It is 7:30 in the morning and just 1 hour 30 minutes into the sunrise. The soil is dry and the skies are just as clear as if no clouds will one day gather to soak it and bring green to the ground. It is that time of the year when people take time off their busy schedule of farm work and visit family and friends and it is also this time of the year when men gather in trading centres to share jokes and humours.
While in Kasungu town people are all over the street heading to their different directions dressed smartly to make their ends meet, in the villages, men, women and children worry very little about how they’re dressed and what food they eat.
With a camera in my hand, I started off to an unknown destination. I may call it an adventure which landed me in Ching’amba village where upon my entry into the village I was welcomed by some girls singing and dancing to traditional songs. As a good dancer who would always enjoy every song regardless of the tune, I stopped and started watching the dancing. After all I had nothing to lose since it was free for all; whether you are a passerby or a member of the village. This brought in me an interest to see what it is that is keeping our villagers busy at this particular time.
Village life in Kasungu is simple; you don’t even care about electricity bills, rents, some luxury things and what to buy for breakfast, lunch or supper because there is no electricity and a life of luxury does not even make their day. Throughout my tour in these villages, I noted a division of activities on the basis of gender and age. While women would be at home cooking, men would be somewhere playing various games with friends, either at trading centres or friends’ homes and while girls are just in the backyard doing some dancing and helping their mothers doing household chores, boys are out in the dry fields in search of mice for lunch and supper.
As every culture is recognized by its traditional ceremonies unique to its people, Kasungu villagers, most of whom are Chewa by tribe, are recognized by among other things by their traditional dance known as Gulewamkulu (literally meaning the big dance) where they wear masks and can perform some of the most extraordinary magical things and behaviours. The dance is a crowd-puller which is usually performed either on the death or installation of a Chief and any other function that has some cultural significance. When dancing, sometimes the musculature would be surrounded by women who would be clapping hands and singing songs.
Never mind about what time it was when I found myself joining one household eating lunch. It was not twelve noon and you may prefer calling it a late lunch but that is just normal for most villagers, to have their lunch at two in the afternoon. When asked why most families prefer having lunch at two o’clock, this is what Maness Solomon, one of Join My Village’s Village Agent, has to say; “we usually have three meals per day and so we prefer taking something enough for the day”. What Maness meant was that if you deny yourself some foods; don’t think there will be any food in between lunch and supper provided to you. The best you can do is eating enough knowing that you have long hours without taking in anything.
While men get together in groups playing either draft or all sorts of games, they sometimes find themselves entertaining someone with their bicycle workshop; women are always busy with household chores. If they are not at home cooking, then they are out to draw water, fetch firewood or together with their husbands they are in the gardens watering some vegetables.
Houses are built close to one another according to family relations and have thatched grass roofs. It is not common for men and women to eat together unless they are a family, but sometimes you can find three families bringing food together where men would eat separately either in a house or under the shade or a tree.
I enjoyed the tour as it spiced up my perspective with a diverse view of village life. More important were the happy faces I came across that always talked about Join My Village upon seeing the vehicle I was traveling in. The work of JMV is well recognized even to the youngest group of boys and girls in most of the villages.