Thursday, January 30, 2014

Of donkey kicks, tail fly-whisks and minibus rides

Donkey kick photo as an example of one taken from:

It was a rainy dull day in Blantyre when I wanted to board a Highway minibus on my way to Limbe to run some errands.

As usual touts breathing into my face each tried to convince me to board the minibus they would eventually get money for and as usual I asked them not to touch me and they obeyed.

One then rushed to the minibus he was calling passengers for and opened the front door.  Noticing that the minibus was almost full I started boarding when I noticed a male passenger in the front seat quickly getting out and giving me way to sit in the middle.
I usually don’t like sitting in the front seats of minibuses and worse still in the middle but on this day I was exhausted and anxious to get to my destination on time.
As the minibus departed after a 20 minute wait with us passengers packed like sardines, I could not help but notice that the man next to me had a fly-whisk.
Man in the front seat of minibus with a donkey tail fly-whisk?
I gasped when I noticed it didn’t have a stick oh my and yes I didn’t grow up in the village but abroad so I was also shocked later with the stories he started telling me about donkeys throughout the journey.
In my mind I started debating how to ask him about his fly-whisk which resembled a wig and all sorts of fake hair in town. 
When he raised the fly whisk up I could not resist and asked him what the hell he was doing with a fly whisk in a minibus and what for.
He turned out to be a funny story-teller and told me about his ancestors and how they were fighters and from a royal family so he claimed.  But looking at his fly-whisk I noticed it looked different from the few I’ve seen in Malawi so I asked the million dollar question.
Côte d’Ivoire horsehair fly-whisk from:
“What is your fly-whisk made from,” I asked inquisitively and waiting for the answer which I did not expect.
 He answered “bulu [donkey]”.

Now curious, I noticed his fly-whisk did not have a stick and wondered how on earth he got it from those vicious scary kicking donkeys.

He answered me vaguely saying it’s easy but I did not want to know how and could only see donkeys kicking with their back legs!  When asked if he’s a sing’anga (traditional healer), he answered no and that he was only a carpenter so I was even more confused.
He then started explaining the behavior of donkeys, how it relates to other animals, beasts etc and how some in ancient times ate it and used its foot for disappearing acts when being chased or something like that.
What type of a donkey tail [fly-whisk] is this?
After explaining various concoctions we are left stunned in the minibus and some of us especially me trying not to laugh.
Confused and the minibus driver now listening in, I’m like how on earth can a person disappear so I conclude and laugh it off as “one of those Malawi matsenga (magic) stories” which are myths.
The man then caught us unawares when he suddenly said although he’s not a healer but had a dream of where to find a cure for HIV and Aids and that he found it and cured 25 people so far.
Immediately after that other passengers in the minibus rebuked him calling him a “mfiti” [witch/wizard] out to cheat people including the minibus driver and conductor while I told him bluntly there’s no cure for HIV and Aids but only for opportunistic diseases.
The man then claimed when educated people say they can reportedly cure HIV through “Garani MW 1Herb”many rush to buy it and believe but when a carpenter like him says so he’s accused of witchcraft.
The minibus suddenly went quiet as he kept saying Garani MW 1Herb with confidence and we just looked at him.  Before we realized it he disembarked from the minibus and not a soul discussed him as is usually the cases in minibuses after heated debates.
It made me think how under-rated most of our traditional healers are so instead many would rather buy or import well-researched Chinese herbs to sell to fellow Malawians.
Maybe it’s time to use Science and Technology in regards to herbs using labs and having a factory preferably in Mulanje if land is available?  Who knows but one thing is for sure, Malawi with its various mountains is known for various herbs but with a new anti-herb movement these days when it’s Malawians doing it, chances of local herbs for healing being taken more seriously remains very slim.
Ancient Egypt donkey painting taken from

This is one of many funny minibus ride stories I will be sharing on this blog after travelling in so many minibuses for years and learning so many things, myths and tales which I never hear when driving a car. Many story-tellers cheers to them.

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Took this picture of children in Milange, Mozambique admiring visiting Malawian children

Tracing footsteps to lead me home

Greetings from the Warm Heart Africa, Malawi.

I'm a Malawian journalist who grew up in many countries including South Africa, Belgium, then West Germany, UK, Washington DC and New York in the US and I love New York.

Trying to come up with the production of my life and by compiling some of my 1000 poems into a book called ‘Tracing Footsteps’ to lead me Home with excellent photography.

I also plan to film award winning documentaries based on the history of this ancient land called Malawi and the mysteries of the Sirius star. this space.