhodesian forces up north in Mt Darwin. Some people were already living in keeps or camps under curfew in places like Chiweshe. But down here in Hwedza, along the Save River, the war was only news.

In those days, I had never set foot in the city and I only knew the bus ride to Enkeldoorn, Chivhu, where my mother had taken me five times to apply for a birth certificate. We got two birth certificates from the Native Administrator’s office on my fourth visit and on my fifth visit I got my sister Charity’s birth certificate.

Beyond the Native Administrator’s office was a road to Salisbury. It passed through Beatrice, Charter Estates, white men’s farms where the bus was not allowed to stop at all unless the driver had permission to drop off new farm labourers.

Muzorori amp Sons Stores was the place for music and Christmas fun. Here, you showed off your best dress and your best hairstyle. It was here that we the youth gathered to look and admire the young men who returned home in new clothes. They bought bottled beer and cigarettes.

They wore bell-bottomed trousers and platform shoes with Afro combs sticking out of their hair . The leaned on the counter scanning the crowd for a beautiful light-skinned girl. We were dancing to Dolly Parton, Percy Sledge, Rod Stewart. We also danced to Thomas Mapfumo and Mtukudzi too. But their songs were not as romantic as the ones by Dolly Parton.

If you were not seen on the dance floor at Muzorori amp Sons then you did not see Christmas. Pretty, Primrose, the daughter of Muzorori , her brother Temba and their cousins from Bulawayo were there. Temba is the guy who later moved to the United States and I met him there not so long ago. I reminded him about the Christmas days at Muzorori amp Sons.

We took turns to get on to the dance floor. Temba was the only one allowed to operate the Supersonic stereo system, placing one LP after the other. He was in Form 5 or Form 6 at St Ignatius College in Chishawasha near Salisbury. Although he saw us, he actually did not see us because we were just ordinary skinny village girls who had never seen a robot or traffic light.

So we just stood back and admired Temba Muzororori from afar. I remember him playing many new songs. Those from the city who knew the songs immediately went straight to the dance floor. The first time Temba put Rod Stewart’s song, “The First Cut is the Deepest”, nobody among us moved.

Not even Bhiya, Piri or my brother Charles who claimed to know all the new songs. Then Temba’s cousin Sibongile from Bulawayo pulled Temba’s hand and the two of them held each other around the shoulders. Then he placed his hand around her waistline and they started dancing together.

For quite a while Temba played other songs by Jim Reeves, Dolly Parton and her friend Ken Rogers, Neil Diamond and Clarence Carter. He played Zex Manatsa’s “Chipo Chiroorwa”, and other songs by Oliver Mtukudzi and Thomas Mapfumo. We could easily switch dancing songs from Shona, Ndebele and Zulu to English, just like that.

There were no drums or mbira at Muzorori amp Sons store. This was the place where we met chirungu chese, everything to do with new ways of dancing the Western way. In those days we had never seen a television set and you could count houses with radios.

Towards sunset, we started the journey home because we were not allowed to be out after dark. Besides, in December, the River Chinyika could easily get flooded then we would not be able to cross.

On Boxing Day, the elders gathered in Mbuya VaMandirowesa’s kitchen hut for the ceremony to thank the ancestors. Mbuya did not allow any gramophone or stereo. She did not want to hear any Western music on Boxing Day.

Before independence and we were happily balancing both ancestor libations and Christianity. The missionaries, through the assistance of Baba Mutemarari, tried very hard to stop the Christmas celebration to the ancestors. In those days, the two existed side by side with the occasional conflict between Mbuya and my parents. But it was not a serious conflict at all.

We look back at the old ruins of Muzorori amp Sons. What happened to all the youth who danced and laughed here until their ribs ached and they had tears of laugher pouring out of their eyes?

Source : The Herald