29 Oct 2020


“Back To Lorifa!” The Way They Were Under Village Trees

"Village rascals or misers who didn't have money or were too stingy to spend would taste beer from all the pots, wipe their lips and moustaches, belch like an active volcano, and walk away without shame".

By Victor Lugala

The village was a small world without chimneys, pollutants, electricity or noisy power generators.

The environment was pristine: in the wet season green grass satisfied the eyes. In the dry season the human eye could take an easy long walk to freedom. Sun and moon gave light and delighted more.

That was how nature decreed things. But there was perfect darkness to hide things, which were not meant for human consumption.

The road. The main road which tore through the village was a symbol of modern civilization. The road was a vehicle which brought town to the village: waist beards, paraffin, sugar, salt, clothes, money, news & information.

One Captain Cook of long ago, a white man to boot, once passed here when the road was but a panya route (panya ru). No, actually the man was carried on a sedan chair on the shoulders of four strong villagers. The village mukungu, or for that matter, the real chief himself walked on his legs which bulged with varicose.

Then the tree or trees. The tree was a symbol of communal life. The palaver. The community center where things were done or undone.

Villagers valued trees for their shade and fruits. The tree was the people's parliament where community issues were deliberated by pipe-smoking, grey-haired, non-stop spitting elders. The tree was a symbol of justice - cases of misdemeanor or domestic quarrels (not violence) were tried.

Villagers who followed the white man's religion worshipped under the tree. Children who learned to read and write, discipline and reason were taught under the tree.

The tree was also a place of socialisation to keep society together in harmony. Young men played mancala (mungula) under a tree shade, where cheats were exposed. The tree was a social theatre.

At the centre of the village market stood a giant tree which was the village bar or andaya. On market days villagers in multiple bright colours thronged the marketplace, to buy or sell things: crude tobacco, dry fish, dry game meat, salt, sugar, talisman, herbs. Precious old and rusty bicycles were propped against the tree trunk.

The under the tree bar thrived on market days. Women lined up earthen pots, which brimmed with frothy home-brewed beer. Drinkers balanced their hard buttocks on logs or stones as they conversed, slandered and laughed loudly.

Some of the brew in the pots stole the eye of buyers, but some careless women were not good at brewing beer, yet they had faces and body structures which looked more beautiful and attractive than the ones of the expert brewers. Men made their choice according to their preference or appetite.

A potential drinker had the liberty of tasting with a calabash sip from each pot - there could be 7 pots. After tasting, the man's taste buds could point him to the choicest pot.

Village rascals or misers who didn't have money or were too stingy to spend would taste beer from all the pots, wipe their lips and moustaches, belch like an active volcano, and walk away without shame.

At sunset the men who were old enough to be called in-laws and who were now missing their walking steps reeled home out of respect.

Then young men took over the stage as darkness gathered. A reed flute and the banging of a tin and clapping of hands started the music for the young thirsty souls. Under the blanket of darkness only the stars bore witness to the struggle of appetites.

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