MANTALK: Reflections of a life long gone - Daily Nation

Reflections of a life long gone

Saturday September 1 2018

What would the scene look like if it was a cool day 111 years ago? Here’s an attempt to picture it. GRAPHIC| FILE

What would the scene look like if it was a cool day 111 years ago? Here’s an attempt to picture it. GRAPHIC| FILE 

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If today was Saturday, September 1 in 1907, a man would be seated outside his hut, a stick stuck in his mouth, brushing his teeth.

He would be polygamous because he wrestled many men in the village and emerged the strongest and he had his pick of the finest women in the village dying to be his.

Or maybe he was the bravest because he went on many raids and acquired many cows.

So he has three wives living in the three huts in the boma. If you are reading this at 8am, he would be seated on a low stool, his loincloth falling between his strong legs.

With the exception of one wife, the rest would not know where he had spent the night. How you knew he was visiting your hut to spend the night is that he would send for one of your children to bring a special stool to your hat.

You can tell that it was tough being a woman then, of course, because all you had to do is to wait and hope that the stool would be brought to your house.


Anyway, it’s morning. He would sit there and the wives would bring him breakfast – yams, boiled maize, porridge or sweet potatoes. He would chew his food slowly as he stared into the hills, his strong jaws chomping away slowly like a camel.

After breakfast he’d either go till the land with his bulls or he’d go into the bush to hunt or gather. Or maybe he’s mend a hole in the fence. Or meet other men, other warriors, to organise another raid.

Men like these never ate lunch, so he would not come home for lunch. Lunch was for children. He would be away from the boma until evening when he’d come home tired, carrying a spear or a panga or some weapon or the other.

A dog would always be trailing him close behind. A dog without a name. He would head straight to his hut where he would remove his belt made of leather from which hung a club holder or a sheath.

When he came out his wives would be outside, saying hello to him, asking him if his day was great. Then he’d sit on a stool before his hut as his children milled around him (he has nine), some sitting on his bony knees.

He’d josh around with them, tickling them, then their mothers would call for them to go bath. I’m not sure what time this man bathed but I suspect he would take a dip in the river on his way to his boma. No soap, just water and a smooth stone as a scrub.

Outside his hut, he would stuff tobacco in his pipe then light it – I’m not sure with what – but I know he’d light his pipe and sit there smoking it as he watched his older sons drive in his wealth – his cows and goats and sheep.

Hens would scamper into the wives’ huts. The sun would slowly slide behind the darkening hills beyond. He’d be deep in thought because men at that age would always be thinking. Just before total darkness, he would call one of the children and tell him to take the stool into his mother’s hat.

Food would arrive from different homes. Together they’d sit around in his hut, and all eat as a family. Of course certain foods would only be his to eat, like the gizzards and the thighs.

The women and children would eat the rest. The floor would be cleared after dinner and the children would remain gathered around him listening to his tales. Or maybe they’d go to his mother’s boma to listen to folklore.

Once the children retired and the women retired, he would remain with his three sons and he would talk to them, pass them knowledge in the dying light of the three stones.

After they had also gone to sleep in their small huts, he would wait a moment and when all the lights had gone off in his boma and the dogs had started barking and the half moon was high up, like a thief in the dark, he’d follow his stool and spend the night, resting his sore bones.

If today, right this moment, was 1907, a man would be seated outside his hut, stick of toothbrush stuck in his mouth. Boy, am I glad it’s 2018.